Category Archives: 2012/10

Speaking of Art, Joe Simon’s Hector Protector

Hector Protector was dressed all in green;
Hector Protector was sent to the Queen.
The Queen did not like him,
Nor more did the King;
So Hector Protector was sent back again.

This, Like so many other nursery rhymes, may seem like nonsensical verse. One theory is that Hector Protector was based on a Richard, Duke of York from 15th century England. I really cannot say how true that theory is but I can say that Joe Simon was aware of the nursery rhyme and based some of his advertisement work on Hector Protector. Joe once told me that he also called the character something like Forester Bill but whenever I found a name applied to the character it was always Hector Protector.

I had previously briefly discussed Hector Protector (Joe Simon’s Career in Advertising) where I provided some examples of layouts that Joe made in preparation for publication. The work Joe did was for Mechanics National Bank which I believe was located in New Jersey. I have never actually seen the published results but that is not too surprising because it would likely have been used as advertisements in small regional newspapers.

All the finished Hector Protector art was executed in color. This despite the fact that all the layouts I have seen made for black and white publications. At the time Joe had his own stat camera so that it was easy for him to prepare art for black and white publications but and color work had to be handled by others.

For the most part, Joe did not apply text to the actual artwork presumably as this allowed for repeated use of an image with different text. The art would be used to advertise a bank so it is not hard to imagine what sort of text might be applied to art like the one shown above. I am sure it would promote getting loans from Mechanics National Bank.

A chipmunk with all the nuts he saved was another natural image for use in a bank advertisement.

Others are a little harder to deduce what the accompanying text might be like. All the Hector Protector images share a similar sense of humor. Not sarcastic as Joe might use for Sick magazine but similar in other respects.

Perhaps my favorite of the Hector Protector art although I wonder if younger viewers would know about rabbit ear antennas. I am not sure if the Captain America image is was part of the original creation or added later. Today Marvel would not tolerate such a usage. I remember them successfully suing a restaurant from either Ireland or England that called itself Captain America. But Marvel was not so such a financial juggernaut when Joe was creating this art (probably in the 70’s) and the advertisement would have been very regional and therefore not likely to attract the attention of the Manhattan located comic book publisher.

New York Times Advertisement Section (November 27, 1966) by Joe Simon

It is a little bit out of place among the Hector Protector art, but I have one last example of Joe Simon’s advertisement work. This was the cover to an advertisement section of the New York Times. Joe used to have a framed example of the actual publication hanging up in his apartment but I do not believe I ever got a chance to scan the published version. However it was printed in color and except for the yellowing of the paper was a good match to the original art.

Speaking of Art, Simon and Kirby’s “Remember the Alamo”

Simon and Kirby were a brand name during the golden age of comics. Their fame began with their creation of Captain America and continued for many years. There are a number of reasons that Simon and Kirby work was so admired and influential but they can be summed up by saying Joe and Jack produced great comics. One thing that often made Simon and Kirby comics so distinctive was their fantastic double page spreads. Not that every comic produced by Simon and Kirby included a double page splash but those spreads were created throughout their years of collaboration (and Kirby would continue to do them form many years after). Nor were Simon and Kirby the first to create double page splashes. The Ka-Zar story by Ben Thompson from Marvel Mystery Comics #11 (September 1940) is the earliest that I am aware off. Joe Simon was the editor of Timely comics at that time so he was certainly knew of the Ka-Zar splash which may have prompted him along with Jack to produce more exciting double page splashes in Captain America Comics.

Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged View

It would be hard for me to pick the very best double page splash that Simon and Kirby ever produced. But that does not mean that they were all equally good. I personally would include “Remember the Alamo” among the choice few of the best Simon and Kirby wide spreads. The pencils are first rate, the inking superb and it has a well designed composition. The only drawback is that the original art is a bit confusing because mass of fighting figures. However Jack drew with the knowledge that the final work would be colored which totally clarified the published image.

The art is laid out in two tiers with the largest fighting figure and Clay Duncan forming the center axis. While the figures in the upper tier are spread out across the top, those in the bottom occupy the center. The bottom left is filled by text which is balanced on the right by a relatively empty scene with a darkened sky.

Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the top left)

The left side of the fighting scene is dominated by the Mexican soldiers while the more informal Texas militia fill most of the right. But this is not an absolute division because combating figures from both sides are found throughout the top. Kirby preferred his fighting as up close and personal, so while many figures hold pistols or rifles few of them seem to be actually ready to be fired. Instead the combatants brandish swords or knives or just grapple with one another.

Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the top right)

The right side includes a frontier man about to strike a Mexican soldier with his rifle. A similar pose would be used for the cover of Western Tales #32 (see Happy Birthday Jack Kirby and Chapter 4 of The End of Simon & Kirby although in the later I incorrectly attributed the art to Joe Simon, the correct credit is pencils by Jack Kirby and inks by Mort Meskin).

Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the top center)

Another Texan visual dominates the center of the upper field. His head bandages and his clothing tattered he has seized a Mexican’s rifle while preparing to finish off his foe with a knife. As I said Kirby liked his battles up close and personal. The inking for the entire piece is just marvelous but the center area provides a showcase of a Jack’s energetic brush. Yes all the drop strings and picket fence crosshatching (see my Glossary) serve a purpose of providing form to the figures but the brush strokes are so bold that they also take on an abstract life full of its own rhythms and movement.

Boys’ Ranch #6 (August 1951) “Remember the Alamo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby (close-up of the bottom center)

All the action depicted on the top of the splash is shown to be the imaginary viewing of a tale told by Clay Duncan in the bottom of the splash. The rest of the Boys’ Ranch crew listen with rapt attention. What boy from the 50’s would not day dream of being part of that scene.

While Simon and Kirby did a number of double page splashes few have previously entered the hands of private collectors. The only one I am aware of is shown on that great web site What If Kirby. That may be about to change as Heritage will be auctioning off much of Joe Simon’s former collection in the coming months starting with an auction on November 15 and 16. Among other great art, the first auction will include double page splashes from what would have been Stuntman #3, Adventures of the Fly #1 and #2 and the “Remember the Alamo” splash (see Heritage’s art by Simon and Kirby).

Joe’s Birthday

Birthdays are supposed to be occasions of celebration, but for me this one carries a sad undertone. Today, October 11, Joe Simon would have been 99 years old. But his was a good life and his work touched millions, so still there is also something to celebrate.

At 5:15 pm Friday, Oct 12, there will be a memorial panel for Joe at the New York Comic Con (location 1A01). Panelists will be Jim Simon, Paul Levitz, Mark Waid and Angelo Torres. Carmine Infantino is also listed but the last I heard it was uncertain if he would appear. I certainly hope he does because not only did Carmine work with Joe on a couple of occasions, they would frequently telephone one another right up to Joe’s passing.