Category Archives: 3 Timely

Simon and Kirby Cover Art for Early Harvey Comics

Al Harvey must have been a great salesman. With the failure of his concept of pocket-sized comic books you would have thought that would have been the end of Harvey’s publishing career. Instead not only did Speed Comics return in April as a regular size comic, Harvey took over publishing Champ Comics in May, and then even more surprising Green Hornet in June. Al would turn again to Joe Simon, and now Jack Kirby also, to help with the covers.

Starting with a cover date of April 1942 and ending in December are a series of 14 Harvey covers that were obviously done by Simon and Kirby (Speed #17 to #21 and #23; Champ #18 to #21 and #23; and Green Hornet #7 to #9). I say obvious, because they were done at the same time as Simon and Kirby were producing work for DC and all this work show the two forging their own unique style.

But none of the Harvey covers are signed by Joe or Jack. Instead some bear the signature of Jon Henri. Joe has said that he came up with this name. Joe used Henry as a middle name and he liked Jon so much that he gave that name to his first son. The Jon Henri signature appeared on five covers (Champ #18 and #19, Speed #17 and #19, and Green Hornet #7). While Kirby penciled three of the signed covers (Champ #18, Speed #17 and Green Hornet #7), Simon inked all of them. The two covers that Jack penciled and inked (Speed #18 and Green Hornet #9) were unsigned. So while it is probable it was Joe that actually signed as Jon Henri, it was not a pseudonym for him alone.

A new idea was used by Harvey for his re-launched comic book line. As announced on some of the covers, “read the thrilling story behind the cover”. Postal regulations required comic books to include two pages of text. In these Harvey comics the text feature would be a story based on the cover art. While in theory it is possible that Joe and Jack would read an already written story and illustrate it, that does not seem likely. Generally the story pretty much faithfully depicted the cover art, but Simon and Kirby had a long history of deviating from scripts provided. Further, the covers are typical Simon and Kirby works, it does not seem likely that the text writers would have scripted such ideal Simon and Kirby scenes. No it seems much more probably that Joe and Jack did the covers based on their own ideas and the writer then tried to fit a story around the cover.

Speed #17, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) and Jack Kirby (pencils), April 1942

When Harvey resumed publishing, Simon and Kirby were working for National. Joe and Jack’s version of Sandman was out in March , their version of Manhunter and their own creation the Newsboy Legion came out at the same time as Speed #17, and their creation Boy Commandos would come out in October. National was even using the Simon and Kirby name on their covers. It was pretty unusual at that time to use the creator names to promote the comic. Even so Joe and Jack would do covers art for Harvey. But they would not sign these with their own names. Instead some of the work is signed Jon Henri. I don’t believe that anybody in the industry or at National was fooled by this. I think the real reason that they did not use their own names is that Simon and Kirby had now become a brand name. It is one thing to give Al Harvey a helping hand, it is another to compete against yourself.

Captain America #10, Jack Kirby (pencils), January 1942

Even though published by Harvey, this is very much a Captain America cover. Compare it to Captain America #10 which even has similar hooded figures. The art style is closest to what had been done at Timely. But the typical Simon and Kirby art had already appeared and National and would also show up on all the later Henri covers. I suspect that this cover was actually done just after leaving Timely and before their work at National gave birth to a true Simon and Kirby style. The overall composition is not unlike a classic Al Schromberg. Despite all that is going on, Simon and Kirby seem to handle it well and present a clear story.

Penciling for the Speed #17 cover was primarily done by Joe Simon. But the forced perspective shown in the two figures at the top as well as the man falling down the chute is in the typical style of Jack Kirby. Although he was quite good at mimicking Jack, Joe never quite mastered Kirby’s perspective (no other comic book artist did either).

This cover there is a peculiar inking pattern in the chute and the ceiling of the room above it. A similar inking style appears on the splash page that Al Avison did for Pocket #1. I have seen it in “Red Skull’s Deadly Revenge” from Captain America #16, again penciled by Al Avison. However I have also seen something similar on the covers for Champion #8 (pencils by Joe Simon) and #9 (pencils by Jack Kirby). Both the Champion covers were inked by Joe Simon and date before he had met Avison. I have seen Lou Fine use a similar inking pattern, so it was just a inking mannerism that several artists adopted.

Champ #18, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), May 1942

Joe and Jack had done three covers for this series when it was published by Worth under the title Champions. Now the line was being done by Harvey after his unsuccessful pocket comics. Here and in the comics published at the same by National, we find the start of the real Simon & Kirby style. I believe the reason this happened now is that before at Timely there was a large crew working on Captain America. But initially there was probably only Joe and Jack at National. This really forged their collaboration. The Captain America covers were exiting but now Joe and Jack have taken it to a new level. Forget about how the Liberty Lads managed to get into this aerial fight. Who cares how one of them is able to slug a Jap off the plane with the propeller in between them? What matters is the story of the daring rescue of our capital from the Japanese menace. How could a kid possibly pass this cover up without at least stopping to see what was inside. Unfortunately the comic book stories did not, could not, live up to the cover. For that the comic reader would have to buy National’s Adventure or Star Spangled comics. However the text piece, “the story behind the cover”, explained the events of the cover. Just not in so dramatic a manner.

Speed #18, Jack Kirby (pencils and inks), May 1942

A damsel in distress. A fiend finishing off a gravestone just before performing the final act. But have no fear, it’s Captain America to the rescue. But wait, where’s Bucky? But wait again, that’s not Captain America! Captain Freedom was Speed Comics’ patriotic hero. In the hands of Jack Kirby, Captain Freedom would look even more like Captain America then he already had. It must have brought some satisfaction to Simon and Kirby that they could still show how Cap should be done.

Captain Freedom first appeared in Speed #13 with a cover date of May 1941. This was before Al Harvey was publisher for Speed. According to Joe Simon, Irving Manheimer (president of Publisher Distributing) did the publishing of Speed Comics then. The distributors loved comics at that time. Captain Freedom was created by Franklin Flagg, do you think that could be a pseudonym? Once Captain America become a big seller, copy-cat patriotic heroes became abundant. But even so, Captain Freedom seems particularly close in design to Captain America. Similar placement of red and white stripes, a circle of stars replaces a single star on the chest, and shoulder pads replace mail armor. The “skull cap” is similar particularly to the Cap in Captain America #1. And of course the rank of Captain is shared by both.

What makes the similarity surprising is the Captain America #1 was cover dated March while Speed #13 is dated May. Comics typically took about a month to create, a month to print, and another month to distribute. But that would put the creation of Speed #13 to at best a month before Captain America #1. So we seem to have a case of an obvious copy-cat patriotic hero created before the original hit the new stands. The answer lies in advertisement used to promote the Comicscope. I covered this in detail in another post (The Comicscope and Captain America).

This Speed #18 cover was primarily penciled by Jack Kirby. The inking turns out to be his as well. That is not to say Joe Simon had nothing to do with the cover, just that I have not been able to detect any contribution he may have had.

Champ #19, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) June 1942

This is one my favorites of the Harvey covers. Once again there is a Jon Henri signature, but this time it was Joe Simon doing the pencils. It is amazing to see how well all the pieces of the story are present. The robbed bank, most of the policemen ineffectively on the other roof, the single policeman in the correct location is about to be taken care of by the crooks before they make their get-away. That is except for the Liberty Lads approaching unseen from the back, about to save the day. What a masterpiece. “The story behind the cover” text fills out the story, but is not half as exciting as the cover art.

Joe could work in a style close enough to Kirby’s that to this day many are fooled. But he had his own vision too and I am a bit surprised that so many experts still attribute this cover to Kirby. I suspect many use aesthetics to distinguish the two; for them if it is one of the better covers Jack must have done it. Jack did most of the penciling and Joe acknowledges that Kirby was an incredible artist. But I am here to tell you that Joe Simon is a lot better artist then many give him credit for.

Jack Kirby was the master at this almost 3D effect and although others tried to imitate Jack I do not believe I have ever seen anyone completely succeed. So when I see such a successful job as on Champ #18 (and also on Champ #20) I feel pretty confident that Jack Kirby was responsible. The one Liberty Lad about to leap on Champ #19 is not quite an exaggerated perspective (although still rather well done). But the lack of exaggerated perspective does not mean it was not done by Jack.

The Liberty Lads on Champ #19 are not only younger they also look familiar. That is because they seemed based on Gabby and Scrapper from the Newsboy Legion. Although in the past it was generally believed that Kirby did not swipe, more recently examples of Kirby swipes have been well documented particularly by Tom Morehouse in TJKC. But why would Jack have to swipe the Liberty Lads on Champ #19 but not on the other four covers? To me the Liberty Lads swipes are more likely to be evidence of Joe’s involvement than Jack. One features that suggests Kirby is the square fist of the policeman on the far roof. Square fists are easily recognized manner used by Jack. But it is so obviously that there is little doubt that Joe Simon would see it also and it would not be hard for Joe to adopt it himself. But note the stiff, straight arm of that same policeman, that does not look like Jack’s work.

By this period Joe Simon has advanced beyond the use of just two expressions that he had learned when he started comic book work (as described in The Comic Book Makers)

Slits for eyes, unless the character was to register astonishment or horror – and then the eyes become circles. Heavier lines for the eyebrows, raised for bewilderment, slanting down toward the nose for anger. One line for the upper lip. A heavier line, indicating a shadow, constituted the lower lip.

But there are some expressions that Joe uses more frequently than Jack. One is having both eyebrows raising as they approach the mid line. The policeman trying to climb onto the roof in Champ #19 is a good example of this eyebrow rendition.

The master criminal and his diminutive partner on Champ #19 are rather unique. To me they more represent the visual humor that Joe will later show in features like the Duke of Broadway then the type of humor Jack would do. Actually the cover as a whole seems more humorous then suspenseful.

Green Hornet #7, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (pencils and inks), June 1942

I love the way Simon and Kirby make a cover tell a story. The Green Hornet is rushing to attach a killer clown. If the clown carrying a wicked knife wasn’t enough, the lady on the lower level carries a newspaper with headlines that are hard to make out completely but clearly includes “CLOWN … CRIMINAL …”. Behind her is a fallen policeman, his gun laying at his side, obviously the Green Hornet will be taking on one tough clown. The press above is printing the front page for the latest edition declaring “DIES IN ELECTRIC CHAIR” with a picture of the clown, certainly printed ahead of time because the clown escaped before facing his execution. The Green Hornet had better be careful because this clown has nothing to lose.

The Green Hornet cover for June is a bit of a puzzle. The floating head looks like it was done by Joe Simon, The killer clown and the running Green Hornet seem to be Jack Kirby’s hand. The rest of the figures have bits of both. My take on this is that it was original penciled by Jack without the floating head. Joe added the large head and maybe touched up some other parts. Truly a joint effort. Once again signed as Jon Henri.

The inking on this cover includes irregularly patterned “hay” that we have seen before on the cover to Speed #17. As discussed there, this pattern was used by both Al Avison and Joe Simon (among others). While I do not see any inking touches on the Green Hornet #7 cover that look like Avison’s hand, I do find traces that look like Joe’s inking.

The “story behind the cover” for the issue is unusual in that it is not a very good match for the cover. In it there was no confrontation between the Green Hornet and the Clown in front of a newspaper printing press. Even more important there is no mention of the Clown having died in the electric chair. Green Hornet #7 differs from the other Harvey comics in that the text story is continued in the comic strip feature “The Green Hornet and the case of the Murdering Clown”. It is the comic book feature where the Clown somehow returns from the electric chair and where there is a fight between the Green Hornet and the Clown placed among newspaper printing presses. So despite the title of the “story behind the cover”, the text story is actually a prequel to the cover and the comic book feature is actually the story for the cover.

Speed #19, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), June 1942

June is Joe Simon’s months since he did both Champ #19 and Speed #19. Both signed as Jon Henri. To me the give-a-way that this is Joe’s penciling is the depiction of the Japanese impersonator. The whole idea of the Japanese setting up to disguise himself as Captain Freedom only to be interrupted by the real thing that seem to me to be something Simon would come up with. Captain Freedom’s fist is square like Jack Kirby would do it. But Joe had inked Jack’s work and was familiar with these sort of traits. The Japanese impersonator has the peaked eyebrows that Joe seems to favor.

Harvey’s Fighting American #2, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), 1966

This Speed cover depicts a horde of Japanese soldiers coming down a flight of stairs and entering the room. Actually this is not too unusual at the time. Compare it to the cover for Speed #17 penciled in parts by both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby where it is Captain Freedom who enters from a stairway. Al Avison used it once (Speed #14) but with fewer enemies. The unidentified artist (Speed #16 and Pocket #3) also had the horde of advancing enemies, but lack the stairs. But after this period where this motif seemed somewhat popular, I don’t remember Simon and Kirby ever returning to the enemies entering from stairway motif. But surprisingly it shows up much later in art Joe Simon did which I believe was meant to be the cover for Fighting American #2 by Harvey meant for 1966. The art has a smaller number of enemies but it does show the stairs.

Champ #20, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), July 1942

The hits keep coming. So many of the covers that Simon and Kirby did for Harvey are just amazing. But this one is another of my favorites. The exaggerated perspective in the Liberty Lads are a signature style for Jack Kirby, so he is the primary penciler. Simon and Kirby literally demonize the Japanese foe. This sort of thing would not be considered politically correct today, but during that war artists worked under a different standard.

I have seen penciled on the margins of the original art that this was inked by Al Avison. But that sort of notation is suspicious. There would be no reason for leaving such notation when the art was original created and used. I have seen an awful lot of S&K art and only on one other page have I seen a similar annotation as to the inker of the work. I strongly suspect that these notes were made by subsequent owners or art dealers. In any case at this time Avison was at Timely working as their primary artist for Captain America. As such he was very busy and it is unlikely he would have time to do this inking. No, the inking looks like Simon’s work to me.

Speed #20, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), July 1942

I think this is Jack’s penciling because of his typical exaggerated perspective. Captain Freedom is a true superhero, he has super strength and can fly (or perhaps he is just jumping great distances). But on all the Speed covers that Jack and Joe did they both portray Harvey’s patriotic hero more normal, sort of like they did Captain America.

Champ #21, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), August 1942

This cover shows one of the Liberty Lads ejecting from a plane flown by his partner. I am not sure where the boy left the plane, it looks like a one seater. Nor is it clear why the plane had to fly upside down. The plane’s camouflage does not seem effective as the ship’s spot light has been trained on it. The bailing Liberty Lad is just about to open his parachute. It is not at all clear how he is going to attach the ship armed with only a machine gun and with no possibility of surprise. But this sort of logical analysis really is pointless with these Harvey covers, bravery trumps logic.

The baling Liberty Lab is not in exaggerated perspective, but still seems to have the Kirby touch. So I believe Jack was the primary penciler.

Green Hornet #8, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), August 1942

Although I cannot provide any source, the damsel in distress looks an awful lot like she was originally done by Will Eisner. It would appear that for Green Hornet #8 Joe resorted to the use of swiping that was so prevalent in the start of his comic book career. The Spirit had been published as a newspaper insert for some time so Joe was certainly aware of it. However my search through the DC archive editions has failed to reveal any possible sources for the lady on Simon’s cover. The Green Hornet’s two opponents look like Simon creations. Note their similarity of their checks and jowls with that found in the Hitler from Speed #21 (August), the smaller villain from Champ #19 (June), and the sketch of Hitler in a Zoot suit. Yes Joe used swipes for this cover, as he so often did, yet he has created a very original composition.

The cover tells a story, as just about all Joe Simon covers do. A lady is held captive, terrified of the future revealed in a crystal ball by a truly gruesome witch. But the background shows the Green Hornet arriving to the rescue. But our hero must be careful to negotiate the obstacles separating himself from the damsel in distress, a pit at his feet and a chain stretching across his path. As we follow the Green Hornet’s eyes we find it is no ordinary chain as it ends with a collar on what is the not quite human equivalent of a guard dog. A very effective guard indeed as shown by his blood stained knife. The guard is intent on preventing the Green Hornet from interfering while his diminutive companion’s concentration remains on fulfilling the crystal ball’s prediction of the woman’s fate.

Simon makes effective use of props to heighten the drama. A drip covered candle provides an eerie touch to the scene, it is a device that Simon and Kirby would introduce often for such an effect. A spot light seems to come from someplace low off our field of vision. It is a very selective spot light indeed, no shadows are cast by the legs of the two subhuman figures. However shadows are cast by the hand-held knife, the chain and the Green Hornet himself. All the shadows that would provide drama to the scene, as always realism is not as important as telling the story. The spot light also aids the composition, diagonally dividing the two darker fields occupied by the villains. The captive is not in the spot light but is highlighted by it, visually connecting her to the hero. It may not have anything to do with Joe, but the colorist use of a green dress also effectively links the damsel with the hero.

Joe Simon may not have been as talented a penciler as Jack Kirby, and some will say that he depended too much on the use of swipes. When it came to laying out a cover and making it tell a story, few at the time were his equal. Green Hornet #8 was truly a thrilling cover. But Joe was not content with just drama, he also included humor, albeit a dark humor. There is a similar touch of black humor in Joe’s cover for Champ #19. Here Simon scatters cob webs about the place as part of the effort to give a dingy look to the scene. How many artists would then turn around and attach webbing from the staff to the witch herself? My favorite piece of humor in this piece is how the beastly guard leads his small partner by the hand, as if he is taking part in a “take your child to work” day. This type of humor is an early manifestation that would fully blossom when Joe was editor of Sick magazine.

Like the rest, this issue includes a text article to tell “the thrilling story behind the cover”. What is interesting about the text story for Green Hornet #8 is not what it adds to the understanding of the cover, rather how it deviates. In the story the lady is held captive in a building across the street from the offices where the Green Hornet’s alter ego works as a newspaper reporter. Nothing in the story suggests that woman was held in the sort of dungeon that the cover portrays. Rather the story describes her place of confinement as a small room adorn to look like a fortune telling shop. In the story there is a fortune teller whose crystal ball reveals a fatal future for the beautiful captive, but without an indication that the soothsayer was an ugly witch. The short tale includes two “toughs” without giving the impression that they were almost subhuman. Neither is described in the story as small as the one shown on the cover depiction. Nor does the story mention the use of knives by the toughs. I find it hard to believe that an author presented with a copy of this exotic cover art would have written this more mundane story. More likely Joe was given a verbal outline of the story and embellished it to make a more interesting cover. As such this cover deviates from the practice used for “story behind the cover” of other covers.

Speed #21, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), with a little help from Jack Kirby?, August 1942

The pointing hand of the clown looks like it was done by Kirby. But only that small detail does. The Japanese, the clown, Hitler and the gangster in a small circle, cluelessly looking for Captain Freedom is just the sort of visual humor I come to expect from Joe Simon. And Captain Freedom towering over them, as well as all his floating heads, seem to me to have been done by Joe’s hand. So I make Simon as the primary penciler.

It is wonderful to see all the different approaches to a cover Simon and Kirby did for Harvey. But actually that was true with Joe and Jack during all their collaboration. They always seem to put great effort to make their covers stand out from the rest of the crowd on the racks.

Speed #22, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) September 1942

I once provided Joe Simon with copies of my restoration of two stories from Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940). One was signed as Gregory Sykes and Joe revealed that in high school he and his friends sometimes used another name and his was Gregory G. Sykes. But the conversation did not end there. Joe also said that as a comic book artist he thought he had used three pseudonyms. He knew two of them (Jon Henri and Gregory Sykes) but could not recall the third so he felt he might have been mistaken. As Joe did not remember these Daring Mystery stories at all, he began to read them with much interest. At one point Joe stopped and chuckled, he said that in the Phantom Bullet story he had used the name Nelson Glaven for one of the characters. Nelson Glaven was the alternate name for Ned Gibman, one of his high school friends. I immediately recognized the name Glaven.

The cover to Speed #22 was signed Glaven. I had never talked to Joe about this cover since I had already decided (incorrectly) that he did not do it. Still I always had thought it was an excellent piece of comic art and had wanted to know more about the artist. However my search for more information on Glaven always came up empty and I had concluded it was a pseudonym. Now Joe has provided the information to link him to the Glaven alias. Actually I should have known better when I previously felt that Speed #22 was the wrong style for Joe Simon. I have been saying for some time that Joe could and did adopt different styles.

Speed #22 is a great cover. The planes diving out of formation leading to a similarly diving Captain Freedom and then to a bomb is very effective. This sort of formal device and the more static layout it provides is not the sort of thing usually found in covers by Simon and Kirby. But Joe did experiment with different compositions from time to time and this apparently is an example of that. Simon seem to deliberately adopt a different style for this cover however the misty clouds are a feature that Joe would sometimes use. The inking is done with a brush in a manner very much like the inking of some of the Jon Henri covers, particularly the form lines (see the inking glossary) on the airplanes and the boots.

Champ #22, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) September 1942

This issue is unique among the Champ covers we have examined in that the Human Meteor has replaced the Liberty Lads. The cover has the appearance of being constructed from a number of different swipes. The hooded foe in the lower right corner came from Lou Fine’s Wonderworld #7 cover. The lady being thrown into the pool seems unnatural. Her hair and general pose looks more like she is lying down rather then falling. I am sure she was taken from someplace. I cannot identify other swipes but that is not to say there were not any. The Human Meteor and his young sidekick both have large ears that are not quite placed on the head correctly. This unusual treatment of ears viewed from the back is also a characteristic of Jack Kirby at this time. But the anatomy and pose of the Human Meteor just does not otherwise look like Jack’s work.

Like he did for Speed #22, Joe seems to adopt a different style for the Champ #22 cover. The design does not match that of Speed #22 but the style is similar. Joe’s Glaven pseudonym and the art style seems to be done to make Harvey’s bullpen seem bigger. Simon has spent much effort in the inking, particularly for the Human Meteor, resulting in a beautiful cover. My only complaint is that cover does not tell as clear a story as Simon’s covers usually do. It the Human Meteor leaping to save the damsel from drowning or to fight the hooded villains?

Champ #23, Jack Kirby (pencils) and Joe Simon (inks) October 1942

The Liberty Lads in action one last time, at least as done by Simon and Kirby. Some of the forced perspective, especially in the thrown Japanese soldier, have the distinct Kirby touch. More importantly the Liberty Lads have the wild hair that is very much a Kirby technique. The foreground figure turning and calling to the viewer is a rare device that shows up from time to time in work by Kirby even up to the period where he was working on monster comics for Marvel. So he is probably the primary penciler.

The art shows a good compositional touch of contrasting the foreground with the background. The Japanese soldiers with their pistols and rifles do not stand a chance against the Liberty Lads with their tank and machine gun, not to mention their most powerful weapon of all, the American flag. The US tank has just demolished the Japanese vehicle so badly that it one can no longer make out what it was. Even the cloud of smoke raised by the tank and machine gun completely overpowers the puny gun smoke of the only Japanese soldier still fighting. The Japanese do not stand a chance against the might of the US. Of course this comic came out in August 1942 at a point where America was doing rather poorly against the military forces of Japan.

Champ #23 original art with stats removed and some reconstruction of the flag

The original art for the Champ #23 still exists but without the original stats. One surprise is what there was art under the stat of the film strip showing the “exciting heroes”. Line inking of the art has been done but no spotting inking. Obviously it was a mistake to do art that would not be shown on the final cover, but the mistake was corrected before the final inking was done. Another surprise is that the original flag was replace with a differently arrange flag stat. This was probably done because the original version was crude to say the least. On the margin is a note to fix the flag and there is also a rough sketch how the flag should look. Because the flag stat was oriented differently from the original version, application of white out and some re-inking was required.

Speed #23, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) October 1942

Captain Freedom springs to action one last time, at least as done by Simon and Kirby. A striking war cover with explosions and advancing troops. A good cover but, in my opinion, not one of Simon’s best efforts.

There are a couple of errors to the cover art for Speed #23. Captain Freedom is missing his shoulder pads. This error also occurs on the cover of Speed #18, one which Kirby did both pencils and inks. Jack is famous for errors in getting costumes correct but this is unusual for Joe. However it is understandable in that it makes Captain Freedon’s costume even more like that of Captain America. The second error is actually common to all the Simon and Kirby Speed covers (Speed #17 – 23); Captain Freedom’s thighs and knees are covered in blue pants. This is surprising because previous and subsequent Speed covers get Captain Freedom’s leg coloring correct. Even the interior Captain Freedom story art is colored properly for the issues where it is wrong on the cover. Typically coloring was up to the publisher, but seeing that only the Simon and Kirby colors have the error it is quite probable that Joe and Jack did the color guides. The blue leggings also make Captain Freedom look more like Captain America.

Green Hornet #9, Jack Kirby (pencils and inks) October 1942

Green Hornet #9 is another of my favorite Harvey covers (along with Champ #19 and #20). Jack Kirby’s touch is all over this one. In it he uses the mirror to great effect. The crook is so started by seeing the Green Hornet in the mirror and has turned so quickly to confront him that his cigar and its reflection still hang in the air. Although the crook is reaching for his gun, the Green Hornet already has the drop on him. However the mirror reveals to us that yet another gun carrying foe is climbing into the room behind them. This device of a gun carrying foe, or sometimes the hero, sneaking in through a window or door was used by Simon and Kirby a number of times while working for National. But the thing is, if we can see the crook in the mirror should not the heroes?

Well the cover says “Read the story behind the cover”. From the story we learn that the crook by the dresser is the Jackal and the gun carrying foe is Dapper Dan. The key passage reads:

Just as he was gloating over piles of money in his drawers, he heard stealthy steps creep toward him. Instinctively he reached for his automatic and glanced at the mirror. It was the Green Hornet!

“Keep jour hands from that roscoe!” the Green Hornet ordered.

The Jackal scowled and obeyed. But when he looked at the mirror again, his spirits rose. Hefting an automatic, Dapper Dan was coming through the fire escape window.

Dapper Dan was just as visible to the Green Hornet and Kato as he was to the Jackal. Almost unperceived, Kato moved sidewise, and as Dapper Dan set a foot into the apartment, Kato turned around. Then Dapper Dan found himself sailing through the air toward the wall, which he struck hard with his head. He fell on the floor without a groan.

It was jiu-jitsu carried to perfection.

The original art for this cover still exists and it was up for auction by Heritage a few years ago. It reveals there was more to the art that was either covered up by stats (of the “film strip” and the title) or painted out with white-out. The now missing parts are interesting but frankly superfluous. Whoever made the decision to remove them was absolutely correct. The finished cover is much more focused.

Green Hornet #10, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), Jack Kirby (pencils) and an unidentified artist (inks) December 1942

Simon and Kirby would do the last of these Harvey cover in October (Green Hornet #9). Champ #23, Speed #23 and Green Hornet #9 would be the last of the Harvey covers that can safely be attributed to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Champ #24 and Speed #24 for November were clearly done by other artists. But I have long been puzzled by the cover art for Green Hornet #10 (December 1942). My conclusion now is that this cover was started by Simon and Kirby but perhaps finished by some other artist.

The criminal clown similar to that by Jack for Green Hornet #7. Further the costume is also a close match to the one on the cover of Speed #21 done by Joe. But the inking does not look like is was done by either Joe or Jack and so I suspect that was done by another artist. The Green Hornet and car look like they were penciled and inked by Simon but is possible some of it was also done by another inker as well. The background scenery is reminiscent of some of the Fox covers Joe had once done. It is a dynamic composition weaken somewhat by the disparate inking styles. I suspect that it was a rush job by Joe and Jack that was finished by someone else.

With the war and the draft going on, Joe and Jack knew that eventually they would have to do military service. In anticipation of that, they began to create a stock pile of work to be used by DC while they were away. They certainly had helped their friend Al Harvey to get his new publishing company going but Joe and Jack needed to concentrate on their DC work. However Simon and Kirby would return to do work for Harvey after the war.

Joe Simon Cover Art for Harvey’s Pocket-Size Comics

I stopped posting on my Simon and Kirby blog over four years ago, primarily due to pressure from my day job and the restoration work I was doing for Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library. Work on Titan’s publications have since been completed and I have recently retired. Although I now have more free time, I have no plans to resume periodic blogging. But there were some investigations that I feel remained as unfinished business. One of which are the covers that Joe and Jack did for Al Harvey early in the startup of his comic publishing company. I recently did restorations for all these covers; redoing the ones I had done earlier and finally working on the covers that I previously had not gotten around to. Some of my views about these covers have changed and besides which much time has passed from my previous discussions. I feel the best way to handle this would be provide two long posts on all the covers, incorporating those parts of my previous discussions that I feel are still appropriate. It seems appropriate to post this discussion on Joe Simon’s 104th birthday.

In his book “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon describes how his friend Al Harvey approached him to do a cover for Al’s new concept, a small-sized comic book. Joe also tells how Harvey offered to make Joe a partner for $250. But Joe was then working on Captain America. At Timely he and Jack Kirby were supposed to get a share of the profits for this very popular comic. So Joe felt the safe decision was to stay at Timely and so turned Al down. It probably seemed at the time like a no brainer, but Simon would never saw much royalty money from Timely and would leave before the year was out. As for Harvey his new comic book concept would not last long but he still managed to build up a very successful comic publishing business.

On a visit to Joe’s place, I brought him printed copies of the pocket-size Harvey covers (Pocket #1-4, Speed #14-16). Initially Joe commented that he only did a couple of pocket-sized covers. But when he looked at the cover he said that Pocket #1, #2 and #4 were his. The only question was about Speed #16. Initially he said that he thought he did it, then later he said he may not have done it. Joe commented that the feathering on the legs of Captain Freedom was not like he would do it. Note that on page 116 of his book “My Life in Comics” Joe says he did the cover for Pocket Comics 1-3. This is Joe misremembering our earlier earlier conversation and confusing doing three of the first four covers with doing the first three covers. I am going to discuss the covers that Joe said he did first.

Pocket #1, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), August 1941

Joe’s first effort for Harvey appeared on Pocket Comics #1 with cover date August 1941. This comic came out in the same month as Captain America #5. Jack Kirby was doing some great stuff at that time, but the true Simon & Kirby style had not yet emerged. The Pocket #1 cover was not in the Simon & Kirby style either, and in fact it does not show much in the way of influence from what Jack was doing. Here we get Joe doing Joe.

There are things about this cover which I find unfortunate. The field of stars gives me a claustrophobic feeling. But the biggest problem may not have been Joe’s fault as he said he was working from a mock-up. Nearly half the top is occupied by the comic’s title. If that was not enough the left side has a list of the comic’s contents. This left little room on an already small cover for Joe to work, but he uses it well. Joe came up with a terrific design which was finely executed. The scene portrayed actually is not logical, but it was not meant to be and it works.

Pocket #1, Splash page from the Satan story, unknown artist, August 1941

There are similarities between Simon’s cover and the splash from the Satan story by the unidentified artist. (The GCD says the artist was Pierce Rice, but I remain unconvinced as all the work attributed to Rice in the GCD do not appear to be done by the same artist and I have yet to find any early work signed by the artist). Both have an oversized Satan holding the Statue of Liberty rising among a cityscape. The Statue of Liberty plays a part in the story whereas the spirit of 76 does not. Therefore I suspect Joe based his cover from the splash and took it into his own unique direction.

A small diversion, the writing of the Satan story was credited to Eando Binder, which is a pseudonym for the brothers Earl Andrew and Otto Binder. According to Wikipedia they used this name for their joint writing of science fiction. But by 1939 the writing was done by Otto with Earl acting as a literary agent. Otto Binder would go on to have a long career as a comic book writer.

Wonderworld #13, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), May 1940

On the cover Simon provides a Satan that is a bit different then that in the comic itself. This is not just due to the colorist use of yellow instead of the classic red. Instead Joe has turned to a cover he did for Fox, Wonderworld #13 (May 1940). For the Fox cover, Joe was trying to work in the style of Lou Fine. His success is shown by the fact that this cover was often attributed to Fine despite the presence of a Joe Simon signature.

Silver Streak #2, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), January 1940

But there is also an even earlier version of Satan. That was the Claw as portrayed on Silver Streak #2 (January 1940). That, along with Keen Detective Funnies #14, were Joe’s first cover work. Simon gave the Claw more of a Frankenstein look in the face, but the hands are similar to both Wonderworld #13 and Pocket #1.

Pocket #2, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) and Barbara Hall (pencils and inks), September 1941

In Pocket Comics #2 the title has been reduced compared to #1 so there is more room for the art. The main scene once again depicts an oversized attaching Satan, being ineffectively fought by a miniature military (in this case some battleships) with a giant Spirit of ’76 coming to the rescue. Whereas in Pocket #1 the Spirit of 76 fought Satan on the cover but not in the story, for Pocket #2 this hero really did battle the villain in both.

On the left side of the cover is the Black Cat, seemingly not part of the scene with Satan, but oversized nonetheless. The Black Cat started in Pocket #1 just a month before, so her presence on the cover is too soon to be due to an unexpected popularity. Rather having depicted Satan and the Spirit of ’76, the Black Cat seemed more unique since the other features were the standard male heroes. The Black Cat on the cover was taken from the splash to the story from Pocket #1. The GCD attributes that story art to Barbara Hall. The story art is unsigned but there seems to be some documentary evidence to that effect. Women in Comics states:

She studied painting in Los Angeles, moving to New York City in 1940. She showed her portfolio to Harvey Comics in 1941, and was hired to draw the comic Black Cat. Her next strip was Girl Commandos, about an international team of Nazi-fighting women. This comic was developed from Pat Parker, War Nurse, about a “freelance fighter for freedom.” When stationed in India, this nurse recruited a British nurse, an American radio operator, a Soviet photographer, and a Chinese patriot. Hall continued this strip until 1943.

The work listed by Women in Comics does appear to have been executed by the same artist.

The similarity of design and execution of the Satan and Spirit of ’76 scene with that depicted on Pocket #1 leaves little doubt that this was also done by Joe Simon. Which makes it puzzling as to why the GCD attributes the cover for Pocket #1 to Joe and #2 to Bob Powell.

Pocket #4 Joe Simon (pencils and inks), January 1942,

I want to skip for now Pocket Comics #3, and proceed to #4. This is my favorite of the Pocket Comic covers. It is a great design, particularly since the text has been relegated to smaller areas as compared to the other issues. The Spirit of ’76 is a good match for that on Pocket #1 or Pocket #2. I am sure this cover was also done by Joe Simon. A new feature is the Nazi falling after being hit. It is not the way Jack Kirby would have done it, but you can tell that was the source for Joe’s inspiration. No longer do we find oversized figures. But although the design still works, it really doesn’t make logical sense. How could the Spirit of ’76 have delivered his blow if the Nazi had been standing behind him? Or how could the Black Cat jump through the window in the middle of the room and still manage to grab the arm of the Nazi in the back of the room? But as far as I am concern comics art is not meant to try to capture an instance in time. It is meant to tell a story. Without a single line of text, this cover is complete comprehensible. All the distortions of time and space were all done to advance that aim. The logical flaws are in fact its strengths.

Speed #14, Al Avison (pencils and inks), September 1941

Al Avison was one of the artist that Joe Simon hired to help with Captain America and some other comics at Timely. I suspect that his presence in the early Harvey Comics may have been due to Joe. However it came about, this was the start of a long working relationship between Al Avison and Al Harvey.

Pocket #1, Splash page for the Red Blazer story, Al Avison (pencils and inks), August 1941

Fortunately Al signed this cover and the Red Blazer story from Pocket Comics #1, so they serves as good references when trying to sort out the attributions. This was early in his career, so although he tried to use what he learned from working with Simon and Kirby he could not yet pull it off. But he matured quickly so that when Joe and Jack left Timely in a few months, Al became the head artist for Captain America for a while.

The background for the cover includes some stairs and some advancing adversaries. This theme would be repeated in a number of the early Harvey covers, although in some cases the stairs would be replaced with a long hallway. However Avison never seems to return to this theme in any of his other early work including what he did at Timely after Simon & Kirby had left.

Speed #15 Unknown artist, November 1941

Unfortunately the cover for Speed #15 is unsigned. Compared to Speed #14, Shock Gibson has gotten much younger and less bulky. Although I would hardly call the work that Avison did on Speed #14 advanced, the art for Speed #15 is much cruder.

Speed #15, Splash page for the Shock Gibson story, Al Avison (pencils and inks), November 1941

The story art for Shock Gibson in Speed #15 is also unsigned, but is a good matched for Avison’s cover and story art from Speed #14 and Pocket #1 (both signed). The GCD lists Avison as the artist for the cover of Speed #15 and previously I asserted that as well, but I no longer believe that to be true. The Speed #15 cover artist style is just too dissimilar from the Avison’s story art from the same time period.

Keen Detective #17, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), January 1940

The Speed #15 cover has wispy mists in the background. This feature, sometimes used for smoke or clouds, occasionally appears in Simon’s work both with and without Kirby. For instance it shows up in the cover for Keen Detective #17; one of the two first comic book covers that he did. The presence of the wispy mist as well as the overall Simon and Kirby appearance makes me believe that Joe may have provided layouts for the Speed #15 cover.

Speed #16 January 1942

Everybody makes mistakes, even experts. So when I say that when the Jack Kirby Checklist included Speed #16 it made a whooper, that does not diminish the value of that list. But all that needs to be done to dispel that misattribution is to compare the cover to one by Jack that came out in the same month (January 1942). There can be no question, Speed #16 was not done by Kirby.

But I have a confession to make. I included Speed #16 in the books I once made of the complete Simon and Kirby covers. I did so because I thought it was possible that Joe Simon might have been the artist. Later I attributed it to Al Avison due to some similarities to the layout of Speed #14 (a work signed by Avison). This cover is a pretty good match to the cover of Speed #15 and I do believe they were done by the same artist. But as I have already discussed, I find the art to be a too crude to have been done by Avison, especially compared to signed work done for Harvey at the same time. I may also add that Joe Simon once said that he was not the artist for this cover.

The cover art for Speed #14, #15 and #16 all have a Simon and Kirby feel to them. Speed #14 and #16 also share a theme of advancing enemies come from background stairs or hallway. This was why I once felt they were all done by the same artist. However there is a better explanation, or rather a choice of two explanations. One is that this unknown artist was working for Simon on the Timely comics and had thus learned some of the Simon and Kirby approach. That, or what I believe is more likely, Simon supplied layouts for these Speed covers. I do not credit Kirby as providing the layouts because he has not yet become involved with Harvey’s comics.

I do not believe that the humorous quality to Speed #15 was intentional. But in Speed #16 is clearly was. It is hard to believe that anyone would take seriously an attach by Hitler on the White House. But even if they did, it wouldn’t be this ridiculous Adolf carrying four rifles and three swords. This sort of visual humor would later be a Simon trademark in his comic magazine Sick.

Pocket #3, Unknown artist (pencils and inks) and Joe Simon (pencils and inks), November 1941

I have left this cover last so that it could be compared to the art for the other Pocket and Speed comics. As I mentioned earlier, Joe did not believe he was the artist for this cover. I must say that it is hard to believe that the hooded ghouls were done by Joe, his were always more threatening and not goofy. When we examine the cover, problems set in. The soldier being prepared for shipping (via C.O.D) just does not seem to lay down in the box. The Nazis are white skeletal figures in red hooded clocks. I would describe the robbed figures with the same term I would use for Speed #15 and #16 (covers that look like they were done by this artist), goofy. The track record so far for the pocket comics is that Joe did well executed covers, this unknown artist rather crude ones, Joe presents intimidating villains, this one goofy Nazis.

The action takes place in a long corridor done in forced perspective. There are more red clocked Nazis advancing from the end of the hallway. This is all similar to the tunnel in Speed #16. This suggests that both covers were done by the same artist. But as I discussed above, may be due to layouts that were supplied by Simon.

It seems clear that the figure of the Black Cat was done by a different artist than the rest of the cover. The style for Black Cat does not match any of the artists who worked on the story art but is a good match for the Black Cat that appears in the cover for Pocket Comics #4, so I am crediting Joe for her figure alone.

Al Harvey thought he had a hit with his idea of pocket-sized comics. But as Joe and Jim Simon said in “The Comic Book Makers”

The size of the little magazines made it easy for kids to slip them into their pockets, or inside the pages of a standard-sized comic book, while browsing through the comic racks. Petty crime was a big problem in the little candy stores. So Pocket Comics were dead. But Al Harvey went on to bigger things.

Pocket Comics #4 and Speed Comics #16 have cover dates of January 1942. Harvey would no longer publish pocket-size comics. Coincidentally this is the same month that the last Simon and Kirby Captain America came out.  The next time Simon and Kirby work would reach the racks it would be dated April. I will discuss the work Simon and Kirby  did for the revived Harvey in a post next week.

Daring Disc

Daring Disk, pencils by Jack Kirby

Occasionally a title would be cancelled leaving Simon and Kirby with some unused art. Even then Joe and Jack would often rework the art so as not to waste the effort that went into it. In one case the work for the Fighting American #8 that was cancelled by Prize Comics in 1955 ended up being used in the comic published by Harvey in 1966. Because of the recycling there is only a limited amount of Simon and Kirby work that avoided publication until the more recent rise of reprint books. For most of the art that escaped being used there is ample evidence for what it was originally intended. All this makes the story Daring Disc is so unusual. It is a very early Simon and Kirby art that originally never got published and for which there is no firm evidence as to what title it was meant for and therefore exactly when it was created.

The art style is such that we can be pretty certain it was done early in the Simon and Kirby collaboration. But I would like to examine the evidence that the work provides that might narrow down when it was created.

I do not believe the inking helps much. It does not look to me like the inking that Kirby did on his own pencils in stories such as the Solar Legion that Jack did for Crash Comics (#1 to 3, May – July 1940). But Kirby was variable in the inking of his very early work (see A Brief Pause, Another Brief Pause and It Ain’t Soup ) so it hard to be sure whether this is his inking or not. It might have been inked by Joe Simon or someone else but that would hardly help in narrowing the time period.

“Daring Disk”, letters by an unidentified letterer

I believe better information can be obtained by the lettering. This is not a very professional letterer (many were not during those early days of comic books). His lettering can easily be distinguished from that by Jack Kirby, Joe Simon or Howard Ferguson, the most frequently used letterers for Simon and Kirby work from the early 40’s (see Chapter 5 of In the Beginning for examples of all three). This trio did most of the most of the lettering during the initial Simon and Kirby collaboration. Joe and Jack most frequently in the earliest period and Howard predominantly later. However other letterers were common during the period from July to September 1940. Sometimes another letterer was used later for example in the Vision story from Marvel Mystery Comics #17 but by then Kirby’s pencils were done in a style that does not match that found in Daring Disk and therefore can be discounted. So based on the use of an non-typical letterer and the art style July to September 1940 seems to be the most likely date* for Daring Disk.

Marvel Mystery #10 (August 1940) “The Human Torch”, letters by an unidentified letterer (from Marvel Masterworks)

While I cannot identify the letterer of Daring Disc his work looks very much like that found in the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #10 (August 1940). The lettering examples I provide for both the Daring Disk and MM #10 were derived from the speech balloons while the same type of lettering is found in the captions only it is slanted in both pieces. Further drop capitals** were not used in either work. Simon was the Timely editor so it is likely that he would have known and could supply work to the letterer from MM #10. MM #10 August cover date matches the July to September dates that I suggested above.

These is one other piece of evidence to consider the title of the piece. Why Daring Disc? Horrible Disc, Terrible Disc or something of that nature would seem more appropriate. But perhaps it was called Daring because it was meant for Daring Comics. A similar use of Daring in the title was used for Captain Daring by Jack Kirby (Daring Mysteries #6, September 1940). Simon’s work appeared in the early issues of Daring Mystery but Kirby’s first appeared in Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) and later in DM #7 (April 1941) and #8 (January 1942). But again Kirby’s art had developed by DM #7 into a style that I do not think matches Daring Disk.

Granted this is not the greatest evidence but it seems the best available. so based largely on the use of a letterer other than Simon, Kirby or Ferguson I would suggest Daring Disk would cover date from July to September 1940. The particular letterer used and the title are even less firm evidence but they agree with those dates as well.


* These are cover dates, calendar dates would put the creation of the art 5 or 6 months early; January to April 1940.

** Drop capitals is the term I use for enlarged and sometimes shadowed first letter of the captions.

In the Beginning, Chapter 12, Their First Hit

Blue Bolt #10 (March 1941) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt was a comic serial feature. Except for the first issue, the plot for each story reached a satisfactory completion but the end always included what effectively was the start of the next story. However the story for BB #10 ends with the green sorceress promising to give up her evil goals of domination and letting Blue Bolt go free. What would Blue Bolt be without the green sorceress as a nemesis? The inside cover was titled “Ye Editor’s Page” which states:

Most of you are tired of seeing the green sorceress constantly fighting Blue Bolt. Hereafter, this strip will be improved by showing new and more exciting action without the green sorceress.

Blue Bolt would continue but without Simon and Kirby. 

Captain America #1 (March 1941) Meet Captain America, pencils by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson

I doubt very much whether Simon and Kirby’s leaving Blue Bolt had anything to do with any dissatisfaction with the work they had done on the feature. Rather I suspect they stopped moonlighting to devote more attention to Captain America, their new creation for Timely Comics. Joe and Jack had made a deal with Goodman, the owner of Timely, in which they would get a share in the profits. It therefore made sense to give priority to the work that they would do for Timely. Since Simon and Kirby would create all the work that appeared in Captain America, 61 pages for the first issue, this meant a substantial increase in they amount of work they had to produce each month. (Although the Captain Marvel Adventures that Simon and Kirby had done previously required a similar number of pages.)

While Kirby is usually credited with drawing Captain America, some of it was actually penciled by Simon particularly in the first issue. For instance the standing figure of Captain America shown above was drawn by Joe while the rest of the page, including the running Bucky, were done by Kirby.

Captain America #1 (March 1941) Captain America and the Chess-board of Death page 9, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson

In a previous post (Chapter 10) it was observed that Simon and Kirby had begun using some new layout devices. One, picked up from Lou Fine, was to extend figures beyond the panel borders. If anything, Joe and Jack made even greater use of this device in Captain America. Sometimes to extremes as for instance the standing Bucky in the upper left of the page shown above whose figure extends over three panels. In Captain America Simon and Kirby began using unusually shaped panels as well such as the circular panel and others with a curved border shown above. Even Ferguson got into the act by using vertical letters for normal text in the speech balloons while using slanted letters in captions and when emphasis was desired. It appears that Simon and Kirby were doing whatever they could to make Captain America art stand out.

Captain America #1 (March 1941) Hurricane, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

While all the Captain America stories from the first issue were drawn by both Kirby and Simon, inked by various hands and lettered by Howard Ferguson there were two backup features that were drawn, inked and lettered by Kirby alone. That is not to say that Simon was not involved just that there is no evidence to prove he was. One feature, Hurricane, concerned the return of the god Mercury to the human sphere. As such it was the first Kirby piece with a mythological theme.

Captain America #1 (March 1941) Tuk Caveboy, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

The other all Kirby piece was Tuk Caveboy.

Marvel Mystery #17 (March 1941) Vision, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, letters by unidentified letterer (from Golden Masterworks reprint)

Kirby also drew and inked the Vision story for Marvel Mystery #17 but, as with the previous issue, he did not do the lettering.

Captain America was a break through comic for Simon and Kirby, particularly for Kirby. Simon’s Blue Bolt had been an important enough of a creation to be the featured story of a new comic book title with the same name. It probably was popular enough but nowhere near as big a seller as Captain America. Up until then none of Kirby’s comics received any real attention. Captain America changed all that and made Simon and Kirby a brand name. While somewhat primitive compared to what Simon and Kirby would produce even a single year later, Captain America was well advanced relative to the comics published at that time. Pretty much everyone noticed and the comic book industry was changed forever.

It would be a great story to say that when Simon met Kirby they shortly began their classic collaboration. A great story but not what actually happened. Instead what appeared to occur was a variety of working conditions. Sometimes Jack helped out with some pages of art (for instance Blue Bolt #2 and #3), sometimes Kirby would do the pencils and Simon the inking (Blue Bolt #4 to #7), sometimes Kirby would do the pencils and other the inking (Blue Bolt #8 and #9), occasionally both Joe and Jack would pencil and others would do the inking (Captain America #1) and finally both might do their own individual projects (like Simon’s Fiery Mask in the Human Torch #2(1) and Kirby’s Vision stories in Marvel Mystery #13 to #15). While the overall tendency was for greater dependency on Kirby’s undeniable artistic skills as time went on, what appears to be happening was Simon taking on the roll of a true or acting editor using Kirby (or not) in whatever combination needed to get the job done. In my opinion it was not until Simon and Kirby left Timely for DC that they began to truly forge their business and artistic collaboration.

So ends another serial post. I am sure that someday I will do one on Joe and Jack’s Captain America but that day is not today.

In the Beginning, Chapter 11, Calm Before the Storm

Blue Bolt #9 (February 1941) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson

Once again some rather poor inking mars an otherwise great Simon and Kirby piece. As mentioned previously the inking was very likely the work of one or more of the Timely studio assistants; Al Avison, Al Gabriel and Syd Shores. Unfortunately this time Kirby did not even ink the splash.

A recent “innovation” was the used of a blue field to encircle the page and separate the panels. Simon and Kirby had not used this device either before or since. The other features in the comic book had similar color fields although using colors other than cyan (blue) so it was likely an addition by the publisher. I have to say I find this color field unnecessary and somewhat distracting.

Blue Bolt #9 (February 1941) Blue Bolt page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson

Joe and Jack included in this story a reporter by the name of Bucky Williams. Of course Bucky was the name of Captain America’s sidekick and actually Bucky Williams fills the roll of a temporary sidekick. The use of the name Bucky was not the only things found in BB #9 to predate their use in Captain America which would premier next month. For the first time Simon and Kirby would extend figures outside of the panel borders (see above image). This was not an Simon and Kirby innovation (they picked it up from Lou Fine) but nonetheless was followed by some other artists once Captain America became a big success.

Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) Black Owl, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson

Simon and Kirby return for one final Black Owl story. With Simon providing inks to Kirby’s pencils this story is much more attractive than the Blue Bolt #9 from the same month. The story includes a reporter who plays the part of a temporary sidekick for the Black Owl. This is basically the same plot device played by the reporter Bucky Williams in BB #9. In the art for this story Simon and Kirby extended figures beyond the panel borders just as they had in Blue Bolt #9.

I do not know who to blame, but note the rather odd shadowing of the letter ‘O’ in the title, in particular the center of the letter. When I restored this page for the “Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” book I got a email from an editor at Titan asking if I got the restoration wrong. Well of course it is wrong only it was not my error.

Marvel Mystery #16 (January 1941) The Human Torch, pencils by Carl Burgos, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Golden Age Masterworks reprint volume)

Howard Ferguson provided the lettering for the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #16. Ferguson did not provide the lettering for all the Human Torch stories in the issues of Marvel Mystery but he did letter some of the Human Torch and Terry Vance stories but only those two features. Why Howard was restricted to just those two features is unclear but that would eventually change but not during the period covered by this serial post.

Marvel Mystery #16 (January 1941) Vision, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, letters by unidentified letterer (from Golden Age Masterworks reprint volume)

While Ferguson provided lettering for all the moonlighting work that Simon and Kirby produced for this month he did not letter their single Timely piece, the Vision from Marvel Mystery #16. That would not been surprising had Kirby provided the lettering as has he had done in previous Visions stories but oddly some other letterer was used. Since credits were not supplied in the comics of those days it is unlikely this particular letterer will ever be identified.

In the Beginning, Chapter 10, Captain Marvel and Others

Blue Bolt #8 (January 1941) Blue Bold, pencils and splash inks by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt #8 initiates a working methodology that Simon and Kirby would use often in years to come. Kirby would ink his own splash panel while leaving the rest of the story to be inked by other artists (besides Joe Simon). Kirby’s inking tops off an already spectacular splash. While in later years Jack’s primary interest was the story art, during his collaboration with Joe much emphasis was placed on covers and splashes. Great stories may have built the Simon and Kirby reputation but covers and splashes are what drew attention and persuaded comic book readers to spend their money. Of course having all the story inked by either Kirby or Simon would be preferable but if that was not possible the next best thing was for Jack to ink the splash.

It has been said that Kirby pencils could withstand even poor inkers. Well the story art to Blue Bolt #8 certainly puts that claim to the test. As I mentioned previously, I will not try to identified the inkers other than either Kirby or Simon but one or more of the assistants from the Timely bullpen were likely candidates for this work. Al Avison, Al Gabriel and Syd Shores were very young and just learning their trade.

Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) Black Owl, pencils and letters by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

Blue Bolt was a serialized comic feature. Not quite like in the movie serials as Blue Bolt did not have “cliff hangers” endings. Instead each story would be complete but with an ending that left open the question of where the tale would go from there. The Black Owl feature from Prize Comics #7 leads to PC #8 in the same manner. However the ending in PC #8 does not suggest further development of the story in the next issue.  This issue was included in a previous post (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl).

Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) Black Owl, letters by Jack Kirby

Kirby provided the lettering for PC #8 and since I have prepared samples for a previous post (Jack Kirby as a Letterer) I will repeat them here. But truth be told Kirby’s lettering really has not changed from the previous sample that I provided (Red Raven #1, August 1940, shown in Chapter 5).

Marvel Mystery #15 (January 1941) Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby (from Marvel’s Golden Age Masterpieces reprint)

As with Marvel Mystery #13 and #14, Kirby seemingly does it all, or at least all the visuals, for the Vision story in MM #15 (January 1941). Of course Simon might have had something to do with this feature, he was after all the editor.

Ferguson provided the lettering in Marvel Mystery #15 for the Human Torch and Terry Vance features.

Captain Marvel Adventures #1, Pencils by Jack Kirby (from a bleached page)

I have chosen this chapter to include some moonlighting work that Simon and Kirby did for Fawcett. Unfortunately the dating of this work for is uncertain as the comic books lack dates on the covers or in the indices. One of the works was Captain Marvel Adventures #1. This was the first comic book dedicated to Fawcett’s new hit Captain Marvel. It must have seemed a rather troublesome assignment. Not only did the art have to look like the work that C. C. Beck had previously done on the character, but also Simon and Kirby were not allowed to alter the scripts (Joe Simon’s Fawcett Testimony). The pencils had to be returned to Fawcett for lettering and then picked up again for inking. Yet despite all this the final art is rather nice. Kirby was never very good at imitating other artists and despite the simple lines of the artwork Kirby style keeps showing up. Beck might not have been pleased but in my opinion Simon and Kirby’s version was much more interesting. I have no idea who the inker was but it certainly was not Kirby, Simon or any of the assistants from the Timely bullpen. Whoever it was they did a marvelous job.

Wow Comics #1, Mister Scarlet, Pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, letters by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

It is uncertain whether this work was done before or after Captain Marvel. In the Fawcett testimony Simon said it came later however that testimony was given some eight years later and therefore might not be accurate.

Mister Scarlet appears to largely be the work of Jack Kirby but Joe Simon’s presence is revealed in some of lettering. His distinctive ‘W’, ‘M’ and other letters make their appearance in some of the text as for instance in the captions in panels 1, 4 and 6 from page 2 shown above. All the Simon letter that I have spotted so far comes from captions and not the word balloons. This suggests that Joe was trying to make an existing story clearer. This feature is also a good reminder about the problems of identifying Joe’s contributions in Simon and Kirby productions. Had this story been lettered by someone other than Kirby and Simon, Joe’s additions would have gone unnoticed.

In the Beginning, Chapter 9, More Moonlighting

Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt #7 continues the Simon and Kirby collaboration in its purist form, that is with Jack doing the pencils and Joe providing the inks. The only other feature from December that showed such a degree of collaboration was the Black Owl from Prize Comics #7 which I will discuss below. Both of these features were done while moonlighting. As we will see below the features created for their regular gig at Timely were not quite the same joint effort.

The enlarging World War II, romance, betrayal, spies and assassins are just some of the elements of this engaging story. Simon and Kirby were not satisfied with telling a simple confrontation between a hero and a villain they had to put in as much as possible. Ten pages hardly seemed enough to fit all that they included. It does not seem that Blue Bolt had any significant impact on the rest of the comic book industry of the day but it should have.

Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) Blue Bolt page 8 panel 1, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson (horizontally flipped image)

Sure Blue Bolt was science fiction but that did not mean that the hero always used a ray gun. Previously Kirby had a penchant for dramatic slugfests but now he began to take that art to a new level.

I present the above image in reverse…

Captain America #1 (March 1941), pencils by Jack Kirby

as I want to highlight that roll Blue Bolt played in laying the groundwork for a future hit. Captain America would appear on newsstands just three months later.

Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) The Black Owl, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon?, letters by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt was not the only moonlighting job that Simon and Kirby produced for December they also did Black Owl for Prize Comics #7. Joe and Jack would end up doing a Black Owl story for three issues which I discussed previously (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl). All three stories were reprinted in Titan’s “Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” (shameless plug). The Black Owl was not a Simon and Kirby creation and I really do not know much about previous appearances of the character.  But of course Simon and Kirby added their distinct touch if in nothing more than the story and art.

Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) The Black Owl, letters by Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson provided the lettering for the Black Owl story. I have previously provided the lettering samples for Ferguson’s Prize Comics #7 but I have since made a correction and some additions to it. A recap of the more useful features would seem in order. The most useful trait for identifying Ferguson lettering is the little vertical stroke attached to the upper end of the letter ‘C’. Another useful trait is the very shallow hook for the letter ‘J’ but unfortunately that is not a common letter. Some other traits are less useful but still should be noted particularly the way the upper portions of the letters ‘P’ and ‘R’ predominate over the lower portion. The letter ‘S’ is similarly often affected by a predominate upper portion but there is some variation in this feature. Another trait is found in some but not all ‘N’ is the manner that the left vertical stroke is sometimes tilted downward to the left somewhat. Perhaps not as useful than the letter ‘C’ but certainly easier spot is Ferguson’s special handling of the first letter in captions (examples are provided above). I believe all these traits (except the special ‘N’) were retained by Ferguson the rest of his career. I plan to review his entire career after I finish this serial post.

In is at this time that in my opinion Ferguson’s lettering has gone from good to great. This is not due to form of his letters which has changed only a little from previous work. Rather it steady and firm hand used and the spacing and legibility of the final results. Ferguson’s work is not mechanical but neither is it overly variable.

Besides an improvement in quality, the lettering differs from what was done not that long ago for Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940) by three changes.

I have previously pointed out the special handling of the first letter in captions. Such enlarged and specially formed letters are similar to the first letter of chapters often found in older books. The analogy is not perfect but it is close enough that I have decided to adopt the name given to them, drop capitals (or drop caps for short). Drop caps were used by other comic book letterers but Ferguson began using a special version where the letter is created a negative space in a black field such as the two final examples in the image above. I shall refer to these as negative drop caps. It was the introduction of negative drop caps that is one of the things that distinguish Prize #7 from Blue Bolt #5. But there appears to be two flavors of negative drop caps. The first that appeared in Blue Bolt #6 and the Terry Vance feature from Marvel Mystery #13 (both November 1940) had vertically oriented letters. Later in Blue Bolt #7, Prize Comics #7 and the Human Torch and the Terry Vance features from Marvel Mystery #14 (all December 1940) Ferguson introduced negative spot caps that were tilted.

The second change in Ferguson lettering concerns the letter ‘G’. In Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940) and earlier Howard constructed the ‘G’ with a small horizontal element on the left side of the bottom of the character and does not extend to the right. In Prize Comics #7 and the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #14 (both December 1940) Ferguson extends the small horizontal so that it appears on both the left and the right side. Interestingly Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) uses the old form of ‘G’ for most of the first page of the story while otherwise using the new ‘G’. The old ‘G’ is used in BB #5 (October), BB #6 (November) and the Terry Vance stories from MM #13 and #14 (November and December). As mentioned both forms of ‘G’ appear in BB #7 (December). Only the newer ‘G’ appears in the Human Torch of MM #14 (December).

The third change involves the form of the letters ‘I’ and ‘J’. Ferguson’s older form for these letters excluded any horizontal elements while the newer form did. While the letter ‘I’ is common enough, horizontal strokes are not supposed to be added when the letter is used with others to form a word. Unfortunately the isolated use of ‘I’ and the use of ‘J’ are not too common. The old form of ‘I’ and ‘J’ appear in BB #5 (October), BB #6, Terry Vance from MM #13 (November) and BB #7 (December) with the new forms used in PC #7 and the Terry Vance feature of MM #14 (both December).

With these three changes in Ferguson’s lettering it would seem possible to sort out the relative order that Ferguson lettered the work appearing in the months from October to December. Regrettably it turns out that no ordering is possible that will satisfy all three criteria for all cases. The few cases of lettering by Ferguson from later periods suggest that perhaps he was not consistent in his use of ‘G’. Hopefully this question will be answered as my review progresses.

Marvel Mystery #14 (December 1940) The Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby,

The Vision became a regular Marvel Mystery Comics features with his second appearance in MM #14 (December 1940). As in the previous issue, Kirby would provide pencils, inks and letters for the Vision story. Even today the Simon and Kirby Vision is a largely neglected feature and at that time it was very much overshadowed by the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. (This story was reprinted in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”, another shameless plug).

Lettering by Howard Ferguson also appeared in Marvel Mystery #14 in the Human Torch and the Terry Vance features.

Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940) the Human Torch “Introducing Toro”, pencils by Carl Burgos, lettering by Howard Ferguson

As mentioned in the previous chapter, Timely did not release a Red Raven #2 issue. Instead that titles mailing license was used instead for a new title, Human Torch Comics #2. That the first issue was numbered 2 has brought about confusion to the numbering of the title even back when it was released. I have added “(1)” to the issue number to indicate it is actually the first issue. The cover is dated as Fall 1940 which means there might be some question as to what month to assign it. However Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) and #14 (December 1940) have house advertisement for the Human Torch #2(1). The MM ads provides a release date of September 25. Normally comics are cover dated about two months after their release so it is seems appropriate to assign HT #2(1) to December.

This issue has been reprinted in the Golden Age Masterwork series. Unfortunately Marvel did a horrendous job re-creating it. I have discussed this previously (The Human Torch #2) but I feel I need to emphasize here that the reprint volume is useless for anything beyond a casual reading. It is simply not possible to use this reprint book to examine the art or lettering. Luckily I will be using scans from the original comic in my discussions here.

Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940) the Fiery Mask “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses”, pencils and inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson

The Fiery Mask was one of Simon’s earliest creations having first appeared in Daring Mystery #1 (January 1940, Daring Mystery and Joe Simon BK (Before Kirby)). Another artist drew the character for Daring Mystery #5 (June 1940) but Simon returned with Kirby’s help to provide the Fiery Mask for Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940). Simon worked on the Fiery Mask one last time for Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940). I periodically get asked, but I really feel this was a solo effort because I cannot find any sign that Kirby had anything to do with this Fiery Mask story, “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses”. Simon’s comic book art improved rapidly so that even though only a short period had past the art style for HT #2(1) Fiery Mask story shows it was definitely drawn when Simon became editor at Timely and was not some older inventoried story from when he first started working in comics. Still it would be nice to provide a more accurate date for the story as it theoretically have been done a few months earlier and inventoried or it could have been drawn later specifically for the HT #2(1) issue.

Fortunately the lettering Howard Ferguson did for the story may provide a clue. As mentioned before Ferguson’s work had been undergoing development during this period. The Fiery Mask story lacks negative drop caps and uses the older form of the letters ‘G’, ‘I’ and ‘J’. Therefore I believe it must have been done no later than the work for Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940). It likely was originally intended for Daring Mystery #7 which possibly was meant to be released in October or November but that publication of that issue was delayed until April 1941. Or alternatively it might have been meant for Red Raven Comics #2 which should have come out in October but that title got cancelled. But in any case the Fiery Mask story was done earlier than the Human Torch story in the same issue as that story was lettered by Ferguson but with the tilted negative drop caps, the new ‘I’ and ‘J’ and mostly using the new ‘G’ all of which suggests a December date.

In the Beginning, Chapter 8, A New Title

Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson and Joe Simon

Blue Bolt #6 is the second feature to include Simon and Kirby credits. Once again Kirby provides the pencils while Simon does the inking. Although it is not known who wrote the script, the story has the special Simon and Kirby quality that already was very different from the standard comic book fare of the day. Now the green sorceress is joined by Marto, a man with enlarged head and an atrophied body who uses a special mechanical device to overcome his physical limitations.

Famous Funnies #76 (November 1940) Lightnin’ and the Lone Rider, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Kirby seemed to have a fascination with advanced beings with large heads. The earliest prototype appeared in a western feature that Jack work on called Lightnin’ and the Lone Rider. Actually this feature had been appearing in Famous Funnies at the same time as Blue Bolt #6. The Lone Rider was initially developed as a syndication strip back in late 1938 to early 1939 (Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 1, Lighting and the Lone Ranger). However it appears Kirby returned to the feature sometime later. Exactly when is uncertain but I believe it was while Kirby was still working for Fox Comics (Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 3, Moonlighting). However based on the art style I believe it was done before Kirby started working with Joe Simon and therefore outside the current discussion. However the recent appearance of the large headed adversary in Famous Funnies may have inspired Kirby to create an updated version for Blue Bolt.

Tales of Suspense #94 (October 1967) pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Sam Rosen

It is surprising how some ideas seem to lay dormant for years before Kirby would return to them. If there was another appearance of the Marto character I do not recall it. But in 1967 Kirby returned to the theme when he created Modok. While the background stories were very different, the similarity between Marto and Modok is too great to be require much discussion.

Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940), letters by Howard Ferguson

The first six pages of the Blue Bolt feature were lettered by Howard Ferguson. The seventh page has some lettering by Ferguson but most of the page was lettered by Joe Simon. The style of the letters has not change at all from examples from the previous month. The use of circular or square shapes attached to the first letter of captions is also the same as what has been seen earlier. One new feature in Ferguson’s repertoire is the use of other abstract shapes with the first caption letter such as the oval and double square show above. The most interesting addition is the rendering of the letter as a negative space on a circular black field such as the ‘C’ and ‘M’ shown above. This simple but elegant design was the most effective design that Ferguson adopted. Unfortunately Ferguson had no control on how the colorist would handle it. When a separate color was added the letter would stand out. But without that special color addition the design becomes more abstract and harder to read as a letter. Unfortunately the colorist failed to apply a separate color to many of these negative letters in Blue Bolt #6.

Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940), letters by Joe Simon

Joe Simon did the lettering for most of page 7 and all of pages 8 to 10. Here Simon does a more careful job at lettering but the basic form of the letters remains the same. As mention previously the ‘W’ that Simon used is very helpful in spotting his work and while not quite as distinct his ‘M’ is useful as well. There still are occasional little elaborations that Simon uses like the ‘S’ and ‘R’ shown above. The lettering for page 9 seems particularly well done. Also found on that page are special first caption letters, something Simon normally did not do. While unusual for Simon, the use of open letters (which allow the addition of a color) was also done by other letterers. However Joe places one ‘B’ as a negative letter on a black circular field. This must have been a response to what Ferguson was doing in the same story. Simon’s design is not as abstract as Ferguson’s but it still an effective device.

Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) The Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

In the previous chapter I mentioned the unusual lack of Kirby art in the Timely comics for October. The one explanation I provided was that Kirby might have done some art for Red Raven #2 only it was never published due to the abrupt cancellation of that title. Here I will suggest another (but not necessarily conflicting) explanation. Kirby might have been busy creating a new feature as in this month Marvel Mystery #13 debuted “The Vision”. The pencils, inks and letters were all done by Kirby. The only thing that suggests that Simon was involved (other than as the editor) was the motif of the Vision being able to appear from smoke of any kind. This is similar to the power of the Flame, a Fox comics feature, who could transport using fire as a portal. While Kirby had worked for Fox Comics he had nothing to do with the Flame. Simon on the other hand was not only the editor for the comics that included the Flame but had also drew the character on some of the covers.

As I mentioned Jack did the lettering for the Vision story. Kirby’s lettering was unchanged from the last time we saw it (Red Raven #1, August 1940 see In the Beginning, Chapter 5). Ferguson provided lettering for the Terry Vance feature from MM #13 in a style that matches his work in Blue Bolt #6.

In the Beginning, Chapter 7, Blue Bolt #5

Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, inking by Joe Simon, lettering by Howard Ferguson

Blue Bolt #5 has the distinction of being the first time that the Simon and Kirby collaboration was credited in print. BB #4 was every bit a Simon and Kirby production but in the splash it was credited to Joe Simon alone. It is little more than speculation, but perhaps when Joe saw the final results of BB #4 he realized that Kirby’s contribution had gone well beyond being just an assist and that Jack deserved a greater recognition. Since BB #5 was penciled by Jack and inked by Joe, why did Simon get top billing? The simple answer was that Blue Bolt was a Joe Simon creation. While this is very understandable, once this particular order appeared in print from then on it would Simon and Kirby, not Kirby and Simon.

Blue Bolt #5, like issue #4, is a great piece. Simon and Kirby full of action and visually exciting art. Blue Bolt may not have been a top selling comic book, but anyone paying attention should have realize that the Simon and Kirby were producing something unlike what anyone else was doing.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “Comet Pierce” page 6 panel 7, pencils, inking and lettering by Jack Kirby

Was Blue Bolt written by Simon and Kirby as well? In the future Simon and Kirby would generally employ writers to develop scripts. However Joe and Jack normally supplied the plot and just as often re-write the returned scripts. We may not know whether Simon and Kirby were working from a script or not for BB #5, but they clearly were involved in the plotting. A man-eating plant appears in the Comet Pierce” story from Red Raven #1 a couple months earlier. The Comet Pierce story seems to be a largely Kirby effort but since Simon was the editor to Timely he may have had input to the story.

Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940), lettering by Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson did the lettering for Blue Bolt #5. The form of the general letters has not changed at all from Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940). The special first letters of captions continue to have attached circular or square black shapes. However now these special first letters have migrated to the caption border so that small parts of them may actually extend outside of the caption box. Another addition to the Ferguson repertoire is that some of the captions have first letters that are slightly larger and oddly angled. This angularity sometimes appears in the letters with square or round backgrounds as well.

Marvel Mystery #12 (October 1940), pencils and lettering by Jack Kirby, inking by Joe Simon

In October Simon and Kirby also provided the cover art for Marvel Mystery #12. Featured on it was the Angel. It would be the last appearance of the Angel on a cover of Marvel Mystery Comics as the Human Torch or the Sub-Mariner would dominate all future covers. Kirby did the pencils for MM #12 with Simon adding the inks. The lettering on the cover was done by Kirby (note the horseshoe shaped ‘U’). More time and energy was expended on covers as compared to lettering the story. So it is not surprising that Kirby, who like Simon was normally a rather unprofessional letterer, could provide a real nice job lettering the cover.

At this point I am reminded of a passage from the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze”:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

I too have a “curious incident” to draw attention to. While Simon and Kirby created a number of pages for Timely comics for August and September the MM #12 cover was the only art they provided for October. Now I have to admit there was one Fiery Mask story that could have been done at this time period but I have good reason to assign that work to November and will cover it in the next chapter. But even if it was done in October it was drawn and inked by Simon, what happened to Kirby? One possible explanation was there was such art but it was created for Red Raven #2 which should have appeared in October. However the Red Raven title was abruptly cancelled well before any indication of how well Red Raven #1 sold. Timely owner Goodman apparently had come to realize the popularity of the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner and decided to launch titles dedicated to them. Licensing fees could be saved by canceling Red Raven Comics and using that license for the Human Torch Comics which is why that new title started with issue number 2. There is also another explanation for this deficit of Kirby art but that will also be discussed in the next chapter of “In the Beginning”.

In the Beginning, Chapter 6, Blue Bolt #4

Blue Bolt #4 (September 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, inking by Joe Simon

Blue Bolt #4 was the first story created in the definitive Simon and Kirby manner with all the pencils done by Jack and the inking by Joe. While previous Blue Bolt installments were quite nice, it is with BB #4 that the Simon and Kirby magic really unfolds. Exciting visuals, unusual perspectives and a great story. Both Joe and Jack had done their own individual work before this but it lacked the special qualities found in BB #4. Even the work they had done together in Blue Bolt #2 and #3 or Daring Mystery #6 is not quite as good. Only Kirby’s “Mercury in the 20th Century” for Red Raven #1 matches BB #4. The Blue Bolt story may have been signed by Joe Simon alone, but it was certainly a Simon and Kirby creation.

The Kirby Checklist states that Simon got assists in the inking from Avison and Gabriele. While I cannot prove this to be incorrect I also cannot find any evidence of it. The inking looks like the hand of one artist and that was Simon. Joe had made great strides in his inking and much of that can probably be credited to his working with Jack. In fact the inking of the robot and some of the other devices was done in the manner that Kirby had already been doing for his science fiction stories. While Kirby was and would remain a better inker, Simon’s inking talent far exceeded the abilities at that time of Avison or Gabriele.

One of the star attractions of the Blue Bolt #4 story was the formidable robot. The splash panel shows a exciting confrontation between Blue Bolt and the mechanical foe. The story takes a different, but still dramatic, turn. The robot’s murderous rampage is handled with what would be typical Simon and Kirby restraint. A restraint that would not diminish but actually enhance the effect. Close-ups, silhouettes and shadows would provide the substance while leaving it to the reader’s imagination to fill in the rest.

Marvel Stories v2 n2 (November 1940) “A Dictator for all Time”, art by Jack Kirby

Both Simon and Kirby would do more than just comic books while working at Timely. They would also supply art for some of the pulps that the company produced. The pulp art was created under different circumstances and with unique techniques. As far as I can tell illustrations were not joint efforts but were individually executed instead. The pencils and inks that were used to create comic book art were replaced with the use of a special textured paper that would translate pencils into dots suitable for printing. While the pulp art may not shed much light on the beginnings of the Simon and Kirby partnership they sometimes are not completely independent of the comic book art. The horrific robot from Blue Bolt #4 makes a reappearance in Marvel Stories volume 2 number 2 a couple of months later. The details may differ but both share one clawed hand with the other arm transformed into a gun. While the robot drawn for the pulp story “A Dictator for all Time” might have been impressive it really had nothing to do with the story. There we find a rather benign machine more of an immense computer than a terrifying weapon.

Blue Bolt #4 (September 1940), letters by unidentified letterer

Another unidentified letter was used for Blue Bolt #4. This letter differed from the one used for BB #3 in the form of the letters used for ‘G’, ‘J’, ‘K’, ‘M’ and ‘W’. It may seem surprising that so many different letterers would work on Blue Bolt but Joe’s position as editor for first Fox then Timely probably provided a lot of resources to turn to. The letterer for Blue Bolt #4 did the most professional work to appear in Blue Bolt to date. One of his interesting contributions was to do caption lettering with a slight slant upward to the right while keeping balloon text as vertical.

Marvel Mystery #11 (September 1940) “The Human Torch”, letters by Howard Ferguson

The letterer for BB #4 used some larger and specially formed first letters in the captions. A similar approach was used by Howard Ferguson at this time but his first caption letters are even more special. While the BB #4 letterer provided one of this first caption letter with a 3-D effect shadow he never provides the sort of abstract black shapes that Ferguson used. The difference between the two letterers also shows up in their letters ‘G’ and ‘J’.

Blue Bolt #4 (September 1940), page 9 letters by unidentified letterer

Actually not all of Blue Bolt #4 was lettered by the individual discussed above. One page, page 9, was lettered by yet another artist. This page lacks the slanted lettering to the captions as well as any special effects to the first caption letter. The letters ‘G’ and ‘Y’ are distinct between the two. The second letterer also had a tendency to fail to properly connect the lines in ‘B’ and ‘R’ as shown in the bottom line of lettering examples above. His letter ‘S’ is somewhat variable but often has a bottom that is proportionally larger than the top.

As if it was not enough that there were two letterers to work on Blue Bolt #4, one caption (panel 6 on page 9) was lettered by Joe Simon. It has his very distinctive ‘W’ and recognizable ‘M’.

When Simon and Kirby first started working together for story art it was Jack helping out on a few pages for Blue Bolt #2 (July 1940) and #3 (August 1940). In August and September work was also done for Timely. Some of this later work (Blue Bolt #4) was done in what would be the classic Simon and Kirby manner, that is Jack providing the pencils with Joe doing the inking. But other work seems to have been mostly done by Kirby with little, if any, help from Simon (“Cosmic Carson”, Red Raven #1). Other distribution of working efforts were also done. Even greater variation is found in the lettering. Sometimes Simon or Kirby would do the lettering. Otherwise a number of different letterers were employed. Some more professional than others. One of these was Howard Ferguson who in the future would play an important roll as the definitive Simon and Kirby letterer. However initially Ferguson did more lettering for features not created by Simon and Kirby. What we have seen so far is not the sudden teaming up of Simon and Kirby but rather Joe putting together comic books using a variety of resources in a variety of ways.