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.

Remembering 9/11

9/11 has nothing to do with Simon and Kirby but it does have something to do with me. I cannot give a good explanation as to why that is. I did know one person who died in the World Trade Center but I worked with him many years ago and frankly do not remember him very well. I live not very far from the site but work outside the city so I was not present to witness the actual events. But at each anniversary I find myself in a contemplative state of mind. So once again I would like to interrupt my normal subject with a small reminder of all the people we lost on this fateful day.

Actually there is a Simon and Kirby connection to 9/11. Shortly after 9/11 Joe Simon created a recreation of the famous Captain America Comics #1 cover replacing Hitler with Osama bin Laden. Because of questions concerning the copyright, Joe has never published this recreation. Perhaps the Simon estate will someday ask Marvel for permission. I feel the recreation is a nice tribute.

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.

Speaking of Art, Marvin Stein


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951), pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

In this post about original art I will discuss a cover by Marvin Stein. Stein was one of the few artists who actually worked in the Simon and Kirby studio. Stein is not well known in current comic book fandom but for a long period of time he was the lead artist in Price Comics crime titles, Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. Except for a few covers done by Jack Kirby and some others based on photographs, Marvin did all the covers for Headline issues #46 to #77 (March 1951 to September 1956) and for Justice Traps the Guilty #24 to #88 (March 1951 to August 1957). For more information on this topic see Criminal Artists, Marvin Stein.

The cover that I post about this time is from relatively early in his work on crime comic books. While the paste-ups are original, they are not the originals for this particular cover, rather they are from issue #38. Rubber cement was often used for attaching paste-ups because it was inexpensive, quick and convenient. Unfortunately there were negative consequences in the long term to this use of rubber cement. Sometimes the chemicals in the rubber cement would stain what they were attaching. Often with time the rubber cement would become brittle and loose its adhesive qualities causing attachments to fall off. It would take years before either of these detrimental qualities took effect. At the time the long term survival of original comic book art had no importance as it was considered worthless once it had fulfilled its role in the production of the published comic book. In this case the original paste-ups fell off and were re-attached to the wrong comic book art.

There is a reason I picked this particular cover art to discuss which I will return to below. Before that I wanted to explore the use of white-out. White-out was applied by comic book artists to correct defects created during the inking of a piece. Inking errors could not be simply erased but could be covered up with white-out. As for instance an erratic brush stroke. That seems to be the case for the white-out applied in the speech balloons and the frame lines on the right.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951) close-up, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

A similar explanation could be used to explain the white-up on the printing wheel. Some of the corrected inking can still be seen under the white-out. Even in this close-up it may be difficult to make out that much of the inking on the right side of the wheel has been done over white-out. This is revealed by numerous small cracks in the inking. Such hair-line cracks often appear when ink is applied on white-out that has not completely dried. While this does appear to be a correction further examples suggest that it was not do to poor control of the actual ink brush.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951) close-up, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

One of the corrections to the frame can be seen in this close-up. While the white-out is too opaque to clearly see what has been hidden there still remains some parts that have not been covered up to suggest that horizontal brushwork had extended beyond the frame and needed to be corrected. Well perhaps not needed because the frame lines were normally trimmed off in the published comic book. There is also white-out applied need the head. Here the ghost of the covered inking can still be observed, at least in part. While the outline has been narrowed slightly it is hard to understand why Stein thought this necessary. Perhaps the true reason for this particular white-out are in areas too opaque to be revealed.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951) close-up, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

Here Marvin has used white-out to correct a leg. In this case the white-out was used very shortly after the original inking as some of the ink was still wet enough to mix with the white-out, turning it grey. Enough of the original inking is still visible under the white-out to suggest the boot had much thicker outlines.

Note that the penciling can still be seen. Normally these would be erased after the inking was completed but in this case if any erasing was done it was done poorly. This is actually fortunate as it allows a glimpse into the original penciling. It appears that the original pencils were little more than a layout that Stein did not follow closely when inking.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951) close-up, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

Once again Stein has applied white-out to inking that is still moist enough to cause it to turn grey. Either that or Marvin used the same ink brush to apply the white-out without getting it thoroughly clean first. This does not appear to be a case of Stein narrowing an outline. Instead the effect was to redraw the buttocks and lower back, flattening the buttock a bit and adding curve to the lower back.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951) close-up, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

The correction shown in the above image is different from the rest. This was not a change in outline but of the spotting. Apparently Stein felt the original spotting was too dark and needed to be lightened up. Today one might wonder if Stein was being a bit much of a perfectionist but he obviously had an idea of what the art should look like and was willing to spend extra time to achieve that end.

Marvin Stein’s pencils were rather loose, without details. Stein did the detail work in the actual inking. That being the case, any corrections would have to be done using white-out. Marvin would become quite good at this approach and maybe someday I will post on one of his later covers. But for now that while the use of white-out does not disappear it seems to become less frequently required. Also Stein would switch to a blue pencil for doing the initial penciling. There were other comic book artists that also did most of their work in the inking stage. Usually such artists become overly concerned in providing detailed inking to the detriment of the art. Joe Maneely is an example who used this approached whose fine detailing resulted, in my opinion, in rather dry art. Marvin Stein never allowed himself get lost in details and his art, particularly for the crime genre, is fresh and full of impact.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951), by Marvin Stein (back of the original art)

The real reason I picked this particular cover to write about is what appears on the back of the original art.


Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951), by Marvin Stein (close-up of the back of the original art)

Normally what appears on the back of original art, if there is anything at all, is very limited in size and effort. But this piece is rather large and carefully worked out. It was done entirely in ink without any trace of pencils. The humor in this work is obvious. What is not so clear is why Stein did it at all. All this effort done for no more than some personal reason. But it is fortunate that he did because it provides a side of Stein’s character that was not revealed in the work he did in comic books.


Simon and Kirby studio Left to right: Joe Genalo, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Jimmy Infantino and Ben Oda. Caricatures (probably drawn by Joe Simon) of Marvin Stein and Jimmy Infantino.

While it is hard to be sure, I believe this might be a caricatures of Mort Meskin, another artist who worked in the Simon and Kirby studio. Note Meskin’s receding hair, suspenders and bow tie.

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.

Speaking of Art, Al Williamson’s Fly

This is the start of a new topic for the Simon and Kirby blog where I will write about original comic book art. This will not be a serial post where I would explore a subject over a number of posts. Instead each post will stand by itself with only the common theme of original art connecting them. There will be no order in what I write about and I will pick the particular subject as my mood suits me. Some of the pieces will be from my personal collection but most will be from the much more extensive collection that belonged to Joe Simon. I do that with the permission of the Joe Simon estate.

It is clear that many people, even comic book fans, really do not “get” original comic book art. But there is something very special about the original art as compared to the published comic books. It is not that the printing of the comic books was so bad (although that is certainly true) or that original art is unique while thousands of copies of a comic book may exist (but true again). What is truly special about the art is that it reveals the hand of the creators in ways that are simply not possible from the printed comic. There are nuances in things like inking that completely get lost in the production process. There are changes in the art that many people would consider blemishes but instead provide insight into the creative process. I remember a story about Joe Sinnott erasing margin notes because he thought it distracted from the art. Some original art have subject to extensive cleaning processes to remove all blemishes. I am sure this was done in an attempt to increase the value of the piece but to me it actually has quite the opposite effect. What may seem blemishes to some has an aesthetic quality for me. While aesthetics play an important roll in the value of original art, they have historical value as well.

Before writing about the original art for “One Of Our Skyscrapers Is Missing” by Al Williamson I would like to discuss a story that Joe Simon use to tell. Here it is as presented in his autobiography Joe Simon, My Life In Comics where he is talking about the Harvey Comics title 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.

Although in his book Joe describes this story as concerning Race For The Moon, I remember Joe telling me that he heard about the story from something Williamson said. Williamson gave an interview for Jack Kirby Collector #15 where he discusses his work on Race For The Moon. I have written about Williamson’s comments in an recent post (Kirby Inkers, Al Williamson) but the what is important here is Williamson does not relate this story when talking about Race For The Moon. But in another part of the interview:

TJKC: You did a solo story for The Fly #2. How’d you get that job?

AL: I was asked by the editor, and he gave me a five-pager to do. I’d never done superhero stuff before, and I sat down and did this Jack Kirby-type character they wanted me to do. I penciled it and took it in, and the editor had a fit. “Aahh, you’re a lousy artist. This is no good.” I had to do the first two pages over again, and he paid me $45 for five pages of work. And when it came out, the only thing he’d changed was the splash, and he’d copied it from Jack. I was really pissed off. So dear old Angelo Torres gets a call from this guy, and he says, “I gave Williamson a job, and he’s a lousy artist, he can’t draw. I want you to do this four-page Fly story for me.” So Angelo went up and said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” Then he came over to the house and said, “Listen, Al. This guy said you can’t draw, you’re a lousy artist, and he wants me to do this four-page superhero thing, so I thought maybe I’d let you pencil it.” (laughter) So I did! I penciled the four pages, and gave it to Angelo, and he took it up. The editor looked at it and said, “See, this is great! You’re better than Williamson!” (laughter) So Angelo inked it, and the guy never knew I penciled it.

Clearly this is the same story but it concerns work for Adventures of the Fly #2. Williamson does not name the editor but it was Simon who put together the first four issues of Adventures of the Fly and he alone chose the artists and assigned the work.


Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “One Of Our Skyscrapers Is Missing”, pencils by Al Williamson

In Williamson’s version of this tale he drew two stories for the issue. One that Joe was unhappy with and another drawn without Simon’s knowledge of his involvement. Williamson claims that Simon changed the splash of the first story but the rest was printed with no alterations. Williamson’s drawing style is very distinctive and there is no need for the original art to say with certainty that Williamson only drew one story for any issue of Adventures of the Fly. The drawing style alone would suggest that the splash for the story was pure Williamson. But the original art does conclusively shows that no changes were made to any of the art for this story, including the splash shown above. Any such changes would have to use white-out or other editing tools that would be completely obvious in the original art.

I have to say that I am rather dubious about another aspect of Williamson’s story, that Joe did not like his art. Simon used Al for inking Kirby pencils and for doing his own pencils for a number of Harvey comics for which Joe was the editor. While it is possible that Simon’s opinion changed just a couple of years later it would have to change again. When I knew him, Joe was a great admirer of Williamson’s art.

I suspect that the writing at the bottom of the page (present on the other pages as well) is a later addition. Usually the art was identified in ink in the upper left. In this case “FLY #2-P-9”, page 9 of issue 2 of Adventures of the Fly. It would remain on the proofs made when the art was shot for productions but could easily be removed before final printing. Occasionally someone forgot to remove them or did a poor job at it and they can be seen in part or whole in the printed comic books. This notation was done in ink to insure that it was still present when the initial stats were made. Pencils were problematic when photo imaging the original art to stats since they were not dark enough to insure a good image but too dark to be sure that they did not show up at all. Which is why pencils were erased after the inking was completed. While pencils notations like that at the bottom could easily be removed during the production process, they are redundant and do not serve any purpose.


Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “One Of Our Skyscrapers Is Missing” the back of page 2

Sometimes rather interesting things can be found on the back of comic book art. However in the case of this story the back of the pages are pretty much unadorned. The only exception is page 2 which is shown above. An explanation is in order about the writing in pencil that reads SI-0029. This is the Simon Inventory number, and yes I am to blame. I did the inventory for Joe’s collection and it was a difficult task. Joe had over 1500 pages of original comic book art (not including many production proofs). I needed a way to keep track of it while the inventory was being created. So I assigned inventory numbers that I placed on the back usually near an edge and always in an area without anything significant. I suspect that for page 2 I placed the inventory number further from the edge because of the water stain. Inventory numbers were assigned as I inventoried the piece and have no significance other than order that I encountered them while working. There was one exception in that I generally assigned inventory numbers for original art to numbers less than 1000 and used the higher numbers for things like proofs. I also assigned the same inventory number to all pages belonging to the same story. This helped me in getting the collection better organized as originally pages to a story were often scattered about in different places.

Note the two small black irregular patches. I believe these to be due to the inker preparing his brush. Similar markings, although much more extensive, can be found on the back of other pages that I believed Williamson inked. However these two small marks are the only examples found on the back of this story or any other one that Joe had from the Adventures of the Fly title.


Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “One Of Our Skyscrapers Is Missing” close-up of the back of page 2

One thing that is common to backs of all the original art for this story, and indeed of most original art from the period, was the Comic Code approval stamp. Today the stamp is of use because it provides a terminal date for the creation of the art. Art could have started earlier, and even inventoried for a period of time, but the stamp was only applied to completed art ready for publication. Thus this art was finished no later than May 29, 1959. The same date appears for the approval stamp for “Marco’s Eyes”, “Tim O’Casey’s Wrecking Crew”, “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” and some of the fillers from the same issue. Comic book cover dates were used by the publisher to indicate when to take the issue off the stands and sent back to the distributor. When converting the cover date to the date the art was created I usually subtract five or six months. Two months for the time on the stands, one month for distribution, one month for printing and one month or more to create the art. From that scheme I would expect the approval stamp to be four months before the cover date. But it is just an estimate as there was much variations in the publication of comic books. For Adventures of the Fly #2 the stamp appears to be closer to three months before the cover date.

Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “One Of Our Skyscrapers Is Missing” close-up from back of page 2 of a Batman sketch by Al Williamson

The back of page 2 has one other feature that might be a little hard to make out in the full page image but when enlarged and rotated 180 degrees turns out to be a sketch of Batman. Obviously Batman would not appear in a Harvey comic book so it maybe nothing more than a doodle or a drawing done to demonstrate some point.