Category Archives: 3 Timely

Simon and Kirby Pulp, Uncanny Stories

Before their were comics there were pulps, and publication of pulps did not end once comics started being produced. The popularity of pulps must have continued since Martin Goodman issued a new pulp title Uncanny Stories with an April 1941 cover date. Pulps were printed and distributed by the same means as comics. I also believe they had the same sales arrangement whereas newsstands would tear off the titles to books that they did not sell and return them for credit. That would suggest that pulps had cover dates that were about two months later then their actual release date. If correct, this means that you should be able to compare cover dates of comics and pulps. So although Uncanny Stories would come out one month after the first issue of Captain America, it was probably being put together while Captain America #1 was still at the printers. Simon and Kirby as a team had not yet had their big hit. Joe Simon had some success to his name with Blue Bolt, a comic feature that the publisher liked so much they launched a new title for it. Joe was also savvy at how to promote himself and had become Timely’s first art director. Jack Kirby, on the other hand, had little success with the work he had done in comics books prior to Captain America. As Goodman’s only art director, it is not surprising that Simon was called upon to have illustrations produced for the pulp stories. Kirby may not yet have had a big hit, but Joe was well aware of his talent. So it is not unexpected that Joe would have many of the illustrations in the first issue of Uncanny Stories drawn by Jack.

Many pulp illustrations were done on stipple board. Stipple boards have a special surface composed of many small irregularly shaped bumps. Normally penciled illustrations did not reproduced well in publications, intermediate pencil tones would be lost unless they were screened, a process that added expense to production. Penciling on stipple board resulted in translation of tones into small dots. The harder the pencil is pressed, the larger the dots become. With stipple boards the screening of pencil drawings could be skipped without loosing quality. The use of stipple boards in pulps gives us the rare opportunity to see the pencils of comic book artists whose work normally would be inked over.

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Uncanny Stories v1 n1 (April 1941) Jack Kirby illustration for “Coming of the Giant Germs” by Ray Cummings
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Could this crimson blob, then, huge as a man, be one of the Things that must come when the Comet was in the northern sky? Was this then the murderous phantom that Bob Dean must see consume his own lovely fiancee, to hold her forever there in the heavens where Bob might know her only through a giant telescope?

Jack loved science fiction but I suspect he was a little uncomfortable with illustrating this pulp story. So he transformed the “crimson blob” of the tale into these Pilsbury dough boys. The dough boys may not be as exciting as most of Kirby’s creations, but they are better then a bunch of amorphous blobs. The drawing shows the dough boys flying up with their captives. They do so in such numbers that they actually form the tail of the comet that is in the sky, a rather nice touch. I am sure some other artist would have presented more alluring victims but Kirby does a nice job on the men’s futile struggle to prevent the mass abductions.

Pulps are basically made from a stack of printed papers stapled along one edge. Unlike comic books they have no center fold so double page drawings such as this one are made with gap down the middle. Generally the originally drawing was just split into the two pieces but in this case something was lost. Note how the shoulder of the man in the center just terminates and he is missing his right arm. A thin strip was somehow left out from the center. I have positioned the two pieces so that the gap represents the approximate size the missing piece.

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Uncanny Stories v1 n1 (April 1941) Jack Kirby illustration for “Coming of the Giant Germs” by Ray Cummings

Jack also provided a small insert in the story. I doubt that it really is meant to illustrate anything in the novella. It shows nothing more then a helmeted man firing a ray gun, we cannot even see what it is the ray is striking. It truly is a small drawing and could easily be missed as Kirby’s work were it not for the hand. No stipple board this time, just brush and ink.

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Uncanny Stories v1 n1 (April 1941) Jack Kirby illustration for “Man from the Wrong Time-Track” by Denis Plimmer

Not all illustrations that Kirby did for this issue of Uncanny Stories are worthy of mention. But there is this one from “Man from the Wrong Time-Track”, a very dramatic drawing of a man plummeting from a building. The man’s face is almost completely in shadows so it is hard to judge what his reaction is to his situation. The caption does not help either, “In mid-air the gigantic form seemed to stop”. Of course pulp illustrations are not really meant to help with the story, but rather to entice a viewer to buy the magazine to find out what it is all about. Jack must have been very satisfied with this illustrations, it is a rare example of a pulp with his signature.

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Uncanny Stories v1 n1 (April 1941) Joe Simon illustration for “The Earth-Stealers” by Frederic Arnold Kummer, Jr.

As Timely’s art editor, Joe Simon would generally turn to other artists to provide pulp illustrations but he would on occasion produce one himself. Joe was familiar with working on stipple boards from his previous work as a newspaper artist. Perhaps that is why Joe provides more of a tonal range then Kirby normally did. This illustrations has all the right components; a damsel in distress, weird aliens, frightful weapons (electric lashes), and a mysterious machine (in the background). Nonetheless Joe does not quite pull it off and this pulp illustration is not one of his better efforts.

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Uncanny Stories v1 n1 (April 1941) Alex Schomburg illustration for “Beyond Hell” by R. DeWitt Miller
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For “Beyond Hell” Simon turned to another talented artist working for Timely, Alex Schromburg. Alex was a natural for pulp illustration. As a comic book artist, cover illustrations was all Schromburg ever did, as far as I know he never drew a story. As an illustrator Alex had a well deserved reputation, particularly for producing complicated comic covers. This emphasis on complexity can be seen in Alex’s drawing for “Beyond Hell”. I have rejoined the two pieces of art by eliminating the gutter. The joint is not perfect and unfortunately combining the pieces only calls attention to how tilted the background art was. However that does not detract from the spectacle that the scientist has unleashed. German soldiers, big guns, airplanes, tanks and fighting ships all fall to the force of science. For many Americans at that time, this must have seemed what was needed to save them from being pulled into the wars that currently enveloped the world. In reality science was never as good at creating the implements of peace as it was of developing the weapons of war.

Joe and Jack had been working for Timely for a little over a half a year before working on Uncanny Stories or more significantly on Captain America. Captain America changed everything for Joe and more importantly Jack. After the first few issues of Captain America, Jack would end up drawing all the Cap stories. This along with penciling the Vision for Marvel Mystery Comics would keep Jack quite busy. Too busy to continue his pulp illustrator career.

More Simon and Kirby Robots

I have previously written on some Simon and Kirby or just Kirby stories from the late ’50s linked by the subject of a giant humanoid robot (here and here). In the comments to the first post, Luke Blanchard pointed out Eando Binder’s pulp stories about Adam Link as likely inspirations for these S&K robot stories.

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

I offer another image from the golden age of pulps. The table of contents list Joe Simon and Jack Kirby as the illustrators for the stories. Joe was Timely’s art editor at this time but this was before Simon and Kirby’s great success with Captain America. The illustration is a good model for the type of robot S&K would use in 1957 and 1958. Overall humanoid in shape, but blocky enough so that its mechanical nature is obvious.

Still unresolved is why robot stories became so important Simon and Kirby in the late ’50s.

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 9, The End of the Beginning

It has been months since I wrote my last chapter to this serial post so I think I should remind the reader of where I left things off. Jack Kirby met Joe Simon while both were working for Fox Comics. After a few months Joe went on to be art editor for Timely and a short time later Jack followed. Joe’s first job was the launching of a new title, Red Raven Comics, which included work by Kirby. The publisher Goodman must of got a case of cold feet, because Red Raven was cancelled after the first issue, way too early to tell what the sales would be like. Jack would then do the art for a new backup feature for Marvel Mystery Comics called “The Vision”. The Vision would never achieve the prominence of the main Marvel Mystery features (the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner or even the Angel) but Jack would end up drawing it for as long as he worked for Timely.

Prize #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “The Black Owl” page 6 art by Jack Kirby

Perhaps the most important work he was doing just before the launch of Captain America was the drawing for Blue Bolt. Simon and Kirby would now also do some freelance work for Prize Comics starting with a cover date of December 1940. The work for some already running features, the Black Owl and Ted O’Neil. It is not clear if this was truly a Simon and Kirby gig or just Kirby since the work is unsigned. However the stories read very much like what would be done for The Vision and Captain America so I am inclined to believed that Joe was involved also. All penciling was certainly done by Jack.

The Black Owl is one of those forgotten Golden Age superheroes. With good reasons as far as I am concerned. Obviously a take off on Batman, the creators failed to provide a decent costume. The suit and cape are completely nondescript. The only unique portion was the mask. But while Batman’s cowl might inspire fear in his foes, I cannot see the Black Owl’s mask getting more then a smirk. The Black Owl did have one feature that would have historical interest, his goggles. Similar goggles would reappear many years later in a Simon and Kirby creation that was never launched, the Night Fighter. Later yet Kirby would alter the Night Fighter to create the costume of the Fly (Archie Comics).

Despite the weak material they had to work with Simon and Kirby put together pretty good stories as for example in Prize Comics #9 (see image above). In an effort to thwart a mysterious woman gangster and her jewel robbing minions, a newspaper reporter concocts an article where the Black Owl promises to capture the mob. The article is read by a woman sleuth, the Black Owl himself in his secret identity and the female gang leader. That night while alone the reporter hears a noise. Now I have to admit that what follows is more then a little illogical. The reporter believes that the Black Owl is paying an expected visit, so the reporter turns off the lights and grabs the intruder. Only to find when he turns on the lights that he is holding the woman detective! Now if the reporter was really expecting the Black Owl, would he have tried to capture him? If, on the other hand, he wanted to be sure who the intruder was, would the reporter have turned off the lights? Illogical, but it does make for dramatic scene. They would handle this sort of thing a little better in the future, but it is just the twist that Simon and Kirby would often use later. Anyway the sleuth and the reporter wait it out together but instead of the Black Owl appearing, some of the jewel gang shows up to abduct the pair. It turns out that the Black Owl has observed it all and trails them. The kidnapped pair are brought to the lady crime master who plans to use them as bait to catch the Black Owl before being killed. Of course the Black Owl appears to save the day.

The Kirby art is a step up from what he did for Marvel Boy. You can see Jack beginning to put together elements of his classic style. Although reminiscent of what we will find in Captain America it still does not have quite the same punch. I am not sure about the inker, or possibly inkers. There are some parts that look like Joe Simon’s inking to me. For the most part panel layouts are irregularly sized panels that were typical of the work of both Joe and Jack at this point. However there are some uses of circular panels. One is a duel set (see image) showing a gang member speaking over an intercom to who he believes is another gangster but is actually the Black Owl. This pair of circular panels both shows the two sides of the conversation and also makes a visual suggestion to the Black Owl’s goggles. Another circular panel shows up on the next page, but that one is small and appears to have been added later since it both helps fill in the story while intruding on the existing panels. This use of circular panels is another harbinger of what will come when S&K produce Captain America.

Prize #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “Ted O’Neil” page 3 art by Jack Kirby

Ted O’Neil is an American pilot in the British Air Force. This is in the days before the U.S. had entered the war. While on leave with his sidekick Hinky, Ted finds himself in an air raid. Without enough time to enter a bomb shelter, the pair retreat to a nearby building. Once inside they hear a suspicious sound as if from a radio set. When they investigate they are knocked out and tied up. Their captors are German spies who are sending information of the position of British warships so that they can be attacked and destroyed. Before the spies can execute them, Ted and Hinky break free of their bonds and turn the tables to capture the spies. After delivering their prisoner to the authorities, Ted and Hinky fly off with their squadron to try to protect the British fleet. A fierce combat ensues which the English eventually win.

The spy angle would of course play an important part in the Captain America stories to come. As would the use of Nazi Germany as the enemy. No circular panels in the layouts, just the variously sized panels that often require arrows to indicate reading order. Kirby pencils throughout but again I am not sure if more then one inker was involved. Parts do suggest to me that Simon was inking at least some of it.

Captain Marvel Special Edition
Captain Marvel, Special Edition (March 1941) bleached page art by Jack Kirby

Coming out the same month as Captain America was a special freelance job Simon and Kirby did for Fawcett’s Captain Marvel. Joe and Jack were effectively ghost artists and as such they are trying to mimic another artist’s style. Still you can easily detect their hand in this comic. Because they were ghosting it really is not fruitful to compare the work to other material they were doing. For this reason I am going to skip any analysis.

Daring Mystery #7
Daring Mystery #7 (April 1941) “The Underground Empire” page 1 art by Jack Kirby and unidentified artist

The next work by Kirby that I want to discuss is a Captain Daring story from Daring Mystery #7. This comic came out in April which is a month after the first issue of Captain America. But there are two reasons I feel it is appropriate to cover it here with the early Kirby work. One is that although this issue has a cover date of April, Daring Mystery #6 was dated September 1940. With such a long period between issues we cannot be certain about when the art was actually produced. The other reason is that Captain Daring is actually a science fiction story and very much related with other early work in this genre by Kirby.

I will give only the barest of outlines for this story. It concerns the attack on the modern day U.S.A. (that is modern for 1941) by a previously unsuspected underground empire. The enemy is resisted and eventually defeated by Captain Daring and Susan Parker, a beautiful female secret service agent. I do not provide more detail because I fear I am just not up to the task of condensing the story. It has so many jumps you almost get dizzy just from reading it. For instance we are introduced to Susan Parker as she is with Captain Daring watching over a futuristic telescope the destruction unleashed by the underground army. Later we suddenly find her with an army mounted on giant dogs that they liberated from some of the underground forces. She is leading a ground attach while Captain Daring fights above in sun powered rockets. At the end of the story she it is said that she was elected queen of the liberated underground masses. This sort of erratic turns occur throughout the story. It makes for a great read but only if you simply do not worry too much about the continuity of the plot.

There is something funny about the whole story. Although it purports to be taking place in America everything looks futuristic. There are a several fight scenes which the captions state are between Americans and the underground forces but the art depicts all the fighters as dressed in the same shorts and all look like the underground race. Actually the whole concept of an underground race is funny since nothing looks like it is taking place below the surface. I am convinced that this story was rewritten from a early version with minimal, if any, art changes. In fact it could of originally been meant for Solar Legion or Comet Pierce. All the references to the underground race, America and the Fuehrer were added later. Was this an early case of Kirby being rewritten by an editor (with Joe Simon taking the place of Stan Lee)? Or did Kirby do the rewriting himself? I cannot be sure but I would guess the latter, it all sounds like Kirby to me.

“The Underground Empire” is unsigned but in this case it looks like the work of Jack alone without much help from Joe Simon. All the penciling was done by Jack and I also attribute the inking to him. The art as well as the panel layouts are good matches for previous science fiction that Kirby had done. Even the inking style is the same. The only significant difference is the modern day references, which as I commented above I do not believe were part of the story when it was first made. But these alterations could be a reflection of Simon and Kirby’s work on Captain America.

I attributed all the art to Jack alone, but there is one exception. The figure of Captain Daring on the splash page (see image above) was neither penciled nor inked by Jack. I am not sure why this was done, most of the rest on the page surely was by Kirby except maybe the dogs in the background. Perhaps an original figure had something that was too clearly identified with its original source. But if that was the case why didn’t Kirby do the rework? I do not know who the artist was but it does not look like Joe Simon’s work either.

The launch of Captain America brought an end to Kirby’s early period. There was a sudden curtailing of freelance work outside of Timely. Perhaps Simon and Kirby realized that Captain America was likely to be a hit. Maybe producing Cap left little spare time for doing other work. Possibly the money they made at Timely plus the promise (unfulfilled) of royalties made the lower page rates of their freelancing unattractive. Whatever the reason S&K even stopped doing their previously most successful job, Blue Bolt. Joe and Jack did not give up freelancing entirely, however what outside work they they did would be limited to covers.

A big change came over Jack’s art as well. We caught premonitions of what was to come in Blue Bolt, Marvel Boy and the Black Owl. You could say the early work laid the foundations. In Captain America these hints blossomed into extraordinary pieces of comic book art. Irregular shaped panels including circular ones, figures extending beyond the panel boundaries, bodies in unusual posses stretched by the exertions of their action, fast pass stories, and so on. With all the comic history in between, it is hard for us to appreciate how startling Captain America was. There was nothing at all like it at the time. Other artists began copying what Jack and Joe were doing. The public eagerly bought up the comic and Captain America became a big hit. Simon and Kirby became a brand name. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

Featured Story, The Vision from Marvel Mystery #25

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Marvel Mystery Comics #25 (November 1941) The Vision, page 1 by Jack Kirby

Professor Enric Zagnar is the leading authority of metaphysics in the country. But he is forced to resign because of his predictions that man will one day be able to control the forces of nature. He retreats from the town vowing revenge and dedicates himself to uncovering the secrets that would make his predictions come true. A short while later a storm hits the town. This is no ordinary storm but one with much fury and persistence. Smoke from a lightning strike of a tree allows the Vision to enter to save the people of the town. He directs the townsmen to climb the nearby mountain in order avoid the flood that forms. But before the people can reach the top a blast from dynamite prevents them from going further. It is Zagner at the peak, relishing his revenge. Zagner urges the storm on using a spell that he reads from a book entitled “Black Magic”. The Vision proceeds to climb in an attempt to stop Zagner. Seeing the Vision, Zagner in turn rolls down a large boulder and when that is unsuccessful throws more dynamite. Despite all this the Vision reaches the top and a fight with Zagnar ensues. Though a dirty trick Zagnar defeats the Vision. Just when he is about to deliver the coup de grace with a large rock, Zagnar gets hit by a bolt of lightning from his own storm! The Vision recovers and reads out the counter spell from the Black Magic book to end the storm and save the day.

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Marvel Mystery Comics #25 (November 1941) The Vision, page 6 by Jack Kirby

As with the Vision story from Marvel Mystery #24 this splash page makes use of over sized figures. Note the small houses being washed away by the rushing water. I really like the way the title separates the Vision from his foe. The only fault I find with this exciting splash, and it is a minor one, is the “pinning” of the “The” in the title. It seems so unnecessary for this splash. Further it really fails as trompe l’oeil. Not only does the pin not look realistic but also the sharp end is visible so how is the title “pinned” down?

The title of the book that Zagnar uses, Black Magic, is a common enough term. Still it seems interesting that of all the possible titles that Simon and Kirby could have chosen they picked one that they would use again for a comic book that they would launch about nine years later.

The Vision is an unusual hero for a comic book. Comic book art depends on the visual image to provide an indication of the character. Heroes are handsome, heroines beautiful and villains ugly. Although the hero, the Vision is anything but handsome. Of course what Simon and Kirby are doing is to use the Visions unnatural appearance as an indication that he is not of this world. I was just simplifying things when I said villains are ugly, a good comic book artist will go well beyond just making the foe ugly. With his name, Enric Zagnar, is marked as different. Although foreign sounding the origin of the name was probably purposely left ambiguous. Notice that in the first two story panels at the bottom Kirby provides Zagnar with what was then considered long hair. Such hair length was the mark of an intellectual and appropriate for the then Professor Zagnar. In the first panel Zagnar looks fairly normal (but there are those big ears that Kirby would often draw with heads viewed from the back). The next panel provides a glimpse of Zagnar’s already disturbed personality heightened by being partly cut off with the panel edges. The splash panel provides what Zagnar will look like when he becomes at the end of his transformation. You do not need the eyes or the grotesque mouth, the hair alone reveals that Zagnar has gone way past the edge of sanity.

Featured Story, The Vision from Marvel Mystery #24

In my serial post on “Early Jack Kirby” I commented that I regretted that I only had a few scans of The Vision from Marvel Mystery Comics. I find those that I have very enjoyable provided that to do not let some of the logical inconsistencies bother you. I believe the only way to enjoy any superhero story is to not take them too seriously. Actually I rather enjoy the inconsistencies.

Marvel Mystery Comics #24
Marvel Mystery Comics #24 (October 1941) The Vision by Jack Kirby page 1

The Vision lives in another dimension, entering and exiting this one through smoke. The sole purpose of his visits to Earth seems to be fight evil, which despite the war going on in Europe and Asia, somehow only occurs in America. In this story his foe is someone the Vision is already familiar with. It is Grosso from the war-dust world who has a similar mode of transportation as the Vision only instead of smoke uses metal dust. Grosso comes from a world that relishes war and he has decided that our dust free world would be a suitable place for his people to live and easy to conquer. Grosso method is to enter a weapon factory via the metal dust they produce and destroy it. The Vision soon detects the presence of Grosso’s evil and enters into battle with him. Grosso does seem to have some advantages. One is that he is able to control how fully he is in this dimension. When Grosso is only partly in our world the Vision is unable to touch him. Grosso is also able to use metal dust as a weapon or even a poison.

But the biggest difficulty that the Vision faces is that he does not know where Grosso is going to attach next. The Vision puts on a hood and some glasses as a disguise and gets hired at the largest factory expecting that Grosso will turn up. He tells his employer that he hides his face because it was disfigured when a factory was destroyed by Grosso. The ability of the Vision to appear as a normal mortal that was seen in the first Vision story now seems gone. Also surprising is that nobody seems to make any comment about the disguised Vision’s green hands. Of course in the end the Vision soundly defeats Grosso. It would even appear that Grosso was killed, but we all know how often a good villain stays dead.

This Vision story came out toward the end of Simon and Kirby’s stay at Timely and it shows. Included are lots of irregularly shaped panels, figures that extend beyond the panel edges, running figures with legs stretch out to an unrealistic degree, and square fists. The splash page is particularly effective. Note how over large the figures of the Vision and Grosso are. Such use of over sized figures was not typical for Kirby through most of his career. On the other hand Joe Simon did use large figures from time to time both before teaming up with Jack and after their split. Covers create by Simon and Kirby at Timely never used this motif but over sized figures occur often in their Timely splashes.

Marvel Mystery Comics #24
Marvel Mystery Comics #24 (October 1941) The Vision by Jack Kirby page 7

Check out the dialog from the third panel on page eight.

Vision: Now, Grosso, we face each other for the last time! One of us is not going to leave this factory alive!

Grosso: And it isn’t going to be me!

I have to admit I had to read it several times before I could convince myself that they got it right. It reminds me very much of the script in another story that Jack drew about years later from Tales of Suspense #92

on last panel of page 9

Cap: Okay mister, I’m ready for you! So let’s wrap it up. Only one of us is gonna walk out of here under his own steam…

on first panel of next page

Cap: and it won’t be me!

In this case comes out wrong no matter how many times you read it. Because the story was done by the Marvel method it is not clear whether this snafu should be blamed on Jack Kirby or Stan Lee. Despite the fact that the Vision and Cap stories were done about 20 years apart, the similarity between these two scripts make me suspect that it was Jack who came up with Cap’s goof-up.

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 7, Marvel Mystery

Marvel Mystery #12
Marvel Mystery Comics #12 (October 1940)

October (cover date) was a relatively slow time for Jack Kirby. The only full comic story that Jack drew was for Blue Bolt. As we saw Jack had been doing all the penciling for Blue Bolt starting with issue #4. The October story for Blue Bolt was issue #5, the first comic that had a Simon and Kirby credit line. Also to come out in October was Famous Funnies #75. However the art for Lightin’ and the Lone Rider may actually have been done sometime earlier. Even if it was done at the same time as Blue Bolt #5, it is only two pages.

The only other work Jack produced for October was the cover for Marvel Mystery #12. This was Kirby’s fifth comic book cover. Some of his earlier covers (Champions #9, Red Raven #1 and Daring Mystery #6) contain a certain awkward quality. But with Marvel Mystery #12 Jack has arrived to a cover style which he would use quite successfully later with Captain America. The hero for this cover, the Angel, is one of the backup features for this title. Judging from the covers it is not clear how much of a backup the Angel really was originally meant to be. The Angel had appeared on four of the previous eleven covers. Kirby’s Angel cover would be that hero’s last for the title with future Marvel Mystery covers exclusively by either the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, or most frequently both of them.

Unfortunately Jack Kirby would never draw an Angel story. Judging from this cover I suspect that if he had it would have been an interesting read. As was typical in Simon and Kirby covers, the hero arrives just at the critical time. He plows through his diminutive green advisories, shoving one of them in the face in a manner similar to that used for the cover of Champion Comics #10 (see Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 5). The Angel does not use the gun on his most immediate foes. Instead the hero reserves it for saving the beautiful victim, as the blurb says “could the Angel be in time”? Exactly what is going to happen to the woman is not completely clear. A first glance it looks like nothing more then that a mask will be placed on her. On closer look the mask has a strap with a sort of bolt attached. This suggests that the mask will be more then just worn, her face will be forced into the mask. Will this result in some sort of transformation? We may not know what will happen, but the lady seems to have some sort of idea as she squirms away trying to avoid her fate. The victim is unable to move very far as she is being held tightly by two gigantic hands. The hands might seem to belong to a statue, but the color and glint of the eyes, as well as the open mouth, convinces me that this is some monstrous being in league with the little green men. This cover effectively does what it is meant to do, perk the interest of the perspective buyer. The cover is not meant to provide all the answers, but unfortunately the Angel feature inside is a completely different story so questions about exactly what is going on can never be cleared.

Wonderworld Comics #15
Wonderworld Comics #15 (July 1940) by Joe Simon

The cover has some props that would be stock features for many Simon and Kirby covers. The vessel with an open fire in the lower right goes back to some of the covers that Joe Simon did for Fox Comics such as Wonderworld #15 (see above). The chains hanging from the wall can be traced back to Silver Streak Comics #2 one of Joe’s first cover work. The barred window would be used repeatedly in the future. The descending staircase leading into the room would also often show up again.

Marvel Mystery #13
Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) The Vision, page 1

For November Jack Kirby penciled a new feature, the Vision. This feature would appear as one of the backup stories in Marvel Mystery. Up to now this was one of the few successful features launched with Jack’s involvement. Jack had be penciling Blue Bolt but that had been started by Joe Simon alone. The Red Raven, a feature started while Joe was editor at Timely, was not only short lived but also assigned to another artist. Jack was involved with Marvel Boy who premiered in Daring Mystery #6, but that hero would only reappear one further time in 1943. The only other ongoing comic feature that Jack started was the Solar Legion for Crash Comics see Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 3. the Solar Legion did last five issues, with the first three stories done by Jack. The Vision would be longer lasting and Jack would be involved in it throughout his stay at Timely.

The Vision is an odd sort of superhero. He was initially brought forth as a scientific attempt to reach the supernatural world. Once this was done, the Vision was then able to appear and disappear from smoke of any kind. This power is reminiscent of the Flame, a Fox hero that could teleport using any fire as a portal. Not only was Joe Simon previously an editor at Fox but he did several covers of the Flame (see Wonderworld #15 above). Although normally residing in another dimension, the Vision also had a secret mortal identity.

It is I Aarkus in material shape. Only those approaching death can see me in my true form as the Vision!

This despite the fact that his “unmaterial shape” had been seen by others who were not facing his retribution. However if you are willing to accept some logical inconsistencies the Vision stories are rather good. As with the cover for Marvel Mystery #12, Simon and Kirby has fully arrived at a story telling style that would shortly bring them fame with Captain America.

Marvel Mystery #13
Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) The Vision, page 8

We have seen that Marvel Boy had some features that would later be the used for Captain America; parts of the costume and the fight against spies. One would think that the Vision was so different from Captain America that we would find little in common. But there are a couple of ideas related to the hero’s origin that were carried over from the Vision to Cap. In both witnesses are gathered to observe an experiment being held in a separate lab. Also common is that the experiment is disrupted at a critical time; by criminal thugs in the Vision and by a gun carrying spy in Captain America.

I wish I could present further Vision features. Although short in length they have lots of interest both in their stories and as showcases for Jack Kirby’s development during a critical time in his career. Marvel has been publishing Marvel Mystery Comics reprint volumes. But if they keep to their pattern of four issues per volume it will not be until the fifth volume before any will include Vision stories. I do have scans of two other Vision stories but they both are from the end of Simon and Kirby’s stay at Timely. This is not the correct point to discuss them. I will not be including Captain America in this serial post of Early Jack Kirby, that is a topic that requires much preparation and will have to be subject of a future serial post. So I have decided that perhaps the best thing would be to write the two other Vision stories as Featured Stories after I finish up this Early Jack Kirby serial post. So stay tuned.

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 6, Daring Mystery #6

After Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) Joe Simon and Jack Kirby would do work for Daring Mystery Comics #6 (September 1940). Previously Joe had done some stories for this title, but now he would be its editor. This Timely title did not have anywhere near the success of Marvel Mystery Comics. Although declared a monthly, in fact Daring Mystery suffered a rather sporadic publication schedule.

Recently Marvel has been publishing reprint volumes of some of its golden age titles. This has been much appreciated as the original comics are rare and rather expensive. Volumes for Marvel Mystery, All Winners, Captain America, the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner have already appeared. I understand a reprint volume of USA Comics will also soon come out. However I doubt that Daring Mystery is ever likely to receive this reprint treatment. The issues are filled with features that would last only a few issues, sometimes even a single one, and then disappear.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940)

But the obscurity of Daring Mystery’s heroes is not the only reason I doubt it will get reprinted. As I see it another problem with Daring Mystery is the cover for issue #6. I really cannot think of another golden age cover that today is likely to provoke more of a negative reaction then this one. The image of a white woman at the mercy of some African American thugs brings to mind the rise of the KKK in the silent movie “Birth of a Nation”. It is true that when America entered the war there would be similar covers involving stereotyped Japanese or German soldiers. But at least then a war can be used to explain such derogatory works.

Not to excuse it, but those were different times. As uncomfortable as the DM #6 cover may make us feel today, we cannot just ignore it. History is meant to help us understand our past, not to remake it in the image of our present day. African Americans were conspicuous for the absence in comics books of those days. I suspect that in casting them as villains, Joe and Jack were just looking for a way to make their cover stand out on the racks. Whatever their intentions were, they would not repeat it. I can think of only one case where an African American was used as a villain by Simon and Kirby. Captain America #9 introduces the Black Talon. The Black Talon got his hand from an African American criminal who was executed. Pretty tame stuff compared to the cover for DM #6.

But apart from the racial overtones, what can be said about the Daring Mystery #6 cover? We have the hero swinging by a rope simultaneously kicking one thug in the face and pulling the hair of another. It would seem that Jack was trying to make this cover as exciting as possible. This was done early in the history of the comic book industry and both Jack and Joe were still learning. To me this was not that great a cover. I guess much of my feeling is due to the kicking and hair pulling. This is not the type of fighting one would expect from a hero, especially during the golden age. Like the racial reference, this would not be repeated in future Simon and Kirby covers.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “Introducing Marvel Boy” page 1 by Joe Simon

Both Joe and Jack were involved in the drawing of two of the interior stories for DM #6, “Introducing Marvel Boy” and “The Fiery Mask”. An interesting pattern is shown by both cases. Joe would do the starting pages of the story and then Jack would do the rest. For Marvel Boy Joe did pages 1 to 3 while Jack did 4 to 10. With the Fiery Mask Joe did 1 to 4 and Jack pages 5 to 10. My interpretation is that as editor Joe wanted to establish the look of the story. Joe had been working with Jack on Blue Bolt so I am sure he was comfortable sharing the drawing with Jack and Knew that the final would look fine. Joe did not use This drawing arrangement with any of the other artist in DM #6.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “Introducing Marvel Boy” page 8

Most of the stories we have seen by Kirby outside of syndication have been science fiction. Now Jack was back to doing something from the superhero genre, and doing a nice job of it as well. Marvel Boy fights an assortment of spies. We are not told what government his foes work for but they all seem to have German accents, say “Heil” while saluting, and one exclaims “Himmel” when attached. To keep things interesting, Kirby keeps changing the view point and makes a lot of use of exaggerated perspective.

Inking on the Marvel Boy story is different on the pages penciled by Joe as compared to those done by Jack. It is tempting to assume that the inking for a page was done by the same artist that did the drawing. But Joe was an editor at Timely and there were other artists available to do inking. The use of various hands in the inking of the same art page was a common practice in the future but it may also be occurring at this early stage.

Marvel Boy had costume features (“skull cap” mask, boots) and a story (fighting spies) that foreshadow a future character, Captain America. Neither Joe or Jack would do any further work on Marvel Boy. Years later there would be one further Marvel Boy feature in USA Comics #7 (February 1943) after which he would disappear completely, like so many other Daring Mystery heroes. In the 50′s a character with the same name would have a short run, but that hero only shares the name with Simon and Kirby’s creation.


Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “The Fiery Mask” page 5

The Fiery Mask first appeared in Daring Mystery Comics #1 (January 1940) is one of Simon’s earliest published comic book work. Although Joe did other work for some of the early issues of Daring Mystery, they did not include the Fiery Mask. Both the GCD and Atlas Tales indicates that the character did reappear in DM #5 (June 1940) but was done by another artist, George Kapitan. I have not seen the contents of this issue and so cannot add my own opinion. While Joe was editor at Timely the Fiery Mask would make two further appearances, here in DM #6 (September 1940) and also in Human Torch #2 (Fall 1940). It is not clear which was done first. DM #6 runs an advertisement for Red Raven Comics #1, not its replacement Human Torch #2. The cover for Marvel Mystery #13 (December 1940) includes a reference to HT #2 comic. Both facts suggest that DM #6 came before HT #2. The Fiery Mask story in HM #2 was drawn entirely by Simon and it is quite possible that it was actually created earlier just not published right away.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “The Fiery Mask” page 9

As mentioned above, Joe did the first 4 pages of the Fiery Mask story in DM #6 and then handed the story over to Jack. Jack did an excellent job drawing it. Part of the story involves a child delivered by a demon to a couple to raise. Jack’s transformation of an apparently peacefully sleeping baby in one panel into a malevolent infant in the next is just marvelous. The fight scene between the Fiery Mask and demons from hell is quite exciting.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “The Fiery Mask” page 10

As with the Marvel Boy story the inking appears to be different on the pages drawn by Jack as compared to those penciled by Joe. As previously discussed this could be due to the inker being the same as the penciler. But care must be taken because Joe may have had other artists available and multiple hands may be involved. However there is an exception to the general rule that the inking is the same on the pages drawn by Jack. On page 10 panels 4 to 6 appear to be inked differently. The penciling was still clearly done by Jack but the inking looks to me like it was done by Joe.

Kirby would do further work for Daring Mystery Comics. However because of the erratic publication schedule for this comic DM #7 would not be released until April 1941 and DM #8 would come out in January 1942. It would be best to discuss what Jack did for those comics later in a more appropriate place.

Mea Culpa on Early Kirby

In a recent post of mine, Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 5, Timely and the Red Raven I used a one to two week lead time (the time between when a strip is created and when it actually is published) as part of a calculation of when Jack Kirby started at Timely. Well one of the great things about blogs is that someone may add a comment when I make a mistake. In this case Kirby scholar Stan Taylor questioned my short lead time.

I could not remember where I got the 1 to 2 weak lead time so I could not refer back to my source. So I reached out to Allan Holtz who has the Srippers Guide Blog. Allan is very knowledgeable about syndication strips and his blog is a treasure full of great information.

Allan’s response was that that daily strips are typically done 4 to 6 weeks ahead and Sundays 8 to 12. He added that these lead times hold every since the 20′s and 30′s. His qualification on these times was that if the strip was produced by contract lead times may be even longer.

I plan to make a corrections to some of my posts, but not tonight. I want to do some scanning for my next post as well to have more time to think things over.

So my thanks to both Stan Taylor for pointing out my error and Allan Holtz for giving me more reliable data.

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 5, Timely and the Red Raven

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940)

Joe Simon’s last set of covers for Fox Comics were cover dated July 1940. Joe went on to become art editor for Timely. When Joe arrived, Timely had three superhero titles. Marvel Mystery Comics was their big seller, largely due to the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner features. The other two titles, Daring Mystery and Mystic Comics do not appear to have been as successful. Each presented a dazzling assortment of features that would last only a few issues before disappearing. Previously Joe had done some work Daring Mystery through Funnies Inc, the shop that created the art for all Timely’s comics. (see my posts on Daring Mystery #2 and Daring Mystery #3). Now Timely’s owner Martin Goodman wanted to cut out the middleman and set up his own art shop. Although an editor, Joe worked on a freelance basis.

Science Comics #5
Science Comics #5 (June 1940) by Joe Simon

Previous Timely comics had been anthologies, but Joe’s greatest success so far had been with Blue Bolt. Blue Bolt was an anthology also but was named after the key feature. Joe convinced Goodman to do the same thing with a new hero, the Red Raven. While at Fox Comics, Joe had drawn a similar flying figure called the Eagle for the cover of Science Comics #5 (June 1940). But the success of Timely’s new title would depend largely on the key feature. Joe had to make sure the Red Raven story was especially good. The story would be 17 pages long, seven pages more then any other of the features in the comic. But surprisingly the Red Raven story was drawn by an unidentified artist. Jack Kirby drew the cover for Red Raven #1 along with two of the stories, so it is clear that he was available to do work. At this point Kirby was already doing all the drawing for Blue Bolt and was clearly a much better artist then the one Joe actually used. I can understand that as editor Joe might not want to draw it himself, but why did he not turn to Jack for this?

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “The Red Raven” by unidentified artist

According to Joe and Jim Simon’s book, “The Comic Book Makers”, Jack Kirby did not immediately follow Joe to Timely but continued at Fox. In the book Joe says it took three months. The last Blue Beetle strip that Jack did was published on March 9, 1940. Syndication strips are usually created only a week or so before publication. Comic books take longer to be created and the covers are dated with the removal time, not the distribution date. The result of all this is that comics will have a cover date that is five to six months after work started. This means that the first comics that Jack worked on after Fox would be cover dated August or September. I believe that Joe is right about Jack staying at Fox but perhaps it was not for a period of months but actually weeks. If when Joe started work on the Red Raven Jack was only available on a moonlight basis Joe might have reluctant to use him for the all important feature story. By the time Jack transferred to Timely it was too late to change artists.

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “Mercury in the 20th Century”

The credit given for “Mercury in the 20th Century” go to the writer, Martin A. Bursten (actually spelt Burstein). This is Kirby’s earliest foray into a feature loosely based on mythological characters. The hero is of course Mercury and his adversary is Pluto. Pluto is causing havoc in the world and has taken the mortal disguise of Rudolph Hedler, leader of Prussland. America was still at peace, but Europe certainly was not. In this story Mercury uses his powers as a god to thwart Pluto war promoting activities.

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “Mercury in the 20th Century” page 7

Inking on this story is different from that on Jack’s pervious comic book work. The inking used to define the form is lighter. Further spotting is not limited to form, but includes shadows and design aspects. Page 7 shown above provides good examples. Although Jack did not limit spotting to form when working for Blue Beetle or Lightn’ and the Lone Rider the way it was used in those works was different then what was done here. I believe someone other then Jack did the inking for this Mercury story.

In panel 4 from page 7 of “Mercury in the 20th Century” notice the large size of the man on our left. Similar large ears on people viewed from behind was a Kirby trait in the future during the years he and Joe worked at DC. But it also shows up occasionally at other times, the image above is perhaps the earliest example. But this trait is not as common during Jack’s period at Timely. This is because during this time Jack would not use this viewpoint as often and when he did he would not always get the ear size wrong.

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “Comet Pierce”

Jack also provided a science fiction feature, Comet Pierce. In many ways this story is written and drawn very much like his previous sci-fi work. The biggest difference is before the hero was a sort of sheriff of the stars while here Comet Pierce is a rocket ship racer. Once again lots of flying rockets, monsters and of course a beautiful woman. Even the inking is similar to the earlier work in that it is largely limited to describing form. But “Comet Pierce” is even more important in that for the first time a story credit’s uses the newly acquired name of Jack Kirby. The credit is for Jack alone, not for Simon and Kirby. Yet another reminder that although Joe and Jack worked together for Blue Bolt, they were not yet truly a team.

But the Red Raven title only lasted one issue. Because of the amount of time it took to get a comic book published, three months, it it clear that Red Raven Comics was discontinued well before any idea could be made about how well it would sell. Martin Goodman may have liked the idea about having a comic title dedicated to one key hero but he may have gotten cold feet about basing a comic on a new, untried, character. Instead it was decided to start a title for the successful Human Torch and (to save money on a new mailing permit) take over the numbering from the Red Raven. The first Human Torch would therefore be issue #2 and would be cover dated as Fall 1940.