(May 1954 – November 1954, Black Magic #30 – #33)
This final chapter of the serial post Little Shop of Horrors occupies the same time period as Chapter 27 and Chapter 28 of the Art of Romance. Black Magic mirrors, on a smaller scale, what happened at the same time in the Simon and Kirby romance titles. Basically there was an influx of art by artists new to Simon and Kirby productions. This can be shown by the fact that there were 58 pages by indentified artists and 45 pages by new unidentified artists. However there is one significant difference, so far I have not detected any Black Magic stories that looked like they were originally meant for another publisher.
The four identified artists were Jack Kirby (33 pages), Mort Meskin (17 pages), Bill Draut (4 pages) and Al Eadeh (4 pages). While during most of the Simon and Kirby collaboration it was typical for Kirby to be the most featured artist, during this period it was surprising indeed. It was during this time that Joe and Jack setup their own publishing company, Mainline, and Jack’s contributions as a penciller plummeted. Jack drew relatively little for the romance, western, or crime genre all of which were produced by Simon and Kirby. However at the same time Kirby was a consistent presence in superhero and horror. Mark Evanier has remarked that horror was not one of Kirby’s favorites but at least during this period that does not seem to be at all true.
Black Magic #31 (July 1954) “Slaughter-House”, pencils by Jack Kirby
There were more science fiction stories toward the end of the Black Magic run. Kirby would often use such stories, as he did in some of the romance genre stories, as social commentary. “Slaughter-House” may seem to be a classic monster story but it is not. It is actually about the extremes people will take in order to try to survive in an impossible situation. This story was greatly influenced by stories that came out of the Nazi death camps. The Nazis might not have been bug-eyed monsters but their death camps forced desperate people to the extremes.
The splash panel is actually part of the story a technique that was commonly used in the period covered in the last chapter. Another typical feature that this splash shares with those from previous issues was its smaller size. Larger more standard splash would return in the last issues of Black Magic.
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “Maniac”, pencils by Jack Kirby
A more standard splash is found in “Maniac” but note the odd design where the title extends beyond the splash border.
Black Magic #33 (November 1954) “Lone Shark”, pencils by Jack Kirby
While keeping a large splash, Kirby has returned to using it as part of the story. Jack did this so well that it is easy to assume this is a standard splash. However the first story panel makes no sense without the splash.
Black Magic #31 (July 1954) “Gargoyle”, art by Mort Meskin
Mort Meskin seemed to have a particular interest in the horror genre. While I am a great admirer of his work, I find his attempts to depict gruesome things not all that successful. This might seem to be a fatal defect for a horror artist but Mort is so good at graphically telling a story that it really is not much of a problem. I have to wonder what Meskin’s drawing of the protagonist’s mouth is meant to represent.
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “The Devil Doll”, art by Mort Meskin
While I do not find the character in “Gargoyle” to be truly gruesome the witch doctor in “The Devil Doll” puts a chill down my spine. This has got to be one of his most successful efforts in drawing a truly disturbing character.
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “The Monsters”, art by Bill Draut
Bill Draut has not appeared very often in Black Magic in the more recent issues. This must have been by design as Bill was playing an important roll in the romance comics at this same time. I admit that while I feel Draut does quite well in his horror stories his romance art is much more successful.
Black Magic #30 (May 1954) “Ghost in the House”, art by Al Eadeh
It is interesting how the art of Al Eadeh shows a slow but steady improvement over the years. His earliest work for Simon and Kirby is rather stiff but that characteristic disappears in his later work. “Ghost in the House” is probable his most successful piece for Simon and Kirby. Unfortunately it is also seems to be his last for that team.
Black Magic #30 (May 1954) “The Devil, You Say?”, art by unidentified artist
What a terrific splash is found in “The Devil, You Say?”. I cannot identify the artist and frankly the rest of the story art is not nearly as good.
Black Magic #32 (September 1954) “The Little People”, art by unidentified artist
Another unidentified artist. As I mentioned above, there seems to have been an influx of new artists in Simon and Kirby productions. I cannot get very enthusiastic about most of them, but the artist who did “The Little People” was pretty good.
Issue #32 marked the end of the first run of Black Magic. Initially Black Magic had been popular enough to warrant a monthly release schedule. However for the last year it had been a bi-monthly schedule. Certainly the quality of the stories or the artists that drew them had not changed so why had it become unpopular enough to discontinue? While I cannot completely dismiss that it was just a victim of changing tastes the timing suggests that the problem most likely came from another source. This was the time there was a decline in comics across the board initiated largely by Dr. Wertham (The Real Reason for the Decline of Comics). While Dr. Wertham condemned pretty much all comics, he and other critics were particularly negative about the crime and horror genre. While in reality the contents of Black Magic were mild compared to those horror comics released by other publishers, at that time critics were not too discerning; the title alone made Black Magic a target. The rising public criticism influenced many newsstands to stop selling some of the more objectionable titles.
Black Magic would return in a few years and perhaps I will someday post about the second run. Except for a single story by Steve Ditko, none of the better artists involved with the first run of Black Magic returned for the second one. Joe Simon would be the editor of the reincarnated title but he has described it as being done on the cheap. As a business model this might have been a smart approach but it did result in a serious decline in quality.
Most fans of horror comics cite the EC titles as the best of the genre. That may be a true assessment if gruesome art is what is desired, but if the reader wants more tasteful art and more interesting stories than the Simon and Kirby Black Magic cannot be beat.
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 1 (#1 – 3), Expanding Their Fields
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 2 (#4 – 6), Up and Running
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 3 (#7 – 8), The Same Old Gang
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4 (#9 – 11), Another Hit
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5 (#12 – 14), New Faces
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6 (#15 – 17), Mix Bag
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7 (#18 – 20), Kirby Returns
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8 (#21 – 23), The Gang’s All Here
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9 (#24 – 26), The Party’s Ovetr
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10 (#27 – 29), A Special Visitor
Tahnks for a great series. Have you included all new unidentified artists here? It’s a joy to try and guess those with you. This time, I am stumped as well. Have you compared The Devil splash to the work of Albistur? I reminds me of him, but a closer look at the line-work may reveal more.
And do we have one of those Infantino/Katz studio jobbies in the second unidentified story? Katz’s work is very distinghuished and rather than debate who did what in the studio, I would love to see where his efforts ended up.
No, unfortunately there are too many unidentified artists to include. Further I find it difficult so sort them out particularly when some of them really are not that interesting to begin with.
The way the hair is done in the splash is similar to a work Albistur did for Win A Prize but the rest of the story art is nothing like his work.
I am not familiar with the Infantino/Katz studio work but I think we can rule out Infantino in this piece from Black Magic. But I will try to see if I can find some work by Katz to compare it with.
I’ll have to dig them out myself and see if I can add anything. I have some scans of Katx material, but for the most part I find it no more than a curiosity. You could open up the Alter Ego issueswith his interview and see all you need to see. I’ll be trying to clear my office of all unnecessary paper and maybe even start selling all that stuff on e-bay I want to sell eventually. I am still not sure what to do about all my S&K books… I am very pleased with the recent DC reprints of Boy Commandoes and The Sandman and I am not sure if I need to hold on to the few samples I have. As for the Prize books… I may hang unto them a bit longer, but as soon as a complete reprint appears they’ll be out. I just want to read this stuff, not collect it.
Man, those Kirby splashes are dynamite! Jack’s work was just SO much more compelling than the others’! And look at how much imagination the guys injected into their stuff! That “Lone Shark” story looks fabulous. I’d love to read the rest of it. Has it ever been reprinted anywhere? If not, it should be!!
I would be interested in what you come up with from your search.
I do not consider myself a comic book collector and I greatly appreciate the recent reprints when it comes to research it is always best to work with the original books.
You certainly would get no agrument from me that Kirby was by far the best artist appearing in the Simon and Kirby productions. However I reallty do feel that Meskin’s splash for “The Devil Doll” is as good as any of the Kirby splashes from the period covered by this chapter.
“Lone Shark” is a great story but I do not believe it has ever been reprinted. My understanding is that Black Magic and the other Simon and Kirby horror titles will be re-published by Titan as part of the Simon and Kirby library. But I do not yet know when that will be.
You’re right, Harry; the Meskin splash is great, too. I meant no slight against Mort or any of the other artists represented here. It’s just that the Kirby Fan in me always responds so enthusiastically when I see a great example of the King’s artwork that I sometimes tend to overlook the other guys’ efforts!
I’ll be looking forward to each of the Titan volumes as they’re published. Congrats, by the way, on the Eisner nomination for the first book!
No news yet on the Black Magic front. I spent all week cleaning out my office and came across some of those wonderfull black and white British reprint books. Did I ever send you scans of those? The Mr. Ishtar story from DC, for instance. You can see very line as Kirby drew it…
You sent me a couple back when I was working on the serial post on Kirby’s austere inking. Since then I have managed to get copies of all of Kirby’s 50’s DC stuff.
I have dug out my books and here are my thoughts.
First thing that struck me was how good the coloring is on the cover and how bad it is in the books. It gets worse in the lter issues. I wold love to see a recolored version of some of these stories, such as Slaughterhouse.
The Devil You Say remains a mystery to me. There are many things that remind me of Albistur, including some of the poses, but in the end it is too much unlike his work to be considered as such.
Lover, Come Back to Me is interesting. The first few pages look familiar to me, reminding me of the later Spirit episodes ghoster by artists such as John Spranger. But the fight scene on page five, as well as the distortions on the figures in the sixth panel make this very much like the work of Carmine Infantino to me. Surely this is too late for him, but could that mean his brother Jim was involved?
You didn’t mention Hungry as a Wolf with a Jack Kirby splash depicting a totally different wolfman than he did on the cover… on what looks like Al Eadeh inked by Albistur to me. If such pairing would exist, it or this artist may have been responsible for The Devil You Say as well.
Facts on Witchcraft one pager. Not by someone I have’t seen here before.
You haven’t remarked on the obvious reworking of the splash on The Little People. I’d say it’s typically Kiry’s work (and a mess, too). The story has the kind of monsters Myron Fass would do, so you might want to compare it against his work. He often signed his work, but that my have disappeared with the reworking of the splash.
The Mirror one-pager is interesing for the abstract blobs in the smoke on the last panel. Jack Kirby wasn’t the only on einventing this sort of stuff. Are we seeing some work of the early Jack Katz here? The tortured bodies sure look that way, although most of his later work is more crowded.
Sir Henry Wilson’s Death one pager. I’d be happy to say all three one-pagers here are by the same hand or hands.
The Strangest Facts must have been adepted from some old work Kirby had lying around. I have seen quite of few of those, but none here ring a bell.
This Time You’ll Die looks undoubtebly like the work of Bernard Baily to me. Possibly with a different inker, or maybe he slicked up when he started working for DC. His then current work for Mr. Mystery certainly looks a lot more like this. Same style or same Jack Davis influenced inker?
Wake Up The Dead looks like another Baily job to me. Surely you have seen the similarity of the last page in particular? This is where Baily seems to have picked up the picked fenced lower lip, he kept on using afterwards (and which made some of his work look like Mort Meskin’s). I should send scans of these to Ken Quattro, who is researching the career of Bernard bailey. I don’t know if he is aware of these, but he would surely be able to identify them. Mr. Tree looks unfamiliar to me and the lettering makes it look like it could be a pick up from another company. The two Baily stories could signal smething like that as well, but there the pacing and lettering seem to fit the book. Mr. Tree doesn’t to me.
Recolor Black Magic? I hope I never live to see that.
“Lover, Come Back To Me”:
I do not believe art styles are genetically inherited. What work that Jimmy did for Simon and Kirby was nothing like Carmine’s.
“Hungry as a Wolf”:
Your right it is a Kirby splash. Usually I mention these Kirby splashes in stories by other artists, but this time I didn’t. But this fact is included in the checklist I provided for Black Magic. I update my checklist everytime I do another chapter in my serial posts.
“The Little People”:
I did not mentioned the re-work of the splash because I do not believe there was any. Unless you mean the use of studio style inking in parts (most likely by Kirby). Since the little people’s hands were not redrawn I suspect this was just Jack touching up the inking as he sometimes did.
I am most familiar with his latter stuff but I will keep your suggestion in mind.
This is Al Eadeh’s grandson; I’ve noticed you seem to have had some trouble in the past identifying his work. Unfortunately, my grandfather didn’t have any copies of his comics, but we do have some of his other work. If scans of any of this could help, send me an email. Also, it’s great that yourself and all the participants of this blog are keeping the legacy of my grandfather and others like him alive- Thank you!