Category Archives: 2010/05

Art of Romance, Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby

(January – April 1956: Young Romance #81 – #82, Young Love #69 – #70, Young Brides #26 – #27)

Number of Romance titles 1947 - 1958
Number of Romance titles 1947 – 1958 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

Young Romance #81
Young Romance #81 (February 1956) “He Had Only Me”, art by Bill Draut

As discussed in the last chapter (Chapter 30), the three Prize romance titles would be almost entirely drawn by Jack Kirby. There are only two exceptions one being “He Had Only Me” by Bill Draut from Young Romance #81 (February 1956). Bill’s drawing style does not seem to differ from what we have seen in his previous work but his inking does reserve comment. Typically in the past Bill inked clothing folds in a rather blotchy manner. Here however is spotting is much smoother. This makes his brush techniques more similar to those of Marvin Stein. While there is little reason to believe that Stein was inking Draut’s pencils it does present a problem when trying to indentify either of those artists as an inker to Kirby pencils during this period.

Young Love #69
Young Love #69 (February 1956) “Bright Boy”, art by Bob McCarty

The other non-Kirby story from this period was “Bright Boy” by Bob McCarty. Like the one by Draut, this story was also has a February cover date suggesting that the two pieces were leftover from before the switch to all Kirby art. Previously McCarty’s art had become very similar to that done by John Prentice but here he reverts to a style more like his older one.

Young Love #70
Young Love #70 (April 1956) “A Week in Frisco”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Bill Draut?

Much of the inking of Kirby’s pencils during this period were done by Jack himself, but not all. It is hard to be certain who were the inkers that Kirby used but there are two most probably candidates: Bill Draut and Marvin Stein. Unfortunately as we say about in the story that Draut drew himself (“He Had Only Me”) that Bill had converted to a cleaner, less blotchy brush style at least some of the time. The inking of the splash for “A Week in Frisco” shows thicker type of clothing folds that I normally associate with Draut and therefore I tentatively credit it to him.

Young Romance #81
Young Romance #81 (February 1956) “The Lady and the Truck Driver” page 3, pencils and inking by Jack Kirby

The Kirby’s Austere style of inking is characterized by an overall lighter spotting. Older techniques like picket fence crosshatching or drop strings (Inking Glossary) are used sparingly if at all. When larger dark areas are required they are made by flooding the region with ink. Page 3 from “The Lady and the Truck Driver” is a good example of Austere inking. However the real reason I choose this page is because of the delightful portrayal of the lady especially in panel 7. I just do not understand why people keep saying Kirby could not draw beautiful women!

Young Romance #82
Young Romance #82 (April 1956) “Bundle from Heaven”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Actually I think I do understand why people continue to make the claim that Kirby could not draw beautiful women. In my opinion the reason is that Kirby never quite bought into what I call the Barbie look that so dominated romance art starting from the late 50’s. So many artists seem to try to draw women as attractively as possible but ended drawing females that were indistinguishable except by hair style and coloring. At least while doing romance for Prize, Kirby would try to give all the lady protagonists individual characteristics that were appropriate for whatever story he was drawing even if that meant that this might detract a little from their beauty. Sometimes Jack even managed to combine individuality and beauty as for example in “Bundle from Heaven”. Despite her haggard look would anyone doubt that the lady in the splash was anything but beautiful? Frankly I do not believe any inker other than Kirby himself would successfully achieved this nuance depiction.

While Kirby began to adopt the Austere inking style it was by no means a sudden switch. I would not hesitate to describe the above splash as Austere style inking and yet look at the man’s shirt with its picket fence crosshatching and drop string. Such holdovers from the older Studio style inking were still present but would become much more infrequent in the months to come.

Young Brides #26
Young Brides #26 (January 1956) “Love And Lamb Chops”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Lamb chops or jewelry, what is a woman to choose? Comic book stories were always meant to be a little over the top but this splash is just hilarious. But I kind of suspect that Jack knew that as well.

Young Brides #27
Young Brides #27 (March 1956) “Sad Wedding”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

I am really not completely certain that Jack inked the splash but I suspect so since he provided the spotting for the rest of the story. Such a simple splash is rather unusual for Jack who preferred scenes where people were prominent. Perhaps the splash appeals to me because the scene it portrays can still be found in Manhattan including my neighborhood. I am sure that had Kirby chosen to show the street level what we would see would hardly be mistaken for a more modern local but this higher viewpoint shows the architecture that has not changed much in many places. The only thing to give its age away are the clothes hanging of the lines.

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 30, Appendix

Young Brides #23
Young Brides #23 (July 1955) “The Day I Grew Up” page 3, art by unidentified artist and Jack Kirby

In the comments to Chapter 30 Ger Apeldoorn remark on a story that I did not include in my post, “The Day I Grew Up”. My neglect was not intentional as I originally planned to discuss it. It may seem strange to some that such a minor artist should be singled out. After all I have not covered every artist who worked for Simon and Kirby during this period and most of them were much more talented than this one. This artist admittedly crude drawings do have a very Kirby look to them, which can be particularly be seen in the final panel for page 3. The similarity to Kirby’s work extends beyond the style used to draw the characters but includes a similarity to Jack’s way of graphically telling the story. Among these are the use of viewing angles, the shifting viewing distance, depth of field, and a similar use of perspective. This similarities could be explain as Kirby layouts, imitation, or swiping. While an imitator might copy some aspects of another artist’s style it is unlikely that he would pick all these mannerisms. Nor would a swiper be expected to be able to combine multiple sources into such a coherent whole. This leaves as the most likely conclusion that Kirby supplied layouts. While this seems the best explanation it is remarkable that Jack would supply layouts to such an untalented artist when he (Kirby) was doing so little artwork.

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 30, Transition

(July – December 1955: Young Romance #78 – #80, Young Love #66 – #68, Young Brides #23 – #25, In Love #6, I Love You #7)

Number of Romance titles 1947 - 1958
Number of Romance titles 1947 – 1958 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

This continued to be troubling times for comic book publishers. Although the graph of the number of romance titles shows a relatively flat period, in fact the number of publishers of romance comics continued to decline (The Real Reason for the Decline of Comics). Simon and Kirby’s publishing venture (Mainline) ended in the period covered in the last chapter (Chapter 29) but they had transferred their titles to Charlton for publication. Even that did not save the Simon and Kirby titles for long. The Mainline romance title, In Love, ended at Charlton with issue #6 (July 1955).

There was an important change in the rostrum of artists supplying work for the Simon and Kirby romance comics, Jack Kirby was back providing art for the Prize love titles. During the period covered in this chapter Kirby would draw 47 pages of art followed by Joanquin Albistur (33 pages); Bill Draut (29 pages); Mort Meskin (16 pages); Bob McCarty, Ann Brewster and Marvin Stein were all tied (13 pages); Bill Benulis (7 pages); and John Prentice, Al Gordon and Lazurus (6 pages each). There were still a lot of relatively new and unidentified artists (58 pages). Kirby had returned to being the primary artists after a period of relative inactivity. However Kirby’s return came toward the end of this period but before that return the things were pretty much like it was during the last chapter.

Young Romance #78
Young Romance #78 (August 1955) “Army Nurse”, art by Joaquin Albistur

As noted above, Jo Albistur was the second most productive artists during this period. Albistur worked for Simon and Kirby for a little over a single year but during that time he was an important contributor to both Prize and Mainline titles and even appeared in Win A Prize (Charlton). However Albistur was never used for Black Magic, probably because that was not his strongest forte. Apparently Jo did a little work for another comic publisher (which I find much too dry) and appeared in Humorama as well (but too risque to be shown in this blog). Despite his short appearance, Jo Albistur is one of my favorite artist that worked for Simon and Kirby. He would last appear in Young Romance #79 (October 1955).

Young Romance #78
Young Romance #78 (August 1955) “Dream House for Two”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut could be described as the work horse for the Simon and Kirby studio. More than any other artists, Bill consistently produced a significant amount of art for all Simon and Kirby productions. He was also the longest running artist working for the studio having started on some features used in Stuntman and Boy Explorers titles that Joe and Jack launched after returning from military service. Draut met Joe Simon in Washington DC when both were still in the service (Bill in the Marines and Joe in the Coast Guard). It was Joe who convinced Bill to try working as a comic book artist. As far as I know the only other publisher that Draut worked for up to now was Harvey Comics. I do not know if Bill independently met Al Harvey or whether this connections was through Joe as well. Unlike the other artists in this post, we will see a little more work by Bill but not for a few chapters.

Young Love #68
Young Love #68 (December 1955) “No One To Marry”, pencils by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin did not work for as long as Bill Draut but he certainly created more art than anyone other than Kirby and there were periods that he even out produced Jack. Mort has been a very over looked artist. This is partly because his work during the war has largely not be reprinted. Further during much of the fifties he was over shadowed by Kirby. Jack was THE best comic book artist but that does not mean all other artists are not worthy of recognition. The work that Meskin is most well know for was for DC horror titles during the late 50’s. Mort tried to adapt his art to look more like the DC studio style making that perhaps his lest artistically successful period. I intend to include in this serial post Prize romance titles not produced by Joe and Jack so we will see a little more work by Meskin. But Mort would never again work for Simon and Kirby.

Young Romance #79
Young Romance #79 (October 1955) “A Vision of Beauty”, art by John Prentice

John Prentice was the last of what I refer to as the usual suspects (along with Draut and Meskin). While he would appear in some Harvey titles that I believe were edited by Joe Simon, he also would not be used in any more Simon and Kirby productions nor in any of the other Prize romance titles. He would do a little work for DC but unlike Draut and Meskin, his later career was actually quite successful. Prentice was called upon to take over the Rip Kirby syndication strip after the untimely death of Alex Raymond. I cannot think of an artist better suited to this task. I am not saying Prentice was as good an artist as Raymond but John was so influenced by Alex that he was able to take the strip over without a too obvious style change. I am a great admirer of the work Prentice did for Joe and Jack but I believe his work on Rip Kirby was even greater. Unfortunately I doubt we will see Prentice’s Rip Kirby reprinted (at least in my life time) but I do intend to post about it someday.

Young Love #68
Young Love #68 (December 1955) “Language of Love”, art by Bob McCarty

Bob McCarty appeared often enough in Simon and Kirby productions that perhaps I should also include him in the “usual suspects. I have to admit that for sometime I credited work by McCarty from 1954 and 1955 to John Prentice. For some reason McCarty’s style changed to one more like Prentice’s at this time. This maybe nothing more than their being mutually influenced by Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby strip. However the resemblance on occasion is so close that a more personal connection is possible.

Young Romance #79
Young Romance #79 (October 1955) “Poor Marcie”, art by Ann Brewster

This is at least the second time that Ann Brewster had worked for Joe and Jack although the first time seemed to have been limited to a single piece (Chapter 9). As far as I know she is the only female artist that ever worked for Simon and Kirby but then again there were not many women in the comic book field. Brewster’s talents was recognized by Joe and Jack because she was one of the few artists to be used for Prize romance covers. I am not sure whether this resulted in any financial gain for Ann as her covers were created from stats made from her splashes. That it was the splashes that were the source is shown by the “original” of the cover for Young Romance #79 that is part of Joe Simon’s collection.

Young Love #67
Young Love #67 (October 1955) “The Desperate Time”, art by Marvin Stein

With all the influx of new and returning artists during this last year it is surprising that it did not include more work by Marvin Stein. But Marvin does show up in a couple of stories late in 1955. Frankly I was not enthusiastic about much of Stein’s romance work although he had gotten better just before he stopped regularly providing work to Joe and Jack in 1952 (Chapter 16). Marvin returns as a much improved artist from the experience he accumulated as the lead artist for Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty (during the period when these titles were not produced by Simon and Kirby). The women that Stein would now draw were attractive and natural looking. While his drawing and inking has greatly improved Marvin still lacks the ability or inclination to depict intimacy; a serious failing in the romance genre. I am not overly enthusiastic about his romance art I find his work in the crime genre to be exceptional (I will be covering this in a future post).

In Love #6
In Love #6 (July 1955) “A Typical Teen Ager”, art by Art Gates

Art Gates has often been included in recent chapters of the Art of Romance however they were examples of his more realistic style. But I thought I would include one of his gag strips from In Love. Although as we have seen Gates did more realistic comic book art my impression is that he received more work doing gag features. But whatever the style Gates seemed to specialize in short one or two page features.

Young Love #67
Young Love #67 (October 1955) “Hazardous Honeymoon”, art by Bill Benulis

While I cannot identify a number of the studio artists from this period there are some that I believe I can and so I will include some examples. “Hazardous Honeymoon” is unsigned but I still believe it was done by Benulis. Benulis style has a more modern look compared to most artists working for the S&K studio but he did not do a lot of work for Joe and Jack.

Young Love #68
Young Love #68 (December 1955) “Echo of a Dream”, art by Harry Lazarus

I admit I might not have included “Echo of a Dream” in this chapter had it been unsigned. This is the only piece that I know of that Lazarus did for Simon and Kirby but he also did a story for Justice Traps the Guilty about the same time.

Young Brides #24
Young Brides #24 (September 1955) “Count Romance Out”, art by Al Gordon

Al Gordon is another artist who I might not have provided an example image for had he not signed the work. I do not want to give the impression that I thinks he or any of the unidentified artists are not competent it is just that in most case I cannot get to excited about them either. Gordon also do some work for Bullseye.

In Love #6
In Love #6 (July 1955) “I Deeply Regret”, art by unidentified artist

The period covered by this chapter does not seem to have much art purchased from other failing publishers. Such art picked up from failing romance titles seemed to be a significant feature of the comics covered in the previous two chapters. So far the only one I recognized for this chapter was “I Deeply Regret”. The lettering does not seemed to have been done by Ben Oda who was still the only letterer that Simon and Kirby used. That the lettering was not Oda’s is particularly obvious in the caption found in the splash. The floating captions with the unusual large first letter are also rather unique. I suspect with some searching it should be possible to identify the original source for this story.


I Love You #7 (September 1955), pencils by Jack Kirby

I wonder whether it was ever Charlton’s intention to continue to publish Simon and Kirby’s former Mainline titles? Perhaps they only wanted to pick up some finished art cheap and get the second class mailing licenses. Whatever their original plans were, Charlton replaced In Love with a new title, I Love You. Since the I Love You issue number picked up from where In Love left off it certainly was using In Love’s mailing license. There was even a cover by Jack Kirby, although not one of his best efforts. The interior art was done by different artists from those previously used by the Simon and Kirby studio. I presume they are all artists that had been working for Charlton. I Love You would become a long running Charlton romance title.

Young Brides #25
Young Brides #25 (November 1955), art by Joe Simon?

The contents of Young Brides #25 was very distinctive for reasons that I will discuss below but even the cover is rather unique. For most of the period covered in this chapter the covers were created by a small group of studio artists (Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and Ann Brewster). This was also true during the period covered in the previous two chapters except the list of artists also included John Prentice and Bob McCarty. The cover for Young Brides #25 was distinctive because it was one of two covers that clearly was not done by any of the previous cover artists. The inker for the cover included the use of picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary) which suggests the possibility that Jack Kirby may have been involved. Picket fence crosshatching was one of the techniques of the studio style that typically was used on Kirby’s pencils. I will not completely rule out Kirby having penciled the two figures but I am do not find them convincing examples of his drawing style either. However the dog in the background strongly reminds me of Joe Simon’s work and so I am questionably crediting this cover to him. If true this is one of the few covers that Joe did during the Simon and Kirby collaboration.

Young Brides #25
Young Brides #25 (November 1955) “Cafe Society Lover, pencils by Jack Kirby

Young Romance #79 (October 1955) included a short piece (“Problem Clinic”) by Jack Kirby. The piece itself is not all that good; perhaps spoiled by poor inking (I have questionably credited the inking to Marvin Stein). However it marked the return of Kirby to the Prize romance titles from which he has been completely absent for about a year.

Jack Kirby next appeared in Young Brides #25 (November 1955). But this issue was odd because it contained three full stories drawn by Jack; an unusually high number. These stories are all much better than his “Problem Clinic” from last month’s Young Romance #79. Perhaps this is due to a better inking job. While I cannot rule out Jack providing some touch-ups, the spotting does not appear to have been done by Kirby.

Young Romance #80
Young Romance #80 (December 1955) “Old Enough to Marry”, pencils by Jack Kirby

Young Love #68 and Young Romance #80 both came out in December 1953. YL #68 was very much the same as most of the issues discussed in this chapter; a Meskin cover and story art by Meskin, Draut, McCarty, Stein and Lazurus. YR #80 was something entirely different; not only did Jack draw the cover he also penciled every story.

A short comment about the splash for “Old Enough to Marry”. At a glance it might appear that Jack has returned to the old soliloquy splash layout where a character introduces the story with his speech balloon containing the title. But the older man’s speech is actually part of the story. Other studio artists had stopped using the story splash format. If he was aware of that, Kirby was undeterred and with good reason. Jack may not have been doing much romance art during the previous year but he certainly has not lost his touch.

I will close this chapter with a good news, bad news section. The bad news first. Simon and Kirby productions will never be the same. One of the fundamental themes of this blog is that Simon and Kirby productions are not just Jack drawing and Joe inking. What Simon and Kirby did was much, much more. They put together entire contents and the studio artists they employed played an important part in provided those comics with varied and interesting content. While we will see some of this artists again under special circumstances and different venues, the absence of so many artists from future Simon and Kirby productions begs for an explanation. I can offer two possibilities. The first is that future Simon and Kirby productions, which were all romance work, seems to have been done on the cheap. The artists used in the future were on a whole not of the same caliber as those previously used. Lower pay made working for Simon and Kirby not as attractive as it was previously. The second explanation for the missing studio artists was the sudden termination of any work for 1956. The entire comic industry was collapsing and this included the Simon and Kirby studio. I do not know precisely when the actual studio closed but I believe it had done so by the end of 1955. If not then certainly by the end of 1956 when Jack Kirby had begun doing freelance work for DC and Atlas. It must have been a shock for the studio artists that the work offered by Simon and Kirby came to a sudden end. Joe Simon has said that all the artists were paid and I believe him but I wonder if the cash flow problems may have meant that for some the payment was delayed. In any case I suspect the sudden end of it all left many of the artists with hard feelings.

Now the good news. Not only will Simon and Kirby productions will never be the same but for the next year they are going to be unlike anything that was done before. The Prize romance titles will for the most part be drawn by Kirby alone. Such all, or near all, Kirby titles have happened in the past but under special circumstances. For instance the early issues of Boys’ Ranch and Fighting American were almost entirely by Kirby. It was part of the Simon and Kirby modus operandi that Jack would dominate the initial issues of a new title. But the Prize romance titles were hardly new; Young Romance had been running for over 8 years. Such a long stretch of all Kirby comics was completely unprecedented. Not only do we get a lot of Kirby but he was in great form; Jack came back to romance work revitalized. We will even get to see numerous examples of Kirby inking his own pencils. This is more unusual than many Kirby fans think. In the past the studio provided assistants and inking was done like a production line with different hands performing different chores. when a piece is said to be inked by Kirby even in this blog what this really means is that Jack provided the finishing touches. Now that the studio was gone Jack got less assistance and he did more of the inking himself. He also developed an inking style that was quicker but still pleasing. I have previously written about this style (Jack Kirby’s Austere Inking) and happily I now will get a chance to show some more. I am sure that the next few chapters of the Art of Romance will please Kirby fans.

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)

“From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin”

Steven Brower has made the following annoucement on the Mort Meskin List:

The book “FROM SHADOW TO LIGHT: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin” is finally off to the printer. A September pub date is listed on Amazon but as far as I know Fantagraphics is trying to get it out for San Diego. The book is 220 pages with over 200 illustrations, comic art, advertising art, personal art, photos. Great news is I was able to show lots of DC work, starting in the 40s right through the 60s. I believe it is going to be a beautiful book and will go a long way towards setting the record straight about Mort, including his influence on comic book art and storytelling. There are never before published quotes form a myriad of artists, Kubert, Infantino, Starr, Stein, Olesen, Steranko, Simon and even Roussos and Kirby.

The book has an introduction by Jerry Robinson, and was done under the auspices of Mort’s sons, Peter and Philip. There are many who’s help was invaluable, too numerous to mention, but I want to cite Dylan Williams for his incredible generosity in sharing his own research and resources.

There is no way I can be objective about Titan’s upcoming “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”. I have been way to wrapped up in that project to be unbiased. But if I were to exclude from consideration Titan’s Simon and Kirby library, I can easily say that this is the most important upcoming book out there. This is big, I mean really BIG. Mort Meskin is the most overlooked comic book master. Most comic book fans have no idea about the breadth of this artist’s achievements. I have tried from time to time in my small way to point this out but a few posts are simply not enough to set the record straight. You need a book to do that and this is that book.

“From Shadows to Light” in September, “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” in October”; all I can say we are living in exciting times. And for those lucky enough to go to San Diego you maybe able to pick up both volumes!

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 11, The End

(May 1954 – November 1954, Black Magic #30 – #33)

This final chapter of the serial post Little Shop of Horrors occupies the same time period as Chapter 27 and Chapter 28 of the Art of Romance. Black Magic mirrors, on a smaller scale, what happened at the same time in the Simon and Kirby romance titles. Basically there was an influx of art by artists new to Simon and Kirby productions. This can be shown by the fact that there were 58 pages by indentified artists and 45 pages by new unidentified artists. However there is one significant difference, so far I have not detected any Black Magic stories that looked like they were originally meant for another publisher.

The four identified artists were Jack Kirby (33 pages), Mort Meskin (17 pages), Bill Draut (4 pages) and Al Eadeh (4 pages). While during most of the Simon and Kirby collaboration it was typical for Kirby to be the most featured artist, during this period it was surprising indeed. It was during this time that Joe and Jack setup their own publishing company, Mainline, and Jack’s contributions as a penciller plummeted. Jack drew relatively little for the romance, western, or crime genre all of which were produced by Simon and Kirby. However at the same time Kirby was a consistent presence in superhero and horror. Mark Evanier has remarked that horror was not one of Kirby’s favorites but at least during this period that does not seem to be at all true.

Black Magic #31
Black Magic #31 (July 1954) “Slaughter-House”, pencils by Jack Kirby

There were more science fiction stories toward the end of the Black Magic run. Kirby would often use such stories, as he did in some of the romance genre stories, as social commentary. “Slaughter-House” may seem to be a classic monster story but it is not. It is actually about the extremes people will take in order to try to survive in an impossible situation. This story was greatly influenced by stories that came out of the Nazi death camps. The Nazis might not have been bug-eyed monsters but their death camps forced desperate people to the extremes.

The splash panel is actually part of the story a technique that was commonly used in the period covered in the last chapter. Another typical feature that this splash shares with those from previous issues was its smaller size. Larger more standard splash would return in the last issues of Black Magic.

Black Magic #32
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “Maniac”, pencils by Jack Kirby

A more standard splash is found in “Maniac” but note the odd design where the title extends beyond the splash border.

Black Magic #33
Black Magic #33 (November 1954) “Lone Shark”, pencils by Jack Kirby

While keeping a large splash, Kirby has returned to using it as part of the story. Jack did this so well that it is easy to assume this is a standard splash. However the first story panel makes no sense without the splash.

Black Magic #31
Black Magic #31 (July 1954) “Gargoyle”, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin seemed to have a particular interest in the horror genre. While I am a great admirer of his work, I find his attempts to depict gruesome things not all that successful. This might seem to be a fatal defect for a horror artist but Mort is so good at graphically telling a story that it really is not much of a problem. I have to wonder what Meskin’s drawing of the protagonist’s mouth is meant to represent.

Black Magic #32
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “The Devil Doll”, art by Mort Meskin

While I do not find the character in “Gargoyle” to be truly gruesome the witch doctor in “The Devil Doll” puts a chill down my spine. This has got to be one of his most successful efforts in drawing a truly disturbing character.

Black Magic #32
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “The Monsters”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut has not appeared very often in Black Magic in the more recent issues. This must have been by design as Bill was playing an important roll in the romance comics at this same time. I admit that while I feel Draut does quite well in his horror stories his romance art is much more successful.

Black Magic #30
Black Magic #30 (May 1954) “Ghost in the House”, art by Al Eadeh

It is interesting how the art of Al Eadeh shows a slow but steady improvement over the years. His earliest work for Simon and Kirby is rather stiff but that characteristic disappears in his later work. “Ghost in the House” is probable his most successful piece for Simon and Kirby. Unfortunately it is also seems to be his last for that team.

Black Magic #30
Black Magic #30 (May 1954) “The Devil, You Say?”, art by unidentified artist

What a terrific splash is found in “The Devil, You Say?”. I cannot identify the artist and frankly the rest of the story art is not nearly as good.

Black Magic #32
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “The Little People”, art by unidentified artist

Another unidentified artist. As I mentioned above, there seems to have been an influx of new artists in Simon and Kirby productions. I cannot get very enthusiastic about most of them, but the artist who did “The Little People” was pretty good.

Issue #32 marked the end of the first run of Black Magic. Initially Black Magic had been popular enough to warrant a monthly release schedule. However for the last year it had been a bi-monthly schedule. Certainly the quality of the stories or the artists that drew them had not changed so why had it become unpopular enough to discontinue? While I cannot completely dismiss that it was just a victim of changing tastes the timing suggests that the problem most likely came from another source. This was the time there was a decline in comics across the board initiated largely by Dr. Wertham (The Real Reason for the Decline of Comics). While Dr. Wertham condemned pretty much all comics, he and other critics were particularly negative about the crime and horror genre. While in reality the contents of Black Magic were mild compared to those horror comics released by other publishers, at that time critics were not too discerning; the title alone made Black Magic a target. The rising public criticism influenced many newsstands to stop selling some of the more objectionable titles.

Black Magic would return in a few years and perhaps I will someday post about the second run. Except for a single story by Steve Ditko, none of the better artists involved with the first run of Black Magic returned for the second one. Joe Simon would be the editor of the reincarnated title but he has described it as being done on the cheap. As a business model this might have been a smart approach but it did result in a serious decline in quality.

Most fans of horror comics cite the EC titles as the best of the genre. That may be a true assessment if gruesome art is what is desired, but if the reader wants more tasteful art and more interesting stories than the Simon and Kirby Black Magic cannot be beat.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 1 (#1 – 3), Expanding Their Fields
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 2 (#4 – 6), Up and Running
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 3 (#7 – 8), The Same Old Gang
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4 (#9 – 11), Another Hit
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5 (#12 – 14), New Faces
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6 (#15 – 17), Mix Bag
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7 (#18 – 20), Kirby Returns
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8 (#21 – 23), The Gang’s All Here
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9 (#24 – 26), The Party’s Ovetr
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10 (#27 – 29), A Special Visitor

Replacing Simon and Kirby, Chapter 2, The Replacement

As I mentioned in the last chapter to this serial post, most of the replacement art for Simon and Kirby’s Newsboy Legion seems to have been created by one artist. There does appear to be one basic style for all the story art from Star Spangled Comics issues #31 to #49 (April 1944 to October 1945). As we will see the quality of the material varies greatly but this could just be due to how much time was spent on it. Certainly a few of the stories look quite rushed. Still the idiosyncratic nature of even the poorer examples makes the art rather fascinating.

Previously I used to credit this work to Gil Kane but as I discussed in the last chapter there is good evidence that is not true. Presently I am going with Joe Simon suggestion that this work was done by either Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve. But I do not have any independent evidence to back this up. I have seen other work that has been credited to these two brothers but it was done in a very different style. This does not necessarily refute Simon’s suggestion but it does not provide support either. So I am going to credit it questionably to either Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve. That however is a bit much to include in my discussions so there I will just refer to him as the replacement artist.

Star Spangled #32
Star Spangled #32 (May 1944) “The Good Samaritans” page 8, art by Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve?

Almost all the stories that the replacement artist did had in the splash panel a cartouche with Simon and Kirby credits. However the art style seems so different from Simon and Kirby’s that it is hard to believe that any of their fans were fooled. Still the replacement artist did use a number of techniques that were popular with Simon and Kirby. Arching shadows, circular panels, figures extending past the panel border are all taken from the Simon and Kirby repertoire and adopted by the replacement artist.

Star Spangled #35
Star Spangled #35 (August 1944) “The Proud Poppas” page 2, art by Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve?

I have to admit that I have not read most of the Newsboy Legion stories drawn by the replacement artist. Therefore I will not try to answer interesting question of whether Simon and Kirby left scripts or synopsis for stories that they did not get around to drawing. But I will say that these stories are full of action and fight scenes.

Star Spangled #36
Star Spangled #36 (September 1944), pencils by Jack Kirby

The story art that Simon and Kirby had inventoried ran out before the cover art did. Therefore many of the replacement artist’s Newsboy Legion stories are in a comic sporting a Simon and Kirby cover.

Star Spangled #36
Star Spangled #36 (September 1944) “The Cowboy of Suicide Slum” page 2, art by Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve?

In most cases where there is a Kirby drawn cover the replacement artist’s story is based on the cover. Note how similar the cowboy from the story is to the one from the cover.

Star Spangled #40
Star Spangled #40 (January 1945) “Farewell to Crime” page 9, art by Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve?

The replacement artist picked up some of Simon and Kirby’s techniques but he also exhibited some interesting traits of his own. While Kirby was great at handling different points of view, I find the replacement artist had his own way of handling viewpoint. On page 9 he starts with a very low angle with the Guardian in the front but the actual focus on the characters in the background. He then switches the viewpoint to a close-up of one of the criminals with the Guardian seen over his shoulders. A close-up of just the criminal is next followed by a view almost entirely of the Guardian. Although panel 5 has an interesting low angle view the way it leads the eye towards the left makes it the weakest panel on the page. The page ends with another close-up of the Guardian as he proceeds to free himself of his bounds.

Star Spangled #45
Star Spangled #45 (June 1945), art by Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve?

Observant readers may have noticed that I have deviated from my usual practice by not providing any examples of the splash page. This rather deliberate because as much as I admire this artist I do not find him very accomplished when it comes to splash panels. His best splashes are rather weak and his worst ones completely forgettable.

While the replacement artist did the cover for Star Spangled #32 (shown in the last chapter of this serial post), DC returned to using Simon and Kirby covers that they had inventoried before they left to fulfill their military service. Eventually the inventory was emptied and the replacement artists began to provide the covers as well. Consider how poor his splashes were, it comes as a surprise how effective the replacement artist covers were. Initially this lead me to consider that perhaps he was supplied with rough cover layouts to work from. However his layouts seem so novel that in the end I accept the designs as being done by the replacement artist himself.

Star Spangled #49
Star Spangled #49 (October 1945) “One Ounce to Victory”, art by Arturo or Louis Cazeneuve?

Star Spangled Comics covers drawn by Jack Kirby returned with issue #48 (September 1945). I will discuss these Kirby covers in the next chapter. The story art continued to be supplied by the replacement artist. But not for long, Star Spangled #49 (October 1945) would contain the replacement artist’s last Newsboy Legion story.

While I have referred to this artist as the replacement artist, in fact he was not the only artist to work on the Newsboy Legion before Kirby returned. This will be covered in my next chapter.