Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The Toy Master” page 5, art by unidentified artist
While the first issue of Double Life of Private Strong was almost completely drawn by Jack Kirby, he played a much smaller part in the second. I am not sure who drew the first story, “The Toy Master”, but he obviously was working from some sort of directions. In “The Comic Book Makers, Joe Simon writes about using Carl Burgos to create layouts. In fact Joe’s collection still includes layouts for a Fly story (Carl Burgos does the Fly). By supplying the artists with layouts, Joe was able to give the comic a distinct Kirby feel. Scattered through the art are swipes; most of them from the previous Simon and Kirby superhero, Fighting American. For instance the Shield in panel 4 of page 5 was based on a splash from Fighting American #1. Some experts have claimed that these are either stats or mechanical copies but I have disproved that by overlaying the art (The Fly, A Case Study of Swiping). Apparently all that was done was a free hand copy was created for the layout and the artist would finish it. This would provide the desired Kirby-feel to the story without making the swipe too incongruous with the rest of the art. There are other examples were the copy deviated even more from the original. I believe, for instance, that the Shield in panel 3 was swiped by the one Kirby did for the splash of “The Menace of the Micro-Men” from Private Strong #1.
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “Upsy Daisy”, art by George Tuska?
I going out on a limb because I am not familiar enough with his work, but I believe “Upsy Daisy” might be the work of George Tuska. Joe Simon has written in “The Comic Book Maker” that Tuska worked on the Archie comics for him so it is not an unreasonable guess. Perhaps I missed them, but I do not spot any obvious swipes from Kirby in this story.
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “I Wish I Were the Shield”, art by George Tuska?
The two tier panel layout is pretty much identical to the one used for the double page splashes found in Adventures of the Fly #1 and #2. However there is no mention of “the wide angle scream” nor are the curved black bands of the top and bottom of the splash (The Wide Angle Scream, What Was Old Is New Again). Again my attribution of this story to George Tuska is by no means firm.
Here there are some examples of swiping from Kirby. For instance the Shield in the splash was based on the cover logo that first appeared on Fighting American #4 (October 1954). The presences of these swipes and the overall superiority of the story art over that for “Upsy Daisy” suggests that this story was done from layouts.
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The Ultra-Sonic Spies”, art by Jack Kirby
The use of swipes was clearly an attempt to improve the look of the art not actually drawn by Kirby. But of course it was only partially successful since after all nothing beats the real thing. The single story by Kirby in this issue, “The Ultra-Sonic Spies”, just out shines all the rest of the comic. What a mixture of action and humor. Since the Shield’s alter ego, Lancelot Strong, was a private in the U.S. army, Jack was able to return to and improve upon the humor that was done years previously in Captain America. While Simon and Kirby had always preferred less powerful and more human heroes, Kirby makes exciting use the Shield’s greater power. I would say Jack was much more at ease with the Shield than he was with the Fly. What Kirby did in Private Strong prefigures more than any of his other work what was to blossom in the Marvel superhero line in a few years.
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The General’s Favorite Private”, art by Joe Simon
There is a single page text piece about the Shield which tells how Lancelot Strong’s secret identity is discovered by General Smith. The story is nothing special but it contains an illustration by Joe Simon. Since the work that he did for the J. C. Penny (1947, A History Lesson) Joe drew very little comic book art. Probably the most significant work was “Deadly Doolittle” for Fighting American #6 and even that was a reworking of an earlier Sandman piece originally drawn by Kirby. After the Simon and Kirby studio broke up Joe did some more work on his own. Simon mostly did some covers but he also occasionally did an interior illustration such as the one accompanying the General Smith text story.
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The Boy Sentinels” page 2, art by Joe Simon
For the most part one thing Joe Simon did not draw late in his career was full stories. Private Strong #2 included what is essentially an advertisement for the Fly, “The Boy Sentinels”. Should this two page piece be considered a story? What is interesting to me is that Joe makes little, if any, use of swipes from Kirby. Instead Simon drawing reflects back to the work he did for backup pieces for Stuntman and Boy Explorers, especially Vagabond Prince. The villain in the piece resembles that from “Trapped on Wax” (meant for the unpublished Boy Explorers #2), the close-up of the Fly hitting the villain seems taken from “The Madness of Doctor Altu (Black Cat #8, October 1947), and the young boys look like the one from “Death Trap De Luxe” (Black Cat #7, August 1947).
In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe writes:
Years later, I learned why John Goldwater had dropped his beloved Shield like a hot potato. DC Comic’s lawyers had sent him a cease-and-desist order which put forth the amusing claim that The Shield’s powers aped Superman’s too closely.
On the face of it this seems rather remarkable. After all the only important powers that the Shield and Superman seems to be the ability to fly and run at super fast speeds. The Fly can also, well fly, but there seems to have been no problem with that similarity. While not denying the question about some shared powers between the Shield and Superman, I would suggest there were other features that made the Shield more vulnerable to legal action than the Fly. While the Shield’s uniform was modeled on that Simon and Kirby created for Captain America, it unfortunately shared a color scheme with Superman; the same overall blue with red shorts and boots. Also regrettably the Shield’s origin story shared features with Superman’s; orphaned as a baby and raised by an elderly farming couple. All these factors probably contributed to Goldwater’s cold feet when presented with a legal challenge. After all the Shield had not yet shown whether it was a large enough money maker to warrant fighting a legal battle.