Most of the work that Simon and Kirby did for Hillman in 1947 was for previously existing titles. The sole exception was My Date. Despite its title, My Date was not a romance comic (as I discussed previously) instead it is teenage humor and in particular an Archie-clone. Archie first appeared as a backup feature in MLJ’s Pep Comics during the war while both Joe and Jack were in military service. Archie was so successful that MLJ’s superheroes were eventually dropped and the company’s name changed to Archie Comics. 1947 found Simon and Kirby looking for a work so it is not surprising that the popular Archie would lead them to suggest teenage humor title to Hillman. Although My Date was not a romance comic it clearly was directed at teenage girls. There would be a lot of dating in My Date but no romance.
The first story in all the My Date issues would be by Simon and Kirby. Initially the feature centered on Swifty Chase a good hearted young inventor. Like Archie there is a love triangle but in this case the center of it is the beautiful Sunny Daye and Snubby Skeemer is Swifty’s rich and unscrupulous rival. The first story has quite a cast of characters as can be seen in the splash. Three of them were clearly meant for this story alone; Humphrey Hogart, his fiance actress Chandra Blake and B. O. his business manager (the three are shown in the center background of the splash). The rest seem to be meant to be re-occurring cast members. However issue #2 introduced a new character, House-Date Harry, who would quickly become the feature’s lead character while Swifty would be delegated to a supporting roll. This is the equivalent of Jughead pushing out Archie. The Swifty Chase feature would be Simon and Kirby’s only contribution to the title and only the last issue would have more then one Swifty or House-Date Harry story.
Kirby’s drawing for My Date is surprising good. I say surprising because Jack is most famous for his more realistic portrayals. Yet the Swifty Chase stories are filled with visually interesting characters all done in a more cartoony style then is typical for Kirby although not as cartoony as his work at the same time in Punch and Judy. I wish I can be as complimentary about the writing. The first story is really a masterpiece. Lots of action and funny turns of events. Having Humphrey Hobart in it also helped. Things changed with the introduction of House-Date Harry. The idea of the scheming but good hearted Harry would have been fine as one shot story line. With the recurring use of the House-Date Harry theme it becomes forced and not nearly so funny. I really cannot see Simon and Kirby being able to continue to make this feature interesting.
Incidentally, I once wrote that the first use of a pin-up by Simon and Kirby was for Boys’ Ranch. Well I was wrong. I forgot about the pin-up found in My Date #3. It depicts Harry’s new house-on-wheels. It was printed to be viewed by rotating the page but perhaps it was originally meant to be a double page pin-up.
Not only was there a feature “My Date with Swifty Chase” but there was also another simply titled “My Date”. Interestingly “My Date” uses the same ribbon border on the splash page that is found in “My Date with Swifty Chase”. The premise for the feature was the supposed true stories as told to Jean Anne Marten. But after reading these stories it is clear that they are fictional. The feature “My Date” was drawn by Dan Barry in issues #1 to #3 and by an unidentified artist in the final issue. At this time Barry was doing a bit of work for Hillman including Airboy and the Heap. Besides comic books, Dan would also do syndication work on Tarzan (1947 – 1948) and Flash Gordon (1951 – 1990). Joe Simon told me that Barry did work for him during the Mainline period. Originally I thought this was on Charlie Chan but when I showed Joe that art he said it was not done by Barry. So at this point I have no idea what work Dan Barry did for Mainline. Barry seems a good enough artist but I cannot get very excited about the work he did for My Date.
Another feature in My Date is “Ginny”. Nothing particularly outstanding about this feature, it was just another teenage group. The most unusual member was a cigar smoking girl with the name of Big Bertha. (Big Bertha was a heavy gun used by the Germans during World War 1). I have no idea who the artist was but it was the same one in all four issues. In terms of drawing skills this artist really was not more exceptional then other artists in My Date (of course excluding Kirby). What really distinguishes him is his use of panel layouts. These were much more imaginative then even those by Simon and Kirby in the “Swifty Chase” stories.
Perhaps the most unique feature in My Date was “Ultra Violet”. The lead character Violet has a very active imagination. But she is no Walter Mitty, her daydreams actually affect reality. In the sequence shown above, Violet transforms into a glamorous school superintendent (that sure sounds like an oxymoron). Her actions in that roll have repercussions even after she resumes her more ordinary existence. Another daydream reveals the truth behind a musical idol (he has false teeth and wears a toupee). I rather like the fact that no explanation is given as to how she is able to achieve such transformations.
The first Ultra Violet story is unsigned. When writing in this blog I prefer to record my current opinions even when they are very tentative and in need of further investigation. Such is the case here where I feel the art looks very much like that by Jerry Robinson. You can see some of Jerry’s work with Mort Meskin in a previous post. However the art is not so well done as to suggest that Jerry inked it himself, nor is the inking by Mort Meskin. If it is by Robinson, and that still is a big if, then it may have been inked by George Roussos.
The Ultra Violet features in My Date #2 and #3 were done by Dan Barry. Barry brought to the feature a more finished and elaborate style but I rather liked the original artist.
My Date included stories that only appeared once. Was that intentional or were they tryouts that were judged to be unsuccessful? One unusual story was “The Rosebud Sisters”. Since the story is about a couple of elderly woman it seems very out of place in a comic devoted to teenage humor. The oddness of including this story was obvious even then since it was subtitled “Those 70-Year-Old Teen-Agers”. Fortunately the art was signed by Jack Keeler otherwise I never would have recognized it. Keeler had worked with Simon and Kirby previously having provided some 3 page Junior Genius stories for Stuntman. The Junior Genius was one of those humor strips with rather cartoony type of drawing. Keeler drew “The Rosebud Sisters” more realistically without completely loosing the cartoon-like effect.
Another curious feature is “Lindy Hopp Dancing Lessons” from My Date #2. What is unusual about it is although it clearly was not drawn by either Jack Kirby or Joe Simon it includes two characters from “My Date with Swifty Chase”. The boy in the green sweater and yellow hat is clearly Bumpy although he is referred to as Soud. Snubby Skeemer is correctly named but in this strip he will not hold a girl because when he does he breaks out in a rash. This is hardly consistent with his portrayal in the Swifty Chase stories.
While recognizing My Date was not a romance comic, some have called it a proto-romance. The idea being that it lead the way to the first true romance comic book, Young Romance. Personally I do not buy that argument since I feel the best prototype was just what Joe Simon claimed, the romance pulps. Almost all of My Date was teenage humor albeit primarily aimed at a young female readership. There is some justification for a label of proto-romance for a couple of stories in My Date. “Date Snatcher” (My Date #3) and “Genius, That’s What” (My Date #4) are decidedly not humor. They both deal with relations between the sexes. However there are no kisses or expressions of love although the lead character’s sister in “Date Snatcher” does get married. Like the humor stories, there is lots of dating but no romance. Still very little would have to be changed to make these true romance stories so proto-romance seems appropriate for these particular features.
I am undecided about just what level of involvement did Simon and Kirby have with My Date. I am sure the title was Joe and Jack’s brain-child. Although not belonging to the romance genre, My Date was clearly aimed at teenage girls which was the same audience intended for the romance comic that Simon and Kirby were proposing at this time. All the covers were by Kirby except the last one which was by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin but that one also depicted Swifty Chase, Sunny Daye and House-Date Harry. Further the first story in the comic was always by Simon and Kirby. In fact the only art that Simon and Kirby signed for Hillman was for My Date and the Western Fighters #1 cover. All that would suggest that My Date was produced by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. But not everything in the comic supports that thesis. Usually any new Simon and Kirby title would feature a lot of work drawn by Jack but My Date would only have one Kirby story per issue (except for My Date #4). S&K would usually provide a feature with a story title while Hillman generally only used the feature’s name and My Date followed the Hillman format. Like Sherlock Holmes’s barking dog, what is most surprising is what is not present in My Date and that is Bill Draut. Draut played an important part in earlier the Stuntman and Boy Explorers comics and would again in Young Romance but he is completely absent from My Date. The only artist that worked with Joe and Jack previously was Jack Keeler and he only shows up once. I am not sure what to say about Dan Barry. Barry appeared in a number of Hillman titles in about the same time. Did Simon and Kirby introduce Dan to Hillman or was it the other way around? I am unfamiliar with the rest of the My Date artists and do not believe any of them did work for Simon and Kirby later. All in all there is a least a suggestion the Simon and Kirby did not have the full creative control over My Date that they obviously had with titles that they produced for Prize.