(May – July 1950: Young Romance #21 – #23, Young Love #9 – #11)
This chapter will cover the period from May to July 1950. This is during the rapid decline of romance titles that followed the love glut. Simon and Kirby were not immune to the effects of the over abundance of romance comics; their most recent titles, Real West Romance and Western Love had been cancelled. There were other western romance comics published during the glut as well but all ended up being terminated. Western love titles would never again be tried by any publisher. Although Joe and Jack failed with their western love titles, their standard romance titles, Young Romance and Young Love, seemed unaffected. Both titles had gone monthly during the glut and would remain so for years afterwards. The name brand recognition that Simon and Kirby’s Young Romance had achieved before the glut had allowed it to find a place on the comic racks while newer titles often never had a chance. Young Love’s similar name and logo let it join it Young Romance on the racks as well. Apparently both titles did very well during the period when other titles were rapidly disappearing.
As I discussed previously in It’s A Crime, it is unclear exactly what Simon and Kirby’s contribution was at this time for the Prize crime comics, Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. These titles seem now to have been made on the cheap. Either Joe and Jack were doing nothing more then supplying some covers, or they were still producing them but because less money was involved they were not putting much effort into it. So Simon and Kirby’s source of income was largely based on two monthly romance titles.
Jack Kirby was still the primary artist for the romance titles although still somewhat below his normal output. For the 6 issues discussed here Kirby did 6 stories for a total of 56 pages. Kirby drew no covers as they were done with photographs. Jack did all the lead stories for Young Romance and all were much longer then any of the other stories in the issues (14 or 15 pages for the lead stories as compared to 7 or 8 for the longest of the other stories. Jack’s contributions to Young Love were more limited and all the lead stories of that title were done by other artists.
For two of the lead stories Jack used full page splashes with what I describe as the confessional splash where someone talks about the story to the reader with the word balloon used to include the title of the story. Kirby’s lead stories are still very different from stories by other studio artists. They generally are more complicated, include more action, and sometimes use exotic locations. While original writers have indicated that Jack contributed to the plotting of their stories, it is clear that Jack had even further impact on the scripting of the stories that he drew. It was just a few months short of the third anniversary of the Young Romance title, but Kirby was still putting much effort to make his stories as interesting as possible, and I may add succeeding. This was particularly true with “The Savage in Me” a tale that combines an exotic location (China), drama (the threat presented by a warlord’s army) and humor. The story was, I may add, discussed at length in an article by Kirby scholar Stan Taylor (“Simply the Best”, The Jack Kirby Quarterly #12, Spring 1999).
At a glance one story, “The Girl I Picked from the Phone Directory”, looks like it was done by Mort Meskin. Typical Meskin traits such as the woman’s eyes and for some men Mort’s characteristic grin. However the shifting viewing angles found in the story are more like Kirby’s then those used by Meskin. Further some of the people depicted have typical Kirby mannerisms such as the gesture of the man in the last panel of the above page. I have no doubt that this story was penciled by Kirby but inked by Meskin. As such it is the earliest example of Meskin inking Kirby that I am aware of. Either Mort was untypical heavy handed in his inking or Jack’s pencils were not very tight.
While Meskin still had not reached his high productive levels, he had now become the second most prolific artist in studio. Mort did 8 stories for a total of 50 pages. Even when Meskin provided the lead stories for Young Love #9 and #11, he still did not use a full page splash. Mort was also using vertically oriented captions, a device not typical of Kirby. While Meskin had a cinematic approach to story telling it was done differently from Jack’s. Once again I find no evidence to support the idea, promoted by some Kirby scholars, that Jack supplied layouts.
It maybe just a coincidence, but there seems a more abundant use of “cheesecake” poses in Mort Meskin’s work at this time; not something I normally associate with him. Further he does them quite well.
Bill Draut has been displaced from his number two position by Mort Meskin. During this period Bill did 4 stories with 31 pages. Enough to secure the number three spot but still significantly less then Meskin. Bill consistently provided good art and so he continued to be an important contributor to Simon and Kirby productions.
We have seen all the other important artists before, there were no changes in personnel at this time. I still have not been able to confirm that artist who did some very distinctive work for Joe and Jack was in fact Bruno Premiani. But I continue to use that attribution (with a question mark) until something convinces me otherwise. Premiani normally used half page splashes, but for the lead story that he did for Young Love #10, “Untouched”, he provided a full page splash.
By the way do not get confused by the “Produced by Simon and Kirby” credit that appears on this splash. It is not a claim by Joe and Jack that they drew this story. Rather it was used to indicate that the entire comic was put together by Simon and Kirby. It appeared on the first story of all the Simon and Kirby titles at this time (and for some time to come) regardless who actually drew the lead story.
I guess “cheesecake” must be the theme for this chapter of Art of Romance because I could not resist including the above page from “Carbon Copy”. I do not know what the original teenage girl readers thought about this page but I certainly am not going to complain about a beach full of bikinis. Today such a scene, while enjoyable at least for the men, would not be considered remarkable. But back in 1950 it would be quite unusual at least on American beaches. For instance bikinis were banned in 1951 from use in the Miss World beauty pageant. It would not be until the early ’60s that the two piece swimsuit would become the norm in beach movies such as “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini”. Was Premiani’s page a flight of fantasy or wish fulfillment or was Bruno taking his queue from more liberal European beaches?
Leonard Starr was another S&K studio regular who continued to appear during the period considered here. During this period he drew 3 stories with 21 pages. Starr is most easily recognized by his women that he draws with widely separated eyes, wide foreheads and narrow chins; a look I like to call elfin. Another easy way to pick him out is his use of tall narrow panels. Not every page in a story would use six narrow panels as in the example above, but other combinations of a row of tall panels with two vertically diminished panel rows are also commonly found. It is an arrangement that is not found in Kirby’s work so again claims of Kirby supplying layouts to not seem to be correct. Starr puts his tall panels to good use and it has the added benefit of allowing the talk balloons to be place out of the way of the image.
Previously John Severin was more a presence in the western love titles then in the standard romances. With the cancellation of the Western Love and Real West Romance the expectation might be that Severin would appear more often in Young Romance and Young Love. While John still shows up in the romance titles during this period, his participation does not appear to have increased. One explanation might be that Severin did not need the extra work since he had begun doing work for Prize Comics Western. But I do not think that is the likely explanation as PCW seemed to have been done “on the cheap” and probably did not pay as well as work for Simon and Kirby. It is more likely that Simon and Kirby just did not want to give him further work. The fact is Severin just was not that great of a romance artist. It was not that John could not draw well; it is just that he did not seem comfortable with depicting romantic scenes. He rarely, if ever, drew a kiss in his stories. The absence of true romance in Severin’s work may not have been a problem for the western love titles but it certainly was a hindrance for the standard romance. Still he did provide 19 pages of art during the period discussed in this post although none were signed and this includes a few that are questionable attributions.
Included in the work I credit to John Severin is one that looks distinctively different, “I’ll Never Get Married”. Perhaps my attribution is just incorrect but I suspect what makes this story look so different from others by Severin was the inking. During this period most of John’s art was inked by Will Elder. While I do not claim to be very familiar with Elder’s inking a comparison of this story to works signed by Severin and Elder clearly shows Elder did not ink “I’ll Never Get Married”. Whoever the inker was he was not nearly as talented as Elder.
Vic Donahue is another artist that we have seen previously and continues to make an appearance. During this period Vic’s contribution consisted of 5 stories with 21 pages. This includes three “Problem Clinic” stories but they are all questionable attributions and only amount to a total of 6 pages. Donahue also provided to longer stories one of which was signed.
Unlike some earlier chapters, there are only a few stories that I have not been able to credit. Most of the artists used were therefore studio regulars.
Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)