Category Archives: 2009/06

Art of Romance, Chapter 17, The Assistant

(November 1951 – January 1952: Young Romance #39 – #41, Young Love #27 – #29)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 - 1953
Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1953 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

There has not been much change in what the Simon and Kirby studio was producing which were two monthly romance titles and one bimonthly horror all for Prize Comics. I believe all three titles were doing well but I will leave off explaining what is behind my belief until Chapter 20 of The Art of Romance and Chapter 3 of The Little Shop of Horrors.

Mort Meskin was really going strong during the period covered in this chapter. Joe Simon described in “The Comic Book Makers” the difficulties Mort had when he first came to work for Simon and Kirby. I do not know if someone was still marking Meskin’s pages with scribbles to get Mort over his fear of the blank page or if Mort had worked past his problems. Either way Mort did 82 romance pages; much more then any other studio artists. The second place was once again Bill Draut. Bill was not famous for his speed and there is no particular reason to believe he was faster then the average comic book artist but even so he managed to do 59 pages during this period. Jack Kirby remained in third place but with 32 pages the gap between him and Draut had widened. Jack did all the lead stories for Young Romance but that was all he did; he did draw any backup stories for Young Romance and he did nothing at all for Young Love. Jack only did a single page more then John Prentice’s 31 pages. The remaining work was done by 2 other artists discussed below (16 pages by one and 2 by the other). Marvin Stein, Vic Donahue and Ross Andru were artists present in last chapter but they do not show up in the issues covered in this post.

Young Romance #41
Young Romance #41 (January 1952) “Dangerous Companion”, art by Jack Kirby

I have a particular fondness for Kirby’s romance splashes. They may not rate high with Kirby fans today but they should. Some are his finest creations and work well as stand alone art. Unfortunately there is only one outstanding splash during this period, the one for “Dangerous Companions”. There is nothing special about the scene Jack presents. It is little more then a couple getting a marriage license. When put into words like that it sounds quite boring. I can explain some of the reasons I find this work so engaging. The high viewing angle not only lets the reader see all that is going on but makes him feel his is part of the story, like he is standing behind the counter. Each part of the composition plays its part both visually and for telling the story. The lady is quite attractive and, at least as I am concern, is proof that Kirby did draw beautiful women. With her raised eyebrow she pauses before she signs the form and seems to want to ask us, a stranger, if she is doing the right thing. All these are good and valid reasons why this splash works so well but in the end they do not fully explain it. As so often with Kirby, or any great artist, there is some magical quality that cannot be put into words but cannot be denied.

Young Romance #39
Young Romance #39 (November 1951) “Marvin’s Pearl”, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin drew a lot of great art for Simon and Kirby but I have a special fondness for “Marvin’s Pearl”. Much of the credit has to go to the unknown writer. It is a light hearted tale of a pearl found in a meal and the effect it has on the people involved. However it took the Meskin’s skill to transform the script into such a delightful graphic story. I particularly like Mort’s interpretation of Marvin. Is it possible to view the splash with Marvin literally dancing with joy without raising a smile? Frankly I cannot imagine any other artist doing a better job on this story then Meskin, not even Jack Kirby.

Young Romance #41
Young Romance #41 (January 1952) “Kill Her with Kindness”, art by Mort Meskin

I often wonder if the teenage female readers of the Young Romance really appreciated such things as the splash for “Kill Her with Kindness”. They might not have enjoyed a scene of scantily clad women but I am certain Mort Meskin liked drawing it. Why else would Mort, who normally used half page splashes, devote an entire page to this beach scene? Even if the size of the splash was dictated by the script writer, Meskin certainly seems to have taken to it enthusiastically.

Young Romance #39
Young Romance #39 (November 1951) “The Wall between Us”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut does a soliloquy splash for “The Wall between Us”. Usually soliloquy splashes are reserved for the lead story but this is a backup story. There always is the possibility that it was originally meant to be the lead story but got switched after the art was completed. However Kirby is generally the lead story artist for Young Romance and this issue is no exception. I think Draut did a good job on the art work but there seems to be a disconnect between the image and text in the word balloon. Usually in a soliloquy splash they work very well together and those done by Bill are no exception. But what does washing dishes have to do with the “wall between” the couple? I wonder if the balloon text was a late, and not very successful, alteration?

Young Love #29
Young Love #29 (January 1952) “Dumb Blonde”, art by John Prentice

John Prentice’s art is usually easy to spot. Most Simon and Kirby artists were influenced by Milton Caniff but Alex Raymond had the greatest impact on Prentice. John’s women have a more sophisticated beauty and his men a rugged sort of look and small eyes. Like most studio artist, John did his own inking which he did with a very assured hand. I have previously discussed his cloth folds are long and sweeping, and have different shapes they used by Joe or Jack. John’s brush work for hair was also distinct as can be seen in the above splash.

Young Love #29
Young Love #29 (January 1952) “Dumb Blonde” page 8, art by Jack Kirby?

The first page of “Dumb Blonde” is typical John Prentice pencils and inks. However the rest of the story is not. Some pages look like Prentice’s inking but the brushwork seems more rushed. Other pages still look like John’s pencils but inked by another. The different look is particularly apparent on page 8 shown above. Compare the way the hair is inked on the last page with what Prentice did on the first. Further the women do not have sophisticated beauty nor the men the rugged looks typical for Prentice. But take a careful look at the man in panels 3 and 5, he looks like he was done by Jack Kirby. Yet the woman does not look like she was drawn by Jack in any of the panels. So what is going on here? The first explanation that comes to mind is that Prentice was working from Kirby layouts. However the story is graphically told in a manner so characteristic of Prentice and not in a Kirby manner at all that I think this explanation can be safely discounted.

The solution I offer is that in the last page of the story Kirby was inking over Prentice’s pencils. Some artists who ink there own work do rough pencils and do the detail work when inking. I have never seen any uninked pencils by Prentice so I cannot say if that was his working procedure. If it was then any artist inking such rough pencils would likely to impart much of their own drawing style to the finished inking; hence the Kirby look of the man in the two panels of the last page. Kirby inking another artist would be quite extraordinary. I believe that the Jack Kirby Checklist includes only three cases that were supposed to be Kirby inking another artist. When I was able to track down copies of these so called Kirby inking I was always disappointed; all of them were clearly not inked by Jack. If parts of “Dumb Blonde” were inked by Jack it would be the only case of Kirby inking another artist that I have found.

I am not sure that Kirby and Prentice were the only inkers involved either. I suspect “Dumb Blonde” was a rush job that had to meet some deadline. As such it probably got the inking treatment normally reserved for Kirby’s pencils where many of the studio artist pitched in to ink the work including Jack himself. Jack was a fantastic artist but he was a really poor ghost artist. He had trouble suppressing his own style and imitating another artist’s mannerisms. Years later Jack would try to imitate other artists in some index pages for Harvey romances. In fact one of the imitate artist was Prentice and Jack was no more successful then (Kirby Imitating John Prentice and Kirby Imitating John Prentice Again).

Young Love #28
Young Love #28 (December 1951) “Love without Logic”, art by George Roussos

George Roussos started appearing in the romance titles in November. His appearance is not surprising but what is unusual is that it took so long for him to show up. Roussos had been appearing in Black Magic starting in February. Perhaps Joe and Jack thought that while George’s art was very suitable for horror stories it might not work so well for romance. In fact while Roussos was not particularly bad at romance art, he was not particular good at it either. Most of the romance work George did during the period covered in this chapter was for short pieces 1 to 4 pages long. He did do one regular length story called “Love without Logic”. Roussos obviously put some effort into as can be seen by all the fine crosshatching in the cityscape found in the splash. George was a frequent inker of Mort Meskin at DC during the war so it is not surprising to see Meskin’s influence on the art that Roussos did for Simon and Kirby. Not so much in the inking, although both artists had a penchant for including crosshatching done with a pen. It is the drawing that shows the influence but never to the extent that would make it difficult to distinguish the two artists. Meskin was clearly the master and Roussos the follower.

Young Love #28
Young Love #28 (December 1951) “Love without Logic” page 2, art by George Roussos and Jack Kirby

The second page of the story is a particularly well executed moody piece full of nighttime shadows. The Meskin influence is well indicated by the woman in panel 5. As good as the piece is look at that first panel. See how the woman raises her eyebrow and her arches her body toward the man. We cannot see his face but his whole body language speaks his desire. But look at his hand. If you have not guessed it already this was the work of Jack Kirby. Compare the trunk of the fallen tree in the foreground with the tree in the last panel. There is no question, that fallen tree was inked by Jack. Further all the foliage is inked in a quick, robust but assured manner very different from the rest of the page. While it is not that unusual to find Kirby stepping in as an art editor and fixing some part of a story it is surprising that he worked on the entire panel. Perhaps Jack was unsatisfied with the entire panel and redid it all but I would like to offer another explanation. Perhaps Jack was using the first panel to instruct George how he wanted the rest of the page to be done. If so wouldn’t you have liked to be a fly on the wall to listen to that discussion? Actually the entire story could be based on Kirby layouts; I see nothing in the story to prove that but nothing to discount it either.

Young Romance #39
Young Romance #39 (November 1951) “Let’s Talk Fashion”, art by Jim Infantino

This chapter of The Art of Romance is one of the few that I have been able to confidently identify all the artists who provided word during this period. Actually that is now true of the last chapter as well but when I wrote that post there was a single one page feature that I failed to identify then. However I had forgotten about an artist who contributed very little to Simon and Kirby productions and not much more to other comics either, Jim Infantino. Besides the single piece form the period covered by the chapter 15 I can add two other single page features by Jim with only one of them signed. Perhaps more will be found in future chapters.

Frankly the main reason Jim Infantino is of interests is because of his brother Carmine. As can be seen in the example above while he is not an incompetent artist there is little reason to give great praise for him either. The art is technically well done both pencils and inking although a bit stiff. However since this is a fashion feature and not a story there really is no way to judge how good a graphical story teller Jim was. It is interesting that these short features used typed lettering. This is very unique for Simon and Kirby productions that at this time were, these exceptions, all lettered by Ben Oda.

In one respect I was inaccurate is saying Jim contributed little to Simon and Kirby comics. Jim worked for Joe and Jack as a studio assistant. As such he probably helped in many ways with S&K productions that cannot be recognized today. In particular he almost certainly was one of the artists used to do some of inking of Jack Kirby’s pencils; at least the more minor inking steps. We see Jim in one of the rare studio photographs taken.


Joe Genalo, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Jim Infantino and Ben Oda. The caricatures of Marvin Stein and Jim Infantino were probably by Joe Simon.

Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)

Art of Romance, Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New

(August 1951 – October 1951: Young Romance #36 – #38, Young Love #24 – #26)


Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1952 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

Despite the fact that today many fans point to Boys’ Ranch as one of Simon and Kirby best efforts it was at the time a commercial failure. The last issue of Boys’ Ranch would have an August cover date. After that Joe and Jack would only be working on the two monthly romance titles and the bimonthly Black Magic all of them for Prize Comics. Young Romance entered its fourth year and I believe both romance titles were still selling very well.

Jack Kirby is legendary for the amount of work he could produce. While there were periods during the Simon and Kirby collaboration that support that legend there are other times that do not. In the previous chapter Meskin replaced Kirby as the most productive studio artist. During the period covered in this chapter Meskin has maintained the first place position but now Bill Draut has replaced Jack for the second place. For the romance titles Meskin produced 64, Draut 49, and Kirby 45 pages. Adding the work for Black Magic only increases the disparity (Meskin 78, Draut 67 and Kirby 60 pages). Mort Meskin was famous for his productivity but Bill Draut was not. The difference is all the more striking when it is considered that Meskin and Draut were doing all there own inking while Kirby was not.

Another indication of Jack’s decreased involvement in the art from this period is that Bill Draut did the lead story for Young Romance #36. While it was not unusual for the first story of Young Love to be done by artists other then Kirby, Young Romance was the flagship title and up to now Jack almost always provided the lead story. The single previous exception was for YR #12 (July 1949) and Draut was the feature artist on that occasion as well.

I cannot offer any explanation for Kirby’s decreased page production. If his time was occupied with trying to develop something new it did not come to fruition. But it must be remembered that Jack was a boss and his income depended on the how good sales were for the S&K titles not on how many pages of art he drew. His decreased output could be due to nothing more then attention to some personal issues.

Most of the rest of the romance work was done by two artists; John Prentice with 25 pages and Marvin Stein with 24 pages. Three other artists supplied single stories. Two of them will be discussed below and the third has not been identified but only provided a single page.


Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “Family Trouble”, art by Jack Kirby

While his page count has dropped the quality of Jack Kirby’s work had not suffered. He still drew great splashes and his stories were still unique compared to other studio artists (suggesting that Jack was rewriting the scripts while he was drawing them). This uniqueness was often the result of placing more action into the story, something that Kirby excelled at. But as I have pointed out before, Jack also excelled at comic book art that did not rely on action. His romance splash panels are often examples of this. The splash for “Family Trouble” uses the soliloquy format that is so typical of Kirby’s lead stories. The word balloon that introduces the story provides the plot of young lovers facing family disapproval but does not explain the basis of their problem other then age. Kirby presents the couple passing through a gate carrying their luggage presumable off to start their new life together. The sign on the entrance indicates they are leaving the servant’s quarters and therefore theirs is a romance that breaks the class boundary between the rich and their servants. The man seems calmed but resolved while the woman seems more resolute. At a glance this splash is nothing more the two standing figures but Jack embodies an entire story in it. Of course the viewer is expected to be enticed to read the story to get the full explanation.


Young Love #25 (September 1951) “My Old Flame”, art by Jack Kirby

Kirby’s splashes are almost always interesting but occasionally they are quite unique. Given Joe Simon’s long history of innovative designs I suspect he provided layouts for many of Jack’s covers and splashes but even if that is true it still took a genius like Kirby to make them work so well. Here while riding a train a man pauses from reading his book to reflect on a past relationship. Normally the splash would be expected to show a head shot or half figure of the former love object. Instead we are provided with just a close-up of a set of eyes seeming arising behind the man; a compositional device that is much more effective in capturing the man’s mood.


Young Romance #36 (August 1951) “Yesterday’s Romance”, art by Bill Draut

“Yesterday’s Romance” was the lead story for YR #36 that Bill did instead of Jack. It is an unusual story for any romance title because it main characters are all in their advanced years. Draut does a good job of capturing the offbeat nature of the story in his splash. The odd thing about this piece is that usually the lead story used the soliloquy format where the protagonist’s speech balloon tells what the story is about and provides the title. Bill has used that soliloquy splash before so he was aware of Simon and Kirby’s preference for using that splash format for the lead story.


Young Romance #36 (August 1951) “Married In Haste”, art by Bill Draut

While “Yesterday’s Romance” failed to make use of the soliloquy splash it appears in the same issue in “Married in Haste”. This suggests that “Married in Haste” was originally meant to be the lead story but its place was taken by “Yesterday’s Romance” after the art was completed. Bill does a good job with the soliloquy splash and as any good splash it succeeds in its roll as the story’s preview. It may not be fair but it is constructive to compare the splash for “Married in Haste” with Kirby’s “Family Trouble” (shown above). Both do well at having the splash background support the story needed although it is not clear how much of this was the result of the artist and how much came from the writer. I describe the comparison as unfair because Kirby is such a great artist the comparison will tend to make Draut’s work poorer then the excellent art it really is. But the comparison is useful because it highlights the nuanced emotions Kirby gives his characters compared to the more static ones that Draut provides. While Kirby is justly famous for the exciting action the work he did for romance pushed him to be equally adept at portraying more subtle emotions.


Young Love #24 (August 1951) “Native Wedding”, art by Mort Meskin

The splash for Meskin’s “Native Wedding” is reminiscent of the one Bruno Premiani did some time ago for YR #10 (June 1950, see chapter 11 of The Art of Romance). One obvious difference is that Meskin is uncharacteristic in his use of busy brushwork found throughout the splash. Normally this would result in the image loosing focus but somehow Mort pulls it off. Mort also takes care to make the camp fire scene occur at night providing the nearby faces shadowed from below as appropriate for the position of the fire. The dancer’s back is also appropriately shadowed.


Young Love #26 (October 1951) “Let’s Keep It Gay” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

For a couple of pages of “Let’s Keep It Gay” Meskin adopts and 2 rows by 3 columns panel layout. This results in tall narrow panels that Mort put to good use especially in the second panel of page 5. This panel layout was one that previously Leonard Starr was fond of using so one wonders if perhaps Meskin picked it up from him. Starr also used a 3 rows by 3 panel layout where he would decrease the height of two rows so that the remaining row would have similarly tall panels. Starr’s modified 3 by 3 panel layout did not seem to be one the Meskin picked up on.

I particularly like how the bottom row starts with the couple in the foreground and a TV studio as the background, then Mort comes in for a close-up without the studio background, before ending by once again pushing the couple into the background of the studio. Careful manipulation of point of view was an important aspect of Meskin’s art during this period providing his stories with what could be described as a cinematic approach.


Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “One Tragic Mistake”, art by John Prentice

John Prentice has become a regular presence in Simon and Kirby productions, especially the romance comics. In the last chapter I provided an example where Prentice seemed to be adopting some of the Studio Style inking techniques. Although it was possible it could have been Joe or Jack touching up John’s work the picket fence crosshatching (see my Inking Glossary for explanations of some of my inking terminology) my opinion was and still is that it was the work of John himself. For the splash page of “One Tragic Mistake” we find a more typical Prentice inking. Note in particular his method of doing cloth folds. They are not the spatulate or oval shape typical of Kirby but tend to be long with roughly parallel edges and with a more or less flat and sometimes slanted ends. John also has a fondness for long sweeping cloth folds. Note the inking of the man’s shoulder. At a glance this might be mistaken for a Studio Style shoulder blot but see how it appears on only one of the shoulders and is clearly integrated with the shadow on the side of the face. With Joe or Jack I am never sure if shoulder blots were meant to indicate shadows or the turn of the form but Prentice always seems quite clear with his intent.


Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “One Tragic Mistake” page 8, art by John Prentice

While the splash page to this story looks like typical Prentice inking other pages seem to be a combination of his own inking techniques and the Studio Style. Most of the cloth folds are done in Prentice’s typical brush work but note the abstract arch shadows (panels 1, 2 and 4), picket fence crosshatching (panels 3 and 4) and shoulder blot (panel 6). Only drop strings appear to be missing. Panel 6 truly has shoulder blots because they appear on both shoulders while a shadow would only be appropriate foe the man’s right side. While I am not certain that the picket fence crosshatching was not by John, the abstract arches are so untypical for Prentice that I believe this is Joe or Jack stepping to do some touching up.


Young Love #24 (August 1951) “Don’t Tell On Me” page 2, art by John Prentice

A page from another Prentice story from the same period provides a more typical example of Prentice inking. Again note the cloth folds some of which are long and sweeping and few could be called oval or spatulate in shape. There are some arching shadows that might suggest the Studio Style. But the round shape in the first panel is not abstract at all but is clearly meant to be the moon. The arc of the left side of the second panel is meant to be the entrance to an arched hallway. The shadow on the right side seems to be the light of the window falling on the darken exterior. Almost all applications of large areas of ink appear to be intended as realistic shadows. There is some picket fence crosshatching that again does not look typical of the brush work of either Kirby or Simon. However note the picket fence crosshatching of the last panel. The pure black area on the man’s left shoulder seems an appropriate shadow but then the picket fence crosshatching on the opposite side does not. Since I have found both Simon and Kirby touching up other artists works distinguishing between their efforts and that of the original artists adopting Studio Style techniques can be a difficult conundrum. In John Prentice’s case I am still undecided. The distinction becomes important when trying to detect Prentice’s hand in the inking of work by Jack Kirby. Some have suggested that John was the inker for some of Kirby’s art and he certainly is a candidate for that type of work.


Young Love #24 (August 1951) “Left At the Alter”, art by Marvin Stein

Previously I have had mixed feelings about Marvin Stein and in particular felt his romance art was little more then adequate. Even in the last chapter I noted his presence and gave an example image but did not provide more detailed examination. However Marvin had been working hard at improving his art and although signs of improvement have been noted before now his efforts really seems to bare fruit during this period. Marvin developed a style for his crime and western work that owed much to what he learned from Jack Kirby. For that more action oriented art Stein also developed an inking style that was blunt but well controlled; a style very suitable for the genre it was used on. Neither the pencil nor inking style would be very appropriate for romance work so instead Marvin used a more refined style for both. Not only was the bold inking brush restrained but Marvin sometimes used a pen to create crosshatching. His figure drawing has improved but he still retains one of his earlier trademark tendencies to give his woman eyes that are set at an angle with each other.


Young Love #25 (September 1951) “Alice Finds Her Wonderland”, art by Marvin Stein

The splash for “Alice Finds Her Wonderland” is so special I could not resist including it. The Alice in Wonderland cast was probable requested by the script writer although the wonderland that Alice desires in the story did not include these delightful characters. Having seen much of Marvin Steins work in the romance, crime, western and horror genres it is quite a pleasure to see him so successful at a more cartoon-like drawing.


Young Romance #36 (August 1951) “Just Good Friends”, art by Vic Donahue

Vic Donahue has not made an appearance in a Simon and Kirby production for almost a year (last seen in YL #13, September 1950, see Chapter 11 of The Art of Romance). Even then I remarked that his art had been improving. Apparently that improvement has progressed so far that I almost did not recognize him in “Just Good Friends”. Even though this piece is unsigned enough of Vic’s mannerisms remain to credit Vic with this story such as the tilt he often gives the heads of females or the way he occasionally reverts to fine pen work often as simple hatching. Vic also appeared in this same month in Black Magic #6 (Chapter 2 of the Little Shop of Horrors) in a signed piece but I have to admit I did not find that work particularly appealing.


Young Love #26 (October 1951) “Polly Wants a Boy Friend”, art by Ross Andru

I am always impressed by the number of talented comic book artists that had worked for Simon and Kirby at one time or another. Some like Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice did extended stays. Others like Leonard Starr and John Severin worked for more limited durations but provided their share of work during that time. Yet others made brief appearances and only did a few pieces for instance Bernie Krigstein and Steve Ditko. Ross Andru belongs in the last category.

I must admit that I am not that knowledgeable about Ross Andru’s history. Most fans are probably familiar with him for the work he did many years later on Amazing Spider-Man. Andru was clearly an enterprising individual who formed his own company on three occasions. The earliest was in 1951 when he and Mike Esposito created MR Publications. I am not clear exactly what the nature of this company was. Some have said it was a comic publishing company in which case Andru and Esposito were three years ahead of Simon and Kirby’s Mainline (although Al Harvey was much earlier then them all). However I have been unable to determine what comic titles they published. If MR Publications was actually producing comic books for another publisher to release then Simon and Kirby had been doing that for years (and Will Eisner doing it still earlier). MR Publications was short lived and it would be interesting to determine the timing of that company or its demise and the appearance of Andru’s in Simon and Kirby productions.

“Polly Wants a Boy Friend” is typical romance work by Andru. The sort of wistful expression with tilted head of the woman in the center of the splash panel can be found in some signed pieces from a few years later. The man in the last panel of the page was also a dead giveaway of Andru’s style. Although unsigned I have not doubt about the correct attribution of this story. My database indicates Ross will appear in a couple more Simon and Kirby romances in the near future and again under different circumstances in 1954. Considering that Andru’s earlier pieces for Joe and Jack are unsigned there is also the possibility I will find more as my reviews progress.

Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)

Joe Simon’s Northart Concepts Inc.

At the very start of this year I did a post on Joe Simon’s commercial work (Joe Simon’s Career in Advertising). I wrote it at the time because I thought that Joe’s work outside of comics would provide some insight into his career. Surprisingly I got some reader response requesting some more. Unfortunately I still have not scanned any of Simon’s bank illustrations which are for all practical purposes unknown to the comic book community. As far as I know the two black and white images I provided in the previous post are the only ones that have ever shown outside of their original use in advertisements. But I was scanning some more of Joe’s commercial work and thought I would include some here.

Simon did this work as a consultant and he called his company Northart Concepts Inc.


Layout for Miller Cardboard advertisement

In my previous post I included a published advertisement for Miller Cardboard. The above image is the actual layout used. What are shown in the image are a clear plastic sheet and an illustration board. The guide marks (found in the four corners) shows that the plastic sheet and illustration were not perfectly aligned when the scan was made but are close enough to be understandable. The plastic sheet is marked at the top “Red Plate”. The sheet therefore was meant to indicate the second, or color printing plate. Referring to it as the red plate is typically a term designating the magenta plate in a four color printing process. However in cases like this where only two print plates are required it was truly a red, or more precisely an orange ink. The red areas are colored transparent tape placed on the plastic sheet indicating where the red ink should go. There are two text lines pasted on the plastic and judging from the printed advertisement there was another one just above the large company name that has since fallen off. The two horizontal lines that are above and below the company title also adhere to the plastic sheet. Three of the pieces of red tape are marked with an ‘X’ to indicate that the image under them should be completely removed. The images under the other areas of red tape were meant to be retained giving those areas a texture in the printed results.

The rest of what is visible in the image above are all laid out on the illustration board. Most of the image consists of a montage of photographs of close-ups of textiles and a clock. Most of the pieces of photographs were cut to the required shape but some of the ones at the top were adjusted further by the use of black ink.


Layout for another Miller Cardboard advertisement

Joe Simon’s collection includes another layout for Miller Cardboard. In this case it was meant to be printed in black ink alone. I am not completely certain, but I do not believe the artwork was drawn by Joe; the fine but rough pen work is not typical for him. I find the removal of the tops of the three figures on the right to be a bit disturbing. The fact that this was not the original intention suggests that it came from the direction of Miller Cardboard.


Layout for Woodruff-Stevens advertisement

Joe did lot of work for one outfit called Woodruff-Stevens. They dealt in mailing lists. Much of the work was simple layouts and not particularly exciting. However providing these layouts was a regular source of income for Simon. Woodruff-Stevens was so pleased with all the work that Joe did for them that they wanted him to become a partner but he declined to do.


Front of brochure for Grolier Enterprises

This above brochure was for another mailing list. Actually I suspect it was just another name used by Woodruff-Stevens.


Front of brochure for Fingerhut

Another brochure for another mailing list. Again I suspect Fingerhut was just another company name used by Woodruff-Stevens.


Woodruff-Stevens Advertisement

Artwork does appear in some of the work Joe Simon did various companies. But generally speaking I do not believe Joe did the actual drawing, just the layouts.


Early stage for a Trido Research advertisement job

The above image is of an altered photograph. Joe had his own stat camera with which it was possible for him to make stats, film or prints. Stats are different from photographic film or prints in that they cheaply and easily produced images that were essentially black or white. I believe what was done is this case was that dot screen film was place over the original photograph and the combination shot using the stat camera onto stat film. A contact print was then made from the stat film. What looks like grey tones in the above images are actually due to the dots generated by using the dot screen. Joe then painted over the print with opaque white pigment in the hair and black ink on parts of the background. If you look carefully at the top of the image you can make out three light lines that seem to radiate from the model’s head. These lines are guide marks on the stat camera that Joe used and are frequently found in his work.


Later stage for a Trido Research advertisement job

The above image is a later stage of the same job discussed just above. Although the white pigment used in the hair in the early image had traces of grey these would not remain in this later stage. There are minor differences between this later image and the earlier one which leads me to believe that there may have been another state in between the two. Even this is not the last state as there are directions in pencil on the left margins indicating what further changes had to be made. Basically they wanted greater separation between the text and the image.


Opaque pigments on photographic image

My last example for this post is an image of a woman. There is no indication what the image was intended for but it was found among Joe’s other commercial work and the image’s appearance seems most suitable for an advertisement. Joe taped a photograph onto an illustration board and then proceeded to paint onto it with opaque pigments. This was done so thoroughly that the only parts of the original photograph that can be made out are thin strips at the edges that had not been covered with paint. In its present state there is no way to tell how closely Joe followed the original photograph. The pigment was applied with a brush for the hair while the face was done using an air brush.

I have no idea how many but there were a number of comic book artists that ended up doing commercial art. For most of them, like Mort Meskin, this meant providing illustrations for advertisements. I also suspect that most ending up employed by some particular advertisement agency. Joe Simon’s commercial career was different and it mirrored his comic book career. First off Joe did not work directly for any advertisement agency but had his own consulting company instead. Simon did some illustrations the most interesting to most comic book fans would be the ones he did for Mechanics National Bank (the subject of a future post when I have had a chance to scan them). However Joe’s work ran a range from simple layouts to more complicated jobs using a stat camera. Just like in comics Joe did it all but he was his own boss.

A Great Joe Simon Inverview

I tip my hat to The Jack Kirby Comics Weblog for pointing out the great interview Christopher Irving did of Joe Simon for Graphic NYC. Joe had mentioned it to me but I had no idea what a marvelous job Irving did. I am quite critical about most interviews of Joe because they never seem to get him really engaged. Previously the only interview I recommended was Jim Amash’s for Alter Ego #76. Now I will add Christopher Irving’s as well. Do not miss it!

Fighting American, Chapter 3, Jumping the Shark

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had launched their own publishing company, Mainline, starting with Bullseye #1 (cover date August 1954). In an uncharacteristic move, Simon and Kirby did not advertise their involvement in the Mainline titles (Bullseye, Foxhole, In Love and Police Trap). This unusual reticent was undoubtedly due to a desire to avoid conflicts, at least initially, with Prize Comics for whom Joe and Jack continued to produce comics including Fighting American. The extra work Simon and Kirby had taken on was not without consequences as there was a drop in the quantity and quality of the work drawn by Kirby. The art for the earlier issues of Fighting American was top notch but in my opinion most of the art for the issues covered in this chapter were relatively inferior (but an inferior Jack Kirby was still better then the best of most other comic book artists).


Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Jiseppi, The Jungle Boy” page 3, art by Jack Kirby

The decline in art quality that I mentioned above does not seem to have occurred in “Jiseppi, The Jungle Boy”. This is a delightfully nonsensical tale about a jungle boy in India that speaks English with a distinct Italian accent. Actually in the end it turns out there is a perfectly logical explanation for this incongruity (okay maybe only as logical as can be expected in a comic book). As seen in the previous chapter, Simon and Kirby’s humor includes making fun of the comic’s heroes. Above we see Fighting American trying to track Jiseppi through the jungle completely oblivious to all the dangers that his quarry saves him from. I love the way that the jungle boy’s tiger speaks in stick figures.


Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “The Year Bender” page 4, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby would throw in some science fiction-fantasy into their humor as well as seen in “The Year Bender”. They travel in time is said to be about 3000 years in the past. It looks like Rome but that could not be since at 1000 BC Rome was just one of many small Italian cities and the arena games presented here would not be held for many years from then. But historical accuracy was never an important criteria for Simon and Kirby particularly if it got in the way of a good story. Check out the fun Jack had in drawing the ancient helmets; I do not believe any two head gear were drawn the same throughout the story.

As delightful a tale as this is, the decline in art quality that I mentioned is pretty obvious. It would be easy to blame the inker but Jack had some pretty poor inkers in the past but Simon and Kirby would usually rescue it by doing the final touchups.

The final panel reads:

AND THAT NEXT TRIP INTO THE PAST MAY BE COMING UP SOONER THAN SPEEDBOY SUSPECTS! YOU’LL SEE WHAT WE MEAN WHEN YOU GET THE NEXT BIG ISSUE OF FIGHTING AMERICAN!

Despite what they promised issue #6 had no time travel tale.


Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving”, art by Jack Kirby

The villain for “Invisible Irving” makes use of invisible paint although oddly enough often comes off just part of his body leaving him looking like a flying head.

The tale ends with a caption:

FIGHTING AMERICAN AND SPEEDBOY HAVE A SPECIAL TREAT FOR YOU IN THE NEXT ISSUE. COME ALONG WITH THEM AS THEY UNCOVER A LOST CIVILIZATION IN “CITY BENEATH THE SEA”

Perhaps this refers to the same story mentioned at the end of “The Year Bender”. Even so “City Beneath the Sea” is a story that would never appear and as far as is known was never drawn.

Fighting American #6
Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “Deadly Doolittle” page 4, art by Joe Simon

The art for “Deadly Doolittle” is generally attributed to Jack Kirby, and with good reason since many Kirby mannerisms can be found in the story. However as I have previously pointed out (Art of Joe Simon, Chapter 11) this story is actually a rewrite of a Manhunter story (Adventure Comics #75, June 1942, “Beware Of Mr. Meek”). In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon describes how he and Jack got into hot water with Prize Comics for using re-scripted old romance art. While I have never been able to trace down the specific romance work in question (not that surprising considering the thousands of romance pages that Simon and Kirby produced) this recycling of an old Manhunter story occurred about the same time and was a similar cost saving measure. Attributing the actual pencils for “Deadly Doolittle” to Joe Simon is not based on the use of swipes. Some use the false swiping criteria (non-swipe = Kirby, swipe = Simon) but it has been amply shown that Jack would swipe as well. Rather I credit Simon for this particular story because of the art, especially the woman in the last panel of page 4. Similar women can even be found in the reworked Black Magic that Joe did for DC many years later (Black Magic at DC).


Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “The Making of Fighting American”, art by Jack Kirby

Four pages of issue #6 are used for the retelling of the origin of Fighting American and Speedboy. This was all art selected from the first issue except for the splash panel. Not that the splash was new, it was originally meant as the cover for Fighting American #4.


Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “Super Khakalovitch”, art by Jack Kirby

For me “Super Khakalovitch” is where Simon and Kirby had finally jumped the shark in Fighting American. It may be just me, but I find the humor forced and the story dull. Further the story is not helped by the fact that not all the art was drawn by Jack Kirby. I judge that Jack did pages 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7.


Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “Super Khakalovitch” page 8, art by unidentified artist

The other pages (3, 8, 9 and 10) were done by an artist that I have not been able to identify; he does not look like any of the artists working for Simon and Kirby at the time.

Simon and Kirby may have jumped the shark but they produced enough art for two more issues although one would not be published for years later.

Fighting American, Chapter 2, Fighting With Humor