Western Tales #31 (October 1955) by Jack Kirby
Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby we saw the launch of S&K’s own publishing company Mainline at a time of peak anti-comic sentiments. Income from comics produced for Prize decreased due to title cancellations. Charlton, a company infamous for its poor rates, was used to publish a new title, Win A Prize. After Mainline abruptly failed Charlton would also publish left over work from that line.
It is hard to image Harvey Comics as the corruptors of youth. Come on how could reading Richie Rich lead a minor into a life of crime? But even a company that mainly published comics for the very, very young would face difficulties with an approaching Comic Code. Harvey also had his own version of the horror genre titled “Witches Tales”. He must have thought it might have problems with the code or perhaps it just was not selling too well. In any case the title switched to Witches Western Tales. I have no idea what the readers might have thought they were buying with that title. But the hope must have been that purchasers of the old title would at least try the new one. New to the contents would be reprints from Simon & Kirby’s Boys’ Ranch. Now part of this change may have been due to the Comic Code, but not all. The same month has another Harvey title, Thrills of Tomorrow, including Stuntman reprints. Could it be more then a coincident that this happened at a time of financial stress for Joe and Jack?
Pocket Comics #1 (August 1941) by Joe Simon
Al Harvey and Joe Simon had a long history, meeting at Fox Comics in the days before Captain America. When Harvey had the idea of publishing pocket sized comic books he asked Joe to join him. But Joe was going to receive a share of the profits for Captain America and thought that was a much better deal then investing in Al’s idea. But Simon did contribute the art for some of the first covers for Al’s comics. Joe always says he did those cover for free. Well the profit sharing from Captain America never amounted to much. Supposedly Goodman used a lot of extraneous business expenses so that the profits from Captain America would be low, at least as far as the books were concerned. Meanwhile Harvey’s pocket comics failed (they were too easy to steal) but he still ended up building an extremely successful comic publishing company. And Al did not forget Joe and the help he provided.
Witches Western Tales #30 and Thrills of Tomorrow #20 appeared with a April date and with the comic code stamp. But April was the same month that the last Mainline comics were released. As we saw before Joe and Jack turned to Charlton to publish the final issues of what had been Mainline. The last of these (Police Trap #6) was dated September. The only think left for S&K at Charlton was Charlie Chan and that would end with issue #9 (December 1955). There was also work for Prize. With Black Magic cancelled that left only the romances. Sure enough, Jack Kirby returns to doing pencils for romance in October. I want to save writing about Kirby’s return to Prize romances for my next chapter where I will go into it in detail. But I will say that when Jack stopped doing pencils for these romance titles they were published monthly, on his return they were bi-monthly. Things must have been financially difficult for the Simon and Kirby team.
Western Tales #32 (March 1956) by Joe Simon
When October came around Harvey dropped the witches from the title and it became just Western Tales. I don’t know for sure if Joe and Jack got any money for the reprints Harvey had used, but Western Tales #31 included new material. Although the comic would still have some Boys’ Ranch reprints, now it starred Davy Crockett. Issue #32 would not come out until March, but Davy was still the star. Surprisingly the cover was penciled by Joe Simon. It has been quite a few years since Joe penciled a cover. I could be more exact and say what that last cover was, but I know that a lot of experts and scholars do not agree with me that Joe did that earlier cover and so I want to leave that subject for a future post. There was an even longer delay for Western Tales #33 (July 1956) and now the star would be Jim Bowie.
Western Tales #33 (July 1956) “Magic Knife” by Jack Kirby
The art for these Western Tales is typical Simon and Kirby with Jack doing the penciling. These comics have standard S&K shop inking. Spotting was often more limited then much previous work but typical S&K “hay”(strong crosshatching) is present. More spotting was often done on the covers and splashes and the results provide a darker image. The art work in all three issues is very similar and very much like what was produced in the Mailine comics. We shall see in the next chapter that at the same as these Western Tales, inking in romance comics would start to look different. Because of this I believe that despite the delay between issues of Western Tales that they were all done relatively close to one another and not too long after the end of Mainline. Al Harvey was willing to give these comics a try, but his commitment remained in his kid humor comics like Richie Rich. As happened to the S&K team all too often, Western Tales ended up being cancelled after a very short run.
Warfront #28 (January 1956) by Jack Kirby
But Simon and Kirby work would show up in Harvey comics other then Western Tales. I want to leave the subject of Harvey romances to yet another post (when I said I was going to do this topic in chapters, I never said how many I would need). Here I want to discuss some work for Warfront. S&K relationship with Warfront (and as we shall see later this is true also with the Harvey romances) was very different then what happened in Western Tales. Although Western Tales included some reprint material it otherwise looks like a typical Simon and Kirby production. But the contents to Warfront seem to be Harvey material, they do not look at all like S&K, only the covers do. The first S&K cover is on Warfront #28. The depicted aircraft roughly follows a panel from a story from Foxhole #2 (November 1954) called “Hot Box”. The original art for Warfront #28 still exists and it is done on thick illustration board. All the Simon and Kirby work I’ve seen had been done on such boards, even work done by freelancers. The only exception was some John Prentice material for Bullseye. All the Harvey work I have seen was done on much thinner bristol board. This along with the art style leads me to believe that the Warfront #28 cover is actually unused Foxhole #2 cover recycled for Harvey.
Warfront #29 (July 1956) by Jack Kirby
Jack is the primary pencil to the cover for Warfront #29. But note the odd thing that the soldier is carrying on his back. Even though he is firing a rifle he looks like he is carrying a flame thrower. I believe that this cover has been modified, originally the soldier was torching the occupants of the tunnel. The change was done to either avoid or correct a problem with the Comic Code Authority. The style also makes me believe that this also could be unused art from Foxhole. The real test of this guess of mine would be if the original art ever shows up. If it is recycled Foxhole art I expect it will be on thick illustration board. If the use of a flame thrower was removed it would have been covered over with a paste up.
The Jack Kirby Checklist also assigns to Jack the covers for Warfront #30 (September 1957) and Warfront #34 (September 1958). Frankly because of their layouts I do not agree that they were done by Kirby. However we shall see in a later chapter that Joe and Jack were involved in other Harvey projects at the times in question. It really does not change the story I am telling if you accept covers #30 and #34 or not.
Chapter 3, Unlikely Port in the Storm
Another great chapter. The cover to Warfront #28 is the best Kirby cover of that period in my opinion. I had never noticed the flamethrower on the next one, but now that you pointed it out it is obvious. I don’t know if the comics code change would have been the reason for a hold-up at Mainline, because I am not sure Mainline ever came so far as to have dealt with them. The first issues with comic code interference appeared in february/march 1955. But it may have been produced for Charlton. Or it could have been one of Jack’s many sketches.
Could you try and include the projects Simon and Kirby didn’t realize in this period. Some very interesting sketches have turned up in TJKC for a Lincoln comic and a Hunting book. I believe the subject of both is typically post-code and could be from the same bunch of proposals Davey Crocked came from. A seperate chapter about those could include C.C. Beck’s Spiderman, the later Challangers and maybe more information from Joe himself?
In fact Mainline did have to deal with the Comic Code towards the end as I wrote in a previous champter. Bullseye #5 (see image in Chapter 3), Foxhole #4, and Police Trap #4 all had the approval stamp. In fact it was the original cover to Foxhole #4 that was rejected and had to be replaced. It showed a dead enemy soldier hanging upside down from a tree, The Jack Kirby Treasury Vol.2 has an image of it.
Unfortunately I will not be discussing in this series of posts any unrealized projects for two reasons. The first is that I want to stay way clear of any copyright issues in this blog. All images that I use here are my own scans and restorations, none are from any publication. The other reason is that published material provides documentation of dating while unpublished projects do not. My main objective is to try to analyze the comics for clues to how the events of the end of the S&K collaboration unfolded.
Having said that I will add that sometime in the not too distant future I hope to have a post of one project that never was launched, the syndication proposal for Tiger 21.