Kirby Puppets?

Punch and Judy vol. 1 no. 4
Punch and Judy vol. 1 no. 4 (Fall 1945)

After leaving Captain America and Timely, Simon and Kirby worked for DC. There they worked mainly on Sandman (Adventure Comics), the Newsboy Legion (Star Spangled Comics) and the Boy Commandos (Detective Comics and Boy Commandos Comics). There was a war on and the artists knew that sooner or later they would be drafted. So our intrepid duo went into hyper drive and produced extra material. These backlog stories and covers were used by DC while Joe and Jack did their military service. Eventually the stories were used up, but backlog covers were used right up to the time Kirby returned from the war in Europe. New Sandman and Newsboy Legion stories drawn by Jack reappear in October 1945 (cover date). Joe Simon was still in the Coast Guard at that time and would not rejoin Jack until several months later.

It is just at this time that a puzzling single page art appears in Hillman Publication’s Punch and Judy (Fall 1945). The Jack Kirby Checklist includes this as a work by Jack. Let me layout the pros and cons to this attribution as I see them.

The timing is right, just barely. Jack could very well have been back from the military at this point. The inking, particularly on the boy puppeteer, looks like it could have been done by Jack. The boy’s “Howdy Doody” kind of face is similar to some done by Kirby in “Your Health Comes First” a syndicate feature from the start of his career prior to meeting Simon. Simon and Kirby would produce “kiddie” stories for Punch and Judy later.

Joe Simon says that DC treated them well during the war, providing them with royalties. Jack’s return to DC and his work on the previous S&K titles indicate there was still a job there for him. So why would Jack immediately set out find other work? And if for some reason the DC work was not enough, why did Kirby not continue to do outside work? This is the only work not for DC that is attributed to Kirby at this time. The inking on the drapes does not have quite as convincing a Kirby look. Although there is some likeness to cartoon work from early in Jack’s career, work from this time period did not seem to use this sort of “Howdy Doody” face. This despite the fact that Jack did a lot of kid characters. Yes S&K later did work for Punch and Judy but that was almost two years in the future.

So I end up sitting on the fence. You can make your own decision. I guess I would be happier with the attribution if I was more familiar with other artists doing “kiddie” type of work at that time. Perhaps there are some Kirby scholars out there who can provide their own opinions and the reasons why? Hey, sitting on a fence is uncomfortable!

5 thoughts on “Kirby Puppets?

  1. Stan Taylor

    Hi Harry,

    I also have never been convinced as to the attribution, but I believe it came straight from Jack. I think I have read this somewhere….perhaps Greg Theakston???
    But there is something you may have missed. Kirby also did a 4 pager for a small company called Lafayette Street Corp. in a comic called Picture News. Jan. 1946. I have seen this and it is definitely Kirby. So there is work for other than DC

  2. Harry Post author


    Your right I missed Picture News #1, add that to the pros of the pros and cons. If someone could add a reference where Kirby says Puppets is his work I would also add that to the pros. I trust people understand that an astist testiment about art is evidence, but not proof. Too often comic book artists make mistakes about these attribution questions.


  3. nick caputo

    My first reaction is that this is not Kirby work. I don’t see any telltale signs of his style here, and I just finished reading his early strips in Theakston’s Comic Strip Kirby.

    Nick Caputo

  4. Stan Taylor

    Hi Nick,

    I’m with you, I lean towards it not being by Kirby. I don’t know if it’s even possible for Kirby to have provided artwork for a comic dated Nov. 1945. Kirby got out of the service in late July 1945, and probably wasn’t working till early Aug. This issue of Punch and Judy was cover dated Nov, so it probably was on the stands no later than Sept. The artwork would have been done no later than June or July.

  5. Harry Post author

    Stan & Nick,

    Thanks for the opinions. I particularly find the July date for Kirby leaving the service interesting. Wouldn’t that also put into doubt Adventure #100 (October) “Sweets For Swag” in doubt? That story is listed in the Checklist as the first post-war work by Kirby. Not that I would mind putting that story in doubt, I may be on the fence about this Punch and Judy page but I have never believed “Sweets For Swag” was by Jack.


Comments are closed.