Category Archives: 2012/07

Not Kirby? Wrong! Marvel Masterwork’s Marvel Comics Volumes 6 and 7

I have never particularly liked the way that Marvel does their reprint volumes. But even coverless copies of golden age Marvel Mystery Comics are now so expensive and rare that I am certain I will never have a complete run. So I have been buying some of Marvel’s Golden Age Masterworks. I know I have to be careful in using them for study but still Marvel has done everyone a service in providing them. I recently picked up volume 7 of the Marvel Comics series which finishes Simon and Kirby’s run of the Vision feature. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the contents page only to find that some of the Vision stories have been attributed to other artists! I pulled out my copy of Volume 6 and found that this practice had started in that volume. I decided I would write about why these attributions are so very, very wrong. I will only be discussing the pencils as inking attributions are difficult to determine and there is nothing like a consensus of that subject. But hey, if Marvel Masterworks cannot get correct pencil attributions for such a distinctive artist like Jack Kirby, what chance is there that it got the inking attributions right?


Marvel Mystery Comics #21 (July 1941) “The Vision” page 6, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 6)

The Masterworks only credit Kirby for the pencils of splash page, the rest of the story is attributed to Al Avison. Not the inks mind you, but the pencils. There is an asterisk on this attribution for a footnote that states:

It was not industry standard in the Golden Age of comics to provide detailed credits for each story. The credits in this volume represents the most accurate information available at the time of publication.

Really? I would have thought that the Jack Kirby Checklist (Gold Edition) would be the most accurate information available and it attributes this story to Jack Kirby. Now I admit there are occasions when I disagree with the JK Checklist (most often because sometimes it credits work to Jack that Joe Simon penciled, an artist who was very familiar with Jack’s art and very good at mimicking him). However the Checklist is the best source for Kirby attributions and I always proceed cautiously when I disagree with it. Now in the case of these Marvel Masterwork credits it is important to remember we are discussing the pencils. Inkers often assert their own personal styles over another artists pencils. The art must be examined for features that would not be derived from the inker. For Jack Kirby two features that I often look for to spot his work is the presence and handling of exaggerated perspective and fist fights. Kirby was the master of these two art forms and no other artist every managed to do them quite like Jack. I am not saying that these are the only distinctive traits that can be used for spotting but that they so common that they often are all that is needed for attribution purposes. Both techniques are presented on page 7 of the Vision story from MM #21. Like many artists, Avison tried to copy Kirby’s slugfest style but he never came close to what can be seen on this page. Particularly panel 5, it is hard to believe that anyone would fail to recognize Kirby’s distinctive hand in that minor masterpiece.


Marvel Mystery Comics #22 (August 1941) “The Vision” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 6)

Once again for the Vision story in Marvel Mystery Comics #22, Marvel Masterworks only credit the first page to Jack and the rest of the story as penciled by Al Avison. While the story includes some fist fights that look to me like they were done by Kirby they are not as convincing as those found in MM #21. But look at panel 7 of page 2 shown above. Kirby loved to show figure heading forward to the viewer and this panel is a great example of the exaggerated perspective that is required to accomplish that. In this case Kirby brings the torso lower than usual even for his work but he still convincingly pulls it off. I have never seen Al Avison effectively use such exaggerated perspective. I will be providing an example below of how Avison tries something similar but as we shall see it is easy to distinguish from Kirby’s work.


Marvel Mystery Comics #25 (November 1941) “The Vision” page 6, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from the original comic book)

Marvel Masterworks correctly credits the pencils for the Visions stories from Marvel Mystery Comics issues #23 and #24 to Jack Kirby so they need not be discussed here. The credits for MM #25 are rather peculiar as Kirby is said to have done the title page and the layouts while the “art” was done by Al Avison, Ernie Hart and Mike Sedowsky. It is well known that Kirby did some layouts during the silver age but he has often been credited for doing layouts during the golden age for such artists as Mort Meskin, Bill Draut and John Prentice. Such claims are bogus in almost all cases as I have frequently shown in posts in this blog, particularly in my Art of Romance serial post. However there was some work from the Simon and Kirby studio that looks like Kirby provided layouts and there are some others that I struggle with whether they are examples of Kirby layouts or inking that overwhelmed Kirby’s original pencils. During the silver age, Kirby’s layout could get rather tight and detailed in some places. Much more than would be expected for something described as an layout. But this would be true only for certain sections while the layouts for the rest of the story seem to have been much looser. so one of the criteria that I use for recognizing Kirby layouts is to look for how consistent the entire story is. A story that looks consistent throughout is more likely to be the result of the work of an inker’s heavy hand no mater how unusual it may look for a piece of Kirby art. Even so making these distinctions can sometimes be difficult but not so in the case of the Vision from MM #25. That story looks so like Kirby’s style throughout the entire story that it is hard to understand why anyone would think it is just Jack’s layouts.

It would not be legally right for me to provide the entire story so I will pick one of the more distinctive pages. This is another slugfest full with examples of exaggerated perspective. All done in so convincing a manner it is hard to believe any artist other than Kirby could have done it. The original pencils must have been so tight that no one should call it a layout. (It is pages like this that show what a master Kirby was at exciting action.) These are not Kirby layouts but true Kirby.

Note the way how some of the figures have their feet rotated somewhat so that the soles face the reader more than would strictly be expected. This is a typical Kirby trait. This is a style that couldĀ  be mimic by other artists. After all Simon adopted it as well even in work for the Coast Guard done while Kirby was serving in Europe. But still it would not be expected to show up in work done from layouts.


Marvel Mystery Comics #26 (December 1941) “The Vision”, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 7)

Of all the incorrect attributions found in Marvel Masterworks, the Vision story for Marvel Mystery #26 is the one I understand the most. Not that I agree, but I do think I understand why they went so wrong. This is probable the most unsuccessful Vision story that Kirby ever drew and also one of the most poorly inked. But quality is a poor tool to use when trying to determine the correct attributions. Even the best artist has his bad days. Again it is best to turn to things like the handling of exaggerated perspective when deciding who actually penciled the art. The Masterwork credits Al Avison and Ernie Hart for all the pencils, including the splash page. Look at the figure of the Vision from the splash page. He advances toward the reader in a typical Kirby pose. The neck is hidden and the torso is squat due to the effects of the perspective. One leg retreats while the other is thrust forward as the Visions strides toward the viewer. I have never seen Avison do anything nearly as successful and I doubt anyone can find something that Hart did that looks like this either. While the quality of the art in this story is not Kirby’s best, there are many other examples of exaggerated perspective that I do not think anybody but Kirby could have done.

This story is not without is problems. Look at the man with the blue suit in the splash. His upper body does not seem properly jointed to the lower portion. The tree monster’s root that crosses in front of the figure seems to have confused the artist. A similar thing can be observed on the cover for Young Allies #2 (Winter 1942) a comic that appeared not very long after MM #26 (advertisements for it appear in MM #28). I am uncertain what to say about this. Is it a rare Kirby failure or an example of another artist’s work? I tend to suspect the latter. I can easily see it as an later addition by another artist. If so it is not the only example of a Kirby splash modified during the Timely period (see Captain Daring from Daring Mystery #7 in Chapter 9 of Early Jack Kirby).


Marvel Mystery Comics #27 (January 1942) “The Vision”, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 7)

This is the last Vision story that I would credit to Jack Kirby. In this I agree with the Jack Kirby Checklist but not the Marvel Masterworks which says this was penciled by Al Avison. I must say I am rather puzzled by this as it is one of the better Kirby Vision stories. The inking is not as nice as some of the early Visions stories where Kirby inked his own pencils but superior to most of the inking from towards the end of Simon and Kirby’s stay at Timely. While I warn against using quality as a reference when deciding credits, I still would think that those responsible for the attribution in the Marvel Masterworks would have at least reconsidered when facing such superior work as this. Al Avison would do some great art after Simon and Kirby parted from Timely including the best golden age Captain America by an artist other than Joe and Jack. So good that some would claim Kirby provided layouts to him later in his career. That is another false claim (see Al Avison Did Not Need Any Help) but as good as Avison became his art never approached that shown in the Vision story for MM #27.

But there is no reason to depend on quality to decide who really provided the pencils for this story. Once again examining the exaggerated perspective and fist fights are sufficient. In the splash the Vision leans so far forward there is no sign of his neck while there is a very short distance from his arms to the top of his hips. His left leg advances toward the viewer will the right leg is trust backwards. This is the classical Kirby pose that Avison never truly used. similar expressive perspectives occur frequently elsewhere in the story as well as truly classic Kirby slugging.


Marvel Mystery Comics #28 (February 1942) “The Vision” page 4, pencils by Al Avison (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 7)

The last Simon and Kirby Captain America comic had a January cover date, the same month as Marvel Mystery Comics #27. After which Al Avison took over the primary penciling of Captain America. So it is not surprising that the Vision story from Marvel Mystery #28 (February 1942) was also drawn by Avison, one of the few Vision attributions that I agree with the Masterworks. But it also serves as a comparison for all the Vision work drawn by Kirby that preceded it. The splash page shows the Vision advancing more to the side than toward the reader. While Kirby would sometimes does something similar it is not the classic Kirby pose that dominates the earlier Vision stories. The closest Avison comes in this story to that pose is found in panel 4 from page 4. Yes the neck is hidden and the torso shortened (although not that convincingly) but his left leg is only slightly advanced from the right. While the Kirby pose makes the figure look like he is rapidly advancing towards the reader in this one it looks like the Vision is taking a bow. And while in the future Avison would sometimes draw a rather good fist fight (although not nearly as good as Kirby’s) there are no slugfests to be found in this story. Avison’s Vision compare well with the Captain America stories he did but it remains in stark contrast to Visions stories that should correctly be credited to Kirby.

Except for the occasional signature, golden age comic books almost never provided credits. Attributions are therefore opinions, not facts, and people can be mistaken about their opinions. Even me, which is why in this blog I like to try to explain what the basis is for the credits I supply. But such an approach is not possible for reprint books like the Marvel Masterworks. Which is why it is unfortunate that they choose to provide credits anyway. There will now be many people who will treat the Masterworks credits in these two volumes as fact not opinions. The disclaimer applied to some of the attributions actually makes it worse because of the implication implied to those credits that are not so marked. That is they are so accurate that no disclaimer is needed but they are actually just as prone to error. Readers of the Masterworks volumes would be better served had Marvel avoided detailed crediting rather than depending on the opinions of a small group of people.

Another Milestone, Simon and Kirby Library: Science Fiction

I have recently completed another milestone, all the restorations for Titan’s upcoming Science Fiction volume for the Simon and Kirby Library. This will be another book about the same size as the Crime volume. I do not have the book layout in front of me but you can get an idea of the size by the fact that I did 344 pages of art restorations. Of course the page count describes the thickness but the other dimensions will match those used in the Superheroes and Crime volumes. Those dimensions are important because they allow the art to be reproduced slightly larger than it was originally. I understand why some publishers go the cost saving route of smaller books but frankly some of the effect of the art is lost with the size reduction. I am so pleased that Titan has managed to publish the larger sized books at an affordable price.

The Science Fiction volume covers a long period of Simon and Kirby collaboration as did the Superheroes book. It actually includes some work that Simon and Kirby did on their own; Joe’s early “Solar Patrol” and Jack’s three “Solar Legion” stories. Also there are all the Blue Bolt stories, including the origin story that Simon did by himself which had been absent in a earlier tradeback. The book also has all the science fiction stories actually done by Simon and Kirby for comic book titles Alarming Tales, Black Cat Mystic, Race for the Moon and Blast-Off. As a bonus the volume also includes some stores drawn by Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.

As for the restoration think of what I did for the Crime book only better. Better because this time I had 72 pages of original art and another 11 pages of flats* to work from. All the work reprinted in the Titan book from Race For The Moon and Blast-Off was based on original art or flats except for a single introduction page. This is important because at that time the printing of the Harvey comics was rather poor. Race For The Moon and Blast-Off included some very detailed inking whose effect was greatly lost in the printing of the original comics. The Simon and Kirby’s Library version will be the first chance to see these stories as the inkers intended.

Does anyone really care about the process for comic book restorations? Once you get past the part of whether the art was recreated or not, all that is truly important is how nice** the printed results look. And as far as I know Marvel is the only publisher still recreating art for their reprint books. Yet there is one guy who works for Marvel that is constantly attacking me on one of the Marvel lists for, among other things, chemically bleaching my pages. I have never criticized using chemically bleaching in restoration. I just find that the price of old comic books today generally makes it too expensive a process. That is why I developed my own methods a part of which includes digitally bleaching scans. There is no way I could afford to chemically bleach comics like Blue Bolt. But the Science Fiction book includes work published in the late 50’s and mid 60’s some of which I had inexpensive low grade copies that I submitted to chemical bleaching. I wonder if anyone will be able to tell which have been worked on with chemicals and which digitally? I cannot see how they could. In any case my commitment is to provide the best restorations possible by whatever means; original art, flats, chemical bleaching or just digitally.

Amazon still lists the release date for this book as in October. Unfortunately because of some help I provided Joe Simon’s family after his untimely passing as well as extra work I had to do for my “day job” caused me to fall behind in my restoration work. I am not positive but I believe the book is now scheduled to be released in early January. It saddens me that Joe only got to see my restorations for Blue Bolt. This was probably the volume that Joe had the most interest in primarily because of all the incredible inking done in Race For The Moon and Blast-Off.

footnotes:

* Flats are proofs of the line art arranged as they would be printed. They are not quite as good as original art but far superior to work from than the original published comics.

** Of course different people have their own idea of what nicely restored art means. for me that means cleaned up colors and printing on flat paper.

Jack Kirby Collector #59

I have received my copy of the Jack Kirby collector #59. All JKC issues are welcome additions for any Kirby fan but #59 is special. Unfortunately one reason it is special is that JKC has returned to the standard magazine size format. John Morrow explains why this happened and I am not about to criticize his decision but I will miss how well the former tabloid size presented Kirby art.


Treasure #10 (December 1947) pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

One of the reasons I am excited about this issue is that it includes some of my Simon and Kirby cover restorations. Specifically the covers for Shield-Wizard #7, Speed #18, Green Hornet #7 and #9, champ #20 and Treasure #10. While pretty much every cover done by Simon and Kirby are great, these particular covers are among my favorites. Especially the covers for Harvey Comics. The Harvey covers were done at the same time Simon and Kirby were working for DC and their collaboration had, in my opinion, really taken root. I have restored all but a few of these Harvey covers and posted about them during the start of my blog (Harvey Covers). Someday I hope to get a change to finish the few remaining un-restored Harvey covers. One little quibble, the JCK credits Irv Novick with inking Shield-Wizard #7. I find that attribution rather doubtful. Judging by the art Novick did for MLJ he went into military service at just about this time, and his unavailability was probably the reason Simon and Kirby got the job in the first place. I previously wrote about Simon and Kirby’s work on the Shield as a guest poster on Comic Book Resources (Simon and Kirby Meet the Shield).

Perhaps more important to comic book fans will be Arlen Schumer’s presentation of The Auteur Theory of Comics. I, and a couple of other bloggers, have presented Schumer’s theory but now hopefully a larger audience will get a chance to get first hand what the theory really is about. This is important because I doubt that many of the critics found on the Internet have actually read what Schumer has to say. Certainly they have not correctly characterized the Auteur Theory and therefore they have not been able to present a meaningful discussion.

I am also pleased that Steven Brower’s Kirby’s Collages In Context is also included in JKC #59. It was previously posted on the Internet but well deserves a chance to reach a larger audience. This issues includes a short color section giving the reader a chance to see some of Kirby’s collage to their best effect.

While these were my personal highlights of Jack Kirby Collector #59 they are by no means the only good reads in this issue. A number of the recurring columns are present. I always love reading what Mark Evanier has to say but I am sure each fan has his own favorite. And of course there are lots and lots of Kirby art. That alone makes the issue worth buying.

Kirby Inkers, Al Williamson

I have previously posted on some of the artists that have inked Jack Kirby’s pencils (Mort Meskin, Marvin Stein and Captain 3D). Unfortunately my restoration work for Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library takes up so much of my time that I have been unable to pursue this topic further. However my work for the upcoming Science Fiction volume has allowed me to examine in detail the inking used for Race for the Moon and Blast-Off. It was particularly fortunate that I had available either the original art or flats (production proofs of the line art) of pretty much all the interior art for these two titles*.

Before discussing the evidence from the art, it would be best to start with a presentation of some of what has been said by others. In his book, Joe Simon, My Life in Comics Joe writes about Race For The Moon:

When I proposed the title, Jack welcomed the work. I wrote most of the stories, although Dick Wood, Dave Wood and Eddie Herron contributed some scripts. Because Kirby was penciling some of them, I was able to sign up three of the best inkers in the business. Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, and Al Williamson, each of them a brilliant artist in his own right, all wanted to work with Jack. In addition to inking Jack’s pencils, they got to illustrate some stories on their own.

In an interview with Al Williamson from the Jack Kirby Collector #15:

TJKC: Did you and Wally ever discuss how to approach inking Kirby?

AL: No, it was a job. I remember going up to Harvey and getting work there. They said, “We haven’t got any work for you, but we have some stories here that Jack penciled. Do you want to ink them?” I’d never really inked anybody else before, but I said, “Sure,” because I looked at the stuff, and thought, “I can follow this.” It’s all there. I inked it, and they liked it, and they gave me three or four stories to do.

TJKC: I was just reading some of those Race For The Moons. There’s some beautiful stuff there.

AL: Well, he did a beautiful job. Some of it was redrawn by somebody there, I guess because it didn’t pass the Comics Code or something. There’s parts that I didn’t ink, because it’s not my drawing or Jack’s drawing. Somebody went over it and changed some things, like a monster or something to make it more pleasing to the eye, which bothered the hell outta me. I never really thought I did him justice, though. The drawing is there, because it’s Jack Kirby’s drawing, but I just traced what he penciled.

TJKC: Did you feel intimidated to add too much of yourself to it?

AL: I don’t do that. If the job is penciled, I would ink it the way the guy penciled it, because it’s his pencils. If I think it needs something, I’ll call the artist up and say, “Listen, I kinda would like to add a black here. Is this all right with you?” And as a rule, they say, “Sure. No problem.” But I don’t do any redrawing on anybody’s work unless I talk to the artist-and I very seldom have to do that.

Also in the interview, Williamson remarked that he did not ink any covers. So we have Simon crediting the inking to three different artists (Crandall, Torres and Williamson) and Williamson saying he inked somewhere between three and five Kirby stories. It is important to remember that such testimonials is evidence but not the proof that all too many comic book historians take it for. I am continually surprised that so many take evidence based on memory as fact. I would have thought that from what has been learned from legal cases over the years would discredited over reliance on memory. People’s memories are not created like a video recorder saving all that a person sees and hears. Rather memories are more like stories that people create and retell over and over. Such stories are biased and often are like a morality tale that tell more about the person telling them than what actually occurred. As years pass, the memories are effectively retold and change even further. Inaccuracies are expected and not a sign that the person is lying, that is trying to deceive. So I prefer to treat such interviews as evidence but I also turn to the work itself to find further evidence to support or refute what has been said.


Alarming Tales #6 (November 1958) “King of the Ants” page 2, pencils and inks by Al Williamson (from bleached page)

Artists have their own inking techniques that they use over and over. One place to start would be to examine how an artist inks his own work. Fortunately Williamson created a story, “King of the Ants”, for Alarming Tales #6 at the same times that Race for the Moon #3 came out. Regrettably Harvey’s had very poor printing so I use a bleached page to use as an example. Page 2 illustrates a number of techniques that Williamson was fond of. One was the use of multiple very broad brush strokes that are somewhat irregular and placed side by side. Examples can be seen in the lower right corners to panels 2 and 4 in both cases right above the figure’s shoulder. As far as I can tell, these irregular inking patches are not meant to depict any realistic feature but rather serve as an abstract pattern. I do not have a good name for another technique but I sometimes describe it as mottled crosshatching. This can be found in the right side of panel 4 just above the other inking technique described above. Sometimes Williamson uses a looping ink line to describe foliage such as found in bottom center of panel 1 right in front of the fallen tree trunk. Another technique is more of an anti-inking process where Williamson removes a panel’s border such as in panel 6. I have not seen the original art for “King of the Ants” but on original art that I have seen Williamson has cut page with a razor and peeled off the panel border. Of course anyone could have done it but such borderless panels are commonly found in work that Williamson inked but not other stories done for Harvey so I attribute the action to him.


Blast-Off #1 (October 1965) “Space Court” page 5, pencils and inks by Al Williamson

It might seem odd to use work published in 1965 to illustrate Williamson’s inking techniques from 1958 but in fact the Comic Code Authority stamp on the original art was dated March 6, 1958. This date was a few weeks earlier that the approval date for the art for Race for the Moon #3 (cover dated November 1958 but Comic Code approval date of March 28, 1958). It may be a minor mystery about what title this story was originally intended or why it was not published until years later, but it is a perfect match for this discussion about inking techniques.

Some of the previously discussed techniques can be found in the “Space Court” story as well. For instance the removal of panel borders, in whole or in part. Also note the background inking for panel 5 appears to be an expansion of the technique described above. What this page shows is another technique that is not technically inking, that is the use of Ben-Day dots. These are found in panels 3 and 4 giving both a grey background. The Ben-Day patterns were applied as transparent overlay sheets that were carefully cut with a razor to cover the desired areas. Williamson used Ben-Day dots with the standard dot patters arrange in the angles used for printing but also irregular dots (mezzotint patterns) and hexagonal arrangements.


Race for the Moon #2 (September 1958) “Lunar Trap” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Al Williamson

The inking of the Kirby pencils for Race for the Moon and Blast-Off can be placed in three groups that show related features. The first group consists of “The Thing on Sputnik 4” and “Lunar Trap” both from RFTM #2. These works were inked using both pen and brush. They differ from the next group is the general lack of some of the techniques that I have describe Williamson as using. None of the panel borders have been removed in these two stories and there is no use of Ben-Day dots. There is only one example of the looping ink line but this is not too surprising since Williamson often used this technique in rendering foliage and there are no plants on the moon. Two other Williamson inking techniques only appear in one panel; panel 2 from page 2 of “Lunar Trap” shown above. There we find the mottled crosshatching and that irregular broad brush strokes. Despite the infrequence or absence of some of Williamson’s inking techniques I still credit the inking to Al. As far as I can see only one hand was involved in the inking of these two stories and the pen and brush work looks very much like that found in stories I am convinced were inked by Al Williamson. I suspect these two stories were the first ones by Kirby that Williamson inked and he was just getting comfortable with working on Jack’s pencils.


Race for the Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face on Mars” panel 2 page 2 and panel 5 page 4, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Al Williamson

The next group of five Kirby stories are the ones that I am pretty confident in crediting the inking to Al Williamsons. These are “Island in the Sky” and “The Face on Mars” from RFTM #2, and “The Long, Long Years”, “Saucer Man”, “Space Garbage”, and “The Garden of Eden” from RFTM #3. These contain all the techniques that I describe above based on Williamson’s inking of his own pencils. I do not want to leave the impression that these techniques are abundantly found in Williamson’s inking but rather the usually can be found when enough pages are examined. I provide scans of panels from two different panels above to show some of the Williamson techniques found in these stories.


Blast-Off #1 (October 1965) “The Great Moon Mystery”, pencils by Jack Kirby and inks by Al Williamson

The third group consists of the Kirby penciled stories that appeared in “Blast-Off #1 (October 1965) which are “Lunar Goliaths” and “The Great Moon Mystery” Although I have examined the original art for these works they still are another of those minor mysteries. Neither story has Comic Code approval stamps. Further neither story has any indication of a previously intended title. Typically the original art would have on the top left just above the art the comic book title and page number it was intended for. Even when the title changed white out would typically be used to remove the outdated information so the new title and page could be added. No white out was used so the Blast-Off #1 information placed on the original art was the first applied. But both stories are Three Rocketeer stories and that feature first appeared in RFTM #3 so these two stories were likely intended for the unpublished RFTM #4. Certainly Kirby’s pencils are in the same style used for the 1958 RFTM and not at all a match for what he was doing in 1965 for Marvel Comics.

The inking of the two Blast-Off Kirby stories is more like the first, presumably earlier, group. Absent are any sign of most of the techniques I have described from Williamson’s inking of his own pencils. The only exception is the relatively frequent use of Ben-Day dots in “The Great Moon Mystery”, but they are not found at all in “Lunar Goliaths”. You can see the Ben-Day dots in the moon-scape background for the splash panel shown above. Although the comic book shows no sign of Ben-Day in the second (left) panel the original art shows that they were there. However Williamson used such a fine dot pattern that they complete got lost in Harvey’s rather crude production. Despite the fact that some of Williamson’s inking techniques, I still feel that the inking is very much the same as Williamson’s other work, just not as much embellished. I admit that this group and the first one require further study of the techniques used to either confirm or refute my attributions but for now I credit all the inking of Kirby’s pencils for RFTM or Blast-Off to Al Williamson.

In the interview Williamson says that he closely followed Jack’s pencils, as he described it “it’s all there”. My studies seem to support that. Unlike some of Kirby’s inkers, Al does not overwhelm Jack’s pencils, there is never any question that whose penciled it. Most of the effects of Williamson’s inking come from the spotting. It would appear that for RFTM Kirby provided tight line art but left the spotting to the inker. That was the typical technique Kirby used during the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Williamson was a talented artist with great control of his pen and brush work. In my opinion the inking Williamson did was some of the finest ever done on Kirby pencils. Unfortunately the printing used for Harvey Comics in the late 50’s was incredibly poor and some of Williamson’s efforts were lost.

Williamson also claims that someone reworked sections of the stories. “There’s parts that I didn’t ink, because it’s not my drawing or Jack’s drawing”. This clearly indicates that the rework would have happened after Williamson did the inking. However Joe Simon’s collection includes all the original art for the Kirby except for “The Long, Long Years” and I studied them all. Any changes that was done after the initial inking would have to have used white-out or other techniques to remove the original art for replacement with newer work. None of the original art shows any sign that this was done. The only use of white-out or paste-ups was on the lettering. I am sure Williamson believed what he recalled for the interview but it is just another example of the failings of evidence based on memory.

footnotes:
* 40 pages of original art and 11 pages of flats leaving only a single introduction page based only on the printed comics.