Speed #17 (April 1942)

Al Harvey must have been a great salesman. As Joe Simon tells it, Al’s great idea of pocket size comics (Pocket, Speed and Spitfire) were very popular. Unfortunately one of the reasons for their popularity was the ease that kids could steal them. That fact did not make them popular with the newsstand owners. You would have thought that when the last of these small comics were published in January 1941, that would have been the end of Harvey’s publishing career. Instead not only did Speed Comics return in April as a regular size comic, Harvey took over publishing Champ Comics in May, and then even more surprising Green Hornet in June. Al would turn again to Joe Simon, and now Jack Kirby also, to help with the covers.

Speed #17

When Harvey resumed publishing, S&K were working for National. Joe and Jack’s version of Sandman was out in March (see image below), their version of Manhunter and their own creation the Newsboy Legion came out at the same time as Speed #17, and their creation Boy Commandos would come out in October. National was even using the Simon and Kirby name on their covers. It was pretty unusual at that time to use the creator names to promote the comic. Even so Joe and Jack would do covers art for Harvey. But they would not sign these with their own names. Instead some of the work is signed Jon Henri. I don’t believe that anybody in the industry or at National was fooled by this. I think the real reason that they did not use their own names is that Simon and Kirby had now become a brand name. It is one thing to give Al Harvey a helping hand, it is another to compete against yourself.

Adventure #72

This cover has the Jon Henri signature. In later posts I shall show that other Henri covers would be penciled by either Jack or Joe. The overall composition is not unlike a classic Al Schromberg. Despite all that is going on, S&K seem to handle it well and present a clear story. But it is a layout style that was pretty unusual for them. Even though published by Harvey, this is very much a Captain America cover. Compare it to Captain America #10 which even has similar hooded figures. The art style is closest to what had been done at Timely. But the typical Simon and Kirby art had already appeared and National and would also show up on all the later Henri covers. I suspect that this cover was actually done just after leaving Timely and before their work at National gave birth to a true S&K style. Penciling was primarily done by Jack Kirby.

I admit that I am not comfortable with golden age ink attributions. But on this cover there is a peculiar inking pattern in the chute and the ceiling of the room above it. A similar inking style appears on the splash page that Al Avison did for Pocket #1. I have also seen it in “Red Skull’s Deadly Revenge” from Captain America #16, again by Al Avison. However I have also seen something similar on the covers for Champion #8 (Joe Simon) and #9 (Jack Kirby).