Author Archives: Harry Mendryk

Lettering S&K Chapter 7 Conclusion

Howard Ferguson had a long, if not continuous, association with Simon and Kirby. Including the work from the 50’s that I questionably credit to Ferguson, Howard did 4068 pages of lettering for Joe and Jack. If Avon and Stanley Morse is included, I would credit 4551 pages of lettering to Ferguson. But my search for Ferguson lettering outside of Simon and Kirby is very incomplete and I am certain he did more lettering than what I have counted here.

It is clear that Howard Ferguson was Simon and Kirby’s preferred letterer, especially if he was indeed the letterer from 1954 on. When Ferguson lettered for Joe and Jack, he would letter more pages than other individual lettering for them. But oddly for the three transitions made by Simon and Kirby to a new publisher (DC, Harvey after the war, and Prize and Hillman) only once was Ferguson the initial letterer (Harvey). Ferguson was not even used for the Prize and Hillman work until possibly many years later.

Ben Oda also had a long association with Simon and Kirby. But there is a problem in determining how much lettering Ben did for Joe and Jack. Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty both started as Simon and Kirby productions but were later taken over by other editors. But exactly when that occurred is not clear. My judgement is that the last Simon and Kirby issues of Headline was September 1949 and for Justice Traps the Guilty June 1949. Using those dates I find that Oda lettered 8293 pages for Simon and Kirby. The total lettering by Ben for Simon and Kirby plus the other Prize editors was 13088 pages. The GCD has a lot of work credited to Oda besides those I have been reporting on here. I did try to verify a small number of them and was not satisfied that it was truly lettering by Oda. However Ben Oda had a long and productive career after leaving Prize Comics so I am sure that they 13088 I have credited to Oda is only a fraction of his total output.

Superman #327 (September 1978) “The Sandstorm That Swallowed Metropolis” by Ben Oda

As I have said, I have not tried to followed Ben Oda’s career outside of Simon and Kirby and Prize. But I have created a letter set for a comic that Oda lettered for DC in 1978. This is over two decades since Oda’s last work for Prize but his lettering has not changed too much. Oda’s question mark no longer takes the form of a ‘Z’ but rather more like a ‘2’. The lower portion of ‘J’ still has on a whole a gentle curve but is now has a more acute angular connection to the vertical shaft. More importantly Oda now adds a topping serif to his ‘J’. Here Ben was using simple drop caps in his captions, something he only did a couple of times early in his work for Simon and Kirby.

OdaBalloon

Someone has created an OdaBalloon font. I will not provide a link here because that sort of thing is apt to change. But if you are interested in it you can Google it and you will certainly find places to download it from. I have no idea on what part of Oda’s career this font is based on but overall it is a good match to the letter set that I provided from Superman #327 from 1978. In particular note the similarities in ‘J’ and the question mark. Oddly OdaBalloon has a small serif attached to the top of ‘C’. That is something I have never seen Oda do but it was characteristic of Howard Ferguson early in his career. Even more surprising is the small serif added to the top of ‘S’. I have not seen this done by either Oda or Ferguson. But as I said, I have not investigated Oda’s post 50’s career so it is possible that Oda may have picked these extra serifs at some time.

Although I had once wanted to investigate Ben Oda lettering I gave up the idea when I stopped contributing to the Simon and Kirby Blog. Along came Covid-19 and sheltering in place and I decided to give it a try. But my investigations ended up going beyond just Ben Oda. This study was based on the examination of 20,730 pages of lettering. Actually more because that does not include pages I examined and decided were not by the letterers I was studying. To be fair, even under isolation I did not have the time to examine every page with the same degree of care. But I did generate over 100 letter sets, more than actually appear in this serial post. The shear volume insures that mistakes were certainly made. Further I did not have access to all the comics that I once had so there some areas with unanswered questions. Despite such limitations, I feel it best to put my opinions out there. Other students of this topic may be able to point out my mistakes or present contrary opinions. Such is the nature of research.

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning
Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Oda Monopoly
Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End
Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio

1955 was a tough time for comics in general. Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company, Mainline, failed with the last comics cover dated April 1955. The remaining issues of Mainline, the work for which was probably already completed, would be published by Charlton (well known for their low payment). The amount of work Joe and Jack did for Prize Comics would also see cutbacks. The only titles that Simon and Kirby did for Prize would by Young Romance, Young Love and Young Brides. But Young Brides and Young Love would both be cancelled (respectively November and December 1956). It was also in November 1956 that Jack Kirby would be doing work first for Marvel and later DC. It is not clear exactly when, but sometime during this time line the Simon and Kirby bullpen was disbanded. Simon and Kirby would continue to be listed as the editors for Young Romance until 1960 when Joe would be declared the sole editor. Various work would be done by Joe and Jack for Harvey and later Archie Comics but none of that successful enough to reestablish the Simon and Kirby studio. However their later collaboration was done, it was not like the earlier team work.

Prize Comics Western #118 (July 1956) “Liberty Belle” by Ben Oda

Previous to 1956 lettering for Simon and Kirby was done by both Ben Oda and Howard Ferguson (?). But Young Love #68 (cover dated December 1955) would be the last Simon and Kirby comic with lettering by Ben. That was not, however, the last lettering Oda would do for Prize Comics. Oda would continue to do lettering for those Prize titles with other editors; Headline, Justice Traps the Guilty, Prize Comics Western and later All For Love. He would do so until cover date October 1957. We can only speculate why Oda stopped working for Simon and Kirby but a falling out of some kind seems likely. Prize cancelled Headline and Prize Comics Western with September 1956 being the last issues. So perhaps there just not enough work from Prize to make it worth Oda’s efforts.

I no longer have access to any of the comics with Oda lettering from this period so I have provided some examples taken from the Digital Comic Museum. This is not much of a problem because Ben Oda’s lettering has not undergone much of a change from when we examined him in the last chapter.

Young Romance #83 (June 1956) “Dancing Doll” by Howard Ferguson?

Howard Ferguson(?) continued to do lettering for Simon and Kirby but never end up lettering any of the Prize titles with other editors. Ferguson would even letter Simon and Kirby work that was published by Harvey. The last published lettering by Howard Ferguson(?) would be in Alarming Tales #4 (March 1958). However even if I am correct in crediting Ferguson (or at least the letterer I have questionably refer to him) Harvey Comics has been repeated shown to publish inventoried work long after it was actually created. Excluding cancelled titles, Simon and Kirby ran for Prize a much more tight operation without keeping work as inventory. The last work I credit to Ferguson appeared in Young Romance #90 (cover dated October 1957).

Young Romance #83 (June 1956) “Only You” by Howard Ferguson?

Starting in comics cover dated June 1956, Ferguson(?) would start to provide simple drop caps to his captions. This would become a regular feature until much later. Other than the drop caps, the lettering is identical to those without drop caps so I am confident that both were done by the same letterer.

Young Romance #90 (October 1957) “Girl In the Middle” by Howard Ferguson?

I just wanted to close my discussion of Howard Ferguson(?) with an example of the last work for Prize that I credit to him. As can be see above, not much has changed.

Young Romance #86 (March 1957) “His Heart Was Blind” by Toobie

Ferguson(?) was the go to guy for Simon and Kirby during the time discussed in this chapter. But even before Ferguson’s disappearance, Joe and Jack would turn to one I nick-named Toobie. Toobie letters rather like Ben Oda, even with a ‘Z’ shape question mark and ‘J’ without a topping serif. However Toobie’s ‘J’ has a more strongly curved lower portion. There are serifs on first person singular ‘I’ except when used in a contraction.

Young Love #71 (June 1956) “Love Me Or Leave Me” by Bill Draut

Bill Draut would return to lettering his own art one last time in “Love Me Or Leave Me”. Despite the fact that the last time we saw Bill lettering was in 1947, not much has changed. The ‘J’ still has Draut’s characteristic hock and the question mark still has the shape of a ‘2’. Not much later Bill would stop doing work for Simon and Kirby (in Young Love #73 December 1956) as well as the other Prize titles that were under other editors (in Justice Traps the Guilty #84 December 1956).

With both Ferguson(?) and Oda no longer appearing in the Prize work produced by Simon and Kirby, Joe and Jack would turn to a number of different letters. Each would appear to letter for a relatively short time and then disappear never to return. I saw little to be gained by analyzing each of them particularly since I would never be able to provide a real name to any of them. But I was curious about those who lettered art that Jack Kirby drew. Did they letter other artists besides Jack? Did their lettering appear in any of the art Jack did early in his return to Marvel and DC?

The answer to the first question (did they letter other artists besides Jack) would indicate how they were assigned. If they only lettered Kirby, than Jack was probably responsible for giving them the work. If they lettered other artists, than whoever was assigning the work for Young Romance was responsible (which probably was Joe). The short answer is all the Kirby letterers would also letter other artists.

The second question (did their lettering appear in any of the art Jack did early in his return to Marvel and DC) had the potential to answer a bigger question. There has been some speculation that some of work early in Kirby’s return to Marvel or DC was actually done by Simon and Kirby in some cases originally meant for Harvey. Actually in the case of Challengers of the Unknown it is more than just speculation as both Joe and Jack have said that was the case. Any early Marvel or DC work by Jack with any of these letterers would strongly indicate that art would supplied to Marvel or DC in largely completed form and therefore almost certainly Simon and Kirby creations. Unfortunately the short answer to this question is no. However while this does not offer evidence that the pieces in questions were Simon and Kirby creations it does not prove the reverse, that they were not done by Simon and Kirby. Just that any Simon and Kirby products delivered to Marvel or DC were not in a completed form.

I fear there will not be much interest in this serial post to as it has been up to this point, but I suspect there will be very less interest in my investigation into these particular unknown letterers. For any of those readers who have managed to make this far, but lack a desire to pursue a study of these marginal individuals, feel free to stop reading this chapter here. You may want to return to read my final chapter which mercifully will be short.

Young Romance #91 (December 1957) “The Waiting Game” by Slim

Slim’s lettering is narrower than most of the letterers we previously looked at, this is most obvious in his ‘O’ which is higher than wide. His ‘J’ has a small serif and the lower portion is short but strongly curved. The question mark is pretty much how I was taught, a curved portion like a reversed ‘C’ and a straight lower stroke. Shadow and geometric drop caps are used in captions.

Young Romance #95 (August 1958) “Listening To Love” by Albert

Albert’s lettering is a bit variable but tends to be a bit wide. This is particularly noticeable in ‘O’ and ‘Q’. ‘J’ lacks a topping serif and has a distinctive hock. Perhaps the most unique letter is Albert’s ‘G’ which can be quite angular. Question marks have a ‘S’ shape but with the lower curve much smaller than the upper one.

Young Romance #97 (December 1958) “Hearts and Flowers” by Steve

Steve has a more professional look to his lettering. The serif on the top of ‘J’ distinguishes him from Oda and the lower portion tends to be slightly more curved than either Oda or Ferguson. The horizontal bar of ‘G’ extends slightly to the right to form a small serif. Perhaps most important is the ‘S’ shape to the question mark with the upper and lower portions more, but not completely, equal.

Young Romance #99 (April 1959) “Man Wanted” by Doug

Doug has a wide ‘D’ and ‘P’, but a generally circular ‘O’. The ‘J’ lacks a topping serif, a wide lower portion that ends in a well developed up turn. The question mark has a shape sort of like a ‘2’ but with the lower horizontal bar short and so close the the upper curve that it is easily missed. Captions can have simple drop caps.

Young Romance #103 (December 1959) “The Man For Me” by Phillip

Finally we come to Phillip. Actually Phillip is quite like Oda with the obvious exception of his question mark which is not at all like a ‘Z’. Most ‘J’ lack a serif but Phillip is not consistent and some times adds one. The horizontal stroke of ‘G’ forms a small serif to the right.

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning
Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Oda Monopoly
Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End

Lettering S&K Chapter 7 Conclusion

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, the Man” by Howard Ferguson?

Simon and Kirby would launch their own publishing company, Mainline, with Bullseye #1 cover dated August 1954. It is around this time that Ben Oda starts to loose his monopoly on lettering. Chief among the new letterers is one with a style remarkably similar to Oda’s but also similar to Howard Ferguson. I might have credit Oda for the Bullseye lettering if not for some of the work that followed. I certainly would have credited Bullseye and what follows to Ferguson if it include the more advance drop caps or banner captions. Simple drop caps are found in the Bullseye story pages but they are only slightly larger than the rest of the lettering and easily overlooked. There was one work signed by Ferguson where he did not use drop caps or banner captions (Romantic Love #1 September 1949) but such none ornamented lettering was unusual for Howard. In the end I have decided to questionably credit these works to Ferguson.

Bullseye lettering includes exclamation points that are slightly angular. I have not seen Ferguson do this before and he would drop it in the future work for Simon and Kirby. ‘C’ shows a very small downturn reminiscent of the serif Ferguson used to supply. But this trait is not consistently shown in Bullseye and would disappear in the future. The question mark is quite similar to that done by Oda but just not quite so angular. The most distinctive trait would be the serif added to the top of ‘J’. Ferguson would consistently supply that serif, Oda would be just as consistent in not using the serif.

Young Romance #73 (September 1954) “Girl from the Old Country” by Ben Oda

As I previously said, Ferguson and Oda lettering are very similar. But note the more angular question mark, very like a ‘Z’ and ‘J’ without a serif.

Initially Oda would remain the dominant letterer. For August until December of 1954 Oda would letter 588 pages to Ferguson 111 pages. But in 1955 Ferguson would dominate with 778 pages of lettering to Oda’s 655.

Young Romance #74 (November 1954) “A Holiday For Love” by Marty

In the last chapter I wrote about Marty doing the lettering for an unidentified artist working largely on the “Good Manners” filler. April 1954 would be the last month that particular artist would be found in a Simon and Kirby production. April was also the first month that work by Art Gates would start appearing. While most of the work that Gates did for Joe and Jack were fillers, he also do one longer piece for Young Romance and three longer stories for Foxhole. All this work by Gates would be lettered by Marty and Marty would not letter any other artist other than the one who did “Good Manners”. All together there are 48 features lettered by Marty and no reason why Simon and Kirby would assigned all those features to be lettered by that one letterer. It seems to be the most satisfactory explanation was that this work was purchased by Simon and Kirby from an agent, who may or may not have been the letterer.

Marty’s lettering on a whole has not changed much from what we examined in the previous chapter. The biggest change is he has abandon the vertical lower arm to ‘Y’ to go for one that is an extension of the upper right stroke. ‘M’ normally now has sloping outer arms but occasionally Marty would drop back to the vertical ones he used earlier. Balloons are now usually standard lettering while captions are in italics. The use of drop caps has continued but they are now usually elaborate or outline drop caps.

Young Romance #75 (December 1954) “Personal Secretary” by Mikeross

Seven romance features appeared in the Prize romance titles; three penciled by Ross Andru and one by Pete Morisi. I had previously discussed how this was work sold to Simon and Kirby when Ross Andru and Mike Esposito’s self owned publishing company failed (Art of Romance, Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists). All the art was lettered by the same letterer who I have nick-named Mikeross. This does not suggest that either Andru or Esposito did the lettering, just that their company employed the same individual for all of it.

Mikeross uses angular exclamation points and ‘S’ shape for question marks. ‘J’ as a serif on the top and a well curved bottom. The lettering tends to be horizontally narrower. Simple drop caps would be used.

In Love #4 (March 1955) “Wolf Bait” by Howard Ferguson?

Ferguson’s(?) question mark developed more of a downward slant to the upper and lower arms making them more distinguishable from those done by Oda. Of course Howard’s ‘J’ continue to have a serif on the top. Captions are generally done in italics while balloons remain standard lettering. Oddly the first person singular lacks serifs when used in a contraction.

Justice Traps the Guilty #75 (June 1955) “Tragic Circle” by Ben Oda

Oda lettering remains very similar to Ferguson but the upper and lower arm of his question marks remain horizontal or with a little upward tilt. Standard lettering is used in captions.

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning
Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Oda Monopoly

Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio
Lettering S&K Chapter 7 Conclusion

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Oda Monopoly

Simon and Kirby studio Left to right: Joe Genalo, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Jimmy Infantino and Ben Oda. Caricatures (probably drawn by Joe Simon) of Marvin Stein and Jimmy Infantino.

September 1947 saw the launch of a new comic book produced by Simon and Kirby for Prize, Young Romance. From this point on until they launched Mainline Comics, Simon and Kirby would concentrate their efforts on producing comics for Prize. Work for Hillman would continue but in lesser numbers until finally being finished with My Date #4 (cover dated January 1948). More importantly for the topic of this post, Ben Oda would become the chief letterer for Simon and Kirby productions. And there were a lot of comic features to letter. For the period covered in this chapter (September 1947 to July 1954) and excluding titles that Simon and Kirby or their studio artists had no hand in there were 1757 features to be lettered for a total of 11,281 pages. While my calling this period an Oda monopoly is not literally true, Ben would letter at least 10,718 of these pages which is 95% of them. (Actually more because I no longer have access to a few Black Magic issues).

Which brings me to the question on how I am confident that Ben Oda lettered these pages given that lettering credits were never supplied in them. Fortunately there is a studio photo graph taken from this period (see above). In it we find all the people who worked in the bullpen with the exception of Marvin Stein who was probably the photographer. Among them is Ben Oda. The photograph is not dated but the art that Mort Meskin is working on can be identified as “His Dancing Teacher” which would end up with an October 1951 cover date. As Oda is the only letterer in the photograph we can be pretty certain he would do the lettering for that feature. Using “His Dancing Teacher” as a base, I then worked both forward and backwards to establish what was lettered by Oda and how that lettering changed over time.

Justice Traps the Guilty #4 (May 1948) “Queen of the Speed-Ball Mob” by Ben Oda

The last example I provided of Ben Oda lettering was cover dated May 1947. In truth not much has changed. The horizontal stroke for ‘G’ barely goes to the right of the curved portion, if at all. The ‘J’ still has no serif on its top and the lower portion is wide with only a slight curve. The biggest change, and even there it is not much, is in the question mark where the bottom portion extends backward a little more to form almost a ‘2’ shape but with the upper region a little more angular. Standard lettering for both captions and balloons with italics limited to bold lettering. As a rule Oda does not use drop caps in his captions but there were some exceptions in Young Romance #1 (“Misguided Heart” “Summer Song”).

Young Romance #10 (March 1949) “Mama’s Boy” by Ben Oda

Almost a year later, the lettering largely has remained the same. The ‘U’ often shows a small serif by extending the right vertical arm just slightly below the bottom curve. I am convinced even in the earlier lettering by Oda he wrote ‘U’ as two strokes; a left one with a vertical bar curving into bottom section and a second vertical bar on right. However previously Oda was careful to end the right bar where it met the curve portion so that no serif was formed. Now Ben entered a period where he often provided a small serif on his ‘U’. Another slight change is to the letter ‘D’ where the lower portion curves up more than the upper portion curves down. However experience has shown me that this is not unusual for letterers besides Oda. So it must be used with caution and never used by itself to identify Oda. The most significant change is in the question mark which as progress from an almost ‘2’ shape to become more angular to approach more of a ‘Z’ with the lower bar sloping down. But Oda is not a machine and this description is for the mean of the examples. Some still look like the shape seen a year ago and some with a form that will be found later.

Young Romance #19 (March 1950) “That Kind of Girl” by Ben Oda

Yet another year later Oda’s serif on the bottom of the right vertical bar on the ‘U’ has become even more obvious. The difference in slopes of the lower and upper curved portions for ‘D’ have become more extreme so that the rightmost portion is higher up. Most significantly the question mark has become more like a ‘Z’ with very angular transitions and an almost horizontal lower bar. But again there is some variations in Oda’s question marks.

Young Romance #30 (February 1951) “Weekend For 3” by Ben Oda

At this point the serif on ‘U’ has all but disappeared. A small serif can be formed by extending the horizontal bar of ‘G’ slightly to the right, but it is so small it probably was not intentional. I have provided an single example of ‘G’ on the bottom line that shows how Oda executed it as two separate strokes. The question mark has become even more angular and more like a ‘Z’ with the bottom sloping down slightly.

Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “His Dancing Teacher” by Ben Oda

We have now reached the lettering for the Mort Meskin art that I used to start my investigation of Ben Oda lettering. By coincidence it is here that Oda’s question mark is most like a ‘Z’. The difference between the upper and lower portions seen in ‘D’ can also be seen in ‘P’ and ‘R’.

Young Romance #45 (May 1952) “The Things I Didn’t Know About Him” by Ben Oda

Not much change but I just wanted to provide another later example of Ben Oda lettering.

Young Romance #53 (January 1953) “That Girl In My Corner” by Ben Oda

One final example of Ben Oda during the period covered by this chapter. Not much has changed except ‘U’ often has a bottom portion that is almost flat.

As mentioned previously, Ben Oda lettered 95% of the pages for Prize during the period covered by this chapter. He also lettered almost all of the pages for Boys’ Ranch that Simon and Kirby produced to Harvey in 1950 and 1951. But It pays to examine some of the letterers who did the other 5%.

Young Romance #2 (November 1947) “My Broken Heart” by Bill Draut

Like he did earlier for Harvey, Bill Draut would do his own lettering for the features he drew for Young Romance #1 and #2 along with Justice Traps the Guilty #1, all from late 1947. Draut’s lettering really has not change much from the work he did for Harvey. It’s most distinctive feature remains the hook shaped lower portion of ‘J’. Bill is erratic in whether he supplies a serif to the upper part of ‘J’ but he usually is consistent within a story. Draut’s ‘S’ is also somewhat distinctive with is straight and horizontal middle portion. Note the shape used for ‘D’, ‘P’ and ‘R’. As I mentioned before a number of letterers exhibit this feature. At least in “My Broken Heart” Draut seems undecided as to which for of ‘Y’ to use. After these startup issues were done, Draut’s art would usually be lettered by Ben Oda and we will not see him letter his own work again for some time.

Prize Comics Western #77 (September 1949) “Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit” by Dick Briefer

Dick Briefer was another artist who would letter his own work. Mostly Briefer worked on Frankenstein Comics and the Frankenstein features from Prize Comics. Those were not Simon and Kirby productions and will not be discussed here. Prize Comics would turn into Prize Comics Western and while it is not clear if Simon and Kirby were its editors they were examined as part of my investigation. Briefer did some art and letters for Prize Comic Western #69 (May 1948 “Rod Roper”), #71 (September 1948) and #77 (September 1949 “Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit”). He also drew and lettered three features for Charlie Chan #5 (February 1949 “The Antique Burglar”, “Murder On Ice” and “The Dude Ranch Hold-Up”) which was a Simon and Kirby production. Briefer is a very inconsistent letterer. In the example above balloons are done in italics while captions are not. In some others he did everything in italics and in others all in standard lettering. His variations for individual lettering and over all appearance makes it easy to distinguish Briefer from Oda.

Young Romance #26 (October 1950) “Hired Wife” by Sir

Justice Traps the Guilty and Headline from issue #23 were Simon and Kirby productions. But at some point it seems to have been passed on to others. The postal statement for Headline #49 (March 1950) and Justice Traps the Guilty #25 (April 1950) lists Nevin Fiddler as the editor. Except for the initial Simon and Kirby issues of Headline and Guilty, Ben Oda would dominate the lettering as he did in the other Simon and Kirby titles. However under the new editors other letterers would make appearances. I will not be discussing all of them, some came and went quickly. Others were around for more features and one I nick-named Sir would even letter a Simon and Kirby production, the “Hired Wife” that I use for the letter set above. Sir shares Oda’s tendency to push ‘D’, ‘P’ and ‘R’ up, as well as providing a serif to the bottom right of ‘U’ (which Ben was also doing at this time). Sir can be distinguished from Oda by his more angular ‘G’ were the horizontal stroke meets with the lower right portion with no sign of a vertical. Sir is a little erratic on whether he supplied a small serif to the top of ‘J’ but in any case his has a distinct hook. Finally the question mark do not have the more distinctive ‘Z’ shape of Oda’s with the lower stroke is much shorter than Oda from this same time.

Justice Traps the Guilty #31 (October 1951) “335 Days of Terror” by Georgie

Georgie is another unidentified letterer found in Justice Traps the Guilty from July 1951 to April 1952 (oddly he was never used for Headline). The hook provided to ‘J’ is distinctive from Oda while the small vertical serif at its end is distinctive from Sir. Even more significant is the question mark which lacks a lower vertical or horizontal portion. Georgie usually supplied a serif to the top of ‘J’ but not always. Georgie used simple drop caps in his captions that were only slightly larger and bolder than the rest of the letters.

Young Romance #55 (March 1953) “The Other Woman” by Sid

Sid only did the lettering for two Simon and Kirby features both appearing in Young Romance #55 (“Heartless” and “The Other Woman”). Because he worked on so few Simon and Kirby productions, I would certainly have neglected writing about Sid if he lettered at a time covered by other chapters of this series. But during this time of Oda predominance, it is worth pondering why Sid was used. The two features Sid lettered were not only used in the same issue but were also done by the same artist who was not one of Simon and Kirby’s regulars. This suggest that the work was picked up by Simon and Kirby already lettered. Possibly some unused art from another publisher’s discontinued title or perhaps something lettered by the artist himself.

Sid has the same upward tilting for ‘D’, ‘P’ and ‘R’ and although I had not mentioned it before the longest axis of ‘O’ sloping upward is also often found in other letterers. One thing more distinctive for Sid is his ‘J’ with a unusually shorter lower portion that in itself has only a slight curve but which is attached to the vertical at an acute angle. Sid usually provides a serif to the top of ‘J’ but not always. His ‘G’ has a small but distinct vertical portion with a right angle attachment to the horizontal bar. The ‘S’ is similar to Bill Draut’s with a straight and horizontal mid section. The question mark is most distinctive having a shape almost like an ‘S’. Sid would use shadow and geometric drop caps.

Young Romance #39 (November 1951) “Marvin’s Pearl” by unidentified letterer

I have not bothered to provide a nick-name for the letterer used for “Marvin’s Pearl” as he was used only this one time. What is specially unusual here is the artist for this piece as a Simon and Kirby regular, Mort Meskin. This is the only occasion where Meskin was not lettered by Oda in a Simon and Kirby production. Although there were a few times other letterers would be used for Meskin’s art in Justice Traps the Guilty after that title passed to other editors. It is possible that this is Meskin lettering himself. Mort sometimes got help from others so perhaps someone else lettered it for him directly. In any case with just a single example it is hard to be sure and so it remains an interesting anomaly.

Young Romance #63 (November 1953) “Mock Marriage” by unidentified letterer

There is another case similar to the previous one, that is a letterer who was not Oda who would letter just 2 features both drawn by artists regular to the studio (“Mock Marriage” by John Prentice from Young Romance #63 and “Speed” by Bob McCarty from Young Love #51 both November 1953). Since two different artists were involved we can be certain that they were not the letterer. This letterer’s most distinctive feature is his question mark. His horseshoe shaped ‘U’ is also distinctive and reminiscent of that by Jack Kirby.

Young Romance #63 (November 1953) “Good Manners” by Marty

There was one artist that drew a number of “fillers” for Simon and Kirby romances. Fillers are short pieces used when just a page or two is needed to complete a comic book. In the case of this artist many are half a page. All but one of these fillers was for “Good Manners” which almost but not quite became a regular feature. Since all this work is done by the same artist and all using the same letterer it might be thought that he was lettering his own work. However we will see in the next chapter the same letterer was used for the work by another artist. So I have supplied the nick-name Marty for this letterer and will explain what I think is going on in the next chapter.

Marty uses a ‘M’ with vertical outer strokes and the inner stokes not quite reaching the bottom of the letter. However towards the end of his work for Joe and Jack he adopted the more standard ‘M’ with sloped outer strokes and inner lines reaching the bottom. Marty also uses a ‘Y’ with a vertical lower portion, a ‘G’ with a distinctive vertical portion at right angles with the horizontal stroke, a ‘J’ with lower portion distinctly curved, a ‘S’ with a horizontal mid section, an angular exclamation point sometimes with an unfilled section and finally a question mark with a short but basically vertical lower section. Oddly Marty adds serifs to ‘I’ whenever it is the first letter of a word such as “IT”. Marty uses various drop caps some of which are quite distinctive.

Scanned by the Authentic History Center

Battle Cry #4 (November 1952) “The Treatment” by Howard Ferguson

We last saw Howard Ferguson doing work on Stuntman and Boy Explorers. His lettering continued to appear in various Harvey titles up to November 1948 but that was all inventoried features left over from the sudden cancelling of Stuntman and Boy Explorers. It is not known why Ferguson was not involved with Simon and Kirby’s earlier work for Hillman and Prize. Howard can be found lettering for Avon (March 1949 to October 1950) and later for Stanley Morse (May 1952 to February 1954). We can be especially sure this was Howard’s work because in some cases he actually signed it making it a rare example of golden age lettering credits. The GCD also has him doing some work for Gilberton and Seaboard Publishing but I have not been able to verify that. Unfortunately I cannot provide my usual letter sets because I do not have access to the comics and the scans in the Digital Comic Museum are of too low a resolution.

The GCD attributes to Ferguson some of the Hillman and Prize work that I credit to Ben Oda. This is understandable because their lettering is quite similar. As I mentioned earlier, I have traced Ben Oda’s lettering from a story that I can confidently credit to Oda. But the two can be distinguished. Both have a similar ‘J’ with the lower portion only slightly curved and at right angles to the vertical arm. Earlier in his lettering Ferguson would sometimes add a serif to the top of ‘J’ and sometimes did not. However at this stage a serif would consistently be supplied by Ferguson while Oda did not. Their question mark have a similar ‘Z’ shape but when the upper and lower arm deviate from the horizontal they slope down when done by Ferguson and slope upward when lettered by Oda. Finally Oda as a rule does not use drop caps or banner captions (except in Young Romance #1) while both are common in Ferguson lettering.

Mister Mystery #15 (February 1954) “Nightmare” by Howard Ferguson

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning
Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War

Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End
Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio
Lettering S&K Chapter 8 Conclusion

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War

Real Fact #1 (March 1946) “Pirate Or Patriot?” by Ray

The first post-war Simon and Kirby features to be published were possibly done while Jack Kirby was still in the Army and certainly while Joe Simon was in the Coast Guard. I have nick-named the letterer as Ray. Ray used vertical outer strokes for ‘M’ but his most distinguished feature is the curved provided to the diagonal lower stroke for ‘R’. Ray is a bit of an enigma. There was a time I thought Ray might actually be Simon. Both use the same type of ‘M’ and early in his career Joe sometimes used a similar ‘R’. Further Simon’s work on Adventure Is My Career and True Comics showed that he could letter without his classic ‘W’ and in a more professional and careful manner. However Ray would letter some Simon and Kirby work right up to cover date January 1947. This is well beyond Simon and Kirby’s work on Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Harvey that I will discuss below. It is hard to believe that Joe would sacrifice time on lettering better served for the Harvey features. The earliest lettering by Ray appears to be “Coast Guard Reconnaissance” that appeared in Boy Commandos #12 (September 1945). This was certainly done while Joe was still in the Coast Guard and Jack in Europe. Joe was not in a position to find someone new to do the lettering. Perhaps DC had the lettering done. This seems reasonable because Ray would not letter any of Simon and Kirby’s work for Harvey. The only problem with that idea is that Ray lettered “You Can’t Loose A Faithful Dog” from Picture News #1 published, not by DC but by Lafayette Street Corp.

With both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby back in civilian life a deal was made to produce Stuntman and Boy Explorer titles for Harvey. Whether it was a reaction that DC had because of this, or the general changes in comic books that followed the war, DC curtailed the work that Simon and Kirby did for them. Simon and Kirby’s Sandman would end with Adventure Comics #102 (February 1946). The Newsboy Legion would continue in Star Spangled Comics until issue #64 (January 1947). These would be lettered by Ray (#53, #54, #55, #59, #60, #63 and #64), Howard Ferguson (#61 and #62), and another unidentified letter (#56, #57 and #58). The Boy Commandos would last the longest with the last issue being #36 (November 1949). But Simon and Kirby would only provide story art for some of the issues (#15, #17, #19, #21, #23, #24, #29, #30, #31, #32 and #33). Unfortunately I no longer have access to any of these issues. Nor do I have access to Detective Comics #95, #110, #134, #136, #137, #140 and #150 which also had Boy Commando features done by Simon and Kirby. I do have scans for Detective Comics #128 (October 1947) and there the Boy Commandos lettering was done by Ben Oda. That however does not make up for all the DC work I am missing which would have shed light to an interesting aspect of Simon and Kirby history.

Stuntman Comics #1 (April 1946) “Killer in the Big Top” by Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson would return to working for Simon and Kirby for the comic titles Stuntman and Boy Explorers produced for Harvey. His lettering really has not changed much from the work he did for Joe and Jack at DC before they went to do their military service.

Boy Explorers #1 (May 1946) “Talent for Trouble” by Howard Ferguson

As work on the Harvey features progressed, Ferguson would change his style in one small but important way. In “Talent for Trouble” the serif on ‘C’ would be come smaller and some ‘C’ would lack it altogether.

Stuntman Comics #3 (October 1946) “Rest Home for Criminals” by Howard Ferguson (but the example above is actually from the reprint in Green Hornet #39)

Ferguson’s changing ‘C’ would continue so that only an occasional ‘C’ would exhibit a small serif an example shown above in the second from last line. Stuntman and Boy Explorers would be casualties of the post-war comic glut. However unused work for these titles would continue to appear in Harvey titles such as Green Hornet, Terry and the Pirates, Black Cat and Joe Palooka. But this provides a misleading indication of when Howard Ferguson lettered for Simon and Kirby as it was inventoried work published well after it was actually created.

Stuntman Comics #2 (June 1946) “Triangular Troubles” by Bill Draut

As in previous times, Howard Ferguson was the go to guy for lettering the Simon and Kirby Harvey productions done just after the war. Besides Joe and Jack, other artists did art for Simon and Kirby Harvey titles. One was Bill Draut, an artist Joe Simon met while serving in the Coast Guard. All the features that Draut did for the Simon and Kirby’s Harvey titles was lettered by himself. Actually there are a few of exceptions where the splash would be done by others. His ‘S’ has a almost straight and horizontal middle portion. Even more distinctive is the hook shape to his ‘J’. Generally Draut’s ‘J’ will have a small horizontal serif on the top, but sometimes this is left out. Bill’s art and lettering would continue to be found in Harvey’s other titles after Stuntman and Boy Explorers were cancelled. Once again this is inventory work and should not be used to establish dates.

Stuntman Comics #3 (October 1946) “Bust of Adonis” by unidentified letterer (example here from reprint in Green Hornet #37)

There is one other letterer who worked on a single Simon and Kirby’s Harvey feature. Normally I do not include such a letterer here because he only did this one lettering for Joe and Jack. However some of the ‘C’s that he used can appear to have an serif somewhat similar to Ferguson’s (see the text balloon in the image above). But this unidentified individual has a distinctive ‘J’ where the lower portion meets the vertical at an acute angle and his question mark is quite different from that used by Ferguson.

Clue Comics vol. 2 no. 1 (March 1947) “King of the Bank Robbers” by Wyatt

Having soured their relationship with DC by the Harvey deal and then having the Harvey titles cancelled, Simon and Kirby had to search elsewhere for work. Initially they would produce comic book features for Hillman and Prize. One might have expected the lettering for this work would be done by Howard Ferguson but that was not the case. We will return to what happened to Ferguson in a later chapter but for now the lettering would be done by others we have not previously encountered. The first published post-Harvey work would be cover dated March 1947 and all but one of the eight features that included would be done by one letterer, nick-named Wyatt. I have not found any previous lettering by Wyatt in \neither comics by Hillman or Prize. Wyatt’s lettering is very professional; clear letters with good and even line spacing. He can easily be distinguished from either Howard Ferguson or Ben Oda by his ‘M’ with vertical outer strokes and his ‘Y’ with a vertical lower branch. In his earlier lettering the top of ‘J’ lacks a serif.

Headline Comics #24 (May 1947) “Trapping New England’s Chain Murderer” by Wyatt

While the previous example showed standard lettering in the captions, in all other lettering by Wyatt he used italics in the captions. Bold lettering would also be italicized but that was pretty common. Unlike Ferguson, Wyatt does not use drop caps or banners in his captions to panel art. Wyatt would also do all the lettering for Headline #24 (May 1947) but his other work for Simon and Kirby would be more sporadic.

Prize Comics #63 (March 1947) “Romania’s Strangest Killer” by Ben Oda?

The one initial feature from post-Harvey that was not done by Wyatt was questionably lettered by Ben Oda. Like Wyatt I have not been able to find any previous lettering by Oda in either Hillman or Prize comics. As previously mentioned, Oda can easily be distinguished from Wyatt by the letters ‘M’ and ‘Y’. However Oda’s letters are very similar to those by Howard Ferguson. Unlike Ferguson, Ben did not use drop caps or banners in the panel art for Simon and Kirby productions. Oda used italics only for bold lettering and not in captions like Wyatt. The only reason I question that Oda lettered “Romania’s Strangest Killer” is that there is a small serif on the top of the ‘J’s while typically Ben’s ‘J’ lack such a serif.

Golden age comics rarely include credits and I have never seen any for Ben Oda. Therefore one might reasonably wonder why this and others lettering I will be discussing should not be credited to Ferguson. The answer is that I had to work backwards from a period where I am confident that the lettering was done by Oda. Why I am confident in this will be discussed when I reach that time period. What I can say for now is that Ben’s lettering for Simon and Kirby can be traced with numerous examples from this point on. While Oda’s lettering does change over time the changes are small and gradual. And they reach a point where Oda can be compared to Ferguson’s work at the same dates and while close, they can be distinguished.

Clue Comics vol. 2 no. 3 (May 1947) “The Case of the Superstitious Slayers” by Ben Oda

Because my previous Ben Oda example was questionable, I thought I would provide an early lettering that I am more confidently attribute to him. While Wyatt would be used a lot for Simon and Kirby’s initial post-Harvey lettering, as time went on Ben Oda would be used more frequently until he would dominate.

Headline Comics #25 (July 1947) “Death Takes a Honeymoon” by Fred

Headline Comics #25 (July 1947) had seven features, four of which were lettered by yet another letterer I call Fred. Fred’s ‘M’ and ‘Y’ have the same form used by Wyatt but Fred’s question marks are quite different from Fred’s. Further captions by Fred use standard lettering unlike the italics that Wyatt preferred (except for one early work). Fred had captions that included outline drop caps, a feature not used by Wyatt.

Punch & Judy Comics vol. 2 no. 12 (August 1947) “The Mystery Crooner” by Wyatt

I want to close this chapter with one final example by Wyatt. Wyatt’s lettering had not change much over the time being discussed here, not surprising because it is only a mater of five months. But the question mark has become like a squat ‘2’.

Simon and Kirby was about to introduce a new comic book title for Prize after which their work for Hillman would dwindle to end shortly later.

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning
Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War

Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Oda Monopoly
Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End
Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio
Lettering S&K Chapter 7 Conclusion

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War

Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “Introducing Marvel Boy” pages 1-3 by Howard Ferguson

Joe Simon became the first editor for the company now called Marvel but referred to as Timely during the golden age of comics. Jack Kirby joined him as the chief artist in the bullpen that was established. Simon used a number of letterers for the comic features that he edited but clearly Howard Ferguson was his favorite. It is easy to understand why, Ferguson’s lettering is clear and easy to read with consistent line spacing. The earliest lettering I attribute to Ferguson were all cover dated September 1940 (“The Human Torch” and “Terry Vance” in Marvel Mystery #11, along with “Introducing Marvel Boy” in Daring Mystery #6). Here I will discuss Ferguson’s lettering for Daring Mystery #6 as it can more clearly attributed to him. Still the form of the letters used has not achieved his final characteristics. Note the lack of serifs for ‘I’ and ‘J’ and the way the lower diagonal limb of ‘K’ intersects with the upper diagonal stroke and not the vertical one. However the most telling feature of Ferguson letters has already has already appeared; the small vertical serif provided to the upper end of the letter ‘C’. There are some limitations to using the serifed ‘C’ to identify lettering as by Ferguson but during the period covered by this chapter Howard always employed this type of ‘C’. While the ‘J’ lacks serifs, it has long and gently curved horizontal portion but there are some other letterers who use the same ‘J’. Also present are Ferguson’s frequent and effective use of drop caps. Note that letters are the standard form in the captions and balloons, even when bold lettering is used. At this stage Ferguson did not use italics.

Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “Introducing Marvel Boy” pages 4-10 by Joe Simon

Ferguson did not do most of the lettering for “Introducing Marvel Boy”, that was done by Joe Simon. Simon’s lettering has now become more professional but still exhibits the occasional flare such as the examples shown in the last line of this letter set. His distinctive ‘W’ is still found, as is the ‘M’ with vertical outside strokes and a small vertical bar to ‘G’.

Marvel Mystery #11 (September 1940) “Human Torch” by Howard Ferguson

While Ferguson’s Daring Mystery #6 lettering has already been discussed I feel I have to back-track a little to explain why I attribute the lettering from “The Human Torch” and “Terry Lance” from Marvel Mystery #11 to Ferguson. The lack of a serif on ‘C’ might seem to disqualify such an attribution. However the drop caps are the forms that typically appear in Howard’s lettering. Outline, shadow, geometric and negative drops caps never appeared in Timely comics prior to Ferguson. Afterwards other letterers picked up these forms. So while I would caution using only drop caps to identify Ferguson lettering, for the Marvel Mystery #11 work I feel comfortable with using them for that purspos. The lack of a serif on ‘C’ may be interpreted as the Marvel Mystery #11 having actually preceded Ferguson’s work on Daring Mystery #6.

Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940) “Blue Bolt” pages 1-6 by Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson continued to improve as seen in Blue Bolt #6. He as now adopted a ‘K’ where the lower diagonal stroke meets the upper one at or near the vertical bar. However his ‘I’ and “J’ still lack serifs.

Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl” by Howard Ferguson

Ferguson has now added serifs to ‘I’ and ‘J’. There also appears in ‘G’ a small serif formed by the horizontal bar extending a little to the right. Howard has now arrived at his standard lettering, at least for the period covered by this chapter.

Captain America #1 (March 1941) “Case #2: Sando and Omar” by Howard Ferguson

Here Ferguson has returned to his older form for ‘K’ with the lower diagonal intersecting the upper diagonal. However even in this feature there appear some letter ‘K’ where the upper and lower strokes both meet the vertical bar. Oddly the letter ‘R’ has also been changed with the diagonal stroke intersecting the curving stroke and not the vertical bar as Ferguson had done previously. I am not bothered by these differences because overall the lettering seems to be Howard’s, even with his serifed ‘C’. This changes would disappear soon in future issues of Captain America. One important change that would last is that the captions are now italicized. Although not appearing in the example provided above, bold lettering would also be done in italics but not consistently in this particular feature.

Captain America #2 (April 1941) “Hurricane” by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby was doing a bit more lettering than Joe Simon. This was done for the new features such as the Vision, Hurricane and Tuk the Caveboy. As these features went on, Jack would no longer do the lettering even when he was still doing the penciling. This might suggest that these features were largely the effort of Kirby without Simon. However that was also once suggested in another new feature with Kirby lettering, Mr. Scarlett for Wow Comics #1 (Spring 1941). But in that feature there was at least one small section that has Simon lettering including his characteristic ‘W’. Showing that Joe was involved in the initial Mr. Scarlett at least in an editorial role and is a reminder that even when Simon’s participation in Simon and Kirby productions are not obvious that does not mean he did not provide a significant contribution.

Captain America #3 (May 1941) “Tuk, Cave-Boy” by Clem

Joe Simon used an assortment of letterers for such Timely titles as Marvel Mystery but generally Howard Ferguson was the go to guy for lettering Captain America. However even in such as important title as Captain America (where Joe and Jack were supposed to be sharing some of the profits) other letterers were used. It is not too surprising that Kirby would do the lettering for “Hurricane” from Captain America #2. What is surprising is that the three Captain America stories for that issue were all lettered by someone else. I gave him the nickname Clem. Clem is one of the reasons that I earlier stated that there were limitations to using a serifed ‘C’ to identify Ferguson lettering. Clem does use a ‘C’ with serif but his the horizontal stroke for ‘G’ does not extend to the right to form a serif. The lower horizontal part of ‘J’ is shorter and more curved. Clem uses the style of ‘M’ where the outer strokes are vertical and a ‘R’ where the diagonal arm is attached to the curved portion. While his ‘I’ has serifs when used as an isolated first person singular, it lacks serifs when used in contractions such as “I’LL”. The stroke used in the exclamation point (‘!’) expands in width going from bottom to top. While Clem does use some shadow and negative drop caps, they are not quite the same form as those done by Ferguson. Having said all that I have to admit there is a lot of variability to the lettering for the Captain America #2 that I am attributing to Clem. I have not been able to make up my mind whether another letterer was involved. Nor am I completely sure that I am correct to attribute the lettering to Clem and not to Ferguson. The main reason I do so is that typical Ferguson lettering appears in Marvel Mystery #18 cover dated the same month.

Clem would do the lettering for a handful of Simon and Kirby features, some questionably. In an often repeated pattern he would then disappear.

Captain America #3 (May 1941) “The Return of the Red Skull” by Charlie

Kirby would do the lettering for the short one shot feature “Amazing Spy Adventure” while Ferguson would letter Tuk the Cave-Boy in Captain America #3. However once again the three Captain America stories for that issue were all lettered by someone else. I gave him the nickname Charlie but that is not important because after the work he did on Captain America #3, we never see him again. Charlie’s lettering tends to be narrower than letterers such as Ferguson. His ‘I’ has serifs but his ‘J’ does not. The lower horizontal part of ‘J’ is short. He makes occasional use of outline drop caps with only a single use of a negative drop cap.

Marvel Mystery #25 (November 1941) “The Patriot” by Clem?

Clem may also have been the letterer for the Patriot story from Marvel Mystery #25 (November 1941). However the serif on ‘C’ is no longer found and the expanding width to the exclamation point is not always so obvious. Further the only drop caps used are of the outline type and they are more mechanically done and always extend into the gutter between panels. One other, perhaps not important, difference is that serifs are added to all first person singular ‘I’ even those used in contractions such as “I’LL”. Otherwise the lettering is quite similar to what Clem used in Captain America #2 and #3.

Captain America #9 (December 1941) “The White Death” by Howard Ferguson

I wanted to provide an example of Howard Ferguson lettering from near the end of Simon and Kirby’s stay at Timely. This will serve for comparison with work done when Howard returned to Simon and Kirby employ after Timely. Largely the lettering is unchanged from Ferguson’s earlier effort except for the question mark (‘?’) which has taken on more of the shape of ‘S’.

Captain America #9 (December 1941) “Hurricane” pages 1-4 by Sam

Another letterer would appear in later Captain America issues starting with the Farther Time feature from Captain America #7 (October 1941) who I have given the nickname Sam. Sam is unusual in that all his lettering is done in italics. While other letterers have used italics for bold lettering or within captions, it is rare to see it in plain balloon lettering. Sam is another reason to use a serifed ‘C’ with caution. A serifed ‘C’ is unusual and its uses by Sam and Clem suggests a copying from Ferguson. Sam can be distinguished from Howard by ‘G’ where the horizontal stroke extends more to the right than the left whereas Ferguson generally has this stroke extending more to the left. Sam shares with Clem and angular exclamation point. But the feature most useful in recognizing Sam’s lettering is his unique ‘S’ with a serif attached to the upper end. Sam would employ outline drop caps but not much else.

Captain America #10 (January 1942) “Hotel of Horror” by Howard Ferguson

As I discussed, all lettering done in italics is rather unusual. However Sam was not the only letterer to employ it. Italic lettering is also found in Captain America #10 and the Vision story from Marvel Mystery #27 both cover dated January 1942. Despite the italics the lettering looks like typical Ferguson work even having ‘C’ with a small serif. This January work would be the last Howard would do for Timely. When Simon and Kirby decamped from Timely, Ferguson did likewise.

Adventure Comics #72 (March 1942) “The Riddle of the Slave Market” by Xavier

When Simon and Kirby began producing work for DC it might be expected that they would turn to Howard Ferguson to do their lettering. Instead they used a new letterer who I have nicknamed Xavier. One explanation for this might have been that Joe and Jack would be using a DC letterer, but I have not found any lettering done by Xavier for DC in any feature other than those done by Simon and Kirby. The more significant features of Xavier’s lettering are long but curved lower portion of ‘J’, the lack of serif on ‘J’, ‘K’ with the lower diagonal attached to the upper diagonal and ‘M’ with vertical outer strokes. Even more important is the form of ‘Y’ with a vertical lower stroke. The exclamation point expands in width similar to that used earlier by Clem but the differences in the other letters seem too great to be from the same person. Xavier lettering would dominate in Simon and Kirby’s DC work until September.

Detective Comics #81 (November 1943) “Yankee Doodle Dynamite” by Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson returns to working for Simon and Kirby in September (cover date) and from that point he is the dominate letterer for Simon and Kirby’s DC productions. His lettering has not really changed since the Timely work except a serif has now been added to ‘J’. There are frequent use of typical Ferguson drop caps and the occasional banner caption (see the example above). I have not mentioned banner captions before but Ferguson started using them in Marvel Mystery #18 (April 1941).

Detective Comics #82 (December 1943) “The Romance of Rip Carter” by Xavier

While Ferguson once again became the main Simon and Kirby letterer, Xavier still did some lettering for them. There are even some cases where Ferguson and Xavier lettered the same feature such as in some of the chapters for Boy Commandos #4 (Fall 1943). Xavier adopts the same form for ‘Y’ that Ferguson and others used. But Xavier does not add a serif to ‘C’, his ‘J’ remains without a serif and with a more curved lower portion and exclamation points still exhibit an angular form. Further the question mark was changed to having a vertical aspect to the lower part of the main stroke.

Adventure Is My Career (1945) by Joe Simon

Both Joe and Jack left DC to performed their military service. Towards the end of his tour of duty in the Coast Guard, Joe did some comic book work which he lettered himself. Three short features were done that were used in Boy Commandos and World’s Finest. More substantial was the comic book “Adventure Is My Career”. There Joe’s lettering has become more professional. The letter ‘M’ continues to be written with vertical outer strokes and ‘G’ with a small but distinct vertical stroke. Surprisingly most ‘W’ letters are done in a more typical fashion, but every so often Joe slips and uses his more personal ‘W’ and even its mirror image .

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning

Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Prize Monopoly
Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End
Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio
Lettering S&K Chapter 7 Conclusion

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Lettering S&K Chapter 1 The Beginning

It has been about eight years ago that I ended regularly posting to my Simon and Kirby Blog. It was a sudden ending not brought on by the lack of subject matter but rather a lack of free time. When I retired I did a couple of posts on the covers that Simon and Kirby did for Harvey. But I was pretty much convinced that I would do no other postings. It is not that I lost an interest in the Simon and Kirby subject, just that my attention and time had become directed to other projects. Along came Covid-19 and sheltering in place and suddenly my current projects could not proceed for the duration. I am not one to remain idle for long so I decided to take up a Simon and Kirby investigation I had always wanted to do. While I had once posted on Simon and Kirby letterer Howard Ferguson, I had never gotten around to doing something similar for Ben Oda. Although my initial intent was about Ben Oda alone, I found my research expanding bit by bit until it ended up covering most of the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Unfortunately I no longer have as a complete access to the comics that I once had. I made much use of the Digital Comic Museum to help with what I was missing. Even so there are some gaps and unanswered questions which I will point out at the appropriate occasions. Because my topic became so extensive, I have decided to break it into seven chapters.

Drop Cap Types: Simple, Elaborate, Outline, Shadow, Geometric and Negative

Before proceeding it would be best to explain some of the terminology I will be using. In literature the first letter of a chapter of a book is often enlarged and sometimes made elaborate. These are called drop capitals, or as I prefer, drop caps. Something similar is sometimes used in captions found in comic books. Generally comic book drop caps can take six basic forms that are shown in the image above. While simple and elaborate drop caps may ultimately derive from literature, I do not believe outline, shadow, geometric and negative drop caps do so. I have not done the research but I suspect comic book drop caps my have originated from syndication comic strips, particularly the Sundays.

At times a description will be made of which way a part of a letter tilts. This will always be as going from left to right, the same direction that reading is done. So the character ‘/’ could be described as sloping up, while the character ‘\’ slopes down.

Identifying an individual letterer can be tricky. As a general rule, comic book lettering is done in a non cursive manner and is made to be clearly legible. Therefore identifying comic book letters is more difficult than recognizing someone’s cursive hand writing or even someone’s casual printing. One of the aids I will provide will be letter charts showing examples of all or most of the letters of the alphabet plus a couple of punctuation marks. But letterers are not machines and there will be variations in how their letters get written. Plus there is always the chance that some alterations were made by another letterer. So when assembling a lettering chart I first try to find six examples of each letter and then select the one that seems to be close to the mean of the variations.

In my experience it turns out that not all alphabetic letters are equally useful when trying to identify a letterer. Some like ‘Q’, ‘X’ or ‘Z’ are not common and may not even occur in a particular comic book feature. Other letters are common enough but often are not helpful; such as ‘L’, ‘V’ or ‘T’. The common letters that are useful for identification varies depending on the letterer. The letter ‘J’ falls in between in terms of frequency. It can almost always be found but often not enough for six examples to be located. Still I have often found the letter ‘J’ to be useful when studying letterers.

Generally only capital letters are used in comic book panel pages. Therefore letters have only one form (discounting bold and italicized lettering). That is except for the letter ‘I’. Some letterers draw all the uses of ‘I’ as a simple vertical bar. But many consider this to be amateurish. For them the correct rule is to apply small horizontal serifs to the top and bottom of the vertical bar when the “I” is used in the first person singular and without the serifs when used within a word. I do not know how this rule became established but perhaps it was to make clearer the distinction between the ‘I’ of the first person singular and the number ‘1’. There seems to be some difference of opinion about the use of ‘I ‘ in a contraction (such as “I’LL”). Some letterers provide serifs in this case, some do not.

This series of posts are largely devoted to Howard Ferguson and Ben Oda. While they were responsible for the bulk of lettering done for Simon and Kirby, many other letterers were also used. Not all these other letterers will be discussed in these posts but for various reasons many will be. The generally lack of credits during the golden age presents a problem because in most cases a name cannot be provided. But a lack of a name to attach to these letterers resulted in confusion during my research. So as an aid, nicknames were created. Although it was not clear at the start of my studies, it turned out these other letterers would show up to do some work for Simon and Kirby for a relatively short time, never to return. So while these nicknames will be used in this serial post, do not feel a need to memorize them. I suspect I will forget them before long.

Syracuse American (1938) in “Professor Solem’s Gridology Klass” by Joe Simon

Joe Simon’s career did not begin in comic books. Actually he would likely had remained a newspaper staff artist if his employer was not one of the upstate New York papers to go out of business. While the above selection from one of Joe’s sport features was clearly not done in the same manner used in comic book lettering, it already shows some of Simon’s characteristic letters. In particular note the execution of the letter ‘W’. This ‘W’ is one of the most distinctive of Joe’s letters. It can be found not only in some of the comic book features that Simon lettered himself, but also be found in editorial alterations Joe made right up to the end of the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Also note the vertical outer bars he used for the letter ‘M’. While other letterers also used a similar design, it was not the most common form used for ‘M’. Even at this early date there appears the use of both outline and shadow drop caps.

Syracuse American (April 1938) “Ellswort Vines” by Joe Simon.

The above is perhaps an example closer to the lettering used in comic books. Still the previous observation still hold, although the outer strokes of some of the ‘M’ letters are not vertical.

Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) “Ranch Dude” by Joe Simon

“Ranch Dude” was the first comic book work that Simon executed although it would not be the first published having been delayed by two or three months. In the early days of comic books it was not unusual for the artist to do all the writing, penciling, inking and lettering, and this was true with Joe as well. Some of the characteristics seen in Joe’s newspaper work are also found here. Particularly Simon’s distinct ‘W’. While the outer strokes to the letter ‘M’ are not quite vertical they nearly so. Sometimes Joe cannot help doing small elaborations on his letters; some examples are provided in the last line. In this particular example only simple drop caps were used. Joe’s lettering exhibits much variation in the letters and the spacing between lines. Note Joe did not use serifs on any of his ‘I’ nor do they appear on his ‘J’.

Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) “Trojak” pages 1-11 and part of 13 by Joe Simon

Daring Mystery #3 probably was done some three or four months after “Ranch Dude”. Simon’s lettering has improved somewhat but his characters were executed pretty much the same. Perhaps the most significant difference is that the vertical stroke on his ‘G’ generally no longer extends down to form a distinct serif although as can be seen in the final line that is not always the case.

Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) “Trojak” page 13

The GCD correctly comments that Simon did not do all the art for this feature although I would disagree in that I also credit page 11 to Joe. They surmise that perhaps Simon left the art unfinished when he went on to become the editor for Fox Comics. That however would be very unlike Joe who never hesitated to do jobs on the side while working for any particular publisher. A more likely explanation is that Simon submitted a 12 page feature but someone decided to extend it to 13 pages. So a new page 12 was drawn and lettered by someone else and Joe’s original page 12 was altered to become the new 13. The art for page 13 was redone as was much of the lettering. However Joe’s original lettering can still be found in panels 3 and 4 as well as the closing caption.

Black Buccaneer panel by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s career also did not start in comic books. Rather much of his earlier efforts were directed at attempts at syndication comic strips. Perhaps because of those efforts Jack’s lettering was already more professional than that of Joe Simon. I would point out Kirby’s distinctive ‘U’ with its horseshoe shape.

Crash Comics #1 (May 1940) “The Solar Legion” by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s early comic book work was done about the same time he met Joe Simon. However they do not appear to be a collaboration as Jack did all the writing, penciling, inking and lettering himself. Kirby’s comic book lettering had not changed much from his syndication strip work. His distinctive horseshoe ‘U’ remains. No serifs were used on either ‘I’ or ‘J’ but do appear on the at the bottom of the vertical stroke of ‘G’.

Red Raven #1 (August 1940) “Mercury in the 20th Century” by Jack Kirby

Five months later, Kirby’s lettering has not undergone any significant changes. I wanted to provide this letter set because it includes the question mark.

Blue Bolt #4 (September 1940) “Blue Bolt” pages 1-8 and 10 by unidentified letterer

As the collaboration between Joe Simon and Jack Kirby began they would often turn to others to do their lettering. Since credits were not provided during the golden age we do not know who these letterers were. Letterers like this example may be used for one feature and not again. In this letter set note the use of serifs on ‘I’ and ‘J’, the almost vertical outer strokes for ‘M’ and the vertical stroke for ‘G’ that provides just a suggestion of a serif at its bottom. Also the use of simple, outline and shadow drop caps.

My research for all the coming chapters has already been done so I hope to be posting a new chapter every couple of days.

Lettering S&K Chapter 2 Timely, DC and the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 3 Return from the War
Lettering S&K Chapter 4 The Oda Monopoly
Lettering S&K Chapter 5 Mainline and the Studio End
Lettering S&K Chapter 6 Post Studio
Lettering S&K Chapter 7 Conclusion

Lettering Checklists:

Alias
Draut, Bill
Ferguson, Howard
Kirby, Jack
Oda, Ben
Simon, Joe

Simon and Kirby Cover Art for Early Harvey Comics

Al Harvey must have been a great salesman. With the failure of his concept of pocket-sized comic books you would have thought that would have been the end of Harvey’s publishing career. Instead not only did Speed Comics return in April as a regular size comic, Harvey took over publishing Champ Comics in May, and then even more surprising Green Hornet in June. Al would turn again to Joe Simon, and now Jack Kirby also, to help with the covers.

Starting with a cover date of April 1942 and ending in December are a series of 14 Harvey covers that were obviously done by Simon and Kirby (Speed #17 to #21 and #23; Champ #18 to #21 and #23; and Green Hornet #7 to #9). I say obvious, because they were done at the same time as Simon and Kirby were producing work for DC and all this work show the two forging their own unique style.

But none of the Harvey covers are signed by Joe or Jack. Instead some bear the signature of Jon Henri. Joe has said that he came up with this name. Joe used Henry as a middle name and he liked Jon so much that he gave that name to his first son. The Jon Henri signature appeared on five covers (Champ #18 and #19, Speed #17 and #19, and Green Hornet #7). While Kirby penciled three of the signed covers (Champ #18, Speed #17 and Green Hornet #7), Simon inked all of them. The two covers that Jack penciled and inked (Speed #18 and Green Hornet #9) were unsigned. So while it is probable it was Joe that actually signed as Jon Henri, it was not a pseudonym for him alone.

A new idea was used by Harvey for his re-launched comic book line. As announced on some of the covers, “read the thrilling story behind the cover”. Postal regulations required comic books to include two pages of text. In these Harvey comics the text feature would be a story based on the cover art. While in theory it is possible that Joe and Jack would read an already written story and illustrate it, that does not seem likely. Generally the story pretty much faithfully depicted the cover art, but Simon and Kirby had a long history of deviating from scripts provided. Further, the covers are typical Simon and Kirby works, it does not seem likely that the text writers would have scripted such ideal Simon and Kirby scenes. No it seems much more probably that Joe and Jack did the covers based on their own ideas and the writer then tried to fit a story around the cover.

Speed #17, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) and Jack Kirby (pencils), April 1942

When Harvey resumed publishing, Simon and Kirby were working for National. Joe and Jack’s version of Sandman was out in March , their version of Manhunter and their own creation the Newsboy Legion came out at the same time as Speed #17, and their creation Boy Commandos would come out in October. National was even using the Simon and Kirby name on their covers. It was pretty unusual at that time to use the creator names to promote the comic. Even so Joe and Jack would do covers art for Harvey. But they would not sign these with their own names. Instead some of the work is signed Jon Henri. I don’t believe that anybody in the industry or at National was fooled by this. I think the real reason that they did not use their own names is that Simon and Kirby had now become a brand name. It is one thing to give Al Harvey a helping hand, it is another to compete against yourself.

Captain America #10, Jack Kirby (pencils), January 1942

Even though published by Harvey, this is very much a Captain America cover. Compare it to Captain America #10 which even has similar hooded figures. The art style is closest to what had been done at Timely. But the typical Simon and Kirby art had already appeared and National and would also show up on all the later Henri covers. I suspect that this cover was actually done just after leaving Timely and before their work at National gave birth to a true Simon and Kirby style. The overall composition is not unlike a classic Al Schromberg. Despite all that is going on, Simon and Kirby seem to handle it well and present a clear story.

Penciling for the Speed #17 cover was primarily done by Joe Simon. But the forced perspective shown in the two figures at the top as well as the man falling down the chute is in the typical style of Jack Kirby. Although he was quite good at mimicking Jack, Joe never quite mastered Kirby’s perspective (no other comic book artist did either).

This cover there is a peculiar inking pattern in the chute and the ceiling of the room above it. A similar inking style appears on the splash page that Al Avison did for Pocket #1. I have seen it in “Red Skull’s Deadly Revenge” from Captain America #16, again penciled by Al Avison. However I have also seen something similar on the covers for Champion #8 (pencils by Joe Simon) and #9 (pencils by Jack Kirby). Both the Champion covers were inked by Joe Simon and date before he had met Avison. I have seen Lou Fine use a similar inking pattern, so it was just a inking mannerism that several artists adopted.

Champ #18, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), May 1942

Joe and Jack had done three covers for this series when it was published by Worth under the title Champions. Now the line was being done by Harvey after his unsuccessful pocket comics. Here and in the comics published at the same by National, we find the start of the real Simon & Kirby style. I believe the reason this happened now is that before at Timely there was a large crew working on Captain America. But initially there was probably only Joe and Jack at National. This really forged their collaboration. The Captain America covers were exiting but now Joe and Jack have taken it to a new level. Forget about how the Liberty Lads managed to get into this aerial fight. Who cares how one of them is able to slug a Jap off the plane with the propeller in between them? What matters is the story of the daring rescue of our capital from the Japanese menace. How could a kid possibly pass this cover up without at least stopping to see what was inside. Unfortunately the comic book stories did not, could not, live up to the cover. For that the comic reader would have to buy National’s Adventure or Star Spangled comics. However the text piece, “the story behind the cover”, explained the events of the cover. Just not in so dramatic a manner.

Speed #18, Jack Kirby (pencils and inks), May 1942

A damsel in distress. A fiend finishing off a gravestone just before performing the final act. But have no fear, it’s Captain America to the rescue. But wait, where’s Bucky? But wait again, that’s not Captain America! Captain Freedom was Speed Comics’ patriotic hero. In the hands of Jack Kirby, Captain Freedom would look even more like Captain America then he already had. It must have brought some satisfaction to Simon and Kirby that they could still show how Cap should be done.

Captain Freedom first appeared in Speed #13 with a cover date of May 1941. This was before Al Harvey was publisher for Speed. According to Joe Simon, Irving Manheimer (president of Publisher Distributing) did the publishing of Speed Comics then. The distributors loved comics at that time. Captain Freedom was created by Franklin Flagg, do you think that could be a pseudonym? Once Captain America become a big seller, copy-cat patriotic heroes became abundant. But even so, Captain Freedom seems particularly close in design to Captain America. Similar placement of red and white stripes, a circle of stars replaces a single star on the chest, and shoulder pads replace mail armor. The “skull cap” is similar particularly to the Cap in Captain America #1. And of course the rank of Captain is shared by both.

What makes the similarity surprising is the Captain America #1 was cover dated March while Speed #13 is dated May. Comics typically took about a month to create, a month to print, and another month to distribute. But that would put the creation of Speed #13 to at best a month before Captain America #1. So we seem to have a case of an obvious copy-cat patriotic hero created before the original hit the new stands. The answer lies in advertisement used to promote the Comicscope. I covered this in detail in another post (The Comicscope and Captain America).

This Speed #18 cover was primarily penciled by Jack Kirby. The inking turns out to be his as well. That is not to say Joe Simon had nothing to do with the cover, just that I have not been able to detect any contribution he may have had.

Champ #19, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) June 1942

This is one my favorites of the Harvey covers. Once again there is a Jon Henri signature, but this time it was Joe Simon doing the pencils. It is amazing to see how well all the pieces of the story are present. The robbed bank, most of the policemen ineffectively on the other roof, the single policeman in the correct location is about to be taken care of by the crooks before they make their get-away. That is except for the Liberty Lads approaching unseen from the back, about to save the day. What a masterpiece. “The story behind the cover” text fills out the story, but is not half as exciting as the cover art.

Joe could work in a style close enough to Kirby’s that to this day many are fooled. But he had his own vision too and I am a bit surprised that so many experts still attribute this cover to Kirby. I suspect many use aesthetics to distinguish the two; for them if it is one of the better covers Jack must have done it. Jack did most of the penciling and Joe acknowledges that Kirby was an incredible artist. But I am here to tell you that Joe Simon is a lot better artist then many give him credit for.

Jack Kirby was the master at this almost 3D effect and although others tried to imitate Jack I do not believe I have ever seen anyone completely succeed. So when I see such a successful job as on Champ #18 (and also on Champ #20) I feel pretty confident that Jack Kirby was responsible. The one Liberty Lad about to leap on Champ #19 is not quite an exaggerated perspective (although still rather well done). But the lack of exaggerated perspective does not mean it was not done by Jack.

The Liberty Lads on Champ #19 are not only younger they also look familiar. That is because they seemed based on Gabby and Scrapper from the Newsboy Legion. Although in the past it was generally believed that Kirby did not swipe, more recently examples of Kirby swipes have been well documented particularly by Tom Morehouse in TJKC. But why would Jack have to swipe the Liberty Lads on Champ #19 but not on the other four covers? To me the Liberty Lads swipes are more likely to be evidence of Joe’s involvement than Jack. One features that suggests Kirby is the square fist of the policeman on the far roof. Square fists are easily recognized manner used by Jack. But it is so obviously that there is little doubt that Joe Simon would see it also and it would not be hard for Joe to adopt it himself. But note the stiff, straight arm of that same policeman, that does not look like Jack’s work.

By this period Joe Simon has advanced beyond the use of just two expressions that he had learned when he started comic book work (as described in The Comic Book Makers)

Slits for eyes, unless the character was to register astonishment or horror – and then the eyes become circles. Heavier lines for the eyebrows, raised for bewilderment, slanting down toward the nose for anger. One line for the upper lip. A heavier line, indicating a shadow, constituted the lower lip.

But there are some expressions that Joe uses more frequently than Jack. One is having both eyebrows raising as they approach the mid line. The policeman trying to climb onto the roof in Champ #19 is a good example of this eyebrow rendition.

The master criminal and his diminutive partner on Champ #19 are rather unique. To me they more represent the visual humor that Joe will later show in features like the Duke of Broadway then the type of humor Jack would do. Actually the cover as a whole seems more humorous then suspenseful.

Green Hornet #7, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (pencils and inks), June 1942

I love the way Simon and Kirby make a cover tell a story. The Green Hornet is rushing to attach a killer clown. If the clown carrying a wicked knife wasn’t enough, the lady on the lower level carries a newspaper with headlines that are hard to make out completely but clearly includes “CLOWN … CRIMINAL …”. Behind her is a fallen policeman, his gun laying at his side, obviously the Green Hornet will be taking on one tough clown. The press above is printing the front page for the latest edition declaring “DIES IN ELECTRIC CHAIR” with a picture of the clown, certainly printed ahead of time because the clown escaped before facing his execution. The Green Hornet had better be careful because this clown has nothing to lose.

The Green Hornet cover for June is a bit of a puzzle. The floating head looks like it was done by Joe Simon, The killer clown and the running Green Hornet seem to be Jack Kirby’s hand. The rest of the figures have bits of both. My take on this is that it was original penciled by Jack without the floating head. Joe added the large head and maybe touched up some other parts. Truly a joint effort. Once again signed as Jon Henri.

The inking on this cover includes irregularly patterned “hay” that we have seen before on the cover to Speed #17. As discussed there, this pattern was used by both Al Avison and Joe Simon (among others). While I do not see any inking touches on the Green Hornet #7 cover that look like Avison’s hand, I do find traces that look like Joe’s inking.

The “story behind the cover” for the issue is unusual in that it is not a very good match for the cover. In it there was no confrontation between the Green Hornet and the Clown in front of a newspaper printing press. Even more important there is no mention of the Clown having died in the electric chair. Green Hornet #7 differs from the other Harvey comics in that the text story is continued in the comic strip feature “The Green Hornet and the case of the Murdering Clown”. It is the comic book feature where the Clown somehow returns from the electric chair and where there is a fight between the Green Hornet and the Clown placed among newspaper printing presses. So despite the title of the “story behind the cover”, the text story is actually a prequel to the cover and the comic book feature is actually the story for the cover.

Speed #19, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), June 1942

June is Joe Simon’s months since he did both Champ #19 and Speed #19. Both signed as Jon Henri. To me the give-a-way that this is Joe’s penciling is the depiction of the Japanese impersonator. The whole idea of the Japanese setting up to disguise himself as Captain Freedom only to be interrupted by the real thing that seem to me to be something Simon would come up with. Captain Freedom’s fist is square like Jack Kirby would do it. But Joe had inked Jack’s work and was familiar with these sort of traits. The Japanese impersonator has the peaked eyebrows that Joe seems to favor.

Harvey’s Fighting American #2, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), 1966

This Speed cover depicts a horde of Japanese soldiers coming down a flight of stairs and entering the room. Actually this is not too unusual at the time. Compare it to the cover for Speed #17 penciled in parts by both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby where it is Captain Freedom who enters from a stairway. Al Avison used it once (Speed #14) but with fewer enemies. The unidentified artist (Speed #16 and Pocket #3) also had the horde of advancing enemies, but lack the stairs. But after this period where this motif seemed somewhat popular, I don’t remember Simon and Kirby ever returning to the enemies entering from stairway motif. But surprisingly it shows up much later in art Joe Simon did which I believe was meant to be the cover for Fighting American #2 by Harvey meant for 1966. The art has a smaller number of enemies but it does show the stairs.

Champ #20, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), July 1942

The hits keep coming. So many of the covers that Simon and Kirby did for Harvey are just amazing. But this one is another of my favorites. The exaggerated perspective in the Liberty Lads are a signature style for Jack Kirby, so he is the primary penciler. Simon and Kirby literally demonize the Japanese foe. This sort of thing would not be considered politically correct today, but during that war artists worked under a different standard.

I have seen penciled on the margins of the original art that this was inked by Al Avison. But that sort of notation is suspicious. There would be no reason for leaving such notation when the art was original created and used. I have seen an awful lot of S&K art and only on one other page have I seen a similar annotation as to the inker of the work. I strongly suspect that these notes were made by subsequent owners or art dealers. In any case at this time Avison was at Timely working as their primary artist for Captain America. As such he was very busy and it is unlikely he would have time to do this inking. No, the inking looks like Simon’s work to me.

Speed #20, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), July 1942

I think this is Jack’s penciling because of his typical exaggerated perspective. Captain Freedom is a true superhero, he has super strength and can fly (or perhaps he is just jumping great distances). But on all the Speed covers that Jack and Joe did they both portray Harvey’s patriotic hero more normal, sort of like they did Captain America.

Champ #21, Jack Kirby (pencils), Joe Simon (inks), August 1942

This cover shows one of the Liberty Lads ejecting from a plane flown by his partner. I am not sure where the boy left the plane, it looks like a one seater. Nor is it clear why the plane had to fly upside down. The plane’s camouflage does not seem effective as the ship’s spot light has been trained on it. The bailing Liberty Lad is just about to open his parachute. It is not at all clear how he is going to attach the ship armed with only a machine gun and with no possibility of surprise. But this sort of logical analysis really is pointless with these Harvey covers, bravery trumps logic.

The baling Liberty Lab is not in exaggerated perspective, but still seems to have the Kirby touch. So I believe Jack was the primary penciler.

Green Hornet #8, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), August 1942

Although I cannot provide any source, the damsel in distress looks an awful lot like she was originally done by Will Eisner. It would appear that for Green Hornet #8 Joe resorted to the use of swiping that was so prevalent in the start of his comic book career. The Spirit had been published as a newspaper insert for some time so Joe was certainly aware of it. However my search through the DC archive editions has failed to reveal any possible sources for the lady on Simon’s cover. The Green Hornet’s two opponents look like Simon creations. Note their similarity of their checks and jowls with that found in the Hitler from Speed #21 (August), the smaller villain from Champ #19 (June), and the sketch of Hitler in a Zoot suit. Yes Joe used swipes for this cover, as he so often did, yet he has created a very original composition.

The cover tells a story, as just about all Joe Simon covers do. A lady is held captive, terrified of the future revealed in a crystal ball by a truly gruesome witch. But the background shows the Green Hornet arriving to the rescue. But our hero must be careful to negotiate the obstacles separating himself from the damsel in distress, a pit at his feet and a chain stretching across his path. As we follow the Green Hornet’s eyes we find it is no ordinary chain as it ends with a collar on what is the not quite human equivalent of a guard dog. A very effective guard indeed as shown by his blood stained knife. The guard is intent on preventing the Green Hornet from interfering while his diminutive companion’s concentration remains on fulfilling the crystal ball’s prediction of the woman’s fate.

Simon makes effective use of props to heighten the drama. A drip covered candle provides an eerie touch to the scene, it is a device that Simon and Kirby would introduce often for such an effect. A spot light seems to come from someplace low off our field of vision. It is a very selective spot light indeed, no shadows are cast by the legs of the two subhuman figures. However shadows are cast by the hand-held knife, the chain and the Green Hornet himself. All the shadows that would provide drama to the scene, as always realism is not as important as telling the story. The spot light also aids the composition, diagonally dividing the two darker fields occupied by the villains. The captive is not in the spot light but is highlighted by it, visually connecting her to the hero. It may not have anything to do with Joe, but the colorist use of a green dress also effectively links the damsel with the hero.

Joe Simon may not have been as talented a penciler as Jack Kirby, and some will say that he depended too much on the use of swipes. When it came to laying out a cover and making it tell a story, few at the time were his equal. Green Hornet #8 was truly a thrilling cover. But Joe was not content with just drama, he also included humor, albeit a dark humor. There is a similar touch of black humor in Joe’s cover for Champ #19. Here Simon scatters cob webs about the place as part of the effort to give a dingy look to the scene. How many artists would then turn around and attach webbing from the staff to the witch herself? My favorite piece of humor in this piece is how the beastly guard leads his small partner by the hand, as if he is taking part in a “take your child to work” day. This type of humor is an early manifestation that would fully blossom when Joe was editor of Sick magazine.

Like the rest, this issue includes a text article to tell “the thrilling story behind the cover”. What is interesting about the text story for Green Hornet #8 is not what it adds to the understanding of the cover, rather how it deviates. In the story the lady is held captive in a building across the street from the offices where the Green Hornet’s alter ego works as a newspaper reporter. Nothing in the story suggests that woman was held in the sort of dungeon that the cover portrays. Rather the story describes her place of confinement as a small room adorn to look like a fortune telling shop. In the story there is a fortune teller whose crystal ball reveals a fatal future for the beautiful captive, but without an indication that the soothsayer was an ugly witch. The short tale includes two “toughs” without giving the impression that they were almost subhuman. Neither is described in the story as small as the one shown on the cover depiction. Nor does the story mention the use of knives by the toughs. I find it hard to believe that an author presented with a copy of this exotic cover art would have written this more mundane story. More likely Joe was given a verbal outline of the story and embellished it to make a more interesting cover. As such this cover deviates from the practice used for “story behind the cover” of other covers.

Speed #21, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), with a little help from Jack Kirby?, August 1942

The pointing hand of the clown looks like it was done by Kirby. But only that small detail does. The Japanese, the clown, Hitler and the gangster in a small circle, cluelessly looking for Captain Freedom is just the sort of visual humor I come to expect from Joe Simon. And Captain Freedom towering over them, as well as all his floating heads, seem to me to have been done by Joe’s hand. So I make Simon as the primary penciler.

It is wonderful to see all the different approaches to a cover Simon and Kirby did for Harvey. But actually that was true with Joe and Jack during all their collaboration. They always seem to put great effort to make their covers stand out from the rest of the crowd on the racks.

Speed #22, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) September 1942

I once provided Joe Simon with copies of my restoration of two stories from Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940). One was signed as Gregory Sykes and Joe revealed that in high school he and his friends sometimes used another name and his was Gregory G. Sykes. But the conversation did not end there. Joe also said that as a comic book artist he thought he had used three pseudonyms. He knew two of them (Jon Henri and Gregory Sykes) but could not recall the third so he felt he might have been mistaken. As Joe did not remember these Daring Mystery stories at all, he began to read them with much interest. At one point Joe stopped and chuckled, he said that in the Phantom Bullet story he had used the name Nelson Glaven for one of the characters. Nelson Glaven was the alternate name for Ned Gibman, one of his high school friends. I immediately recognized the name Glaven.

The cover to Speed #22 was signed Glaven. I had never talked to Joe about this cover since I had already decided (incorrectly) that he did not do it. Still I always had thought it was an excellent piece of comic art and had wanted to know more about the artist. However my search for more information on Glaven always came up empty and I had concluded it was a pseudonym. Now Joe has provided the information to link him to the Glaven alias. Actually I should have known better when I previously felt that Speed #22 was the wrong style for Joe Simon. I have been saying for some time that Joe could and did adopt different styles.

Speed #22 is a great cover. The planes diving out of formation leading to a similarly diving Captain Freedom and then to a bomb is very effective. This sort of formal device and the more static layout it provides is not the sort of thing usually found in covers by Simon and Kirby. But Joe did experiment with different compositions from time to time and this apparently is an example of that. Simon seem to deliberately adopt a different style for this cover however the misty clouds are a feature that Joe would sometimes use. The inking is done with a brush in a manner very much like the inking of some of the Jon Henri covers, particularly the form lines (see the inking glossary) on the airplanes and the boots.

Champ #22, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) September 1942

This issue is unique among the Champ covers we have examined in that the Human Meteor has replaced the Liberty Lads. The cover has the appearance of being constructed from a number of different swipes. The hooded foe in the lower right corner came from Lou Fine’s Wonderworld #7 cover. The lady being thrown into the pool seems unnatural. Her hair and general pose looks more like she is lying down rather then falling. I am sure she was taken from someplace. I cannot identify other swipes but that is not to say there were not any. The Human Meteor and his young sidekick both have large ears that are not quite placed on the head correctly. This unusual treatment of ears viewed from the back is also a characteristic of Jack Kirby at this time. But the anatomy and pose of the Human Meteor just does not otherwise look like Jack’s work.

Like he did for Speed #22, Joe seems to adopt a different style for the Champ #22 cover. The design does not match that of Speed #22 but the style is similar. Joe’s Glaven pseudonym and the art style seems to be done to make Harvey’s bullpen seem bigger. Simon has spent much effort in the inking, particularly for the Human Meteor, resulting in a beautiful cover. My only complaint is that cover does not tell as clear a story as Simon’s covers usually do. It the Human Meteor leaping to save the damsel from drowning or to fight the hooded villains?

Champ #23, Jack Kirby (pencils) and Joe Simon (inks) October 1942

The Liberty Lads in action one last time, at least as done by Simon and Kirby. Some of the forced perspective, especially in the thrown Japanese soldier, have the distinct Kirby touch. More importantly the Liberty Lads have the wild hair that is very much a Kirby technique. The foreground figure turning and calling to the viewer is a rare device that shows up from time to time in work by Kirby even up to the period where he was working on monster comics for Marvel. So he is probably the primary penciler.

The art shows a good compositional touch of contrasting the foreground with the background. The Japanese soldiers with their pistols and rifles do not stand a chance against the Liberty Lads with their tank and machine gun, not to mention their most powerful weapon of all, the American flag. The US tank has just demolished the Japanese vehicle so badly that it one can no longer make out what it was. Even the cloud of smoke raised by the tank and machine gun completely overpowers the puny gun smoke of the only Japanese soldier still fighting. The Japanese do not stand a chance against the might of the US. Of course this comic came out in August 1942 at a point where America was doing rather poorly against the military forces of Japan.

Champ #23 original art with stats removed and some reconstruction of the flag

The original art for the Champ #23 still exists but without the original stats. One surprise is what there was art under the stat of the film strip showing the “exciting heroes”. Line inking of the art has been done but no spotting inking. Obviously it was a mistake to do art that would not be shown on the final cover, but the mistake was corrected before the final inking was done. Another surprise is that the original flag was replace with a differently arrange flag stat. This was probably done because the original version was crude to say the least. On the margin is a note to fix the flag and there is also a rough sketch how the flag should look. Because the flag stat was oriented differently from the original version, application of white out and some re-inking was required.

Speed #23, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) October 1942

Captain Freedom springs to action one last time, at least as done by Simon and Kirby. A striking war cover with explosions and advancing troops. A good cover but, in my opinion, not one of Simon’s best efforts.

There are a couple of errors to the cover art for Speed #23. Captain Freedom is missing his shoulder pads. This error also occurs on the cover of Speed #18, one which Kirby did both pencils and inks. Jack is famous for errors in getting costumes correct but this is unusual for Joe. However it is understandable in that it makes Captain Freedon’s costume even more like that of Captain America. The second error is actually common to all the Simon and Kirby Speed covers (Speed #17 – 23); Captain Freedom’s thighs and knees are covered in blue pants. This is surprising because previous and subsequent Speed covers get Captain Freedom’s leg coloring correct. Even the interior Captain Freedom story art is colored properly for the issues where it is wrong on the cover. Typically coloring was up to the publisher, but seeing that only the Simon and Kirby colors have the error it is quite probable that Joe and Jack did the color guides. The blue leggings also make Captain Freedom look more like Captain America.

Green Hornet #9, Jack Kirby (pencils and inks) October 1942

Green Hornet #9 is another of my favorite Harvey covers (along with Champ #19 and #20). Jack Kirby’s touch is all over this one. In it he uses the mirror to great effect. The crook is so started by seeing the Green Hornet in the mirror and has turned so quickly to confront him that his cigar and its reflection still hang in the air. Although the crook is reaching for his gun, the Green Hornet already has the drop on him. However the mirror reveals to us that yet another gun carrying foe is climbing into the room behind them. This device of a gun carrying foe, or sometimes the hero, sneaking in through a window or door was used by Simon and Kirby a number of times while working for National. But the thing is, if we can see the crook in the mirror should not the heroes?

Well the cover says “Read the story behind the cover”. From the story we learn that the crook by the dresser is the Jackal and the gun carrying foe is Dapper Dan. The key passage reads:

Just as he was gloating over piles of money in his drawers, he heard stealthy steps creep toward him. Instinctively he reached for his automatic and glanced at the mirror. It was the Green Hornet!

“Keep jour hands from that roscoe!” the Green Hornet ordered.

The Jackal scowled and obeyed. But when he looked at the mirror again, his spirits rose. Hefting an automatic, Dapper Dan was coming through the fire escape window.

Dapper Dan was just as visible to the Green Hornet and Kato as he was to the Jackal. Almost unperceived, Kato moved sidewise, and as Dapper Dan set a foot into the apartment, Kato turned around. Then Dapper Dan found himself sailing through the air toward the wall, which he struck hard with his head. He fell on the floor without a groan.

It was jiu-jitsu carried to perfection.

The original art for this cover still exists and it was up for auction by Heritage a few years ago. It reveals there was more to the art that was either covered up by stats (of the “film strip” and the title) or painted out with white-out. The now missing parts are interesting but frankly superfluous. Whoever made the decision to remove them was absolutely correct. The finished cover is much more focused.

Green Hornet #10, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), Jack Kirby (pencils) and an unidentified artist (inks) December 1942

Simon and Kirby would do the last of these Harvey cover in October (Green Hornet #9). Champ #23, Speed #23 and Green Hornet #9 would be the last of the Harvey covers that can safely be attributed to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Champ #24 and Speed #24 for November were clearly done by other artists. But I have long been puzzled by the cover art for Green Hornet #10 (December 1942). My conclusion now is that this cover was started by Simon and Kirby but perhaps finished by some other artist.

The criminal clown similar to that by Jack for Green Hornet #7. Further the costume is also a close match to the one on the cover of Speed #21 done by Joe. But the inking does not look like is was done by either Joe or Jack and so I suspect that was done by another artist. The Green Hornet and car look like they were penciled and inked by Simon but is possible some of it was also done by another inker as well. The background scenery is reminiscent of some of the Fox covers Joe had once done. It is a dynamic composition weaken somewhat by the disparate inking styles. I suspect that it was a rush job by Joe and Jack that was finished by someone else.

With the war and the draft going on, Joe and Jack knew that eventually they would have to do military service. In anticipation of that, they began to create a stock pile of work to be used by DC while they were away. They certainly had helped their friend Al Harvey to get his new publishing company going but Joe and Jack needed to concentrate on their DC work. However Simon and Kirby would return to do work for Harvey after the war.

Joe Simon Cover Art for Harvey’s Pocket-Size Comics

I stopped posting on my Simon and Kirby blog over four years ago, primarily due to pressure from my day job and the restoration work I was doing for Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library. Work on Titan’s publications have since been completed and I have recently retired. Although I now have more free time, I have no plans to resume periodic blogging. But there were some investigations that I feel remained as unfinished business. One of which are the covers that Joe and Jack did for Al Harvey early in the startup of his comic publishing company. I recently did restorations for all these covers; redoing the ones I had done earlier and finally working on the covers that I previously had not gotten around to. Some of my views about these covers have changed and besides which much time has passed from my previous discussions. I feel the best way to handle this would be provide two long posts on all the covers, incorporating those parts of my previous discussions that I feel are still appropriate. It seems appropriate to post this discussion on Joe Simon’s 104th birthday.

In his book “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon describes how his friend Al Harvey approached him to do a cover for Al’s new concept, a small-sized comic book. Joe also tells how Harvey offered to make Joe a partner for $250. But Joe was then working on Captain America. At Timely he and Jack Kirby were supposed to get a share of the profits for this very popular comic. So Joe felt the safe decision was to stay at Timely and so turned Al down. It probably seemed at the time like a no brainer, but Simon would never saw much royalty money from Timely and would leave before the year was out. As for Harvey his new comic book concept would not last long but he still managed to build up a very successful comic publishing business.

On a visit to Joe’s place, I brought him printed copies of the pocket-size Harvey covers (Pocket #1-4, Speed #14-16). Initially Joe commented that he only did a couple of pocket-sized covers. But when he looked at the cover he said that Pocket #1, #2 and #4 were his. The only question was about Speed #16. Initially he said that he thought he did it, then later he said he may not have done it. Joe commented that the feathering on the legs of Captain Freedom was not like he would do it. Note that on page 116 of his book “My Life in Comics” Joe says he did the cover for Pocket Comics 1-3. This is Joe misremembering our earlier earlier conversation and confusing doing three of the first four covers with doing the first three covers. I am going to discuss the covers that Joe said he did first.

Pocket #1, Joe Simon (pencils and inks), August 1941

Joe’s first effort for Harvey appeared on Pocket Comics #1 with cover date August 1941. This comic came out in the same month as Captain America #5. Jack Kirby was doing some great stuff at that time, but the true Simon & Kirby style had not yet emerged. The Pocket #1 cover was not in the Simon & Kirby style either, and in fact it does not show much in the way of influence from what Jack was doing. Here we get Joe doing Joe.

There are things about this cover which I find unfortunate. The field of stars gives me a claustrophobic feeling. But the biggest problem may not have been Joe’s fault as he said he was working from a mock-up. Nearly half the top is occupied by the comic’s title. If that was not enough the left side has a list of the comic’s contents. This left little room on an already small cover for Joe to work, but he uses it well. Joe came up with a terrific design which was finely executed. The scene portrayed actually is not logical, but it was not meant to be and it works.

Pocket #1, Splash page from the Satan story, unknown artist, August 1941

There are similarities between Simon’s cover and the splash from the Satan story by the unidentified artist. (The GCD says the artist was Pierce Rice, but I remain unconvinced as all the work attributed to Rice in the GCD do not appear to be done by the same artist and I have yet to find any early work signed by the artist). Both have an oversized Satan holding the Statue of Liberty rising among a cityscape. The Statue of Liberty plays a part in the story whereas the spirit of 76 does not. Therefore I suspect Joe based his cover from the splash and took it into his own unique direction.

A small diversion, the writing of the Satan story was credited to Eando Binder, which is a pseudonym for the brothers Earl Andrew and Otto Binder. According to Wikipedia they used this name for their joint writing of science fiction. But by 1939 the writing was done by Otto with Earl acting as a literary agent. Otto Binder would go on to have a long career as a comic book writer.

Wonderworld #13, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), May 1940

On the cover Simon provides a Satan that is a bit different then that in the comic itself. This is not just due to the colorist use of yellow instead of the classic red. Instead Joe has turned to a cover he did for Fox, Wonderworld #13 (May 1940). For the Fox cover, Joe was trying to work in the style of Lou Fine. His success is shown by the fact that this cover was often attributed to Fine despite the presence of a Joe Simon signature.

Silver Streak #2, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), January 1940

But there is also an even earlier version of Satan. That was the Claw as portrayed on Silver Streak #2 (January 1940). That, along with Keen Detective Funnies #14, were Joe’s first cover work. Simon gave the Claw more of a Frankenstein look in the face, but the hands are similar to both Wonderworld #13 and Pocket #1.

Pocket #2, Joe Simon (pencils and inks) and Barbara Hall (pencils and inks), September 1941

In Pocket Comics #2 the title has been reduced compared to #1 so there is more room for the art. The main scene once again depicts an oversized attaching Satan, being ineffectively fought by a miniature military (in this case some battleships) with a giant Spirit of ’76 coming to the rescue. Whereas in Pocket #1 the Spirit of 76 fought Satan on the cover but not in the story, for Pocket #2 this hero really did battle the villain in both.

On the left side of the cover is the Black Cat, seemingly not part of the scene with Satan, but oversized nonetheless. The Black Cat started in Pocket #1 just a month before, so her presence on the cover is too soon to be due to an unexpected popularity. Rather having depicted Satan and the Spirit of ’76, the Black Cat seemed more unique since the other features were the standard male heroes. The Black Cat on the cover was taken from the splash to the story from Pocket #1. The GCD attributes that story art to Barbara Hall. The story art is unsigned but there seems to be some documentary evidence to that effect. Women in Comics states:

She studied painting in Los Angeles, moving to New York City in 1940. She showed her portfolio to Harvey Comics in 1941, and was hired to draw the comic Black Cat. Her next strip was Girl Commandos, about an international team of Nazi-fighting women. This comic was developed from Pat Parker, War Nurse, about a “freelance fighter for freedom.” When stationed in India, this nurse recruited a British nurse, an American radio operator, a Soviet photographer, and a Chinese patriot. Hall continued this strip until 1943.

The work listed by Women in Comics does appear to have been executed by the same artist.

The similarity of design and execution of the Satan and Spirit of ’76 scene with that depicted on Pocket #1 leaves little doubt that this was also done by Joe Simon. Which makes it puzzling as to why the GCD attributes the cover for Pocket #1 to Joe and #2 to Bob Powell.

Pocket #4 Joe Simon (pencils and inks), January 1942,

I want to skip for now Pocket Comics #3, and proceed to #4. This is my favorite of the Pocket Comic covers. It is a great design, particularly since the text has been relegated to smaller areas as compared to the other issues. The Spirit of ’76 is a good match for that on Pocket #1 or Pocket #2. I am sure this cover was also done by Joe Simon. A new feature is the Nazi falling after being hit. It is not the way Jack Kirby would have done it, but you can tell that was the source for Joe’s inspiration. No longer do we find oversized figures. But although the design still works, it really doesn’t make logical sense. How could the Spirit of ’76 have delivered his blow if the Nazi had been standing behind him? Or how could the Black Cat jump through the window in the middle of the room and still manage to grab the arm of the Nazi in the back of the room? But as far as I am concern comics art is not meant to try to capture an instance in time. It is meant to tell a story. Without a single line of text, this cover is complete comprehensible. All the distortions of time and space were all done to advance that aim. The logical flaws are in fact its strengths.

Speed #14, Al Avison (pencils and inks), September 1941

Al Avison was one of the artist that Joe Simon hired to help with Captain America and some other comics at Timely. I suspect that his presence in the early Harvey Comics may have been due to Joe. However it came about, this was the start of a long working relationship between Al Avison and Al Harvey.

Pocket #1, Splash page for the Red Blazer story, Al Avison (pencils and inks), August 1941

Fortunately Al signed this cover and the Red Blazer story from Pocket Comics #1, so they serves as good references when trying to sort out the attributions. This was early in his career, so although he tried to use what he learned from working with Simon and Kirby he could not yet pull it off. But he matured quickly so that when Joe and Jack left Timely in a few months, Al became the head artist for Captain America for a while.

The background for the cover includes some stairs and some advancing adversaries. This theme would be repeated in a number of the early Harvey covers, although in some cases the stairs would be replaced with a long hallway. However Avison never seems to return to this theme in any of his other early work including what he did at Timely after Simon & Kirby had left.

Speed #15 Unknown artist, November 1941

Unfortunately the cover for Speed #15 is unsigned. Compared to Speed #14, Shock Gibson has gotten much younger and less bulky. Although I would hardly call the work that Avison did on Speed #14 advanced, the art for Speed #15 is much cruder.

Speed #15, Splash page for the Shock Gibson story, Al Avison (pencils and inks), November 1941

The story art for Shock Gibson in Speed #15 is also unsigned, but is a good matched for Avison’s cover and story art from Speed #14 and Pocket #1 (both signed). The GCD lists Avison as the artist for the cover of Speed #15 and previously I asserted that as well, but I no longer believe that to be true. The Speed #15 cover artist style is just too dissimilar from the Avison’s story art from the same time period.

Keen Detective #17, Joe Simon (pencils and ink), January 1940

The Speed #15 cover has wispy mists in the background. This feature, sometimes used for smoke or clouds, occasionally appears in Simon’s work both with and without Kirby. For instance it shows up in the cover for Keen Detective #17; one of the two first comic book covers that he did. The presence of the wispy mist as well as the overall Simon and Kirby appearance makes me believe that Joe may have provided layouts for the Speed #15 cover.

Speed #16 January 1942

Everybody makes mistakes, even experts. So when I say that when the Jack Kirby Checklist included Speed #16 it made a whooper, that does not diminish the value of that list. But all that needs to be done to dispel that misattribution is to compare the cover to one by Jack that came out in the same month (January 1942). There can be no question, Speed #16 was not done by Kirby.

But I have a confession to make. I included Speed #16 in the books I once made of the complete Simon and Kirby covers. I did so because I thought it was possible that Joe Simon might have been the artist. Later I attributed it to Al Avison due to some similarities to the layout of Speed #14 (a work signed by Avison). This cover is a pretty good match to the cover of Speed #15 and I do believe they were done by the same artist. But as I have already discussed, I find the art to be a too crude to have been done by Avison, especially compared to signed work done for Harvey at the same time. I may also add that Joe Simon once said that he was not the artist for this cover.

The cover art for Speed #14, #15 and #16 all have a Simon and Kirby feel to them. Speed #14 and #16 also share a theme of advancing enemies come from background stairs or hallway. This was why I once felt they were all done by the same artist. However there is a better explanation, or rather a choice of two explanations. One is that this unknown artist was working for Simon on the Timely comics and had thus learned some of the Simon and Kirby approach. That, or what I believe is more likely, Simon supplied layouts for these Speed covers. I do not credit Kirby as providing the layouts because he has not yet become involved with Harvey’s comics.

I do not believe that the humorous quality to Speed #15 was intentional. But in Speed #16 is clearly was. It is hard to believe that anyone would take seriously an attach by Hitler on the White House. But even if they did, it wouldn’t be this ridiculous Adolf carrying four rifles and three swords. This sort of visual humor would later be a Simon trademark in his comic magazine Sick.

Pocket #3, Unknown artist (pencils and inks) and Joe Simon (pencils and inks), November 1941

I have left this cover last so that it could be compared to the art for the other Pocket and Speed comics. As I mentioned earlier, Joe did not believe he was the artist for this cover. I must say that it is hard to believe that the hooded ghouls were done by Joe, his were always more threatening and not goofy. When we examine the cover, problems set in. The soldier being prepared for shipping (via C.O.D) just does not seem to lay down in the box. The Nazis are white skeletal figures in red hooded clocks. I would describe the robbed figures with the same term I would use for Speed #15 and #16 (covers that look like they were done by this artist), goofy. The track record so far for the pocket comics is that Joe did well executed covers, this unknown artist rather crude ones, Joe presents intimidating villains, this one goofy Nazis.

The action takes place in a long corridor done in forced perspective. There are more red clocked Nazis advancing from the end of the hallway. This is all similar to the tunnel in Speed #16. This suggests that both covers were done by the same artist. But as I discussed above, may be due to layouts that were supplied by Simon.

It seems clear that the figure of the Black Cat was done by a different artist than the rest of the cover. The style for Black Cat does not match any of the artists who worked on the story art but is a good match for the Black Cat that appears in the cover for Pocket Comics #4, so I am crediting Joe for her figure alone.

Al Harvey thought he had a hit with his idea of pocket-sized comics. But as Joe and Jim Simon said in “The Comic Book Makers”

The size of the little magazines made it easy for kids to slip them into their pockets, or inside the pages of a standard-sized comic book, while browsing through the comic racks. Petty crime was a big problem in the little candy stores. So Pocket Comics were dead. But Al Harvey went on to bigger things.

Pocket Comics #4 and Speed Comics #16 have cover dates of January 1942. Harvey would no longer publish pocket-size comics. Coincidentally this is the same month that the last Simon and Kirby Captain America came out.  The next time Simon and Kirby work would reach the racks it would be dated April. I will discuss the work Simon and Kirby  did for the revived Harvey in a post next week.

All Things Must Pass

I started the Simon and Kirby blog back in March 2006. There were a number of reasons that I began blogging but I always felt the main benefit to me was that writing allowed me to clarify my thoughts. Certainty popularity was not a concern which was fortunate since tracking software indicated that initially my readership was very small rising to about 35 a day. This changed when Mark Evanier’s “Kirby: King of Comics” was published. It was not long afterwards that my visits rose to about 500 a day. To be honest I am not sure exactly what these numbers mean but clearly there was a dramatic increase in interest in Simon and Kirby. There became a greater interest among publishers as well as books reprinting Simon and Kirby material became more common. One of these publishers was Titan for whom I began to provide restorations. That restoration work became a second job taking up pretty much all of my spare time. But I felt that blogging was also important and I somehow found time to devote to it as well.

However it has recently become clear to me that difficulties presented by blogging now have outweighed the benefits. While by no means have I exhausted Simon and Kirby topics to write about, I have managed to cover most of those I consider important. For reasons that I will go into now, it is very important that I finish restoration of the Horror volume of the Simon and Kirby Library soon enough that it can be published in 2013. And I want to begin planning a new project, one having nothing to do with Simon and Kirby or comic book history. There are some other reasons as well, but the bottom line is that I have decided to discontinue posting on the Simon and Kirby blog.

I will try to answer some questions that my decision is likely to bring up in the minds of some of my readers.

First off, does that mean I am no longer interested in the study of Simon and Kirby and their history? Not at all but I feel that at least while I am working on the Horror volume I can spare little time for such investigations. I am sure once I have finished with my restoration work I will once again find time to devote to this subject. I feel there is still some unfinished business. I have not had the time to properly defined the lettering of Ben Oda. Nor have I properly studied Joe Simon’s long running Sick magazine. And there are some smaller issues that I would like to study as well.

Will I return to posting on the Simon and Kirby blog? Well I do not like to use the word “never” but all I can say is that I have no plans to do so.

Will my investigations and the contents of the blog write become the subject of a Simon and Kirby book? While there is now a market for Simon and Kirby reprints I see no signs that there is one for an art history of the two collaborators and the artists who worked for them. One of these artists was Mort Meskin who in recent years has been the subject of some publications. But even Mesin’s popularity has not risen enough to get him elected to the Eisner Hall of Fame. And Meskin is the only S&K studio artist who has achieved any recognition in recent years. Others like Bill Draut, John Prentice, Bob McCarty and Jo Albistur are virtual unknowns to most of today’s comic book fans. That is the bad news, the good news is that publishing for electronic reading devices such as iPad or Kindle has made great advances. I can envision a day when I might find enough spare time to put together a book for some form of electronic publication.

What about the future of Simon and Kirby publications in general? I am sure more reprints will be done. Titan’s Science Fiction volume of the Simon and Kirby Library should be out in March. I have not seen them but Titan has proofs for the book and I have heard that they came out very nice. As I said, I am currently working on the Horror volume which I expect to be out late in 2013 but certainly no later then early 2014. After that I am not sure what to expect. I have seen a proposal for one future book, but I do not like to discuss such matters because they all too often fail to reach actual publication. I am convinced that some other publications concerning Simon and Kirby will be done and I like to think I will participate in at least some of them.

What about the future of the Simon and Kirby blog itself? The Jack Kirby Museum, who sponsors this blog, have agreed to continue to keep it up. I have mixed feelings about this because a blog is meant to be read like a periodical publication. This is particularly true in my case because my opinions on certain subjects have changed with time. It is not that unusual to find older posts with artist attributions that I later changed. Be that as it may, there seems more benefit to leaving the blog accessible compared to removing it. I will continue to allow comments however in the future all comments will be moderated. I do not want the blog to be subjected to spam, trolls and cultists. And I am reachable by email for those looking for a more private or faster correspondence. One thing I do plan to do over the coming weeks is to update my checklists and add a few more.

Writing the Simon and Kirby blog has been a rewarding experience. I would like to thank those who have read my posts or even just stopped by to look at the pretty pictures.

Addition: I cannot believe I forgot to thank the Jack Kirby Museum for hosting my blog and Rand Hoppe for all his support. The Kirby Museum is an invaluable resource that needs all our support. So if you are not already a member, why not join today!