“From Shadow to Light”, an Ode to Mort Meskin

I have previously posted an announcement for this book with a comment on how important a volume I believed it would be. Of course I had not yet seen the book at that time so now that I have the question now is did Steven Brower succeed in doing justice to a great artist like Mort Meskin? The answer is a resounding YES!

This is a large book, the paper size is 9 by 12 inches. In my opinion this is a perfect format for a project like this. Scans of printed comic books have been enlarged for better viewing and the size works nicely with the reproductions of original art. And there are a lot of both spanning Meskin’s entire career. It starts with some work that Mort did in high school. While not very exciting compared to what would follow, it still is great to see the initial efforts. I could detail all the reproductions that follow but I fear that such a list would prove too tedious while the actual art is certainly not that. But I cannot resist mentioning some of my personal favorites such as some great Vigilante splashes, amazing work for the Fighting Yank (working with Jerry Robinson), terrific Golden Lad covers and some truly beautiful romance covers for Prize Comics. While those are my favorites, what is presented is actually much fuller and thoroughly representative. It is not just isolated pages of art. While a marvelous artist, Mort Meskin was also a consummate graphic story teller. “From Shadow to Light” has a Golden Lad and a crime story; both complete and never before published.

Mort Meskin was an artist’s artist. Brower has brought together comments from some of the creators who acknowledge how important Meskin was to them personally. Artists such as Steve Ditko, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth and Mort’s sometime partner Jerry Robinson. These are not just your usual commentary, they provide discussions of Meskin’s actual working methods. I found these very revealing and they answered some questions that have been nagging me for years. Particularly the commentary by Robinson. Jerry was Mort’s collaborator on a lot of comic books. I have often wondered exactly how they worked with each other, what rolls each played. Well Robinson answers that directly. I have also wondered why so much of Meskin’s comic book art is still exists as un-inked pencils. Very surprising since at least some of it, such as a couple of pages from Treasure #12 that are reproduced in this book, had been published. Again Robinson provides the answer.

Anyone who has followed this blog should know I am a big Mort Meskin fan. He did a lot of work for Simon and Kirby and therefore appears frequently in my posts. I have even written about Mort’s prior career (Early Mort Meskin and Mort Meskin before Joining Simon and Kirby). But the Internet is not the best format for viewing Meskin’s art. You really need a book for that and Steven Brower’s “From Shadow to Light” is that book. You do not want to miss this book.

2 thoughts on ““From Shadow to Light”, an Ode to Mort Meskin

  1. Bob Cosgrove

    I absolutely loved this book, and agree with all of your comments; though you note Fighting Yank, I think the Black Terror work is even more stunning. I do have a question for you, though. One of the interesting bits in the book is the tale of Meskin (somewhat more aggressive than was apparently his usual wont), approaching Jack Kirby and saying that he was a better artist than Jack. Jack reportedly agrees, and Meskin is stunned that Kirby really appears to mean it. He asks Jack why Jack’s books sell better, and Kirby says that while Meskin focuses more on drawing, he focuses on storytelling and is the superior story teller. This tale is footnoted to “composite of interviews with the author (presumably Brower) with Dylan Williams.” This leaves me a bit mystified. Who heard this exchange? Do you know if Joe Simon recalls this conversation?

  2. Harry Post author

    While the footnotes attribute this incident to Dylan Williams, I believe the original source was Jack Kirby as told to Greg Theakston. Frankly although I think it was correct for Brower to include it in the book, I do not have much faith that the conversation actually happened, or at least as presented. Like you said it seems out of place that Meskin to be so aggressive. Nor do I believe it is correct that at that time Mort emphasised drawing over story telling, quite the opposite. And Meskin’s Vigilante was so popular they made a serial after it. To me this story tells more about Jack Kirby than it does Mort Meskin.

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