Tag Archives: Jack Kirby

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).

The Wide Angle Scream, The Unpublished Stuntman

Some years ago I wrote a serial post called the Wide Angle Scream  where I discussed the various Simon and Kirby double page splashes that were published over the years. I did include one Stuntman double page splash that had not been published (Terror Island) but there were two others that I did not discuss. Actually it is a not quite accurate to say these wide splashes had not been published as they were included in Joe and Jim Simon’s “Comic Book Makers” (colored, I believe, by Greg Theakston) and more recently in “The Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” (colored by yours truly). At the time I did not have scans of the original art and “Terror Island” was the only spread that I had a reduced size copy of. Now I would like to return to these unpublished Stuntman splashes as a crossover with my serial post Speaking of Art.


Stuntman Comics #3 (intended) “Terror Island”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged view

As mentioned above, I had discussed the splash for “Terror Island” previous but a few comments about the original art seem appropriate. This splash is missing a heading at the top of the page. One probably was present as there appear to be stains left by rubber cement. The Stuntman logo is a recent addition as the original also fell off. But most noticeable about the original art is the damage found along the margins of the illustration board. In Joe Simon’s autobiography “My Life In Comics” he writes:

The spreads had been kept in the attic where they suffered decay at the hands of the weather and damage at the paws (and teeth) of marauding squirrels.

While I am sure that this original art, and the splashes for “Jungle Lord” and “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” spent some period in an attic, I doubt that the damage that they show was due to squirrels as I found no sign of marks from teeth or claws. Rather I believe that the heated conditions frequently found in attics has left the illustration boards brittle. Comic book collectors are familiar with the brittle pages sometimes found in golden age comics caused by the presence of acid in the newsprint paper. The illustration boards that Simon and Kirby used probably did not have as much acid as found in comic book newsprint but there seems to be enough that these art boards typically yellow with age. In the case of the Stuntman original art the heat has accelerated the detrimental effect of the acid making the boards brittle. Most of the damage occurs at the corners which would be expected since that is where the boards are most likely to hit up against more unforgiving objects. The boards are not actively crumbling but must be handled with care.

I should also mention the Stuntman Comics issue number I have assigned these pieces to. Simon and Kirby only used double page splashes in the centerfold of the comics. That way there would be no problems aligning pages properly with the rather primitive publishing methods used for comic books of the day. Only two issues of Stuntman ever reached the newsstands. A third issue was mailed to subscribers but it was much reduced in size and contents. Most importantly the third issue did not use a wide splash. The three unpublished Stuntman wide splashes would have appeared in Stuntman Comics issues #3, #4 and #5 if not for the unfortunate sudden cancellation of the title. I have assigned the different splashes to the intended issues based on completeness of the art. The splashes for “Terror Island” and “Jungle Lord” were both completed. However on “Terror Island” has story art at least some of which was completely inked while the story art for “Jungle Lord” on received outline inking without any spotting. As we will see the inking of the splash for “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” was never finished and therefore it was worked on last.


Stuntman Comics #4 (intended) “Jungle Lord”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged view

Like “Terror Island” the inking of “Jungle Lord” appears to have been completed. Only a small area in the lower right corner seems to have only received outline inking. The board is stained in this area so it seems that originally a square piece of paper or stat covered the area until it was lost when the rubber cement failed. The Stuntman logo is a new addition to replace the original which also seems to have become detached.

Previous Stuntman double page splashes had been visually complex but in “Jungle Lord” Simon and Kirby have distilled it to the essentials. Or as essential as could be expected with five main characters. A dramatic fight scene between Stuntman and a gorilla is balanced with a humorous scene of a skinny individual in a Tarzan suite carrying off a similarly clad Sandra Sylvan while below the ironically named Don Daring bridges the two. While visually complex would be done in the future (“Social Night in Town” and “Remember the Alamo”) simpler designs like this one would dominate.


Stuntman Comics #4 (intended) “Jungle Lord” close-up, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

All the unpublished Stuntman double page splashes had terrific inking, not surprising since Jack was doing his own spotting. But in my opinion “Jungle Lord” has the best inking of the three. Jack used his blunt brush in a free but controlled manner that is just marvelous to behold.


Stuntman Comics #5 (intended) “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby
Enlarged View

Clearly Kirby was working on “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” when Simon and Kirby received the news that Stuntman had been cancelled. Three of the figures appear to be fully inked, one (the Tumbler) may be almost but not quite completed (mainly work is lacking on his left forearm) and two only have outline inking. Stuntman figures large, probably the largest figure in a splash that Kirby ever drew during the period he partnered with Simon.


Stuntman Comics #5 (intended) “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” close-up of Lash, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Standard inking procedure for Simon and Kirby was to first provide simple line inking. Because Kirby’s pencils were pretty tight this task could be assigned to a less talented artist. It is interesting to compare the lined inked Lash with an unfinished Boys Explorer page that did not progress beyond the line inking (Jack Kirby’s Austere Inking). The lines found in the Boys Explorer page show little variation in width almost as if they were made from wire. On the other hand the lines used to construct Lash show variation in thickness line as compared to line and also along the length of a line. The difference is not great but it does suggest a more talented hand did the line inking for the Stuntman #5 splash. Although it is hard to be certain, but I believe that on this splash Jack did the line inking himself.


Stuntman Comics #5 (intended) “The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc” close-up of Stuntman, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The figure of Stuntman is almost certainly complete, it is hard to imagine how anymore spotting could be applied without having a detrimental effect. While the spotting does not have quite the bravura brushwork as found in the “Jungle Lord” splash it can still take the breath away.

Speaking of Art, True Kirby Kolors

A number of years ago I wrote about my skepticism about the many fans who believe they can identify numerous works that Jack Kirby supposedly colored (Kirby Kolor, A Kirby Myth). But Kirby did sometimes color work as for instance some of his later presentation pieces done to promote some of his many ideas. Jack also colored some of the original art he had (see What If Kirby for a scan of a Kirby colored double page splash from Boys’ Ranch #4). Oddly Kirby colored some original art that he did not draw most notably a couple of covers by John Severin (True Kirby Kolors and Joe Simon Too).


Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, original art with involvement by Mort Meskin?, coloring by Jack Kirby

Kirby also colored another artist’s work. In this case the determination of who the original artist was is somewhat problematical. Parts of the art looks similar to work by Mort Meskin. My latest thought is that Mort was actually involved in the work but I am uncertain as to exactly what that involvement was. The inking does not appear to have been by Mort, or by his most frequent inker George Roussos. While some of the pencils look like Mort’s work (although perhaps modified somewhat by the inker) there are some other parts that do not. My current guess is that “Tough Little Varmint” was a group effort but that Meskin was part of that group.


Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, art with involvement by Mort Meskin?

The coloring of the original art was not part of the typical process used in producing a comic book. Normally color guides were made using silver prints taken photographically from the original art. A comparison of the current state of the original art and the published comic book shows they are quite different. The type of coloring shown on the original art would not have been suitable for the comic books of the day. Generally speaking comic book interior art was printed with a limited set of colors as flat areas of color without any gradations. Earlier comic books sometimes included simple gradation of a background color but that technique had been largely given up by the time Bullseye #5 was published. Complicated tonal effects such as exhibited in Kirby’s coloring would not have been attempted for the interior of a comic book.

The original art for the splash page is from Joe Simon’s collection. It may seem odd that I am attributing the coloring to Jack Kirby for a piece in Joe’s collection. There is an explanation how this came about but for now let it suffice that this piece had been in Kirby’s possession for many years after the breakup of the Simon and Kirby studio and was only returned to Joe relatively late but while Jack was still alive.


Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint” page 2, original art with involvement by Mort Meskin?, coloring by Jack Kirby (image provided by Steven Brower)

It seems odd that Jack colored the splash page for “Tough Little Varmint” but odder still that he colored the second page as well. This page had remained in the Kirby estate until fairly recently. Simon’s collection includes the original art for the rest of this story but none of it was colored. Most of the coloring that Jack did on original art seems to have been for display purposes. But I doubt that was the reason that he colored two pages from “Tough Little Varmint”. Not that there is anything wrong with the art but with all the art that Kirby had there was much more material available that would be much more suitable for hanging up in his house.


Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, original art with involvement by Mort Meskin?, coloring by Jack Kirby

The coloring was applied quickly but with control. Most of it appears to be done using dyes. Dyes are convenient since they are not opaque and therefore would not obscure the original inking. However dyes can fade with age particularly when exposed to light without proper protection. The colors on these two pages seem quite fresh so I suspect that neither of them were displayed for any significant length of time. Most of the coloring is rather interesting. but I have to admit that I find the bluish shadow effect on the man from the second story panel rather unnerving.

Speaking of Art, Young Love #66


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, inks by Bill Draut? and Jack Kirby

Joe Simon’s collection includes the original art for an unused cover. I do not believe that this cover art has every been made public before and once again I have permission from the Simon estate to do so here. Although subsequently crossed out, the notation in the upper left indicates it was initially intended for Young Love #66. This work was created during a difficult period for Simon and Kirby. Joe and Jack had launched their own publishing company, Mainline, with Bullseye #1 (cover date July 1954). But Mainline quickly became in trouble as its distributor, Leading News, entered into its own difficulties. By the time of Young Love #66 the former Mainline titles would be published by Charlton, notorious for their low payment to their artistic creators.

While previously Jack Kirby had provided the pencils for almost all the cover art for the titles that Simon and Kirby produced, his contributions during the Mainline and subsequent period was very limited. In particular the covers for the Prize romance titles were done by other artists such as Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, John Prentice and Bob McCarty. Joe Simon’s drawing of any comic book art was even more limited. Basically Joe and done no actual pencils since the Stuntman and Boy Explorers titles failed in 1946 except for 48 Famous Americans (a J.C. Penny giveaway from 1947). So Joe and Jack’s involvement in this cover is quite unusual.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils by Joe Simon, inks by Bill Draut?

The art is a bit of an construction on the illustration board that Simon and Kirby preferred. Only the foreground young couple were executed on the original illustration board. They were penciled by Joe Simon however the inking does not appear to be his. I am not certain but the brushwork looks like it was done by Bill Draut. The final results does look like a cross between the styles of the two artists.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955)

Another layer was added to the illustration board; a larger piece on the left side and a smaller one on the right together covering the former background. Unfortunately the larger piece has been almost completely covered up and cannot be examined. The smaller piece was also covered up but the glue (probably rubber cement) has subsequently failed. That is the part that is shown above. Regrettably it does not seem sufficient for determining of an attribution and I would not want to hazarded a guess.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955)

The third layer is also in two parts; a larger left piece and a smaller right that pretty much match the shape and size of the underlying pieces. However they two pieces are of different paper. The right piece seems to have been tracing paper with white-out applied to make it more opaque. The art work consists of little of a couple of pencil lines depicting drapery.


Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The more substantial third layer from the left side was drawn and inked by Jack Kirby. Kirby is well known, and rightly so, for his action drawing but here we have as simple yet warm portrayal as one could hope to find.

It is simply no longer possible to determine what the background was for the initial work on the illustration board. A small area of white-out remains that covers some inking indicates that there was some sort of background. What little can be seen of the second layer suggests a poorly constructed fence, perhaps a street scene from a poor neighborhood. The final layer has hanging drapery, maybe a wedding chapel.


Young Love #66 (August 1955), pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

The back of the original art has two Comic Code Authority Approval Stamps; one dated March 2, 1955 and the other March 8. But note that both are approval stamps and  therefore the rework was not due to any rejection from the Comic Code. The changes appear to be an effort to improve the cover but in the end they decided to use a cover created by Mort Meskin. While I find the Simon and Kirby cover interesting I believe it was the correct decision. The Meskin cover is just a wonderful one with the contrast between the casually dressed teenager and the fancifully attired couple that she is daydreaming about.

Speaking of Art, Jack Kirby’s True Life Divorce


True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

One of the more unusual pieces from Joe Simon’s collection can be easily over-looked. A simple photo-layout with some very light writing in pencil. It is only when the writing is actually read that it becomes apparent that this is a rather odd piece indeed. True Life Divorce seems a rather bizarre title or subject for a comic book. I had known about Jack Kirby’s art from the 70’s for this title, or by its alternate name True Divorce Cases. But since this piece was in Joe’s collection I wondered if it was for some earlier proposal that Joe had some involvement with. When I ask him about this piece of art Joe had a little story to tell. Considering the sometimes negative reaction of a small side comment I made recently, I will decline to repeat a story that some fervent Kirby fans might take offence to. But suffice it to say that Joe had nothing to do with the creation of this piece and that it was the work of Kirby from the 70’s.


True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

While I enjoy movies, I cannot claim to be very knowledgeable about them or the actors who appeared in them. Although I cannot identify the individuals in these photographs, with one notable exception, I believe they all were movie stars. Perhaps some of my readers can help me out. The paper for this particular image has yellowed and although it cannot be made out in the image I provide it has been screened for publication. Most likely it was taken from a movie magazine many of which were printed on newsprint paper which generally yellows with age.


True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

The second image is actually two. The upper left corner was cut from the same image that appears above and has similarly yellowed with age. The rest is an unscreened silverprint probably originally created by some Hollywood movie company. By the 70’s such photographs would have been done in color. I think the original for this would have been done in the 50’s or early 60’s.


True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

I am certain that is Gregory Peck in the final image but I will not hazard a guess on the identification of the lady. Let us be practical, the use of movie stars in a comic book would never have happened. No publisher would take the risk of using such images without reaching some type of compensation for the actors. And any such compensation would have unnecessarily diminished any possible profits of a new title. Yes I know about Don Rickles but that was for an established title. Further the True Life Divorce actors would only appear on this introductory page and not in any of the stories. Of course these problems were never really of any importance as no publisher of the time would seriously consider releasing a comic book with stories about divorce. Kirby was trying to come up with ideas to find new audiences since the size of the comic book readership was in decline. We should commend Kirby for even realizing that something had to be done even if all his suggestions were not always the best.

You can read some more abut True Life Divorce in an article that John Morrow wrote for the Jack Kirby Collector #23. While I am not as enthusiastic about Kirby’s stories as Morrow is, I agree with him that there has been a great improvement in the art. Kirby’s female characters from the 60’s all look alike. Actually I should not say Kirby’s women as this really trait was not restricted to him but was characteristic of most comic book artists at that time. I think of it as the Barbie effect where most women looked the same save for changes in the hair and clothing. It is refreshing to see Kirby return to a more individualistic portrayal of the female lead characters.

Speaking of Art, Jack Kirby’s “The Face On Mars”


Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face On Mars”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Al Williamson

This is another group of pieces from the late Joe Simon’s collection. Joe was really fond of the inking that was done on these and other Kirby pencils from Race For The Moon and Blast-Off titles. I have discussed this work recently and why I believe it was inked by Al Williamson (Kirby Inkers, Al Williamson). In the interview Williamson gave for the Jack Kirby Collector #15 he says he did about four or five stories, although I think he may have done a little more than that. One of his statements from the interview:

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.

Once again I have to disagree with Williamson. I have examined all the original art in question with the exception of one story (“The Long, Long Years” from RFTM #3) and none of the art has been altered, at least not after inking. And Williamson is wrong about having “just traced what he penciled”. It is true that Williamson followed Kirby’s pencils very accurately and I am sure Jack’s pencils were very tight. But the spotting was all Williamson’s. Not that I believe Al ignored Jack’s directions. It was Kirby’s practice at that time to just provide the outlines indicate everything else with simple lines. The rest was up to the inker to provide and in the case of Williamson’s inking with spectacular results.


Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face On Mars”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Al Williamson

The inking is detailed but not at all dry. A lot of it was done using a pen, in fact the splash panel was done almost entirely in pen. The low resolution image of the art that I provide just cannot give it justice. So above I also give a close-up to show the care taken in the pen work. Perhaps the reader noticed the small ink dots scattered around the image. It is not unusual to find small ink drops on original comic book art although usually not as densely as here. So the reader could be forgiven if they assumed that was what was happening here. However these dots are all the same size and are not found either in the gutters between the panels or inside areas of crosshatching. The dots are another example of the care Williamson took in inking Kirby’s pencils. This work was done early in Al’s career but by this time he certainly should have been aware of the limitations of the primitive printing that was used in the publication of comic books of his day. Williamson knew, or should have known, that much of his efforts would be lost in the final published results.


Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face On Mars” page 3, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Al Williamson

Pen was used for the inking throughout the story but unlike the splash panel the pen work was augmented with much user of the brush. Clearly Williamson was as proficient with the brush as he was with the pen. The inking is precise and flawless but nonetheless retains a fresh and lively quality. There is no use of white-out or any other corrective measures on any of the pages of this story. That is except for the white-out applied to page identification in the upper left corner on all the pages. Apparently there was second thoughts about what comic book this work would actually appear in. It is possible to read through the white-out and surprisingly the original use was identical to the final use right down to the page number.

An “F5” has been added to the page identification by another hand. This is the flat number that the page belongs to. Comic books were printed on four sheets of paper with four art pages on each side of the sheet. After printing the sheets would be folded and trimmed. Because of this process the sheet was not organized in a simple sequential order and the flat number added was an aid to insure the art was placed on the proper sheet. Another notation from the production process is the pencil number 500 found at the bottom of the page. This was an instruction to reduce the art size to exactly one half. The splash page had the number 496 for a reduction that was close but not exactly one half. It has been years since I last used a stat camera but I believe that this would indicate a slightly greater reduction in size than the other pages.


Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face On Mars” panel 6 page 4, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Al Williamson

Williamson liked to leave out the panel borders for some of the art. Apparently the art was already lettered with panel borders before the art reached him for inking. Not a problem because it was two ply paper, that is there was another usable surface right below the original one. So Williamson was able to use a razor to carefully cut along side the panel borders and then peal them off. Although faint, the reader should be able to see the cut marks on the close up above.


Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face On Mars” back of the original art for page 5

The back of much of the art used in Race For The Moon and Blast-Off was used by the inker to prepare his brush. Or at least that is what I interpret the streaky inking such as seen on the back of page 5 shown above. A similar marking, although much less extensive, was found on the back of one of the pages of a Fly story that Williamson drew about a year later (Speaking of Art, Al Williamson’s Fly). With one exception such markings only appear on the back of pages that I believe were inked by Williamson.

The Comic Code Authority approval stamp is dated December 18, 1957. The approval stamp was only applied to finished art ready for publication which means that date was the latest the original art could have been created. Normally the work would be published shortly later. Cover dates are not the date of publication, but rather the date the comic could be removed from the racks. The approval date for Williamson’s work for Adventure of the Fly #2 was a short three months earlier than the cover date. Art for Race For The Moon #1 was approved about four and a half months before the cover date. But for “The Face On Mars” the approval stamp is dated October 24, 1957, over nine months before the cover date. I do not claim that everything by Simon and Kirby could have been a financial success but Harvey’s habit of holding up publication of some of their work did not help.


Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Face On Mars” close-up of the back of the original art for page 5

The back of page 5 also has a pencil sketch. I provide a close-up above that has been adjusted in Photoshop to provide greater contrast. Cracked was a clone of the popular Mad magazine. Mad had a lot of copy-cats but only two had any real success, Cracked and Sick. The double border in the sketch matches design of the early issues of Cracked. The logo in the sketch matches the one found on issues #1 to #9 (March 1958 to May 1959). I have no idea what the image is supposed to represent but it does not match any found on the nine initial published issues. But an even bigger mystery is why there should be a sketch of a Cracked layout at all. As far as I know none of the parties involved in the creation of this piece (Jack Kirby, Al Williamson and Joe Simon) had any relationship to Cracked magazine.

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby!


Crash Comics #1 (May 1940) “Solar Legion” page 3, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Tuesday, August 28, is Jack Kirby’s birthday. In his honor I include a page from Titan’s up-coming Simon and Kirby Library: Science Fiction. Although at this point Jack probably had already met Joe, I believe his work on the first three appearances of the “Solar Legion” was a solo affair. If this is true, then it is as pure a Kirby as can be found. Kirby pencils, inks, letters and probably writing. I know a number of fans credit Kirby with writing during the Simon and Kirby period but all surviving evidence indicates that is not quite true. Simon and Kirby employed script writers but would alter what they received. Thus it would be more accurate to say Kirby would re-write scripts that he drew as opposed to being the original writer. But during the early days of comic books, artists often wrote what they drew. The rather unique “Solar Legion” stories seems the writing of Jack himself.

This birthday is particularly special as one of Jack’s granddaughters has made an appeal, see Join the Kirby4Heroes campaign for details and a link to her appeal.

The Puzzling Simon and Kirby Artist

The Simon and Kirby studio employed a number of artists whose identity has not been determined. So it might seem odd to spend much time writing about just on of them. I have written before about the artist that I will discuss here but he has such a puzzling combination of traits that I want to collect in one place what little I known. (previously in Art of Romance, Chapter 4 and Chapter 8, and What? Who?)


Young Love #1 (February 1949) “Fickle”, pencils by Jack Kirby and inking by an unidentified artist

The earliest piece of work that I believe this artist had a hand in appears in “Fickle” from Young Love #1 (February 1949). The man in the splash panel and second story panel is long and lanky with a small head. This is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this unidentified artist. Although somewhat stylized, the woman in the first story panel looks very much like she was drawn by Jack Kirby. In fact the entire story consistently looks like Kirby’s work although tall lanky figures appear in different places. There is little doubt that Kirby did the pencils and the unidentified artists was in this case an inker. The quality of the inking in the story is quite variable and so I suspect more than on artist had a hand in the inking. This was after all the unusual practice in the Simon and Kirby studio, at least when it came to work drawn by Jack. For the most part the inking was done in what I describe as studio style inking with such techniques as picket fence crosshatching and abstract arc shadows (Inking Glossary). It does seem that some of the parts that show the tall lanky figures display much less of these techniques.

Many months will pass before the next piece that I attribute to the unidentified artist. That is not to say that he did no more work. Having contributed to the inking of one Kirby piece I suspect he may have help ink others as well. That other inking work just has not yet been identified.


Real West Romances #4 (October 1949) “The Perfect Cowboy”, pencils by Jack Kirby and inking by an unidentified artist

The tall and lanky figure appears once again in “The Perfect Cowboy” from Real West Romances #4 (October 1949). That style is best shown in the splash page but I have chosen a page that portrays a number of this artist’s style. Even so the lanky figure can be seen in panels 1 and 3. The story is inked in the studio style but it exhibits some rather unusual twists to that style. The artist uses picket fence crosshatching in the woman’s hair as can be seen in the last two panels of the page. This gives the hair a rather unusual look and is something I have never seen another artist do. Actually this seems to have been a bit of an experiment by this artist and is one that he did not repeat. Another unusual inking technique is the use of simple crosshatching in the some of the dust clouds such as seen in the third panel. I have never seen another Simon and Kirby artist do that but if this also was an experimental inking technique it was one that the inker was happy with and would use again.

Many of the faces seem somewhat simplified particularly in the way the eyebrows are depicted which is rather like Meskin’s approach. The woman’s eyes often seem to be at a bit of an angle with one another in a manner similar to that used by Marvin Stein. I hasten to add that neither Meskin nor Stein drew lanky figures or used simple crosshatching in dust clouds. While some of the faces may look a little like the work of Meskin or Stein, others look very much like the work of Kirby. In fact the entire story is laid out in manner so typical of Kirby that I have little doubt that Kirby did the pencils for this story and our unidentified artist did the inking. Unlike “Fickle” the inking is consistent throughout the story and I am confident that it was largely the inking by one hand. Frankly I suspect the original pencils were rather nice but the inker’s heavy hand has pretty much overwhelmed Kirby’s pencils.


Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949) “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail” pencils and inks by an unidentified artist

This artist next appears in “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail” from Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949). The splash provides an excellent example of this artist trademark tall and lanky figures. There are certain panels in the story that seem to look a little like Kirby’s work and others that suggest Mort Meskin. However the great majority of the art seems distinct from either Kirby or Meskin so I feel pretty certain that these are this artists own pencils. Those parts similar to Kirby or Meskin are probably due to swiping.

For the most part this story is inked in the studio style. While the inking has its own unique traits it does resemble Meskin’s inking when that artist inked Kirby pencils. The unidentified artist inked eyebrows very much like Meskin and this may be one of the reason that the art has such a Meskin look to it. Once again we find simple crosshatching applied to dust clouds such as seen in the splash panel above. I have not found any other artist in the Simon and Kirby studio who did this.


Western Love #3 (November 1949) “The Blue Blood and the Bum” page 7, pencils and inks by an unidentified artist

Another story by this artist, “The Blue Blood and the Bum”, was published in the same month. It appeared in Western Love a title that combined the romance and western genre. As such it makes for easy comparison to “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail”. Some of the same traits appear such as tall and lanky figures, simple cross hatching in dust clouds and simple Meskin-like eyebrows. There does appears that the inking has less of an emphasis on the studio style. The story on a whole seems to mimic less the style of Kirby or Meskin.


Prize Comics Western #80 (January 1950) “Trial by Six-Gun”, art by two unidentified artists

The final example that I have found for this mystery artist is found in “Trial by Six-Gun” from Prize Comics Western #80 (January 1950). The tall and lanky figures found in the splash panel seem a perfect match for the work of this unidentified artist. However the rest of the story, including the two panels below the splash, look very different from this artist’s work. Two months seem much too short a time to effect such a transformation and so I am sure this is the work of another artist. How such a combination came about will probably remain one of those minor mysteries.

These five stories are all that I could find by this artists despite much searching. I will admit that it is quite possible that he did some inking of Kirby pencils that I did not spot. I guess my main interest in this artist was to come to understand exactly what was his contribution to “The Perfect Cowboy”. A comparison of that story to the others has convinced me that “The Perfect Cowboy” was penciled by Jack Kirby and owes its unusual look to the overwhelming effects of the unidentified artist’s inking.

Daring Disc


Daring Disk, pencils by Jack Kirby

Occasionally a title would be cancelled leaving Simon and Kirby with some unused art. Even then Joe and Jack would often rework the art so as not to waste the effort that went into it. In one case the work for the Fighting American #8 that was cancelled by Prize Comics in 1955 ended up being used in the comic published by Harvey in 1966. Because of the recycling there is only a limited amount of Simon and Kirby work that avoided publication until the more recent rise of reprint books. For most of the art that escaped being used there is ample evidence for what it was originally intended. All this makes the story Daring Disc is so unusual. It is a very early Simon and Kirby art that originally never got published and for which there is no firm evidence as to what title it was meant for and therefore exactly when it was created.

The art style is such that we can be pretty certain it was done early in the Simon and Kirby collaboration. But I would like to examine the evidence that the work provides that might narrow down when it was created.

I do not believe the inking helps much. It does not look to me like the inking that Kirby did on his own pencils in stories such as the Solar Legion that Jack did for Crash Comics (#1 to 3, May – July 1940). But Kirby was variable in the inking of his very early work (see A Brief Pause, Another Brief Pause and It Ain’t Soup ) so it hard to be sure whether this is his inking or not. It might have been inked by Joe Simon or someone else but that would hardly help in narrowing the time period.


“Daring Disk”, letters by an unidentified letterer

I believe better information can be obtained by the lettering. This is not a very professional letterer (many were not during those early days of comic books). His lettering can easily be distinguished from that by Jack Kirby, Joe Simon or Howard Ferguson, the most frequently used letterers for Simon and Kirby work from the early 40’s (see Chapter 5 of In the Beginning for examples of all three). This trio did most of the most of the lettering during the initial Simon and Kirby collaboration. Joe and Jack most frequently in the earliest period and Howard predominantly later. However other letterers were common during the period from July to September 1940. Sometimes another letterer was used later for example in the Vision story from Marvel Mystery Comics #17 but by then Kirby’s pencils were done in a style that does not match that found in Daring Disk and therefore can be discounted. So based on the use of an non-typical letterer and the art style July to September 1940 seems to be the most likely date* for Daring Disk.


Marvel Mystery #10 (August 1940) “The Human Torch”, letters by an unidentified letterer (from Marvel Masterworks)

While I cannot identify the letterer of Daring Disc his work looks very much like that found in the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #10 (August 1940). The lettering examples I provide for both the Daring Disk and MM #10 were derived from the speech balloons while the same type of lettering is found in the captions only it is slanted in both pieces. Further drop capitals** were not used in either work. Simon was the Timely editor so it is likely that he would have known and could supply work to the letterer from MM #10. MM #10 August cover date matches the July to September dates that I suggested above.

These is one other piece of evidence to consider the title of the piece. Why Daring Disc? Horrible Disc, Terrible Disc or something of that nature would seem more appropriate. But perhaps it was called Daring because it was meant for Daring Comics. A similar use of Daring in the title was used for Captain Daring by Jack Kirby (Daring Mysteries #6, September 1940). Simon’s work appeared in the early issues of Daring Mystery but Kirby’s first appeared in Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) and later in DM #7 (April 1941) and #8 (January 1942). But again Kirby’s art had developed by DM #7 into a style that I do not think matches Daring Disk.

Granted this is not the greatest evidence but it seems the best available. so based largely on the use of a letterer other than Simon, Kirby or Ferguson I would suggest Daring Disk would cover date from July to September 1940. The particular letterer used and the title are even less firm evidence but they agree with those dates as well.

footnotes:

* These are cover dates, calendar dates would put the creation of the art 5 or 6 months early; January to April 1940.

** Drop capitals is the term I use for enlarged and sometimes shadowed first letter of the captions.

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 could  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.