Category Archives: 2009/12

Art of Romance, Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack

(February 1954 – April 1954: Young Romance #66 – #68, Young Love #54 – #56, Young Brides #12 – #14)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 - 1954
Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1954 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

Simon and Kirby started using photographic covers for their romance comics in April 1949. There were short periods when they reverted back to graphic covers but beginning in May 1951 for Young Romance and July 1951 for Young Love all the romance covers used photographs. Now after three years they suddenly switched back to drawn covers; Young Brides #13 (March 1954) would be their last photographic cover. Why the switch? Unfortunately I do not have a clue.

An even bigger surprise was that Jack Kirby would not draw any of these romance covers. Up to this point there was only one comic produced by Simon and Kirby with a cover drawn by another artist (My Date #4, September 1947, drawn by Mort Meskin and Jerry Robinson). Other artists will be provided covers for the Prize romances for some time. The artists that appeared on the covers were the same ones that dominated the interiors; for the most part that would be Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice.

For approximately the last year Kirby was producing much more of the Prize romance art then any other artist. That was not particularly surprising because that was typical for the Simon and Kirby studio. However there had been a period when Mort Meskin produced most of the love art. Now once again Kirby’s output dropped. The line up for the period covered in this chapter is Bob McCarty (50 pages), John Prentice (49 pages), Bill Draut (44 pages), Mort Meskin (37 pages) and Jack Kirby (25 pages) with some very minor contributions by some other artists. Not only was there a dramatic drop in Kirby contribution he did not appear in any of the April issues and would not again for some time to come.

A Simon and Kirby production without Kirby art is a rare thing. A run of Simon and Kirby comics without Kirby was simply unprecedented. And make no mistake these are Simon and Kirby comics. As we will see the same artist will provide work for these Kirby-lacking issues that had been used previously. Further the first interior page would continue to use the cartouche declaring it “A Simon and Kirby Production”. While I do not have an explanation for the switch to photographic covers, I do believe I can provide a good reason for Kirby’s absence. Simon and Kirby would launch a new Prize title Fighting American in April (cover date). Even more significant the first Mainline comic, Bullseye, would appear in July. With Mainline Simon and Kirby would become publishers themselves. Most of the Fighting American art was drawn by Jack but he his contributions to the Mainline titles (Bullseye, In Love, Police Trap and Foxhole) would be relatively low. Many people believe that Kirby did the art while Simon handled the business but the reality is that both Jack and Joe did whatever had to be done to get the comics out. I am sure some of these more mundane but essential business needs kept Kirby from the drawing board.

One thing that did not change about the Prize romance titles was the story format. With just a couple exceptions the features start with a story splash (a splash that is actually part of the story) or no splash at all. Full page splashes continue to be missing.

Young Brides #12
Young Brides #12 (February 1954) “Big Baby”, art by Jack Kirby

I thought I would present Kirby’s farewell (at least for now) from the Prize romance comics with a bang. Jack always had a tendency to introduce action into his romance stories. Kirby is also famous for his fights were everything goes flying. Well this is not fight but the only things not rushing through the air are the irate husband and his frightened wife. One of the things that attract me to Simon and Kirby romance comics, besides the great art, is how well they reflect the times. It is a view of 50’s culture as if it was an ant stuck in a piece of amber. The husband’s uncontrolled temper is portrayed as the title says, a “Big Baby”. But today he would just be considered (quite rightly) as abusive. However Simon and Kirby were well aware of the danger in the husbands rage as he learns his lesson when his temper turns on some pet birds. The wife says “these were only birds, tomorrow it might be human beings”.

Note the odd panel shape that Kirby uses for the splash. At this time it was actually one that he preferred but not often used by the other studio artists. The upper right corner might be a “dead zone” but Jack manages to create a diagonal in the lower portion of the splash that connects it to the right side. The second panel hardly seems to intrude at all.

Young Love #55 (March 1954) “Love War”, art by Jack Kirby

Another action splash by Jack Kirby. Note the same odd panel shape although this time Kirby did not successfully connect the upper right with the rest of the image. This is also one of the few true splashes from the period covered by this chapter. The fight scene does not lead into the story but serves the more tradition purpose of providing a preview. And what an unusual story this is. Usually when Jack inserts violence into a romance story it is the men who fight but in “Love War” we get lots of female on female violence.

Young Love #55 (March 1954), art by John Prentice

As mentioned above, the cover art was not provided by Kirby. Of the five drawn covers from March and April three of them illustrated a story from the interior. For the Young Love #55 cover John Prentice’s drawing is based on the story that Kirby did, “Love War”. Simon and Kirby always kept the more controversial images inside and this is no exceptions. Still Prentice makes it quite clear where his scene is heading for. As the man says “this party’s getting rough”.

Young Love #56
Young Love #56 (April 1954), art by Mort Meskin

One of the covers (Young Romance #67) is unrelated to any story within. The same could be said for Meskin’s cover for Young Love #56. It is clear that was not the original intent as the depicted scene clearly relates to the title provided in the caption, “Two Sisters, One Man”. However a story with that title not only does not appear inside it would never be published by Simon and Kirby. Further none of the April issues had a story involving a sibling love triangle. Whatever happened to “Two Sisters, One Man”?

Young Brides #14
Young Brides #14 (April 1954) “Faithless”, art by Mort Meskin

Don’t get me wrong, I like Meskin’s romance work. But I do regret that Mort never did any more action packed stories like those he drew during the war, features like the Vigilante and Johnny Quick. It is not much of a splash, perhaps it should not be called a splash at all, but it shows that the old Mort still had what it took to do action. Just a couple of running kids but probably better then anybody actually doing superheroes at this time except, of course, for Jack Kirby.

Young Love #56
Young Love #56 (April 1954) “Lola’s Other Life”, art by Mort Meskin

For various reasons I guess I am going to provide a bit more of Meskin’s work then usual but he is such a great artist anyway. The story’s protagonist, Lola, lives a double life which Meskin highlights with his splash. Remember this is a period where most features start with a story splash so this was a bit of a deviation.

Young Love #56
Young Love #56 (April 1954) “Lola’s Other Life”
left panel from page 2,
right panel from page 3, art by Mort Meskin

While the splash is interesting in itself, but the real reason I want to post about this story is that Mort repeats the splash posses in the story as well. Can an artist be said to swipe from himself? But look closely at the positions of things like the arms and the reader will see that these are in fact redrawn and not just stats. While the use of stats would be common in work that Joe Simon did years later, I have not been able to find any examples from the Simon and Kirby collaboration up to this point in time. Stats were added expense and had to be sent out of the studio to be made. It was easier and quicker to just draw the art. The one important exception was the stats used for cover titles. Even then the stats were generally removed from old cover art and recycled onto new ones.

Young Romance #68
Young Romance #68 (April 1954) “The Man I Couldn’t Have”, art by Mort Meskin

Another great Meskin splash but note that here he uses the same inverted ‘L’ shaped splash that Kirby prefers. Unfortunately he does not really pull it off since the upper right corner does not visually connect with the rest of the splash. Probably the only reason Mort used this panel shape was the room it provided for the speech balloons.

Young Romance #68
Young Romance #68 (April 1954) “The Man I Couldn’t Have” page 4, pencils by Mort Meskin

The first two pages of “The Man I Couldn’t Have” looked like they were inked by Meskin himself. But not the rest of the story. I have no idea who this inker is but his inking certainly has given Meskin’s pencils a rather unique look. While I prefer Meskin’s own inking, this unknown inker is rather interesting and much better then George Roussos inks. Page 3 has a more intermediate look to the inking. I think this was done on purpose to make the switch in�distinct styles less jarring to the reader.

Young Romance #66
Young Romance #66 (February 1954) “Fools Rush In”, art by Bill Draut

While “Fools Rush In” has story splash so prevalent in the more recent Prize romance comics, Draut was able to provide a more standard size splash. While I find the story splashes and splash-less stories interesting, I must admit to missing the more traditional splashes. There seem to be more deviations to the type of splashes used during the period covered in this chapter. Perhaps this is a hint that Simon and Kirby are moving away from their more recent approach.

Young Romance #68
Young Romance #68 (April 1954) “High Class Trash”, art by John Prentice

Even Prentice gets a chance to provide a tradition splash. Recently he had been mainly doing splash-less stories. This is another of the borderless splashes that John did from time to time. It is a simple device but I think it gives his art a special touch.

Young Brides #13
Young Brides #13 (March 1954) “Little Coquette”, art by Bob McCarty

Bob McCarty gets a chance to provide some action in his splash. McCarty’s art provide an interesting and effective fight scene. Not the way Kirby would have done it but I think it is rather successful.

Bob supplies cover art for Young Romance #68 which is based on the “High Class Trash” story that Prentice did for that issue. This would be one of the few exceptions of a Prize romance cover done from this period by an artist other then Draut, Meskin or Prentice.

Young Love #54
Young Love #54 (February 1954) “Kisses For a Stranger”, art by Vic Donahue?

There are a few stories done by other artists most of which I cannot identify. I think I can attribute “Kisses for a Stranger” to Vic Donahue. Donahue last appeared in Young Love #13 (September 1950) so he has been missing for some time. While this does look like Donahue’s work it seems a rather poor piece of art considering the quality of work Vic was doing four years ago. Perhaps Donahue was just doing a rush job.

Young Love #54
Young Love #54 (February 1954) “Love Me, Love My Family”, art by unidentified artist

Usually I only include examples of the unidentified artists if they were sufficiently talented. Unfortunately “Love Me, Love My Family” does not fall into the more talented category. But look at the inking. A blunt brush and shoulder blots are not typical inking techniques for most artists. While not all the inking in the story is done in this manner it does show up in places. I believe this story was touched up, in this case by Joe Simon.

Young Love #56
Young Love #56 (April 1954) “Too Young To Love”, art by Art Gates

Single page features were often done by less talented artists who were probably studio assistants. However now one artist would appear that specialized in these often overlooked stories. Art Gates not only did typical comic art but also gag strips. Fortunately he often signed his work but in the last panel.

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)

Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby first began working as a team early in 1940 (on Blue Bolt #2 and Champion #9 both cover dated July 1940). In a few months they would form the core of Timely’s first comic art bullpen. There they worked on the first, and only, Red Raven Comic and created a backup story for Marvel Mystery Comics called the Vision. But their working relationship was forged not just in the Timely bullpen but in the jobs they did outside the company as well. Particularly important was the work they did on the Black Owl for Prize Comics.

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The Black Owl was not a Simon and Kirby creation but even at this early stage of their career they would put their distinct stamp on the hero. They did not make any changes to the costume although the Owl’s goggles would reappear years later in the unpublished Night Fighter and the published Fly. It is the story that most clearly shows the Simon and Kirby touch. There is no question they were not from someone else’s script but writing it themselves. With a female detective, an eccentric millionaire, a whistling hit man and King Arthur’s sword Excalibur it was an imaginative story to say the least. A final fight leads to a dramatic ending but the story ends with a caption that asks “Is the Whistler really dead”?

Prize Comics #8
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) “The Black Owl” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby

Well it appears the Whistler was not dead as he returns in the next Simon and Kirby story. Since that ended the last story with a hint about Whistler’s survival I presume that Simon and Kirby knew when they did Prize Comics #7 that they would also be doing the next issue as well. The story contains the same cast of characters plus some additional ones. Even more interestingly the plot takers place on the high seas. Once again there is a dramatic fight at the end only this time the closing caption offers no hint of the Whistler’s return.

Prize Comics #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “The Black Owl” page 3, pencils by Jack Kirby

A conniving reporter and a beautiful villainess, what more can you ask for? Nothing if the story is by Simon and Kirby! Another great effort for what is admittedly a pretty lame hero. Joe and Jack were using someone else’s creation so they cannot be blamed for the rather poor and unimaginative costume. But Simon and Kirby always made good stories even out of seemingly poor material. With the Black Owl Joe and Jack had not reached the creative pitch that would appear next month in Captain America #1 but they were not far from it. The Black Owl was a testing ground for Simon and Kirby on techniques like irregular shaped panels, circular panels and figures that extend beyond panel borders. These effects only make a sparing show in these issues of Prize Comics but they are there. The reader can see another example of unusual panel layouts in a page that I included in Chapter 9 of my serial post Early Jack Kirby.

Usually I choose the images to include in my posts that support the comments that I make. This is not the case for the image of page 3 shown above. It is here because of the final three panels. I find it rather surprising that the reporter would turn out the lights while attempting to capture the Black Owl. Why turn out the lights? The sequence is quite amusing, although not entirely for the reasons Simon and Kirby intended.

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl” page 9 panels 1 and 2, art by Jack Kirby

Some have tried to say that the Black Owl stories are solo efforts by Jack Kirby; that is without any input from Joe Simon. For me the problem with such a statement is that Joe’s contribution is often difficult to discern. I believe I see Simon’s inking in some of the Black Owl stories but it is hard to be sure and harder yet to convince others. Fortunately there is another line of evidence and that is the lettering. I credit Howard Ferguson with the lettering for Prize Comics #7 but some changes were made. In the first panel of page 9 shown above the letters for “slowly he forces the Black” are larger than the rest of the caption and the lower edges of the paste up can still be detected. The ‘F’, ‘C’ and especially the ‘W’ are done differently than Ferguson and without doubt they were done by Joe Simon. In the second panel we find larger letters for the portion “figures plunges head”. The letters ‘F’, ‘G’ and ‘S’ are not Ferguson’s but they are done the way Simon does his lettering.

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

Jack Kirby did the lettering for the Black Owl from Prize Comics #8 and so far I have not spotting any final changes (which is not the same thing as there were none). Ferguson was the letterer for Prize Comics #9 but I have spotted at least one alteration on page 6. Observe how the ‘ew’ in ‘newcomer’ is done with slightly thicker lines than the rest of the caption. The ‘E’ does not look like Ferguson’s but I cannot say for sure it was by Simon either. However the ‘W’ is distinctly Simon’s preferred form and so again I have little doubt that that he did the alteration. Now admittedly a few paste ups are not much but it does show Joe Simon’s involvement in Black Owl at some level. At this point in time Simon was the editor at Timely while Kirby was just an artist (although the most important artist in the bullpen). So I doubt that Simon involvement in Black Owl was limited to some final fix ups.

I do not think it is a coincidence that Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) would be Simon and Kirby’s last issue (at least for some years). Captain America #1 came out with a March cover data but I am sure Simon and Kirby knew that it would be a hit. Since they were promised royalties for Captain America, Joe and Jack probably felt that Cap warrant their best efforts and so they cut back on moonlighting. Unfortunately while Captain America was a hit but due to some accounting tricks the royalties was not what would have been expected.

Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby

Rip Kirby (12/5/46)
Rip Kirby (12/5/46) art by Alex Raymond

Syndication strips had a great influence on comic book artists. The newspaper comics developed before comic books were widely read and their creators (at least with the more popular strips) were big money earners. Milton Caniff probably had the greatest impact on comic book artists either directly or indirectly. This was particularly true of the Simon and Kirby studio where most artists, including Jack Kirby, grew up reading Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates and had adopted much from Caniff’s style. However he was not the only influential strip artist, another was Alex Raymond. Raymond grew to fame with his earlier Jungle Jim, Secret Agent X-9 and especially Flash Gordon. However Alex’s most important work was, in my opinion, Rip Kirby.

Rip Kirby (3/5/46)
Rip Kirby (3/5/46) art by Alex Raymond

Raymond had a long successful run on Flash Gordon before he volunteered for the Marines during World War II. When he returned from service he found that King Features, his syndication company, had contracted Flash Gordon to another artist. I always thought that companies were required to give returning veterans their original jobs but it turns out that was only true if they had been drafted, not if they had volunteered for service. I guess it was just another example of no good deed goes unpunished. King offered Raymond to create a new feature and the result was Rip Kirby. Some good did come out of this as Raymond not only received a large percentage of the profits but owned the rights to the strip as well. Rip Kirby was immensely popular and became the fastest selling syndication strip.

Rip Kirby (10/25/46)
Rip Kirby (10/25/46) art by Alex Raymond

Some have described the art of Rip Kirby as photo-realistic. Frankly this is not an accurate description at all. True realism in the panel size used in newspaper comics would have made the strips difficult to follow. Raymond carefully worked his realism to keep his characters easy to recognize and expressive as well. Many comic artists that have attempted this sort of realism only ended creating rather dry art. Not Raymond, his lines seem natural and relaxed and his designs always interesting.

Rip Kirby (3/12/46)
Rip Kirby (3/12/46) art by Alex Raymond

Alex Raymond did not have nearly the influence on comic book art as Milton Caniff. This might have been just a greater appreciation to Caniff’s more cartoon-like approach, but the difficulty of adopting Raymond’s greater realism may have been a factor as well. Still some artists were clearly influenced by Raymond. I have mentioned in my recent post on The Art of Romance that Simon and Kirby studio artist Bob McCarty had in 1953 developed a style seemingly influenced by Raymond’s art. John Prentice was even more of a follower of Raymond. Raymond’s approach to Rip Kirby was something that would work quite well in romance stories that Prentice was often asked to do. Prentice’s romance work was so successful that I believe Simon and Kirby preferred to give him love assignments more so then work for Black Magic (although I feel he was quite good at that as well). John Prentice was so adept at Raymond’s approach that after Alex’s untimely death in 1956 John became his replacement on Rip Kirby. While I do not claim Prentice was as good an artist as Raymond, I feel fans have sadly underappreciated Prentice’s work on Rip Kirby. Raymond was a tough act to follow but I feel no one could have done it better then Prentice.

Young Love #14
Young Love #14 (October 1946) “Girls like Her”, art by Mort Meskin

While Alex Raymond’s influence Bob McCarty and John Prentice was not unexpected I was surprised to find clear evidence of his impact on another artist. Of all the artists working for Simon and Kirby I would think Mort Meskin was the furthest from Raymond’s approach. Meskin had developed a stylized style that superficially seems quite different from Raymond’s more realistic manner. However I realized I had been underestimating Mort Meskin when I saw a panel from the Rip Kirby strip of March 10, 1946. The scene depicts Rip Kirby entering a model agency but while that is the true subject of the panel the entire foreground is occupied by some of the agency’s models. A similar composition, but by no means an identical one, was used by Meskin for “Girls like Her” (Young Love #14, October 1950). Obviously Meskin is not copying Raymond’s piece but clearly that was the original inspiration for his splash. Once again we view a man entering a modeling agency but only through a foreground of an array of models. There are telling differences. While some of Raymond’s models are actual doing something (reading a magazine or having a conversation) all off Meskin’s models look like just lounging around as if in some modern day harem. Raymond’s models seemed attired in the latest (for 1946) manner (I understand Raymond had a consultant keep him abreast of the latest fashions) but while the clothing of Meskin’s models is imaginative it does not seem realistic. Meskin has placed all his models in a rather confined space while Raymond’s models are arranged with a much greater depth of field. Meskin was obviously inspired by Raymond but created his own unique piece of art.

Rip Kirby (6/19/48)
Rip Kirby (6/19/48) art by Alex Raymond

I am happy to say that IDW will be reprinting the entire run of Raymond’s Rip Kirby. The first volume covering 1946 to 1948 is already out and the second volume should be released in March. The volumes are said to be based on syndication proofs of the original strips. The quality of the reproduction in the first volume varies a little bit but is always much better then I would expect if it was reproduced from actual newspaper strips (newspaper printing is as bad as that used on comic books). Rip Kirby was a daily strip so there are no color pages. All of the volume is printed on real nice flat paper (I do not understand why some people prefer glossy paper). The book’s width is greater then its height which is admittedly awkward for storing on a shelf but makes for much better reading. IDW does such a nice job on their reprints and I cannot recommend their Rip Kirby too highly.

Rip Kirby (12/13/46)
Rip Kirby (12/13/46) art by Alex Raymond