Speed Comics #16 (January 1942)

Speed Comics #16

Everybody makes mistakes, even experts. So when I say that when the Jack Kirby Checklist included Speed #16 it made a whooper, that does not diminish the value of that list. But all that needs to be done to dispel that misattribution is to compare the cover to one by Jack that came out in the same month (January 1942). There can be no question, Speed #16 was not done by Kirby.

Captain America #10

But I have a confession to make. I included Speed #16 in the books I once made of the complete Simon and Kirby covers. I did so because I thought it was possible that Joe Simon might have been the artist. Now I am not so sure. Comparing it with the covers for Speed #14 and Speed #15, I wonder if perhaps like them it was done by Al Avison. Particularly the goofy Speed #15 with its little red Nazis. Speed #16 has little green froglike Nazis and is also goofy, but in a different way. I do not believe that the humorous quality to Speed #15 was intentional. But in Speed #16 is clearly was. It is hard to believe that anyone would take seriously an attach by Hitler on the White House. But even if they did, it wouldn’t be this ridiculous Adolf carrying four rifles and three swords. This sort of visual humor would later be a Simon trademark in his comic magazine Sick. But if Avison was the artist, as far as I know he would never return to this particular type of humor.

One feature of this cover that should be noted is the long corridor in forced perspective. It is from the end of that tunnel that Hitler and his green army have come. We have not yet seen such a long hallway, but we will when I next get to Pocket Comics #3. And there are a variations of this theme in a later Harvey publications (Champ #19). But we have seen an alternative version, and perhaps source, on Speed #14. On that cover beyond an entranceway we see another room and a staircase. In the room a uniformed figure, presumably defeated by Shock Gibson, is rising from the ground. More similarly clothed figures are coming down the stairs. Not quite the same thing as here on Speed #16, but it might have been the jumping point.

Assuming that my attribution is right, Speed #16 would be the last cover by Al Avison for Harvey’s wartime comics. Frankly I find Al’s efforts on Speed #14 to #16 on the crude side. Their interest lies mainly as early examples of Avison’s work. These covers really do not stand out from what a host of other artists were doing at the time. Al’s first cover for Captain America would come out in the next month. What a difference! It is hard to believe how great the improvement was. In fact if Speed #14 had not been signed I doubt I would have believed it. I can only surmised that it was only after S&K were out of the picture, that Al felt comfortable enough to push himself. It is small wonder that Avison became the primary artist for Captain America until he went into the service.

2 thoughts on “Speed Comics #16 (January 1942)

  1. bob

    Yeah, I’m pretty iffy on a lot of those SPEED covers commonly attributed to Kirby or Simon&Kirby, thinking they might be either Simon solo or someone else entirely. This one especially, moreso now that I’ve seen clear scans of the Avison covers.

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