Category Archives: 2011/05

Police Trap #1, Title for the Heroes

Police Trap #1 (September 1954), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Crime comics received a lot of undesirable attention during their heyday. It is generally acknowledged now that this criticism was pretty much unwarranted but at that time it accepted by most of the public. One criticism was that crime comics glorified the criminals. Again any modern reader would see that this clearly was not the case, at least for the great majority of crime comics and especially for those that had been produced by Simon and Kirby. But Joe and Jack were well aware of this criticism and so when they launched their own publishing company, Mainline, they included a title Police Trap where the focus was not on the criminals but rather on the police.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Capture”, pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin was one of the “usual suspects” of artists that contributed frequently to Simon and Kirby productions. He not only arrived in the studio in time to provide art for some of the crime comics produced by Simon and Kirby but he also continued to supply art for the titles even after they were no longer put together by Joe and Jack (Criminal Artists, Mort Meskin). However this would be the only piece that Mort drew for Police Trap. In fact Meskin typically prolific output seems to have decreased greatly at about this time. He would continue to supply work for the Prize romances but very little for any of the Mainline titles.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “Masher”, pencils and inks by Bill Draut

“Usual suspect” Bill Draut drew and inked “Masher”. Draut is most famous for his romance art but he does a fine job on this story. This is probably the most unusual story of this issue and certainly my favorite. The main protagonist is a female police officer. On a personal note my great grandmother was one of the earliest female detective of the New York Police Department. Unfortunately I know very little about her career but among other things she was used as a decoy. She was not very tall but when it came time to apprehend someone she would hold on to them so tightly that the suspects would be unable to escape before her backup arrived to secure the arrest.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “Beer Party”, pencils and inks by John Prentice

John Prentice was also a regular contributor to Simon and Kirby productions which means this issue of Police Trap has all the usual suspects. Prentice first work for Joe and Jack appeared in a May 1951 issue of Young Love and he continued to provide art up until the end of the Simon and Kirby studio. John was used primarily for romance comics but he did provide some art for Black Magic. Unfortunately Simon and Kirby were no longer producing crime titles at the time of Prentice’s first appearance but John did so some really nice work in the crime genre prior to that. So “Beer Party” marks a much appreciated return of Prentice to crime. With some nicely handled action and such beautiful art, what is not to like? I particularly love the splash panel. Nobody appears in the splash but it still is a marvelous portrait. Missing plaster and cracked walls show how run down the police station has become. If anything the minimal decorations seem make the room even more depressing. The title captions talks about a shindig but obviously this was going to be a rather small affair. But could you image having a beer party inside a police station today?

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Grafter”, art by unidentified artist

At this time Simon and Kirby were producing four Mainline and four Prize titles. Most of the titles were bimonthlies except for Young Romance and Young Love which were monthly. I suspect producing these titles and running Mainline required a lot of effort for both Joe and Jack. The amount of art that Kirby penciled seems to have dropped and his only contribution to this Police Trap issue was the cover. Further artists new to Simon and Kirby productions make their appearance. One such artist provided the art for “The Grafter”. I cannot claim to be very excited about art but he did an adequate job.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Beefer”, pencils and inks by Joaquin Albistur

I have recently discussed the part that “The Beefer” played in relationship to the pinup used in Police Trap #2 (The Police Trap Pinup). This story and two others that appeared in Young Romance and Young Love marked the first appearance of Joaquin Albistur in the Simon and Kirby studio. Most of the artist that appeared during this period made rather limited contributions to Simon and Kirby productions but Albistur would provide much work for the relatively short period that he was employed by Joe and Jack (13 months).

It Ain’t Soup

Wilton of the West, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Mark Evanier provides an image of a Campbell’s Soup on his blog can when he announces that he is too busy to continue normal posting. It seems I have developed my own tradition, one where I use a scan of a Kirby page from Jumbo comics (see A Brief Pause and Another Brief Pause). Last weekend found me struggling with some particular difficult restorations while remaining determine not to let my schedule slip. In the end I kept to my schedule but was left without any spare time to initiate a post for this blog. So instead I provide a scan of Wilton of the West. This was one of the syndication strips that Kirby did for the Eisner and Iger studio. Some were used in early issues of Jumbo Comics but the image I provide was scanned from a presentation piece which provided higher quality reproduction.

I find Kirby’s work for Eisner and Iger particularly interesting because they show Jack in the process of learning his trade. I know there are some fans who continue to insist that Kirby had already reached a high level of skills but to me this was clearly not the case. Had Kirby’s comic career ended with his work for Eisner and Iger he would have become nothing more than a footnote in the history of comics. Talking heads dominate this page which would have presented a problem for any comic book artist. Kirby tries to keep it interesting by changing the viewing distance as well as adding various props. Jack was not completely successful in this attempt but you can tell he is trying. The page ends with a fist fight. Kirby was famous for his slugfests but here the depicted punch seems rather awkward. The inking is improved over the last page I presented. Kirby varies his inking depending from darker panels such as the first and fourth to simpler lighter ones such as the eighth panel. Here Kirby is still a long way from his mature inking style but that is what makes these pages so interesting. Jack did the lettering as well. Kirby’s lettering here is adequate but nothing more. While his lettering would improve somewhat, Jack never became a master letterer. But then again I cannot think of any golden age comic book artist that was good at both drawing and lettering.

My schedule will remain pretty tough over about the next month so I cannot guaranty that I will not be forced to put up a Jumbo scan again. However I hope that will not be the case because my recent post on the Police Trap pinup reminds me that I have not yet covered that title.

The Police Trap Pinup

For the most part pinups did not play an imported role in the Simon and Kirby repertoire. The most import exception was Boys’ Ranch where double page and inside cover pinups were present in each issue. Other than those from Boys’ Ranch there were only two other pinups that I can think of. One appeared in Win A Prize #1 (February 1955). I have discussed that one previously (The Wide Angle Scream, Almost an Afterthought). While I would not dismiss out of hand Joe’s explanation that the piece was originally meant for Captain America #11, there are a number of details that suggest a later date. Therefore the genesis behind that piece of art remains an unresolved issue.

Police Trap #2 (November 1954) “It’s Your Police Station”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The other Simon and Kirby pinup appeared in Police Trap #2 (November 1954). It is a great pinup with a marvelous cast of characters. Each person depicted in the foreground was given a distinct personality. A complete story is presented in this single panel with the added touch of Simon and Kirby humor. Kirby not only drew the art but did the inking as well. I believe it is one of the relatively few pieces that Jack also did the outline inking, a job normally assigned to others.

The top caption declares this is the first of series of Police Trap pinups of various police officers. However no further pinups were ever placed in the subsequent issues. Nor were pinups found in any other Mainline titles (Win A Prize was published by Charlton). The natural question is why this one?

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Beefer”, pencils and inks by Joaquin Albistur

The explanation can be found in the first issue of Police Trap. That issue contains the story “The Beefer” with art by Jo Albistur. Albistur was from Argentina and seems only to have worked in the United States for brief period. His time working for Simon and Kirby lasted a little over a year but it was very productive period for him. Frankly I am unimpressed by some of the art I have seen that he did for other comic book publishers but he is one of may favorite Simon and Kirby artists. “The Beefer” opens with constant complaining of an arrested street peddler. Kirby would often create a cover based on a story from the same issue but illustrated by another artist. The similarity between “It’s Your Police Station” and “The Beefer” indicates that is what happened here and this pinup was originally intended as the cover for Police Trap #1.

Police Trap #2 (November 1954) “It’s Your Police Station”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, original art

The original art for this pinup still exists. It is very unusual for work by Simon and Kirby in that art was constructed from three pieces. The top caption, the art, and the bottom caption are on different illustration boards taped together on the back. In the future Joe Simon would frequently construct art from various separate sources but up to this point such techniques were rarely used. The explanation in this case is that since the art was initially meant for a cover the original top probably had the comic book title. Probably as an expediency this was just cut off. Since Joe and Jack often recycled their work this title may have been used for some other cover. The original art for some of the Police Trap covers still exist and it would be It would be interesting to see if any of them were constructed from two pieces of illustration board. The original bottom of the art was probably not sufficient for the desired caption so it was trimmed as well.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Beefer”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The Police Trap #1 cover that was published in place of “It’s Your Police Station” is certainly a fine piece of Simon and Kirby art. The portrayed scene shows a multitude of characters each carefully handled. The caption actually seems a little superfluous since the art is all that seems to be needed to tells the individual stories. Yes, this is cover art at its very best. That is not to say that the art for “It’s Your Police Station” was any bit inferior. The most distinct disadvantage for the pinup had was that it was very specific to a single story, “The Beefer”. While Simon and Kirby often took that approach to a cover, they undoubtedly considered that the new comic should be launched with a cover that reflected on the theme of the title and not a particular story. With all the criticism cast at crime comics, Simon and Kirby wanted to emphasize that the police were subject of this new comic not the criminals. This police centric theme is superbly provided by the published cover.