Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958), pencils by an unidentified artist?
A dramatic change in the Black Cat Mystic title has come with issue #61, there is no Kirby. Issues 58 to 60 of Black Cat Mystic as well as Alarming Tales #1 and #2 were essentially all Kirby comics (with the exception of a two pages story drawn by Marvin Stein in AT #2). We shall see later that Kirby would continue to appear in Alarming Tales but even that would be a limited contribution in both quantity and duration. Jack had begun doing freelance work for DC which paid more than Harvey. However that does not seem like a likely explanation because he did not get as much work from DC as he would have liked. So Kirby sudden absence from Black Cat Mystic must remain a minor mystery.
The cover is an adaptation of the splash page for “Colorama”. Bob Powell drew the interior story and but I am not completely convince he drew the cover. Joe Simon once told me that he did the cover but to be honest I cannot detect his hand in it. The flying figure and his mount do not appear in the story but oddly show up in the contents page. The flying figures is surrounded by something very much like Kirby Krackle. It is an odd but very effective cover.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) contents page, pencils by Howard Nostrand
The contents page for Harvey comics were sometimes used as a sort of prequel to one of the book’s stories. It is possible that this was an innovation introduced to Harvey by Joe Simon. While both Kirby and Simon did some of this content pages for the Harvey romance titles, this particular one appears to have been executed by Howard Nostrand, an artist commonly used by Harvey at this time. It is here that the flying figure from the cover appears and not the actual story.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Colorama”, pencils by Bob Powell
Bob Powell was another regularly featured artist in Harvey titles. Powell was a great artist, at least before he was instructed at Marvel to work like Kirby. His style was particularly well suited for the horror genre and this story is a minor masterpiece. The entire story is based on what the narrator sees.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Unknown Worlds”, art by unidentified artist
It is hard to believe anyone would present a feature that seriously suggests that there were worlds to be found at the center of the earth. Such an idea may have been the inspiration for fictions writes such as Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but by the 50’s science had already known that the earth had a molten core incapable of supporting life.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Line-Up”, pencils by Howard Nostrand
Besides doing the contents page, Nostrand was responsible for “Line-Up”. This is another odd story and like much of the book rather different than Simon and Kirby pieces. If Joe was still the book’s editor, he was using Harvey writers and artists.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) advertisement, pencils and inks by Joe Simon
That Joe was still working for Harvey is apparent with this in house advertisement for Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958). Both the pencils and inks for this ad appear to have been done by Joe, and judging from the humor I suspect the writing as well. I remember from my days in art classes that artists often unconsciously draw people that resemble themselves. I detect something like that in the panel introducing “The Man Who Never Lived”.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Knockout”, pencils by Joe Certa
I have to admit that I cannot get very excited about the work by Joe Certa, but he was another one of Harvey’s regular artists.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Strange Superstitions”, art by unidentified artist
Single page works such as this one, called fillers, were often used and were generally done by lesser talents.
Black Cat Mystic #61 (January 1958) “Cancelled”
I have only a passing knowledge of the various artists found in Harvey comics and no idea who this one was. Unfortunately Harvey seemed to have a policy prohibiting artists from signing their works (with the occasional exception of Lee Elias).
All four main stories in this issue are reprints from Black Cat Mystery #45, and all are edited to meet the Comics Code (including title changes in some cases). In the original “Colorama”, the protagonist kills the optometrist to get the experimental glasses that may cure his condition…
I don’t agree with your identification of the artist for the intro page as HOWARD NOSTRAND. This page and the cover are clearly the work of Joe Simon copying the work of others. The included Nostrand strip is a reprint and he had moved on from Harvey comics by this time. The Nostrand strip (pencils but not inks) is from 54/55 and was published in one of their post code horror books.
I am not an expert on Nostrand, so you might be right about the introduction page not being his. I also could accept the introduction page as by Joe, but not the cover. More importantly if both the cover and introduction were by Joe what was he copying from? The figure riding a flying bird does not appear in the story. But I could imagine someone doing the cover, adding the figure and then Joe using this as a basis for the introduction.
Never believe any contribution without several people confirming it, but the Jules Verne one page filler is by Pete Morisi. It is typical of his work in style and in the filler form. He did this sort of thing for several companies. So many in fact, that my Dutch friend and Charlton/Morisi expert Ramon Schenk has suggested he may have had an agent getting these one page assignments. I don’t know if this is be a reprint as well, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
The cover and contents page are by Joe Simon. The Unknown Worlds filler is by Pete Morisi. The Strange Superstitions filler is by Howard Nostrand. Line Up is penciled and inked by Nostrand, but as a post-Code reprint it has changes (censorship) by Joe Simon. It is an interesting story to compare the pre and post-Code versions side by side. I think Cancelled might be by Al Eadeh. Nostrand inked Colorama, with backgrounds from George Seifringer and Martin Epp (Powell Studio artists). The Joe Certa story is inked by John Belfi.
I agree with Ben and Ger on the Howard Nostrand, Pete Morisi and Joe Simon attributions, particularly the cover.
I just do not see Joe Simon having done the cover. So here is a challenge to Nick and the rest, provide a reference to a piece by Joe Simon that looks like the BCM #61 cover!