Today I read an article by Alex Toth called “Homage to Mort Meskin: Maestro” that had been published in Robin Snyder’s History of the Comics (April 1992, v. 3, n. 4). Toth provided some interesting observations about Meskin’s talent. I think he was pretty much describing Mort’s work from the 40’s.
What I found most interesting was Alex’s description of the working method that he saw Mort use in the mid 40’s. Mort would use a soft pencil and a lot of smudging to produce an overall gray tone to the entire sheet of paper. Then Mort would use a kneaded eraser to remove gray to produce first the panel borders, then solid white shapes inside the panels including captions and work balloons as well as the figures. Only when he had completely blocked out the entire page did he proceed to use a pencil to provide the details.
This is a very different approach then what Joe Simon describes in his and Jim Simon’s book “The Comic Book Makers”. When Mort first came to work for Simon and Kirby he was unable to produce any pages of art. He was seemingly paralyzed by the blank page. Joe’s solution was to have someone each day put some scribbles of the page. Apparently it was not important what was initially placed on the paper, it was enough to free up Mort’s creative juices.
After the Simon and Kirby shop closed Mort did some work for DC. Presumable the unorthodox working procedure that Simon described changed. I cannot imagine DC editors would care enough to provide Mort with marked up pages.
The closing of Toth’s article about Meskin:
His meaning and intellect were not given the editorial, environmental or fiscal appreciation due him, and so, as in so many other cases in our curious profession, he was distressed enough with it until his only solace was to leave it- and so he did. The loss was ours…