Category Archives: Kirby, Jack

Questions on Some Inking in Adventures of the Fly

I have recently posted on the initial issues of the Adventures of the Fly (here and here). There are still unidentified artists that penciled those issues (and more in the two Fly issues that followed). Identifying inkers is an even bigger challenged particularly because I am not that familiar with the brushwork of most of the possible inkers. However I recently noticed some inking in the Adventures of the Fly that was very familiar.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Sneak Attack” page 2 (part), pencils by Jack Kirby

When I last wrote about “Sneak Attack” I attributed the pencils to Joe Simon. Well that was not the complete attribution. The bottom of the second page was an advertisement for the other Archie superhero comic, Double Life of Private Strong. The only art the ad contains is a standing figure of Private Strong changing into the Shield. It seems clear that the art was drawn by Jack Kirby. It is odd that the story and ad were done by different artists. I have studied the original art from Joe Simon’s collection and I can assure the reader that no cut and paste was performed to accomplish this.

The inking for the ad was really nicely done but unfortunately the details of which are obscured by rather poor printing. It is hard to see but the inner sides of both thighs were inked using picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary). The good news is that in the upcoming Simon and Kirby Superheroes volume from Titan “Sneak Attack” and the other stories I will be discussing here will be restored from the original art. Similarly robust picket fence brushwork was one of the characteristics of what I refer to as the Studio Style inking used during the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Not only did both Joe and Jack use this technique at that time but Mort Meskin did as well. I think, however, we can dismiss Meskin as the possible inker for the ad because he was no longer working with either Kirby or Simon and the inking here is a bit more spontaneous than was normal for Mort.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Marco’s Eyes” splash (part), pencils by Jack Kirby

The spotting of the large figure of the Fly in the double page splash for “Marco’s Eyes is more finely worked than typical for either Simon or Kirby although either of them was certainly capable of it. Actually it is more finely worked than the inking found in any of the Fly art. So far I have not identified any brushwork in the figure that helps in determining an inking attribution.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Marco’s Eyes” page 4, pencils by Jack Kirby

The story art for “Marco’s Eyes” shows an important characteristic that was typical of Studio style inking, what I refer to as shoulder blots (Inking Glossary). It is prominently shown in panels 2, 3 and 5 from page 4 but occurs elsewhere in the story as well. Numerous inkers have provided their shoulders with shadows but shoulder blots are distinct in that they occur on both shoulders regardless of how a shadow would expect to be cast. So far I have only seen Joe Simon and Jack Kirby make use of shoulder blots in their inking.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby

There are no shoulder blots in “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” unless the shadow in panel 4 from page 2 is counted as one (but I am not inclined to do so). There are, however, a number of examples of course picket fence crosshatching. The first panel from page 2 shows a scallop pattern to the shadow on the boy’s arm. This scallop inking frequently showed up in Kirby’s inking. But the inking of the eyes and eyebrows of the boy look very much like the work of Simon.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Come Into My Parlor” story panels 3 and 4 from the double page splash, pencils by Jack Kirby

The double page splash and accompanying story panels of “Come Into My Parlor” also contains what looks like Studio style inking. Particularly note the spotting of the sailor from story panels 3 and 4. Observe the two cloth folds on the man’s shoulder in panel 4. These cloth folds show no indication of the tip of the brush which is a technique that was typical of Kirby’s inking. I am less convinced about the inking of the rest of the story. It should be kept in mind that it was common during the Simon and Kirby collaboration for Kirby to be involved with the spotting of the splash and leave the rest of the story to other inkers.

Studio style inking techniques are not limited to the four stories that I have discussed here. But their occurrence elsewhere in the first two issues of Adventures of the Fly seems limited to what looks like touch-ups of the work by other inkers. Such touch-up were almost certainly the work of Simon since Kirby was then a freelancer working from his house.

I only become confident about inking attributions after I have “lived” with them for some time. However it is my policy to present my current views in this blog even if they are likely to be subject to change. At this time I believe “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” was inked by Joe Simon. I am also fairly certain that Jack Kirby inked the splash pages of “Come Into My Parlor”. I am less confident about the inking attributions for the ad from “Sneak Attack” or “Marco’s Eyes”. I currently am crediting Kirby for that inking but I am bother about the frequent appearance of the tip of the brush in the inking which previously was not typical for Kirby although it was for Simon.

Replacing Simon and Kirby, Chapter 1, The Newsboy Legion

While Simon and Kirby were working for DC they knew that at some time they both would be entering military service. To prepare for this the two went into hyper drive and started generating an inventory for DC to use while they were gone. This was very successful and Simon and Kirby covers and stories appeared long after Joe and Jack were working for Uncle Sam. But the inventory was not large enough to last until Simon and Kirby were back from helping to protect our country. By early 1944 (cover dates) there were no more Simon and Kirby story art left.

The question of Simon and Kirby’s replacement came back to my attention recently while reading DC’s Simon and Kirby Sandman archive. There were two stories in it that were listed as being done by Joe and Jack but to me looked like they were actually by some other artist (“Courage a la Carte”, Adventure #91, April 1944 and “Sweets for Swag”, Adventure #100, October 1945). The issue came up again when I recently obtained a copy of DC’s Simon and Kirby Newsboy Legion archive. For the Newsboy Legion volume, DC decided to include material that clearly was not drawn by Simon and Kirby. The replacement artist for most of the Newsboy Legion was credited in the DC volume as Gil Kane. It is an attribution that I have used previously as well. However when I talked with Joe Simon about this he insisted that Gil Kane was not the artist and suggested that it was the brothers Arturo and Luis Cazeneuve.

Simon and Kirby’s replacements was a subject that I have always meant to investigate a little further. This will be the start of another serial post. It will be a bit more erratic than most of my serial posts because I am not going to do this in a strictly chronological order. Instead I will begin with several chapters examining the Newsboy Legion, then look at Sandman and finally cover the Boy Commandos.

Star Spangled #29
Star Spangled #29 (February 1944) “Cabbages and Comics”, pencils by Jack Kirby

I will start with the Newsboy Legion because the work covered in this chapter can all be found in DC’s recent archive volume. Thus the reader will be able to view more examples than I can provide in this blog. The first story I will remark on is what I believe to be the last published complete Newsboy Legion story by Simon and Kirby before they went off into military service. Because of the push to create inventory and the use of other hands in the inking, the art by this time was not quite as good as early in the Newsboy Legion run. But even poorer quality Simon and Kirby art is still much better than what most other artists were doing. And while many artists might try to imitate Kirby’s dynamic art they were unable to keep it up page after page. In short I have no doubt that this story is in fact a Simon and Kirby production.

The Jack Kirby Collector (issue #21) published an interview with Gil Kane. Two of Kane’s answers are particularly pertinent to this discussion:

TJKC: What were your job duties with S&K?

Gil: Mine was penciling. I would try to turn out a job every week or so. [They were] 12-page stories. I was copying-tracing-Jack’s work.

TJKC: What happened when Simon & Kirby went into the service? What happened to you?

Gil: I got a “Newsboy Legion” job to do by myself (like I had done the rest of them except they didn’t fix it up or do the splash), but when I walked through the door with the finished job, they said, “You’re fired.” They didn’t even look at the work. I really was lousy and I was out! At that point, I was about seventeen and I worked for Continental Comics for a guy named Temmerson. (I penciled and Carmine Infantino inked.) But that only lasted until I went into the Army.

There are a couple of really significant points in Gil’s short answers. Kane describes having previously done work that Simon and Kirby fixed up or provided the splash. Now it is possible that Gil Kane had something to do with earlier stories such as “Cabbages and Comics” but if so it was only in a minor capacity. Kane may have done things like help with the inking but I am sure that Kirby was the penciler.

Star Spangled #30
Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane”, pencils by Jack Kirby

There is no sign of Gil Kane, or any other artist other than Simon and Kirby, in the splash for “The Lady of Linden Lane” (Star Spangled #30, March 1944). It is a great splash with plenty of action and a little bit of humor with the normally fearless Guardian trying to duck from the blows of an elderly lady. The hoods in the background are a typical Simon and Kirby feature. This was inventoried material and so perhaps was executed in a hurry, but it still is great comic book art. Joe entered the Coast Guards before Jack went into military service so some of the inventory art may have been done by Kirby without Simon. However there is no reason to believe that DC published the inventoried art in the same order that Joe and Jack produced it. Nor are there any signs that I can find that distinguish this story from others there were done by both Simon and Kirby.

Star Spangled #30
Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane” page 9, art by Gil Kane?

While the splash for “The Lady of Linden Lane” is work that can be attributed convincingly to Simon and Kirby, the rest of the story is not. The art is crude and stilted. There are parts that really do look like Kirby’s pencils but they appear to be swipes. For instance the cigar smoker in panel 5 of page 9 (shown above) is shown in the type of perspective that Kirby favored however it appears to be based on Guardian from the cover of Star Spangled #26 (November 1943).

Star Spangled #8 and #30
left Star Spangled #8 (May 1942) “Last Mile Alley” page 13 panel 2, pencils by Jack Kirby
right Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane” page 7 panel 5, art by Gil Kane?

An even more obvious swipe can be found in the figures of Snapper and Gabby shown above. Unlike my previous example this is a close swipe showing only minor alterations. Kirby did swipe on occasion but one thing I have never seen him do was swipe from himself. Jack did have some favorite poses that he often repeated but they are always done with such variation that it seems clear that he is not copying any previous drawing. Simon did swipe from Kirby, in fact rather often. But Joe was a good artist in his own right and his art is much better than this crudely drawn story. Further I can detect none of Simon’s drawing style in “The Lady of Linden Lane”. While I am not familiar enough with the work of Arturo or Luis Cazeneuve to confidently spot their work, what I have seen is much better than these crude drawings. The combination of a Kirby drawn splash with story done by another artist fits very well the interview reply that Kane gave. Add to that the use of swipes and Kane’s admitted poor artistry (he was 16 at the time). So assuming that there is at least some truth to his statements I am questionably attributing the story art for “The Lady of Linden Lane” to Gil Kane. The one problem with this attribution is that there is only one Newsboy Legion story that fits this description while Kane statement suggests he did multiple works in this fashion.

Star Spangled #31
Star Spangled #31 (April 1944) “Questions, Please” page 6, art by unidentified artist

The next issue of Star Spangled Comics had a very different Newsboy Legion story. No clear sign of Simon and Kirby here, neither in the splash or the story art. Nor is this the same artist that produced the story art from “The Lady of Linden Lane” I must admit that I have slighted this artist in the past. His more “cartoony” approach gives the impression that he could be considered an “anti-Simon & Kirby”. But it would be a mistake to dismiss this artist. Put aside any comparisons to Joe and Jack and I am sure the reader will see this is a rather interesting and talented artist. Sure his faces and figures are exaggerated but they are full of life. He makes good use of varying the point of view. He seems to purposely distort background scenery giving it an almost cubist look. This artist may be rather bizarre but he is definitely not boring. I will cover this artist in more detail in the next chapter of this serial post.

But who is this artist? In the past I, and at least some others, have thought this was Gil Kane. Now I attributing “The Lady of Linden Lane” to Gil Kane but is there any other reason to reject Kane as the replacement artist for “Questions, Please” and other Newsboy Legion stories? Actually there is. Gil Kane went into the army shortly after his 18th birthday and he spent 19 months in service. Since he was born on April 6, 1926 that would mean he was in the army sometime about April or May 1944. However, as we will see in the next chapter, this replacement artist would provide work up to Star Spangled #49 (October 1945). This is well into the time that Kane was doing military service. Unlike Simon and Kirby, I doubt that DC would consider the replacement artist important enough to provide an inventory of works to use while he was gone. So it can be said with good confidence that Gil Kane was not the primary Simon and Kirby replacement artist.

But what about Joe Simon’s suggestion of the Cazeneuve brothers? I prefer to put off trying to answer that question until the next chapter where I will review more of the primary replacement artist’s Newsboy Legion work.

More Kirby Krackle

Tales of the Unexpected #18
Tales of the Unexpected #18 (October 1957) “The Man Who Collected Planets”, art by Jack Kirby

In a comment to my previous post (Kirby Krackle) Ger Apeldoorn remarked on the existence of another Kirby Krackle prototype. Unfortunately Ger was unable to provide the specific comic that it appeared in. Perhaps he meant the one that was recently brought to my attention (thanks CL), “The Man Who Collected Planets” from Tales of the Unexpected #18 (October 1957). The Kirby Krackle prototype also appears on the cover (which Kirby did as well) but I find the splash page a better example of this technique. I have previously dismissed some of the supposed Kirby Krackle prototypes (based on techniques used to indicate smoke), but how does this new (for me) contender stack up? Well it is composed of rounded (but not circular) spots, there is a tendency to form clusters, they are meant to depict energy (although more of a simmering than a high energy) and there is a cosmic connection (he is after all an alien). So while it is not perfect Kirby Krackle it is so close to the real thing that it makes a perfect prototype.

When I wrote a serial post on Kirby’s Austere and related inking styles I included a chapter on his DC work (Jack Kirby’s Austere Inking, Chapter 7). Unfortunately at the time I had access to a limited portion of that work and so I could only make some provisional conclusions. Now I am able to examine a much better selection of Kirby’s DC material but I have yet to do a careful review so my observations must still be considered as tentative. My belief is that the art for “The Man Who Collected Planets” as well of the cover was inked by Jack Kirby himself. Perhaps the best indications that this was Kirby’s inking can be found in the last panel of the image provided above. Observe the rather blunt but well controlled brushwork, the scalloped inking pattern own the man’s shoulder and the use of short brushwork arranged into strings. So the credit, if the reader accepts this as a true Kirby Krackle prototype, belongs to Kirby.

Tales of the Unexpected #18
Tales of the Unexpected #18 (October 1957) “The Man Who Collected Planets” page 3 panel 5, art by Jack Kirby

As I described above, the Kirby Krackle prototype surrounding the alien figure is used to describe a simmering energy and not the high energy that true Kirby Krackle depicts. The lower energy level drawn by Jack is quite appropriate for his subject. However the story includes art where much higher energy levels are shown, as for example the panel from page 3 shown above. As can be seen this Kirby Krackle prototype is even closer to the real thing. The dots are more irregular in size and they form more obvious clusters. Personally I cannot see how anyone could claim this is not a perfectly good prototype from which true Krackle was developed.

Tales of the Unexpected #18
Tales of the Unexpected #18 (October 1957) “The Man Who Collected Planets” page 5 panel 5, art by Jack Kirby

I cannot resist providing another panel to show that my previous example of the Kirby Krackle prototype was no accident. While I fully accept this as a prototype, that by no means negates my claim that the example I provided from Captain 3-D (Kirby Krackle) was a Krackle prototype. Far from it, I believe it only strengthens my claim. The DC example is just what would be expected as a step intermediate between the earlier Captain 3-D (1954) and the full blown Krackle that Jack started using in 1968. Only small changes needed to go from the primitive version from Captain 3-D to the better (but still not perfect) version in the DC story. This means that I still maintain that Joe Simon was probably responsible for originating what would later become called Kirby Krackle.

Kirby Krackle

Fantastic Four #57
Fantastic Four #57 (December 1966) “Enter, Dr. Doom” page 5 panel 4, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott (from the Marvel Omnibus)

There is a virtual cottage industry around identifying some aspect of Jack Kirby’s artistry and naming it with a word starting with the letter ‘K’ (better yet if the chosen word actually starts with a ‘C’). I find such terms annoyingly cute and even worse some have rather vacuous foundations (see Kirby Kolor, A Kirby Myth and Kirby Kolors, Revisited). There is one such term, Kirby Krackle, which is so entrenched in comic literature that I feel that it must be accepted. No matter how grating the name, Kirby Krackle really does describe an important aspect found in much of Jack’s later work.

Kirby’s art for Marvel Comics in the 60’s began to show clusters of round dots depicting enormous but not necessarily directed energy, often of a cosmic nature. Shane Foley wrote an excellent article on Kirby Krackle (Kracklin’ Kirby, Jack Kirby Collector #33) were he traces the appearance of this device. Because of the manner that the work was created, many experts have claimed that Kirby’s inker Joe Sinnott actually came up with the device and Kirby liked what he saw and adopted it.

Of course there are Kirby fans that were unwilling to accept any of Jack’s techniques as originating anywhere other than from the King himself. And so the race was on to find Kirby Krackle precursors in earlier work by Jack to prove that the idea came from him and not Sinnott. Frankly I find the the examples I have seen of the supposed Kirby Krackle prototypes to be less then convincing. Most are inking techniques that were used to depict smoke. These prototypes have four strikes against them. They do not take the shape of round dots, they do not form clusters, they are not used to depict high energy, and there are no intermediate examples that show they evolved into true Kirby Krackle. With so many points against them these so called prototypes can be discarded from serious consideration.

Captain 3-D #1
Captain 3-D #1 (December 1953) “The Man from the World of D”, page 3 panel 6, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

I would like to suggest yet another Kirby Krackle prototype. One found in the work that Kirby drew for Captain 3-D (December 1953). Besides the panel shown above, another example can be found from page 2 of the same story used in an earlier post (Captain 3D). Now I am not claiming these are true Kirby Krackle. Here dashes rather then dots are used and the dashes do not quite cluster as closely as in true Kirby Krackle, but it would not take much to make the change from the prototype to the real thing. Further the prototype is used to depict true energy; in fact there is a cosmic connection in that the weapon is called a gamma ray gun.

Unfortunately there is a problem for those Kirby fans who would like to use Captain 3-D Kirby Krackle prototype as proof that the idea came from Jack himself. These pages were not inked by Kirby. Worse yet, during the Simon and Kirby collaboration Jack did not indicate spotting in his pencils. Kirby drawings were line drawings only and it was up to the inker to determine the spotting. Joe Simon was the inker for page 3. Page 2 was inked by Steve Ditko but with touch-ups by Simon. I really cannot say for certain who inked the Kirby Krackle prototype on page 2 but since it is done in the same manner as page 3 I credit it to Joe as well. But somehow I do not think comic fans are going to begin calling this technique Simon Snackle.

Adventures of the Fly, the Second Issue

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Tim O’Casey’s Wrecking Crew”, pencils by unidentified artist

If a young boy can be transformed into a fully costumed adult superhero with a magic ring, why not have a leprechaun as an opponent? Not strange enough? Well then give the leprechaun some giant robots to play with. The only thing missing in this delightful story is Jack Kirby. Too bad because I am sure Jack would have added his own personal touches and transformed it into a masterpiece.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “One of Our Skyscrapers is Missing” page 3, pencils by Al Williamson

Al Williamson was already a talented comic artist when he did “One of Our Skyscrapers is Missing” for this issue. And I have little doubt that he did this story. The various monsters that inhabit these pages all possess the Williamson touch. If Williamson was working from layouts, he took great liberties with them. His panel layouts are the most interesting ones found in either the Shield or the Fly. Further his artwork is far superior to the other artists working on the Archie superheroes that I have reviewed so far with the sole exception of Jack Kirby. That said the art for this story is really far below his best efforts. The work Al did for Race for the Moon the previous year was much superior.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Sneak Attack”, pencils by Joe Simon

“Sneak Attack” is another of the pieces that generally get attributed to Jack Kirby but were actually drawn by Joe Simon. The reason for this misattribution is a credit to Joe’s skills at mimicking Jack’s style, often with the help of plenty of swipes. The pilot with the funny head gear was swiped from Kirby’s “Hot Box” (Foxhole #2). However it shows that Joe is not just copying Kirby as the head is in full frontal view instead of the 3/4 profile that Jack drew.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Marco’s Eyes”, pencils by Jack Kirby
Larger Image

It is an old theme, but Kirby frequently returns to previous themes and improves upon them. In this case it is the idea of a stage performer using his power of hypnosis as a means of conducting crime. The earliest predecessor was probably an untitled story about sometimes called “Sando and Omar” from Captain America #1 (March 1941). “Marco’s Eyes” has some nice art and all in all a good effort, but certainly not among the better Simon and Kirby’s work. The double page splash is perhaps the weakest that S&K ever did. This is unfortunate since it is also the last the two would work on together.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “The Master of Junk-Ri-La”, pencils by Jack Kirby

While I would hardly call “The Master of Junk-Ri-La a masterpiece, it is a much better work than “Marco’s Eyes”. It does however contain some humor that might not be appreciated by many modern superhero fans used to bleaker tales. For instance the villain uses a giant fly swatter against the Fly.

The two stories in Adventures of the Fly #2 would be the last collaboration between Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for many years. The Jack Kirby Checklist includes “Muggy’s Masterpiece” from Adventures of the Fly #4 but that is clearly incorrect. Even the way the Archie superheroes were created made them more of a Simon effort than a Kirby one. Still the two had worked together in one form or another for a period of about 18 years. There may have been other comic book collaborations that were longer but there were none there were better. Or at least that is my opinion. But I may be biased; after all this is the Simon and Kirby Blog.

Since this is Kirby’s last work on the Fly I thought I would briefly touch on the part that it played in the creation of Spider-Man. Others have written in great depths about this issue but here I will only provide a brief outline of the events. Joe Simon, C. C. Beck and Jack Oleck got together in 1953 or 1954 to create a new superhero. Initially the name Spiderman was considered and Joe even created a logo using that name, but in the end the character was called the Silver Spider. Joe took the initial artwork by Beck and pitched the idea to Harvey Comics but they declined to publish it. Years later Archie Comics approached Simon to create some new superheroes and Joe came up with a new Shield and the Fly. Joe retrieved Beck’s Silver Spider art work from Harvey and sent it off to Jack to use as reference when he drew most of the art for the initial issues published in 1959. In 1962 Stan Lee worked initially with Kirby to create Spider-Man but in the end turned to Steve Ditko to provide the art. The work that Kirby did on Spider-Man has never been published but Ditko later described Kirby’s version as looking like the Fly.

The main source of contention about the creation of Spider-Man concerns not so much the history as the interpretation of that history. The most common subject of disagreement is whether Stan Lee and Steve Ditko should be considered the joint creators or if Jack Kirby should be included as well. While I have provided a broad history behind the creation of Spider-Man that I believe most comic scholars would largely accept there are numerous details that scholars seem unable to agree on. Even as simple a concept as the term creator turns out to have very different meanings depending on who is using it. I will not try to advance my own opinion as to who should be credited for creating Spider-Man. I prefer to let each reader come to their own conclusions. But I find it incomprehensible how some insist on crediting Jack Kirby as a Spider-Man creator while excluding Joe Simon.

Adventures of the Fly, the First Issue

Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “The Strange New World of the Fly”, pencils by Jack Kirby

Recently I posted about Jack Kirby’s work on the origin story of Private Strong, aka the Shield. In Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) Jack also had the honors of doing the same for the other new Archie hero, the Fly. Only in this case Kirby based the story on art that C. C. Beck did for the unpublished Silver Spider. Some have called the Silver Spider a Simon and Kirby creation but that simply is not true. Kirby had nothing to do with the Silver Spider which was a creation of Joe Simon, C. C. Beck and Jack Oleck. When I previously discussed the Silver Spider (The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 10, A Fly in the Mix) I dated this creation as 1953. To be honest I no longer remember where I got that date but it is not an unreasonable one. This would put it during the time of the Simon and Kirby collaborations but in “The Comic Book Maker” Joe writes about how the Silver Spider was created as a favor to Beck. An examination of xerox copies of the original art confirms Kirby’s absence.

Tommy Troy was an orphan like Lancelot Strong but the resemblance ends there. We meet Tommy in an orphanage but he ends up hired out to an elderly couple. Not kindly Kent-like farmers, but a mean, elderly couple with a reputation of dabbling in magic. Beck’s Silver Spider story had included a genie to add an element of humor, but Kirby has dispensed with him. However concept of a young boy who transforms into an adult superhero was Beck’s who repeated it from Captain Marvel.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “The Fly Strikes”, pencils by Joe Simon

Just like in Private Strong, the origin story for the Fly is actually told in a series of separate stories. The first one ends with the Tommy Troy being given a magic ring and transforming into the Fly. The second, “The Fly Strikes”, tells of the Fly’s first combat against criminals. This second story is actually based on the end of the origin story that Beck drew.

“The Fly Strikes” is generally credited to Jack Kirby but I am not convinced. I suspect that it is another case of Joe Simon swiping from and imitating Kirby. Joe was particularly good at doing this. Note the Fly peering into the window in the second story panel. This is a swipe from Fighting American #1 (Captain America Returns). I have no indications that Kirby was working from layouts in the stories that he did for this issue. Nor do I believe Jack would bother to swipe from himself. Why would he when he could do it much faster without a swipe? So as I said I believe this story was actually done by Simon.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Buzz Gun”, pencils by Jack Kirby

While the origin story came from Beck’s Silver Spider and the Fly’s powers seemed to be based on directives from Joe Simon, the Fly’s costume is derived from the Night Fighter, a Simon and Kirby creation that was considered for Joe and Jack’s publishing company, Mainline, but never used (Night Fighter, an Abandoned Superhero). Two characteristics stand out. One was the goggles. Similar eyewear appeared in the Black Owl from 1940 and 1941 (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl). The presence of these goggles in two superheroes with a night theme suggests they were meant to be an aid for seeing in the dark. Of course such night vision would not be that appropriate for the Fly nor is it a power that the Fly ever used. Perhaps the eyewear was nothing more then a visual reference to the insect’s compound eyes or perhaps Jack saw no reason to remove them when he based the Fly’s costume on that of the Night Fighter.

One of the other features that the Fly inherited from the Night Fighter was a pistol of some kind. All that remains of the art for Night Fighter are two unfinished covers and neither offers any clues as to what use the pistol was put to. My guess is that it was for shooting a wire for scaling buildings such as that used by the Sandman, another superhero that Simon and Kirby worked on during the war. While a wirepoon might be a useful device for the Night Fighter it would be rather superfluous for a superhero like the Fly who is able to walk up walls. Well in “Buzz Gun” Kirby shows how the Fly’s pistol is used. It makes a noise! Oh well.

Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Come Into My Parlor”, pencils by Jack Kirby
Larger Image

Jack Kirby’s last chapter for the origin story opens with a spectacular double page splash. The title exclaims “for the first time in comics: the wide angel scream”. Of course this really was not the first use of a double page splash a subject that I covered in a still unfinished serial post (The Wide Angle Scream). The chances are that none of the Fly readers had seen any of Simon and Kirby’s earlier uses. While Simon and Kirby did not originate the double page splash, nobody else did it better. Further by 1959 the wide splash was no longer used by anyone. I can imagine the impression the centerfold splash made for potential buyers of the comic. How could they resist. I am sure I would not have. I would have been 9 at the time but sometime around that period I had read some of the DC superhero comics. I found them boring and had given up on comics for a while. Unfortunately I never saw any of the Simon and Kirby creations.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Sign of the Triangle”, art by Joe Simon

The Jack Kirby Checklist includes this among the work that Kirby did for this issue but I am not convinced. To me it looks like Simon did the drawing. However this confusion is really understandable because the illustration appears to be a swipe from the cover of Foxhole #3 (February 1955) which had be drawn by Kirby. It is not an exact copy, but I do not believe Simon ever did exact copies. The inking looks like Joe did that as well.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “The Search”, pencils by Joe Simon

I may not be confident about attributing the illustration for “Sign of the Triangle” to Simon but there seems little doubt that Joe did the two page Shield promotional piece called “The Search”. This one is full of swipes from art by Kirby. For instance the man being punched through a wall and then left hanging was from the origin story in Fighting American #1 (April 1954, Captain America Returns). Note that while Joe follows pretty closely the man stuck in the wall he has added the man’s face for the punching image which Jack had cut off by the panel edge.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Magic Eye”, pencils by George Tuska?

The final story is completely independent from the Fly origin and done by another artist, I believe it is George Tuska. I questionably attributed some work from Private Strong #2 to George as well; let us see if some of my more knowledgeable readers will agree with me on this one as well. This is another example where I do not see any obvious swipes of Kirby.

Double Life of Private Strong, the Last Issue

Double Life of Private Strong #2
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The Toy Master” page 5, art by unidentified artist

While the first issue of Double Life of Private Strong was almost completely drawn by Jack Kirby, he played a much smaller part in the second. I am not sure who drew the first story, “The Toy Master”, but he obviously was working from some sort of directions. In “The Comic Book Makers, Joe Simon writes about using Carl Burgos to create layouts. In fact Joe’s collection still includes layouts for a Fly story (Carl Burgos does the Fly). By supplying the artists with layouts, Joe was able to give the comic a distinct Kirby feel. Scattered through the art are swipes; most of them from the previous Simon and Kirby superhero, Fighting American. For instance the Shield in panel 4 of page 5 was based on a splash from Fighting American #1. Some experts have claimed that these are either stats or mechanical copies but I have disproved that by overlaying the art (The Fly, A Case Study of Swiping). Apparently all that was done was a free hand copy was created for the layout and the artist would finish it. This would provide the desired Kirby-feel to the story without making the swipe too incongruous with the rest of the art. There are other examples were the copy deviated even more from the original. I believe, for instance, that the Shield in panel 3 was swiped by the one Kirby did for the splash of “The Menace of the Micro-Men” from Private Strong #1.

Double Life of Private Strong #2
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “Upsy Daisy”, art by George Tuska?

I going out on a limb because I am not familiar enough with his work, but I believe “Upsy Daisy” might be the work of George Tuska. Joe Simon has written in “The Comic Book Maker” that Tuska worked on the Archie comics for him so it is not an unreasonable guess. Perhaps I missed them, but I do not spot any obvious swipes from Kirby in this story.

Double Life of Private Strong #2
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “I Wish I Were the Shield”, art by George Tuska?
Larger Image

The two tier panel layout is pretty much identical to the one used for the double page splashes found in Adventures of the Fly #1 and #2. However there is no mention of “the wide angle scream” nor are the curved black bands of the top and bottom of the splash (The Wide Angle Scream, What Was Old Is New Again). Again my attribution of this story to George Tuska is by no means firm.

Here there are some examples of swiping from Kirby. For instance the Shield in the splash was based on the cover logo that first appeared on Fighting American #4 (October 1954). The presences of these swipes and the overall superiority of the story art over that for “Upsy Daisy” suggests that this story was done from layouts.

Double Life of Private Strong #2
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The Ultra-Sonic Spies”, art by Jack Kirby

The use of swipes was clearly an attempt to improve the look of the art not actually drawn by Kirby. But of course it was only partially successful since after all nothing beats the real thing. The single story by Kirby in this issue, “The Ultra-Sonic Spies”, just out shines all the rest of the comic. What a mixture of action and humor. Since the Shield’s alter ego, Lancelot Strong, was a private in the U.S. army, Jack was able to return to and improve upon the humor that was done years previously in Captain America. While Simon and Kirby had always preferred less powerful and more human heroes, Kirby makes exciting use the Shield’s greater power. I would say Jack was much more at ease with the Shield than he was with the Fly. What Kirby did in Private Strong prefigures more than any of his other work what was to blossom in the Marvel superhero line in a few years.

Double Life of Private Strong #2
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The General’s Favorite Private”, art by Joe Simon

There is a single page text piece about the Shield which tells how Lancelot Strong’s secret identity is discovered by General Smith. The story is nothing special but it contains an illustration by Joe Simon. Since the work that he did for the J. C. Penny (1947, A History Lesson) Joe drew very little comic book art. Probably the most significant work was “Deadly Doolittle” for Fighting American #6 and even that was a reworking of an earlier Sandman piece originally drawn by Kirby. After the Simon and Kirby studio broke up Joe did some more work on his own. Simon mostly did some covers but he also occasionally did an interior illustration such as the one accompanying the General Smith text story.

Double Life of Private Strong #2
Double Life of Private Strong #2 (August 1959) “The Boy Sentinels” page 2, art by Joe Simon

For the most part one thing Joe Simon did not draw late in his career was full stories. Private Strong #2 included what is essentially an advertisement for the Fly, “The Boy Sentinels”. Should this two page piece be considered a story? What is interesting to me is that Joe makes little, if any, use of swipes from Kirby. Instead Simon drawing reflects back to the work he did for backup pieces for Stuntman and Boy Explorers, especially Vagabond Prince. The villain in the piece resembles that from “Trapped on Wax” (meant for the unpublished Boy Explorers #2), the close-up of the Fly hitting the villain seems taken from “The Madness of Doctor Altu (Black Cat #8, October 1947), and the young boys look like the one from “Death Trap De Luxe” (Black Cat #7, August 1947).

In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe writes:

Years later, I learned why John Goldwater had dropped his beloved Shield like a hot potato. DC Comic’s lawyers had sent him a cease-and-desist order which put forth the amusing claim that The Shield’s powers aped Superman’s too closely.

On the face of it this seems rather remarkable. After all the only important powers that the Shield and Superman seems to be the ability to fly and run at super fast speeds. The Fly can also, well fly, but there seems to have been no problem with that similarity. While not denying the question about some shared powers between the Shield and Superman, I would suggest there were other features that made the Shield more vulnerable to legal action than the Fly. While the Shield’s uniform was modeled on that Simon and Kirby created for Captain America, it unfortunately shared a color scheme with Superman; the same overall blue with red shorts and boots. Also regrettably the Shield’s origin story shared features with Superman’s; orphaned as a baby and raised by an elderly farming couple. All these factors probably contributed to Goldwater’s cold feet when presented with a legal challenge. After all the Shield had not yet shown whether it was a large enough money maker to warrant fighting a legal battle.

Double Life of Private Strong, the First Issue

For me it is still an open question exactly when the Simon and Kirby studio dissolved but it certainly had by the end of 1956 because Jack had begun doing freelance work for DC and Atlas. That did not mean the end of Simon and Kirby collaborations as Jack did most of the art for Race for the Moon issues #2 and #3 (September and November, 1958). Even though Joe and Jack were clearly not working in the same studio, I consider these issues of Race for the Moon to be the same sort of collaboration that had been done in the past. Certainly the results looked very much the same. However Race for the Moon was not very successful; actually none of the work Simon and Kirby did for Harvey Comics ever were.

In the early days of the silver age of comics DC had shown that once again there was money to be made in superheroes. John Goldwater, president and part owner of Archie Comics, thought it might be a good idea for his company to try superheroes again. Actually Archie Comics had started with superheroes only at that time the publisher called itself MLJ. Their flagship comic, Pep, featured the Shield, the first patriotic superhero. Simon and Kirby had even produced a cover for Shield Wizard #7 and (perhaps inadvertently) redesigned the Shield’s costume.

Goldwater approached Simon to create two new titles and Joe came up with up with the Fly and the Shield. Although they shared the same name, Joe’s Shield was to be a very different character. After receiving Goldwater’s approval, Joe approached Kirby to provide some initial art work. Now this work can properly be called collaborations but the collaboration was nothing like what had occurred before and the results looked very different. While I am sure that Kirby had made significant creative contributions to the stories he worked on he was doing so with directions from Joe. In the past the inking of Jack’s pencils either involved Jack himself or was done by others in similar style. But for the new Archie titles Jack supplied only the pencils and all the inking was done in a more modern silver age style. Also Joe lined up other artists to work on the titles so it is clear Kirby was only meant to work on the initial issues.

Double Life of Private Strong #1
Double Life of Private Strong #1 (June 1959) “The Double Life of Private Strong”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The new Shield appeared in a comic with the awkward title “The Double Life of Private Strong” with Jack Kirby providing all the story art. Besides great strength, the new Shield could fly, throw lightning bolts, run rapidly and see in the dark; perhaps there are some other powers that I have forgotten. In some respects the origin story is a variation on the Superman origin. The main difference is that the new Shield was not an alien but acquired his powers as a result of being the subject of his father’s experimentation. However he ended up an orphan found and adopted by a farming couple. Basing the Shield’s origin on that of Superman’s may have had negative consequences.

Double Life of Private Strong #1 (June 1959) “Spawn of the ‘X’ World”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The stories in issue #1 are actually chapters in one long origin story. The first story dealt with Lancelot’s youth in the next, “Spawn of the X’ World” we see his discovery and first use of his powers. At the beginning of the story Lancelot is accompanied by a friend, Spud, but at the end of the story we find that while Lancelot was off saving the world Spud was in critical condition having been caught in a fire. Some comic experts have tried to equate this with the death of Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man origin story. However it just does not wash. Uncle Ben’s death was the result of Spider-Man’s unwillingness to intercede in a crime while Lancelot was very much fulfilling the role of a hero when he left Spud. Further it is not clear that Spud would in fact die as the policeman says that they will try to save him. And if that was not enough, Lancelot does not seem that remorseful (“if only the Shield had known”) and was more concerned about learning about his powers.

Double Life of Private Strong #1
Double Life of Private Strong #1 (June 1959) “Mystery of the Vanished Wreckage”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The next “chapter” begins with Lancelot and a friend. Is the companion Spud? It is not clear but the person had been told of Lancelot’s deeds except he just does not believe it. At the end of “Mystery of the Vanished Wreckage”, Lancelot has received a draft notice.

Double Life of Private Strong #1
Double Life of Private Strong #1 (June 1959) “The Menace of the Micro-Men”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The final story of the issue takes place when Lancelot has just entered the army. It involves a villain who is able to shrink men, a theme that Kirby has used before (Yellow Claw #3, February 1957, “The Microscopic Army”).

The origin stories that Simon and Kirby produced had evolved as their career progressed. For Captain America the origin story seems little more the something to get past as quickly as possible. Greater attention was paid for the origin stories of the Newsboy Legion, Manhunter and the Boy Explorers but they still occupied a single 10 to 13 page story. For Boys’ Ranch Kirby drew an impressive 17 page story. For Fighting American the origin was broken into two stories; the first detailing how the hero came to be Fighting American and the second how he acquired his sidekick, Speedboy. With Private Strong and the Fly the origin story would be spread out over several stories in the first issue. As far as I know this early use of continuity, limited though it was, cannot be found in any other comics before the Marvel age. Unfortunately neither Kirby nor Simon seem to realize what they had stumbled upon and once the origin story was over, so was any real continuity.

Double Life of Private Strong #1
Double Life of Private Strong #1 (June 1959) “The Hide-Out”, art by Jack Kirby

The first issue also had a single page feature, “Tommy Troy Teaches Judo”. The first Fly comic had not been released yet so at the bottom of the page announces “see more of Tommy Troy in Adventures of the Fly”. I do not know who the artist was. Nor can I identify the artists who provided illustrations for the required text piece except to say it was not by either Simon or Kirby. “The Hide-Out” was a two page promo for the Fly also drawn by Kirby. Despite its short length (15 panels) it is really a nice piece. Kirby always seemed to give his work his best effort no matter the length.

I’ll write about the second issue next week.

Art of Romance, Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists

(August 1954 – November 1954: Young Romance #72 – #74, Young Love #60 – #62, Young Brides #18 & #19, In Love #1 & #2)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 - 1958
Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1958 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

As can be seen in the above chart romance comics had entered into a decline during this period. Did Joe Simon and Jack Kirby notice this? Had they been observant they might have for as will be shown they benefited from the failure of other titles. But then again there were always fluctuations in the number of titles and publishers so perhaps Joe and Jack were not aware that things had become very different. Or perhaps they were too caught up in their own business to notice the bigger picture. August 1954 (cover date) marked the release of Bullseye the first title for Mainline, Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company. In Love, the romance title for Mainline, would be released in September. Starting their own publishing company was a big step for Simon and Kirby but unfortunately their timing was particularly bad.

In chapter 27 I noted the appearance of some new artists in the Simon and Kirby productions (unfortunately as of yet unidentified). The art covered in the last chapter was created by 8 artists which in itself was an increase over the earlier period. I have identified 12 artists for the period covered by this chapter and that does not include unidentified artists. There are more pages of unattributed art than those by any identified artist. Frankly I have not sorted them all out but I believe that there are at least 5 or 6 artists that I cannot identify. A couple of these additions to the studio had appeared previously in Simon and Kirby productions and almost all would only provide a few pieces before disappearing from the studio. Oddly one artist, Bob McCarty, who played an important part in the two previous chapters, is completely missing in this one. However McCarty will be returning in future chapters.

The artist line-up based on their productivity was Bill Draut (42 pages), John Prentice (41 pages), Jack Kirby (25 pages), Mort Meskin (20 pages), Art Gates (19 pages) with Leonard Starr and Jo Albistur tied (12 pages). The rest of the artists provide a single story or a small number of single page features. There are 65 pages by unidentified artists but as I wrote above these were distributed among 5 or more artists.

With one exception the covers for the Prize romance titles were done by Draut and Prentice. As seen previously, some of the covers were made from stats of a splash panel (or visa versa). The one exception is the cover of Young Brides #19 (November 1954) which I have tentatively attributed to Joe Simon. This assignment is not based on art style but rather on evidence from Joe Simon’s art collection. I hope that someday I will be able to write about this cover.

In Love #1
In Love #1 (September 1954) “Bride of the Star” Chapter 1 “The First Pang of Love”, art by Jack Kirby

As I promised last chapter, Jack Kirby returns to romance comics after a short absence. However he appears only in Mainline’s In Love and not in any of the Prize romance titles. Kirby’s absence from Prize romances will continue for some time. In Love was an interesting title whose “hook” was the long story contained in each issue. Kirby did all 20 pages of the art for the “Bride of the Star” from In Love #1. I will not write much about this story here because I covered it in a previous post on In Love #1.

Besides the length of the story, one of the things that distinguish In Love from the Prize romance titles is that Jack returns to full page splashes for all the three chapters. Frankly I already illustrated the best splash in my previous post but I felt I must include one of the other ones here. To be honest it is not one of Kirby’s best pieces but I feel that the splash for the other chapter to be even more inferior. But all of the story art is actually quite good.

Kirby on contributed a small part to the featured story “Marilyn’s Men” from In Love #2 (November 1954) with most of the work being done by Bill Draut. Since the post whose link I provided covers this story I will forego further comments here.

The cover for In Love #1 was one of the rare collaborations between Jack Kirby and an artist other the Joe Simon, in this case John Prentice (Jerry Robinson at the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel). Not only was the cover drawn by different artists but inked by different hands as well. Prentice’s back was clearly inked by himself and I suspect, though I am by no means certain, that Jack inked his own pencils as well.

Young Romance #74
Young Romance #74 (November 1954) “The Kissoff”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut was the most prolific artist during this period but not by much. His recent decreased presence in S&K productions is a bit hard to understand. I once surmised that it might be due because of the work he was doing in preparation for the launch of Mainline. But on reflection there just does not seem enough work by Draut in those early issues of the Mainline comics to impact his normal work load. So I now suppose that his recent decreased contribution was due to some personal reason. Draut is one of the more consistent artists to work for Simon and Kirby but his style did not change much over the years. This makes it difficult to have new things to say about him. The same link I provided above for my post on In Love #2 goes into more detail about Draut’s work on “Marilyn’s Men”. I also did a post (Swiping Off of Kirby) about the use Bill made of art from an earlier story by Kirby.

Young Romance #73
Young Romance #73 (September 1954) “Girl from the Old Country”, art by John Prentice

John Prentice was just behind Draut in productivity. This is one of the examples where a stat of the splash for this story was used to create the cover. Note that while story splashes were no longer being used in the Prize romance titles, Prentice is still providing a smaller than typical splash panel.

Young Love #60
Young Love #60 (August 1954) “Outcast”, art by Mort Meskin

There was an unexpected surge in productivity by Meskin in the last chapter and now there is a just as sudden drop in his output. I must admit that I am a little perplexed about what is going on with Mort. He was working for other publishers and that suggests that he was no longer working in the actual Simon and Kirby studio. But how does one explain the ups and downs since then? I have heard of discussion somewhere on the web where it has been suggested that when Meskin left the S&K studio to work in his own studio that Mort was once again plagued with difficulties in starting work on a blank page. I have no way of saying whether this is true but perhaps it would explain his varied, but often unusually low, output in Simon and Kirby productions. Even if Meskin’s productivity was poor during this period he still did some very nice work. “Outcast” is a good example of a real nice piece by Meskin (I believe he inked it as well). I previously posted on a Mort’s “After the Honey-Moon” from In Love #1 which while very short is one of his masterpieces.

Young Brides #18
Young Brides #18 (September 1954) “My Cheating Heart”, art by Mort Meskin

“My Cheating Heart” is another great piece by Mort Meskin. I particularly like the inking in this piece. The solid blacks are used very effectively. I am pretty sure this is not Meskin’s own inking or that of George Roussos either but I cannot suggest who the inker was.

Young Romance #74
Young Romance #74 (November 1954) “A Holiday for Love”, art by Art Gates

Art Gates continue to supply numerous single page features but he is also did a few 3 page stories. At 6 pages, “A Holiday for Love” is the longest work Gates has yet done for Simon and Kirby. I cannot say that Art is one of my favorite Simon and Kirby artists but I admire the way he can do pieces like this a more cartoon-like gag features as well.

Young Love #61
Young Love #61 (September 1954) “Miss Moneybags”, art by Leonard Starr

Leonard Starr was not a new artist for Simon and Kirby productions but a returning one. He played an important part in the Prize romance titles for a little under two years ending in February 1951. His style has not changed that much during his absence and even without a signature “Miss Moneybags” (Young Love #61, September 1954) and “Cinderella’s Sisters” (Young Love #62, November 1954) were clearly done by Starr. However Leonard style had evolved somewhat so it is just as clear that this is not left over material. Although Starr was no longer using page formats that provided a series of tall and narrow panels he still had a predilection for such panels and was using alternative ways to introduce them. While it is possible that the reviews I perform for future chapters of this serial post may uncover one or two other stories by Starr, I am pretty confident that there will not be more than that. Leonard Starr would be like a number of artists from this chapter in that he made a brief appearance and then disappeared from Simon and Kirby productions. In Starr’s case he would be starting his own syndication strip, “Mary Perkins on Stage”, in a year or so.

Young Love #61
Young Love #61 (September 1954) “Mother Never Told Me”, art by George Roussos?

I am by no means certain, but “Mother Never Told Me” looks like it might have been done by George Roussos. The resemblance is mostly in the men with the woman reminding a little bit like the work of Marvin Stein. But overall I believe the Roussos seems the best fit. George last appeared in a Simon and Kirby production in Black Magic #24 (May 1953). If this attribution is correct, Roussos like Starr will not appear in a future Simon and Kirby productions.

Young Romance #73
Young Romance #73 (September 1954) “Afraid of Marriage”, art by Jo Albistur

Although unsigned, “Afraid of Marriage” and “Just For Kicks” (Young Love #61, September 1954) are both clearly the work of Joaquin Albistur (he also appeared in Police Trap #1 in this same month). I had previously used Joe as the first name for this artist but it is now clear that he was an artist from Argentine (Joaquin Albistur the Same As Joe Albistur?). Joe Simon does not remember Albistur by name, but he does recollect someone from South America doing work for Simon and Kirby. Most people assume Simon was thinking of Bruno Premiani, but I believe it is even more likely that it was Albistur that Joe was recalling.

Unlike most of the new artists in this chapter, Albistur will play an important part in Simon and Kirby productions in the coming year. Jo is not well known among fans and I am not sure how much comic book work he did outside of Simon and Kirby productions. I have seen some original art from “The World Around Us” from 1961 that has been attributed to Albistur. I am not convinced but if it was his work Albistur had adopted a particularly unpleasing dry style. Despite Jo’s short time working for Simon and Kirby he is one of my favorite studio artists. His woman have an earthy beauty that I like, he had an eye for gestures, used interesting compositions and was skillful at graphically telling a story.

Young Love #62
Young Love #62 (November 1954) “Too Darned Innocent”, art by W. G. Hargis

There is one signed piece by W. G. Hargis, “Too Darned Innocent”. However given the number of unidentified artists appearing in Simon and Kirby productions there is the distinct possibility that other unsigned worked may have been done by Hargis during this period as well. In fact I have heard of suggestions that Hargis may have been responsible for a story in Police Trap.

In Love #2
In Love #2 (November 1954) “Mother by Proxy”, art by Tom Scheuer

Tom Scheuer is another artist that only did one signed work for Simon and Kirby. Scheuer (who much later changed his name to Sawyer) is perhaps better known for his advertisement comic work (see For Boys Only from Those Fabulous Fifties and Comic Strip Ad Artist Tom Scheuer from Today’s Inspirations; both great blogs).

Joe Simon’s collection includes the original art for a page from this story. On the back is the name Art Sehrby, a telephone number and a street address. This raises the possibility that Simon and Kirby obtained Scheuer’s piece, and perhaps those of some other artists, from an agent.

Young Brides #19
Young Brides #19 (November 1954) “Love for Sale”, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Martin Thall

There is a story behind “Love for Sale” that has been discussed on the Kirby list but I do not believe I have written about in my blog. Mike Esposito and Ross Andru launched their own publishing company Mikeross with their earliest comic having a cover date of December 1953 (3-D Love). This then was well in advance of Simon and Kirby’s Mainline Comics whose first issue (Bullseye) came out in August.

Mikeross only published four titles (3-D Love, 3-D Romance, Get Lost and Heart and Soul. The 3-D romance titles were single issues and I suspect that their timing was a little off. The initial 3D comics sold very well but were apparently a novelty item. My understanding is that Simon and Kirby’s Captain 3-D which came out in December 1953 was already a bit late and sales were not that great. Since the Mikeross 3D romance titles have cover dates of December and January, I suspect they suffered from lower sales as well. Get Lost went to issue #3 while Heart and Soul only lasted to issue #2. Usually when a title is cancelled after just 2 or 3 issues it is a sign that something other than poor sales was involved. I suspect that the returns from their first comic, 3-D Love were so poor that the distributor pulled the plug on the whole deal.

I do not have the biography of Mike Esposito that came out a few years ago but I did have the chance to flip through it to see what he had to say about what happened next. If I remember correctly Esposito claimed that the distributor forced them to hand over their unpublished artwork to Simon and Kirby. Frankly this is a pretty suspicious claim because a distributor does not have any legal claim to the artwork. Further in my discussions with Joe Simon he has vigorously denied that it happened. Martin Thall gave an interview published in Alter Ego #52 where he stated that in order to recover some money they sold some art to Simon and Kirby and that Kirby was the one who arranged and received it. This makes a lot more sense and is the version that I accept.

The last issue of Heart and Soul was cover dated June so the next one would be expected for August. “Love for Sale” was used in Young Brides #19 (November). The timing is so perfect that there is little doubt that this story was among the art sold to Simon and Kirby. What makes that even more convincing is that the lettering was not done by Ben Oda like almost all of Simon and Kirby’s productions.

This is not Ross Andru’s first appearance in Simon and Kirby productions as a story by him appeared in May 1952 (Chapter 16) and two in May and June of 1953 (Chapter 19). Another Andru story will be seen in the next chapter which also was probably bought from the defunct Mikeross publishing company.

Young Brides #19
Young Brides #19 (November 1954) “Telephone Romeo”, art by unidentified artist

Since one story from Mikeross has been identified the question becomes can any others be found? Such art need not have been used right away but it is interesting that Young Brides #19 contains another story, “Telephone Romeo” that was not lettered by Ben Oda. However the letterer is not the same one that did “Love for Sale”. I have only examined the 3-D Love, 3-D Romance and Heart and Soul #1 but none of them used this artist. Actually I find Andru’s hand through most of them and I suspect Ross and Mike did all the art themselves. So it cannot be said with any certainty that “Telephone Romeo” was another piece sold by Mikeross but it can be confidently said that is was bought from some distressed publisher or artist stuck with unused art.

Young Love #62
Young Love #62 (November 1954) “My Scheming Sister”, art by unidentified artist

There is yet another piece, “My Scheming Sister”, with lettering clearly not done by Ben Oda. Look at the caption to the first story panel, Simon and Kirby productions did not typically use lower case letters in their captions. Once again this was a piece bought by Simon and Kirby but not necessarily from Mikeross. Whoever the artist was he was one of the better of the unknowns from this period. A smooth confident line and great characterization.

Young Romance #72
Young Romance #72 (August 1954) “Reform School Babe”, art by unidentified artist

Not all the unidentified artists were new; the one that did “Reform School Babe” had been an important contributor to Simon and Kirby productions for some months. I believe one of my commenters suggested Vince Colletta, at least for the inking, but I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about that artist/inker to hazard a guess.

Young Romance #74
Young Romance #74 (November 1954) “Idol Worship”, art by unidentified artist

I will not be supplying examples of all the unidentified artists from these romance titles as I have not sorted them all out and anyway some are not that great. But I did want to provide an image from “Idol Worship” by one of the better artists working at this time for Simon and Kirby.

In summary, Simon and Kirby were using a number of new artists. Some like Jo Albistur would play important contribution to S&K productions; others like Tom Scheuer would make a brief appearance and not be seen again. Some may have been hired from the street but there is also the suggestion that some work may have come from an art agent. Further there is good evidence that some of the work came from the failed Mikeross publishing and perhaps other publishers as well. I have not yet done a review of Ben Oda’s lettering like I have those by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby and Howard Ferguson. I suspect a careful comparison of Ben Oda’s lettering with that used in the stories from this period will reveal others that came from romance titles that were failed. Simon and Kirby’s use of such material is not surprising because they had previously obtained art from Harvey after the love glut (Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out).

Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10, A Special Visitor

(November 1953 – March 1954, Black Magic #27 – #29)

In the previous chapter Black Magic went on a bimonthly schedule (with issue #25, July 1953). The three issues I am covering in this chapter fall onto the same period as chapters 25 and 26 of The Art of Romance (but not chapter 27). Just like what was seen in the romance titles, Black Magic story format switched to using either splash-less stories or splashes that were actually part of the story.

Jack Kirby is the most prolific artist during this period; providing a total of 24 pages (including the covers). The second place is taken by a new comer, Steve Ditko (17 pages). The third place was taken by Bob McCarty (15 pages) with Al Eadeh and Bill Benulis (each doing a single 5 pages story). There are also some single page and one double page feature done by an unidentified artist, probably a studio assistant.

Ditko’s appearance in the Simon and Kirby studio was particularly timely because he was on hand to help with the inking of Captain 3D (December 1953). But Steve’s presence in Simon and Kirby productions was short lived as these three issues are the only ones from this run that he worked on. Most of the artists employed by Simon and Kirby were given assignments in all the genre but Ditko was one of the exceptions as he did not do any of the much more abundant romance work. I do not know who made the decision to limit Ditko to the Black Magic title but it was probably a good one. Frankly the only romance work that I have seen by Ditko suggests that romance simply was not his forte.

One of the surprising aspects of issues cover in this chapter concerns the artists that do not appear. Bill Draut was a prolific artist for the romance titles but did not provide a single piece for Black Magic at this time. Mort Meskin complete absence is a little less surprising since he during the early part of this period he did not appear that much in the romance titles. However that changed during the later part of this period and so I would normally expect something by him to show up here. John Prentice also did no Black Magic work despite providing a lot of romance art. However Prentice appears to be an exception to the studio artists in that he always seemed to do much more romance work than horror. This biased use of Prentice is highlighted by the contrast provided by Bob McCarty. Prentice and McCarty were both doing a similar amount of romance art but only McCarty made an appearance in Black Magic.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Alive after Five Thousand Years”, art by Jack Kirby

As discussed in the introduction, Black Magic stories had become either splash-less or with a splash that was actually part of the story. Here Kirby has technically adhered to the second format since the next panel clearly is an advance of what is presented in the splash. However by eliminating the use of any speech balloons, the splash became more like a traditional splash. This technique was simple but rather effective that I wonder why it was not used more often.

Lately I have not been discussing the inking of Kirby’s stories because other projects that I am involved in simply do not leave me the time to adequately research inking attributions. But when I reviewed this story my initial reactions was the splash was inked by Kirby himself. However on further reflection I thought the spotting to be overly methodical. Kirby’s own inking usually has a very spontaneous nature of an artist with a clear mental image of what he is trying to create and complete mastery of the tools (in this case the inking brush) to create it.

Black Magic #27
Black Magic #27 (November 1953) “The Merry Ghosts of Campbell Castle”, art by Jack Kirby

The inking of Kirby’s pencils during the Simon and Kirby period was like a production line with different artists. Nonetheless a particular inker could impart such an effect on the art that in effect he can be called the primary inker. The best of these inkers were, in my opinion, Jack himself, Joe Simon and Mort Meskin. There were other artists who gave the inking their own unique look but frankly they were not just nearly as good. The inking of “The Merry Ghosts of Campbell Castle” is one that shows a distinct hand; only in this case a very talented one. Brush techniques characteristic of what I call the Studio Inking were used but they do not appear to be done in quite the same manner as Kirby, Simon or Meskin might have used. The picket fence crosshatching on the curtain in the splash for example does not seem to have the spontaneity of Kirby, the roughness of Simon or the tight control of Meskin. There is other brush work that seems rather unique such as the inking on the stonework in the splash. I have not made a detailed comparison but it is possible that this is the same inker that worked on “Alive after Five Thousand Years”. In any case he was a talented inker; I just wish I had some idea who he might have been.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Buried Alive”, art by Steve Ditko

The work Steve Ditko did for the Simon and Kirby was from the very start of his career. There are a few earlier pieces he did for other publishers but not many. Even so it is not hard to see his distinct hand in part of these pieces. Perhaps less so with the first page of “Buried Alive” but that page does show Steve already had a strong sense of how to graphically tell a story. The shifting view points are all very effective. Still there are aspects of his art that can be considered primitive compared to what Ditko would do in the future.

Should the first panel be called a splash? Frankly the distinction between a splash-less story and a story splash is pretty arbitrary in some cases. What is important is that the story starts right away without a tradition splash that served as a preview of the story.

Black Magic #27
Black Magic #27 (November 1953) “Don’t Call on the Dead”, art by Bob McCarty

I have remarked how similar the art of Bob McCarty and John Prentice had become in the Art of Romance serial posts. Oddly this similarity does not extend to the work McCarty did for Black Magic. It is as if McCarty is purposely adjusting his style to the genre he is working on; something he had not done in the past. Do not misunderstand me the work in the Prize romance titles and Black Magic were clearly done by the same artist but for the love titles McCarty more strongly emulates Alex Raymond (and therefore more closely resembles Prentice) and for Black Magic retains more aspects of his earlier art.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Miss Fancher’s Living Death”, art by Al Eadeh

Al Eadeh’s art appears in Black Magic later then he does in the romance titles. The last romance work by Eadeh was in Young Romance #65 (January 1954) but Al appears in Black Magic #29 (March). I will return to this question in the next chapter of the Little Shop of Horrors.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Screaming Doll”, art by Bill Benulis

Ben Benulis seems to have made a very brief stop at the Simon and Kirby studio. He only did three pieces (at least during this period) and they all appeared in January 1954. His romance work was the most interesting but “Screaming Doll” is still a nice piece of work.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 1 (#1 – 3), Expanding Their Fields
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 2 (#4 – 6), Up and Running
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 3 (#7 – 8), The Same Old Gang
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4 (#9 – 11), Another Hit
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5 (#12 – 14), New Faces
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6 (#15 – 17), Mix Bag
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7 (#18 – 20), Kirby Returns
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8 (#21 – 23), The Gang’s All Here
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9 (#24 – 26), The Party’s Ovetr
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10 (#27 – 29), A Special Visitor