Speaking of Art, Jack Kirby’s True Life Divorce

True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

One of the more unusual pieces from Joe Simon’s collection can be easily over-looked. A simple photo-layout with some very light writing in pencil. It is only when the writing is actually read that it becomes apparent that this is a rather odd piece indeed. True Life Divorce seems a rather bizarre title or subject for a comic book. I had known about Jack Kirby’s art from the 70’s for this title, or by its alternate name True Divorce Cases. But since this piece was in Joe’s collection I wondered if it was for some earlier proposal that Joe had some involvement with. When I ask him about this piece of art Joe had a little story to tell. Considering the sometimes negative reaction of a small side comment I made recently, I will decline to repeat a story that some fervent Kirby fans might take offence to. But suffice it to say that Joe had nothing to do with the creation of this piece and that it was the work of Kirby from the 70’s.

True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

While I enjoy movies, I cannot claim to be very knowledgeable about them or the actors who appeared in them. Although I cannot identify the individuals in these photographs, with one notable exception, I believe they all were movie stars. Perhaps some of my readers can help me out. The paper for this particular image has yellowed and although it cannot be made out in the image I provide it has been screened for publication. Most likely it was taken from a movie magazine many of which were printed on newsprint paper which generally yellows with age.

True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

The second image is actually two. The upper left corner was cut from the same image that appears above and has similarly yellowed with age. The rest is an unscreened silverprint probably originally created by some Hollywood movie company. By the 70’s such photographs would have been done in color. I think the original for this would have been done in the 50’s or early 60’s.

True Life Divorce, layout and lettering by Jack Kirby

I am certain that is Gregory Peck in the final image but I will not hazard a guess on the identification of the lady. Let us be practical, the use of movie stars in a comic book would never have happened. No publisher would take the risk of using such images without reaching some type of compensation for the actors. And any such compensation would have unnecessarily diminished any possible profits of a new title. Yes I know about Don Rickles but that was for an established title. Further the True Life Divorce actors would only appear on this introductory page and not in any of the stories. Of course these problems were never really of any importance as no publisher of the time would seriously consider releasing a comic book with stories about divorce. Kirby was trying to come up with ideas to find new audiences since the size of the comic book readership was in decline. We should commend Kirby for even realizing that something had to be done even if all his suggestions were not always the best.

You can read some more abut True Life Divorce in an article that John Morrow wrote for the Jack Kirby Collector #23. While I am not as enthusiastic about Kirby’s stories as Morrow is, I agree with him that there has been a great improvement in the art. Kirby’s female characters from the 60’s all look alike. Actually I should not say Kirby’s women as this really trait was not restricted to him but was characteristic of most comic book artists at that time. I think of it as the Barbie effect where most women looked the same save for changes in the hair and clothing. It is refreshing to see Kirby return to a more individualistic portrayal of the female lead characters.

8 thoughts on “Speaking of Art, Jack Kirby’s True Life Divorce

  1. Mark Evanier

    A couple of comments and questions here, one being why Joe Simon had a piece of artwork (a pasteup but a piece of art) that Jack created in the seventies when the two men were not working together. DC should have returned that to Kirby.

    I’m pretty sure Jack did not intend that those particular photos be published. This was a mock-up of something he did to show DC what he had in mind. What he really wanted then was for DC to budget him to hire models and shoot some of the stories for the proposed comic in fumetti (photo-comic) form. We actually did photograph one story for this book that way with actors.

    In any case, I would take slight issue with your comment that no publisher would have published a comic about divorce. DC wanted some of the magazines that were under discussion to be not unlike love comics, the idea being to try and snare some of the audience that was then buying romance novels in record numbers. Jack submitted a dozen or more ideas in that arena to DC and Carmine Infantino selected the divorce one. Was he serious about possibly putting it out? He was serious enough to have Kirby, one of his top creators, spend a few weeks writing and drawing material for it. I don’t think DC would have wasted Jack’s time (and his salary) for something they had no intention of publishing. Later on, Infantino changed his mind about that book and then about the whole magazine endeavor but at one point, it was certainly not unthinkable that they would have published this book.

    I don’t think this was a great idea and I don’t think Jack even thought it was the best idea of those he’d submitted…but DC published a lot of things back then that I wouldn’t have thought they’d publish.

  2. Harry Post author


    Joe Simon’s collection was rather large with work by many artists. That includes a fair number of pieces of work that Jack drew during the Simon and Kirby partnership. The True Life Divorce is the only piece by Jack from after that period, although there is one other work that I will be writing about that sort of straddled before and after.

  3. dave


    It’s not Peck. If you google him and look under images it’s obvious. Peck has a thinner nose, face, squarer jaw etc. I can email you a picture if you want.
    Keep the Kirby minutiae koming- love it!

Comments are closed.