John Prentice, usual suspect #3

John Prentice was the last of the usual suspects (artists that worked frequently for the S&K studio for an extended period of time). John served in the Navy during the war, in fact he was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attached. Afterwards he went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for a short time. John arrived in New York in 1947 and the GCD shows him doing work for in Airboy Comics and Gang Buster. The first work he did for the Simon & Kirby studio was Young Love #4 (August 1949). Once John started with S&K he was a frequent artist for their productions. The work he initially did for S&K was pretty good, but John progressed fairly rapidly while until he achieved his mature style which really was exceptional.

YL #4 Two Timer
Young Love #4 (August 1949).

Joe and Jack must have thought highly of John’s work because he was an important contributor to Bullseye #1. The Bullseye origin story was divided into three chapters (“The Boy”, “The Youth” and “The Man”). Jack did all of the first chapter and the splash pages for both of the other chapters, but Prentice penciled all the rest of the story for the last two chapters. Bullseye was part of the Mainline comics, Simon and Kirby’s attempt at self publishing. But while doing Mainline S&K continued producing comics for Prize (Black Magic and the romance titles) during that time. Presumably because of his work load, Jack stopped penciling for these Prize productions. Prentice seems to have taken up some of the work for the absent Kirby because his page output jumps from an average of about 12 pages a month to about 26 during the period from March to October, the last month for Mainline comics.

B #1 The Youth
Bullseye #1, “Bullseye, The Youth” (August 1954).

Like Bill Draut and Mort Meskin, John seemed to worked in all of the genre from the S&K shop. Romance genre were the most frequent stories produced by the studio and Prentice’s style was well suited for them. John was probably the most realistic artist to work for S&K. His men tend to have small eyes and long faces. John’s women are attractive, but are not what I would call glamorous, perhaps sophisticated would be a better description. For some reason Prentice never signed any of his work for Simon and Kirby. Attribution of this work to John is based on work done for the Rip Kirby strip (see below).

YL #45 I Like It Here
Young Love #45, “I Like It Here” (May 1953).

Simon and Kirby’s timing in starting their own comic publishing company, Mainline, was unfortunate because that was the period when anti-comic sediment swept the country fueled by Dr. Wertham and a Senate Investigation Committee. Many publishers felt the effects, but it was probably worst for new companies like Mainline. Mainline’s last comics were dated April 1955. John Prentice’s last work for S&K’s Prize publications was Young Love #69 February 1956. However Joe Simon did some editorial work for Harvey during this difficult period, and Prentice work there on romances until February 1957 (Hi-School Romance #60). If the GCD can be trusted, John returned to work for DC, mostly on their version of the horror genre.

Young Love #58
Young Love #58 (June 1954).

I would like to repeat a cover that I posted earlier, In Love #1. This is one of the few covers that Kirby shared pencil duties with an artist other then Simon. The foreground couple are clearly Jack’s, but the background men were done by John Prentice. Ignoring covers with unrelated inserts, there was only one other cover that Jack shared with another penciler other then Joe during the S&K years. If you don’t know which cover I am talking about, don’t worry I’ll post it shortly.

In Love #1
In Love #1 (September 1954)

On September 6, 1956 Alex Raymond, the artist for the syndication strip Rip Kirby, died. Two months later Prentice took over this popular newspaper comic strip. John would do Rip Kirby until he in turned passed away in 1985. I’ve always heard how much work was involved in producing a comic strip for syndication. But the GCD continues to list comic book work by Prentice from 1957 on into the early 70’s.

Rip Kirby (5/6/58).

Well now I’ve managed to give a brief review on each of the usual suspects. But work by Draut, Meskin and Prentice is so common in S&K productions I am sure to be blogging on them from time to time. Although the usual suspects did a lot of work for the studio, there were other artists who would work for Joe and Jack for shorter periods of time. Many of these artists were quite talented, some later on would achieve fame. I’ll post on some of the other artists some other time.

5 thoughts on “John Prentice, usual suspect #3

  1. Anonymous


    To my eye there appears to be some Kirby in the Bullseye page. Did he perhaps provide layouts for Prentice, or make some corections? The heavyset man, in particular, looks very Kirbyish.

    Nick Caputo

  2. Harry Mendryk

    The heavy chap is the least Prentice-like, most Kirbyish figure on the page. I would not be surprised if Kirby did some touchup here and there, I’ve seen him do fix up in romance stories. As for Kirby layouts, I would not want to hazard a guess at this time. But most of the page, and the faces in particular, have the Prentice touch, so I think he is the primary penciler.

  3. Ger Apeldoorn


    I’d have to agree with Nick on the lay-out theory. I have made a list of all the touch-up work Kirby did for the romance books (I have about 70%) and in all cases, the touch-up is done a. over the exsisting artwork and b. only with the weaker artists. It’s almost as if S&K had decided to leave certain artists alone, Prentice being one of them. Except maybe on his most early pages.

    Anyway, here the heavyset guy has a typical Kirby laugh that could only have been achieved if Kirby pencilled it – which is even more than doing lay-out. I know it may be heracy, but if the other figures are more Prentice than Kirbhy, it may have been Prentice who was taking liberties.

    Great weblog! Keep going!

  4. Ger Apeldoorn


    May I say that I enjoyed your articles on the S&K regulars a lot. I hope that one day you may be able to add the lesser known regulars to that, such as Vic Donahue and Bruno Primiani (I think I wrote the name wrong).

    There one early ‘regular’ that I would really like you to look into. In my notes he is called ‘unknown #4’ and he appears early on in the crime titles. Here are some of the stories he seems to have had a hand in:

    Justice Traps The Guilty 3 2 So Many Ways To Die! 8 Draut Vol. 1. No. 3 fat Jack Davis-like inking march-48
    Justice Traps The Guilty 3 3 Night-Club-Nick 8 Unknown 4 Vol. 1. No. 3 fat Jack Davis-like inking march-48

    Justice Traps The Guilty 4 2 The Lincoln Tomb Thieves! 7 Unknown 4 Vol. 1. No. 4 fat Jack Davis-like inking may-48
    Justice Traps The Guilty 4 5 The Half-Pint Killer! 6 Unknown 4 Vol. 1. No. 4 fat Jack Davis-like inking may-48
    Justice Traps The Guilty 5 3 Last Of The Old West Bandits 3 Unknown 4 Vol. 1. No. 5 fat Jack Davis-like inking jul-48
    Justice Traps The Guilty 5 6 A Fortune In Slugs! 8 Draut Vol. 1. No. 5 fat Jack Davis-like inking jul-48
    Justice Traps The Guilty 8 2 The Violent Mr. Peace 10 Unknown 4 Vol. 2. No. 2 fat Jack Davis-like inking jan-49
    Justice Traps The Guilty 8 5 Joe Slade 9 Severin? Vol. 2. No. 2 fat Jack Davis-like inking jan-49
    Justice Traps The Guilty 11 1 Small-Time Crooks! 8 Unknown 4 Vol. 2. No. 5 fat Jack Davis-like inking aug-49
    Justice Traps The Guilty 11 4 Insurance Sleuth… 5 Vol. 2. No. 5 fat Jack Davis-like inking aug-49
    Justice Traps The Guilty 12 1 Air Cop 8 Unknown 4? Vol. 2. No. 6 long thin figures oct-49

    There may be more, because I haven’t gotten past issue #12 with my indexing yet. This artist (or is it an inker, for I also have him as the possible inker for the first Krigstein story in Justice Traps The Guilty 8, although Greg Sadinsky says it must be Krigstein’s own inking, because he was so proud of it that he kept the tear sheets) intrigues me enormously. At times his style seems influenced by Kirby, like when he draws those long thin figures running exactly the way S&K did. Other times he reminds me of John Severin, who was to join the regulars a couple of months later. My best bet is, that it is either Dick Briefer of Al Avison inking the pencils of different artists.

    Do you have an idea? Is it something you could show Joe Simon and ask him?

  5. Harry Post author

    I still am not going to get into discussions about Kirby layouts. But I am not at all clear what you mean about “taking liberties”. Bullseye was a S&K production, nothing went into it that they did not want. My point is that most of the art on the page has Prentice’s distinct touch, and therefore he is the primary penciler. The heavy set guy does not look like Prentice’s hand, does look more like Kirby’s (although not a perfect match). Perhaps my use of the term touch-up is unfortunate, because without the original art we really can’t say if we are dealing with work that was done at the pencil stage or at the inking step. I believe Joe Simon still has some Bullseye art, I’ll have to take a look at it to see if by chance it includes this page.

    I am sorry to say I can’t be of any help with your “unknown #4”. S&K freelance artists who did not sign their work are a problem, particularly for me since I do not have access to much outside of what S&K produced. And it is not the sort of thing I bother Joe with. Joe does not have much interest in trying to identify artists from their work. This would be particularly true in the case of “unknown #4” since most of the work you list was done after S&K stopped producing Guilty.

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