Another Pre-Implosion Atlas Kirby

Quick Trigger Western #16
Quick Trigger Western #16 (February 1957) “The Vengeance Of Growling Bear” page 2 pencils by Jack Kirby

A peace treaty with the Indians threatens the business of gun dealing. To prevent the unwanted peace, the dealers dress up as Indians and raid the community, leaving death and destruction in their path. The Indian leader, Growling Bear, uncovers the truth. His reputation is enough that when the gun dealers realize that he is on to them, their plot unravels before war is resumed.

I must confess I am a bit underwhelmed by this story. Jack’s pencils are good in comparison to other Atlas artists, but then again I have a low opinion of much of the art done at the time for Atlas. In comparison to the rest of Kirby’s oeuvre, this story art is one of his lesser efforts. Nothing particularly wrong, just not as exciting as most of what Kirby did. The writing does not help either. Again it is not that the writing is bad, just that not very exciting either.

One of the reasons that I find Jack’s pre-Implosion work for Atlas so fascinating is the level of control that he appeared to have. Even so Jack did not seem to consistently have full creative leeway. That seems to have been the case here. Unlike many pre-Implosion pieces, the inking was not by Jack, but it may have been inked under his direction. Most of the brushwork is fine and lacking Kirby’s style. But look at the second panel of page 2 (image above), the horse’s leg on our far right has a bold use of a row of dashes. This technique does not occur elsewhere in the story but is part of Kirby’s brush vocabulary (see the similar drop string in the inking glossary). It would appear that Kirby reviewed and touched up the primary inker’s efforts. The writing does not seem to be Jack’s either. The plot, where white men masquerade as Indians, was used previously by Simon and Kirby. So Kirby may have had a hand in the plotting. Then again I remember that plot from some old movies (although I cannot recall which ones) so perhaps it was just a common theme. In any case general plots are easily picked up by other writers and therefore are a poor use in determining attributions.

Now with “The Vengeance Of Growling Bear” I have had a chance to review all Kirby’s work that Atlas published before the Implosion. This consists of 20 stories. Jack did the inking for 16 of them, an impressive proportion. Because credits were not provided, determining the writer is a particular risky business. None the less the writing for 15 of the stories suggest to me that Kirby may have been involved. This amount of creative control by Kirby is in stark contrast to post-Implosion. I know some disagree with me, but I find no examples of post-Implosion writing by Kirby, that is until late in his career. As far as I know, Kirby did not do any inking after the Implosion either until the cover for Fantasy Masterpieces #4 in 1966. Nick Caputo has suggested that Kirby inked some other later covers, but I have not seen this evidence yet.

Battleground #14 (November 1956)
“Mine Field” Kirby inks
Astonishing #56 (December 1956)
“Afraid to Dream” Kirby inks and writing
Strange Tales of the Unusual #7 (December 1956)
“Poker Face” Kirby inks
Yellow Claw #2 (December 1956)
“Concentratet On Chaos” Kirby inks and writing
“The Mystery Of Cabin 361” Kirby inks and writing
“The Yellow Claw” Kirby inks and writing
“Temu-jai, The Golden Goliath” Kirby inks and writing
Quick Trigger Western #16 (February 1957)
“The Vengeance of Growling Bear” Kirby inks and writing
Yellow Claw #3 (February 1957)
“The Microscopic Army” Kirby inks and writing
“UFO, The Lighting Man” Kirby inks and writing
“The Yellow Claw Captured” Kirby inks and writing
“Sleeping City” Kirby inks and writing
Yellow Claw #4 (April 1957)
“The Living Shadows” Kirby writing
“The Screemies” Kirby writing
“Five Million Sleepwalkers” Kirby writing
“The Yellow Claw and the Thought Master” Kirby writing
Black Rider Rides Again #1 (September 1957)
“Legend Of The Black Rider” Kirby inks
“Duel At Dawn” Kirby inks
“Treachery At Hangman’s Bridge” Kirby inks
Two-Gun Western #12 (September 1957)
“No Man Can Outdraw Him” Kirby inks and writing

Job numbers indicate that there are three works that may have actually been done before the Implosion but not published until afterwards. These appear to have intended for the never released Black Rider Rides Again #2. I have not seen two of them, but the one I have seen was was not inked by Jack, and I doubt if he wrote it either.

Gunsmoke Western #47 (July 1958)
“Trouble In Leadville”
Gunsmoke Western #51 (March 1959)
“The Raiders Strike”
Kid Colt Outlaw #86 (September 1959)
“Meeting At Midnight”