Bill Draut’s Demon

After Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had fulfilled their military service they could easily resumed working primarily for DC. Instead a deal was made with Harvey to produce some new titles, Stuntman and Boy Explorers. Ignoring very short features these comics included:

Stuntman #1 (April 1946)
 3 Stuntman (Kirby)
 1 Furnished Room (Draut)
Boy Explorers #1 (May 1946)
 1 Boys Explorer (Kirby)
 1 Duke of Broadway (Simon)
 1 Danny Dixon Cadet (Riley)
 1 Calamity Jane (Draut)
Stuntman #2 (June 1946)
 2 Stuntman (Kirby)
 1 Duke of Broadway (Simon)
 1 Furnished Room (Draut)

At this point both titles were cancelled, victims of the glut of new comic book titles that appeared now that wartime paper restrictions were lifted. However Harvey sent to subscribers small issues of Stuntman and Boy Explorers. These were small not only in size but also in content (only two stories) and without color printing.

Stuntman #3
 1 Stuntman (Kirby)
 1 Kid Adonis (Simon)

Boy Explorers #2
 1 Boy Explorer (Kirby)
 1 Danny Dixon Cadet (Riley)

However original art in Joe Simon’s collection indicates that a Vagabond Prince story (“Trapped in Wax”, Simon) was also originally meant to be included in Boy Explorers #2. This origin story would never be published.

Comic book art is created well before it appeared on the newsstand, so when the two titles were suddenly cancelled it would be expected that some of the art would already be completed for the unpublished issues. This would not go to waste as Harvey would include them in some of their other titles in the following year (as well as reprinting most of those from Stuntman #3 and Boy Explorers #2). These previously unpublished inventory stories included:

1 Stuntman (Kirby)
2 Duke of Broadway (Simon)
1 Vagabond Prince (Simon)
2 Kid Adonis (Simon)
1 Furnished Room (Draut)
4 The Demon (Draut)
7 Danny Dixon Cadet

The more observant reader may have noticed two anomalies in the list of inventoried stories published elsewhere by Harvey. While most features had only one or two stories there were 4 for the Demon and 7 for Danny Dixon Cadet (the subject of a future post). The Demon was also unusual in that it had never previously appeared in either Stuntman or Boy Explorers. My original reaction when I was reviewing this was that perhaps The Demon really was not a Simon and Kirby production but something that Bill Draut pitched to Harvey after the two titles were cancelled. However on further thought I considered this unlikely because the origin story was the third Demon story that Harvey published. This sort of error would have been unlikely to happen if The Demon was new feature but just the sort of thing to be expected if the Demon was just inventoried material.

I think a better explanation for the Demon anomaly would be that a third title was originally proposed. Work may have already progressed when Harvey decided to test the waters with just two titles. If there was to be a third comic book it was most likely that the Duke of Broadway would have been the title feature. The Duke’s appearance in the other two titles would have been a means of generating interest. Bill Draut’s Demon would have been a backup feature.

Black Cat #6 (July 1947) “The Midnight Killer”, art by Bill Draut

Simon met Bill Draut through a mutual friend while Joe was stationed in Washington during the war. Bill was in the marines working as a combat artist. I used to believe that Bill did not have any previous comic art experience but in fact in 1945 and 1946 he worked on the syndication strip Stony Craig. Joakim Gunnarsson has written a nice post about this with some examples (Coming Soon and Stony Craig by Bill Draut). This work would have been done while Bill was still in the marines. After fulfilling his military service, Bill accepted Joe’s invitation to join him in New York and try his hand at comic books. The work Draut provided for Stuntman and Boy Explorers was his first published comic book art

Draut’s art for the Demon, the Furnished Room and Calamity Jane along with Stony Craig was already very distinctive. Not that all the characteristics of his later work for Simon and Kirby were present but there is enough that it is easy to recognize his hand. I had previously considered Jack Kirby a big influence on Bill but the Stony Craig art clearly shows that is not strictly true. Many of the similarities between Draut and Kirby are the due to their common interest in Milton Caniff’s art.

Black Cat #6 (July 1947) “The Midnight Killer” page 7, art by Bill Draut

As I mentioned above, the origin story for the Demon was not the first one printed. This can be clearly seen from page 7 of “The Midnight Killer”. Here the judge posing as a bank thief on the run finds the costume worn at a party by the murdered victim. This device would make no sense unless it was the origin story.

Black Cat #4
Black Cat #4 (February 1947) “Double Trouble”, art by Bill Draut

Because so much of the work Bill Draut produced for Simon and Kirby would be for romance titles there is not much depiction of action in most of his art. However action plays an important part of the early work by Draut particularly in the Demon. Frankly in some cases Bill is not very effective in drawing fight scenes. In the splash for “Double Trouble” it is clear that the woman has thrown the man into the Demon. But how did she accomplish this feat, was is some sort of Judo trick or was she stronger then she looks? How was the man standing before the throw that could explain his final position? Draut’s splash is just not very convincing.

Black Cat #7 (September 1947) “Too Cold for Crime” page 4, art by Bill Draut

But it would be a mistake to conclude that Draut simply could not handle action scenes. The page shown above from “Too Cold for Crime” is a great example. While the layout is not done the way Jack Kirby would have handled it, it still is very dynamic page. The high angled view used in the first panel along with having the fight occur during a snow storm both are very graphically interesting. Unfortunately the page is marred somewhat by the colorist use of blue for both figures in the first and third panels.

Black Cat #4 (February 1947) “Double Trouble” page 8, art by Bill Draut

Although I now credit Milton Caniff with jointly influencing Bill Draut and Jack Kirby (among many other comic book artists) there are still aspects of Bill’s art in the Demon that suggests that he had lately studied Kirby’s art. The use of exaggerated perspective when depicting a fist fight is not something associated with Caniff, but it is a classic technique for Kirby. While I do not think Jack would have made the slugger in panel 4 so relatively small, the perspective of the sluggee does remind one of Kirby’s art.

Black Cat #5 (April 1947) “The Man Who Didn’t Know His Own Strength” page 9, art by Bill Draut

I will close with another action sequences. This page opens with the Demon battling his opponent only to end with the hero turning to the villain for help. Of course an unknown writer should likely be credited for this plot but Draut does a great job of graphically presenting the story. I love the way the smoke is introduced in one corner of the first panel and how the fire progressively takes over more and more of the panel until the fourth one where the Demon carrying his defeated foe is almost lost in all the smoke and flames.

5 thoughts on “Bill Draut’s Demon

  1. Stan Taylor

    Hi Harry,

    As expected, I have some ideas abour this time frame! 😉
    You left out another Simon and Kirby studio mate from this period, Jack “Junior” Keeler, and his strip Junior Genius also had many more installments than the Kirby and Simon drawn strips. I have a theory about this. I think the Red Demon, Danny Dixon and Junior Genius strips that were published after the S&K strips were not inventory, they were new stories for Harvey.

    When Harvey imploded and BE and Stuntman were cancelled, Joe had no new work for his studio mates. Jack Kirby had Boy Commandos at DC to tide him over. When Harvey started putting out a few new books, they needed some filler stories to back up Black Cat and Joe Palooka and Joe gave them the last of his inventory and had Draut, Riley, and Keeler do some new strips to keep them busy.

    Unfortunately I can’t prove any of this, but the timing works and it explains the higher story counts for those strips by Riley, Draut and Keeler.

    It’s interesting that Howard Ferguson didn’t letter the Demon pages. I haven’t thought that thru to see if it’s meaningful.

    BTW, The vagabond Prince origin story was later published by Greg Theakston in his Stuntman reprint book from 1987. It’s a very good story with nice Simon art. He was trying to match-up with Jack’s style on this strip unlike Duke of Broadway where he seemed to be trying for an Eisner-like feel.


  2. Harry Post author


    Yes, I left out Jack Keeler. And you are right his Junior Genius is also is an anomaly although not as much as the the Demon and Danny Dixon. Unfortunately I have not entered all the comics he appeared in into my database. Judging by GCD (not a safe thing to do) Junior Genius appeared three times after Stuntman was cancelled, one less then the Demon. So any explanation for the Demon could certainly apply to Junior Genius.

    As I wrote in my post I originally thought, like you, the Demon were new stories. But I feel the fatal flaw in that explanation is the origin story was the third Demon story published. Not a mistake that would be made for new stories but quite understandable for something taken from inventoried.

  3. Stan Taylor

    Hi Harry,

    GCD does list 3 more appearances for Junior Genius, but my notes say 5 later appearances, but I can’t put my hand on what and where they were. If you have access to Black Cat #4, there is a strip titled “Soapy Sam” The GCD has this credited to Jack Keller, but I wonder if it might really be Jack Keeler.

    If Red Demon was inventory, then it was originally meant for a seperate and unidentified title (I doubt it would have been Duke of Broadway, more likely the planned Boy Heroes title) Can you remember the name of the strip that Joe Simon had original art that said for Boy Heroes #1? I find it hard to believe that Draut drew 4 stories for a title that never saw publication. One or two yes, but not 4. Joe only drew 3 Vagabond Price tales, and we know where that srip was meant for.

    The detail about the origin story not being published first is interesting, but not an unusual thing. Many characters didn’t have origin stories first- Superman and Batman being prime examples, but I do acknowledge that it would be unusual for a S&K produced title. It should also be noted that there were two Vagabond Prince stories published by Harvey, while the origin tale never was. I can’t say why, as Joe definitely had the art!

    Now another question. Ken Riley’s Danny Dixon made three appearances in Black Cat 5-6-7 I believe. Then he returned in Black Cat #10 and continued for the next 4-5 issues. Do we know it Ken Riley drew the character when the strip returned from the short hiatus? Is it possible that Harvey brought back the character with a different artist?
    Because there is no way that Riley would have had 7-8 inventoried stories for a strip that was a back-up in Boy Explorers #1.


  4. Harry Post author


    It is an error in GCD, Soapy Sam was by Jack Keeler and also appeared in Boy Explorers #1.

    If originally there was a third title we do not know when Harvey decided not to go with it. Do not misunderstand me I am not completely convinced about a third title, it is just the best explanation I have right now for the overabundance of Demon stories. That plus the fact that three features that Joe came up with (Duke of Broadway, Adonis Kid and Vagabond Prince, seem too many backup features for just two titles considering there were also Drauts Furnished Room and Calamity Jane.

    Your examples of origin stories not being the first story are not really appropriate. Seems to me that the Batman and Superman origin stories were made afterwards while the Demon story was not. And as you said it is not S&K modus operandi to provide origin stories later. No I am pretty convinced that Draut’s Demon was inventoried, just not clear what it was originally meant for.

    The original art for Boy Heroes #1 in Joe’s collection was “Invasion from the East” and “The Thieves of Thailand”. Both are clearly left over material from the war years. The were both signed “del”. I now have good evidence to show that this was James Dell, although that might also be alias.

    Like I said the Vagabond origin story was originally slated for Boy Explorers #2 (as shown on the original art). The art was being reworked in a couple of spots which may help explain why it was not reprinted. Perhaps because of this rework the art never got into Harvey’s posession. Joe once told me that Harvey published the inventoried material without Simon and Kirby’s permission. (As he put it, when it came to publishers, you could not even trust your frieds).

    As for Danny Dixon, I will be discussing that in a seperate post and so I do not want to comment on it yet.

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