My Date was a short-lived comic that Simon and Kirby produced for Hillman Publications in 1947. Perhaps mislead by the comics title, some today hold the belief that My Date was the first romance comic book. As I discussed in a post on this topic (The First Romance Comic) it is not a romance comic at all but rather Simon and Kirby’s take on teenage humor modeled on the popular Archie comics. For his contributions to the title Jack Kirby drew in a more cartoonish manner appropriate for the humor content. Jack’s altered penciling was not very drastic, it remains quite easy to identify his work. For instance, Kirby trademarks such as his exaggerated perspective can be found in the covers and stories that Jack provided.
All four My Date covers have traditionally been attributed to Jack Kirby, as for example by the Jack Kirby Checklist. I have long felt, and I am not alone in this, that the cover for My Date #4 was done by someone else. Gone are Jack’s exaggerated perspective, replaced by a relatively shallow depth of field viewed straight on. The drawing for My Date #4 is cartoonier then in the previous My Date covers. House-Date Harry looks rather different on issue #4 then on the covers for #2 and #3, or from their story art as well. The same is true for Swifty who also shows up on My Date #1 and #2 covers.
Readers of my last post on the inking of Mort Meskin may have spotted the long close and narrow brush marks that are used on the My Date #4 cover to indicate the folds of the clothing. Not all of Meskin inking traits that I previously described are found, but I am nonetheless certain that Mort was the inker. This a bit surprising because at this time Meskin was still producing work mainly for DC and his first signed work for S&K studio would not appear for months later. Young Romance #3 has the same cover date as My Date #4 and in it is the story “Love or a Career”. Unfortunately this story is unsigned but Meskin’s inking is once again quite apparent. I will explain my full attribution of this art below when I discuss the first signed works. The art for “Love or a Career” is the closest match to the MD #4 cover that I have been able to find. Consideration has to be given for the more cartoony style used for the teenage humor comic, but see how close the female character is in the two panels I have selected from YR #3 compared to Sunny of MD #4, similarly shaped face, arching eyebrows, eyes and lips.
Some months later art very similar to YR #3 appears in “Guilty Boys” from Justice Traps the Guilty #4. This is another unsigned piece with Meskin apparently doing the inking. This crime story was appropriately rendered more realistically then My Date #4 but similarities still show up. Note the comparable button noses of the boys to Swifty and to a lesser extent House-Date Harry on MD #4. The two boys on the right in the page 1 panel has a smiling cheek line similar to that of House-Date Harry.
Going forward two months provides two stories that bear the dual signatures of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. The usual assumption is that the first signature designates the penciler and the second the inker. But I know nothing about how the Robinson and Meskin team worked so this may not be a safe assumption. Still it does look like Meskin’s inking while at least some of the figure drawing and compositions do not appear to be his. I have posted about “The Inferior Male” twice before (here and here). The correspondence between the art in YR #6 and that in YR #3 and JTTG #4 is close enough that the same artists were probably responsible for all. As seen in the above panels the female still looks like a more realistically drawn version of Sunny from the MD #4 cover.
Issue #5 of Justice Traps the Guilty also has the Robinson and Meskin signature. As might be expected there is great similarities with the YR #6 that came out in the same month. But this comparison is not perfect. In JTTG #5 the female leads start to take on the more stylized look that is typical of most of Meskin’s work for S&K. But the females have not adopted the more triangular face as done later by Mort so there still is a slight resemblance to Sunny from the MD #4 cover.
Mort Meskin would not show up again in S&K productions for over a year. By cover date of December 1949 things had clearly changed for Mort, the work would only be signed by him with no indication of any Robinson involvement. Meskin was no longer providing art for DC and this marks the start of a productive and consistent relationship with Simon and Kirby. In Real West Romances #5 the woman is drawn actually less stylized then found in the Robinson and Meskin’s piece in JTTG #5. Although not typical of Mort’s later work, the female in RWM #5 is not a very good match for that on My Date #4 either. This is largely due to the introduction of cheek bones that makes the face depart from the more simple geometry found on MD #4. Other similarities can still be found between the RWM #5 and MD #4, as for instance the old man’s eyebrows and smiling cheek line in the right panel as compared to House-Date Harry on MD #4.
Meskin also appears during the same month in Young Romance #16. Once again Mort’s woman are not as stylized as they soon would be. but gone are the cheek bones that Mort provided woman in RWR #5. A resemblance to Sunny of MD #4 can still be seen, especially in the lady on the right of the above splash panel.
It may be a little surprising that a S&K production would have a cover drawn by an artist other then Jack Kirby. The only other non-Kirby covers were also done by Meskin along with Bill Draut, John Prentice and Ann Brewster. Those were all Prize romance covers with cover dates of 1954 and 1955, a period when Jack and Joe were busy with Mainline, their self owned publishing company. The reason Simon and Kirby made an exception for My Date #4 is most likely the same. A few months previously Simon and Kirby had launched Young Romance with Prize comics. As typical for them, most of the initial art for Young Romance was drawn by Jack. They had more recently lauched Justice Traps the Guilty. Not only was this all a lot of work for Kirby, it also was work for which S&K would have a share in the profits. Their deal with Hillman was not as good and so My Date #4 would be the last comic Simon and Kirby produced for that publisher with the exception of a single Western cover (Western Fighters #1, April 1948).