Category Archives: Foxhole

Featured Cover, Foxhole #3

Foxhole #3
Foxhole #3 (February 1955) by Jack Kirby

I love the Kirby list, but sometimes Kirby fans just get carried away. Even the most unsubstantiated claims become accepted fact. Not too many years ago the concept of Kirby Kolors burst into the list. This was the idea that Jack created the color guides for many Simon and Kirby comic work. Not only did Jack do color guides, but experts could tell which ones he did. Never mind that no evidence was ever presented to back up this amazing claim. Never mind that color credits was never given in any of the Simon and Kirby productions. Fans and experts seem to vie with one another in spotting Kirby Kolors. When asked how they did it, the best you would get was talk about years spent examining S&K comics and Jack’s frequent use of “salmon” as a color. If the start of this craze was not bad enough, it soon went to ridiculous extremes. Some were even call some Kirby Atlas/Marvel work as Kirby Kolors! This was at a time when Jack was a freelancer providing pencils for someone else to ink. Yet some fans believed Jack sent in his pencils, it was inked by some other artist, and copies then sent back to Jack to make color guides. Did they think Kirby was being paid the low rates that colorist received at that time, or that Marvel was willing to pay him the same rates for penciling and coloring? I have no idea what these fans were thinking. If that was not bad enough someone asserted that a Bullseye story reprinted by Super Comics in the 60’s was a Kirby Kolor! It was colored differently then when first printed by Simon and Kirby. So if it was Kirby Kolor that meant Jack did them later for Super Comics at a time he was busy with Stan Lee creating the Marvel Universe.

If the comics do not provide credits, what do we know about colorists who work on Simon and Kirby productions? Well one thing is that Joe Simon has said that they did not do the coloring work, that was done by the publisher. This statement may be a little misleading. There is at least one photograph showing a colorist at work in the Simon and Kirby studio (working on a Prize Western cover). When I asked Joe about this, he said that the colorist worked for the publisher. Even though the colorist was not being paid for by S&K, it made sense for him to work in the studio. I am sure under that sort of arrangement Joe or Jack would provide guidance on how the coloring should be done. But it is not believable that Jack would do coloring when he was not getting paid for it. Joe and Jack were too much of businessmen to do that.

Joe still has some color guides for work done after the Simon and Kirby studio breakup. When I asked him if he did the coloring he replied that he might do an occasional color guide for a cover, but never for the stories. Do we have any reason to believe that Jack thought more highly of coloring then Joe did?

By now I am sure you are wondering what has all this talk about Kirby Kolor have to do with the cover for Foxhole #3 Well I do believe that for most of the comics that Simon and Kirby produced the coloring was at least the financial responsibility of the publisher. But for a short period Joe and Jack had their own publishing company called Mainline. Obviously for Mainline they must have been responsible for having the coloring done. That by itself does not mean that Joe or Jack personally did it, but it does raise the possibility. I find it suggestive that so many of the Mainline comic covers have exceptional coloring. I have previously posted on Foxhole #2 and Foxhole #4 covers both of which have unusual and very powerful coloring. With its watercolor effect Foxhole #3 is another example of unusual coloring. Some of the other Mainline titles may not have such extraordinary coloring, but they are all extremely well done. It may not be safe to provide an attribution based solely on quality, but it does make one wonder whether Joe or Jack could have been directly involved in some of this coloring. Although I accept this possibility that does not mean I accept Kirby Kolors. I can think of no way judge between Joe or Jack as the source. Joe has always been a fine colorist. I have seen less of Jack’s efforts in color but all were nicely done. I am not sure how anyone could take any of this work done so late in their careers and use it for attribution of work done during the 50’s for comic books.

Coloring is not the only thing that makes Foxhole #3 a superb piece of art. The inking is just fantastic. The inking for the Mainline covers, and this one in particular, is probably the best Simon and Kirby have ever produced. Bold and assured, but also sensitive. Spotting varied from very sparse in sections to areas of carefully orchestrated lines and dots. However large areas of black are avoided. The composition is nice and takes full advantage of the cover. Even the placing of the blurb in the lower right was carefully handled and balanced with the tree stump on the left.

The blurb announces a story called “Office Upstairs” about the “Death March” while the cover shows a soldier carrying one of his comrades. The reference is to the Bataan Death March. At the start of the war the U.S. army in the Philippines was forced to surrender to the Japanese. The Americans were poorly feed and treated badly. Executions were common, for instance any soldier found to possess Japanese souvenirs was summarily killed. The U.S. soldiers, who were malnourished, were forced to march to a camp 100 miles away. Any prisoner who could not keep up, was executed. The treatment of the Americans was no better when they were interred in the camp. After the war the Japanese general who ordered the march was tried and executed as a war criminal. But the Japanese government has never apologized for their abuse of their prisoners of war.

Foxhole #3
Foxhole #3, “Office Upstairs” by Bob McCarty

A story about the Death March and the prison camp is not something you would expect in a comic book which at that time was aimed at young readers. But the story “Office Upstairs” is a small masterpiece. The “hook” for the Foxhole title was that it was produced by veterans. This story has a box saying that it was by Jack Oleck. Jack was Simon and Kirby’s main writer and Joe’s brother-in-law. Since writing credits were not generally given in S&K productions, these Foxhole issues are real treasures. Although there is no credit for the art it appears to be the work of Bob McCarty. Bob generally did not sign his work for S&K, but because he was a veteran Foxhole gives him credit in some other stories.

Foxhole #3
Foxhole #3, “The Face” by John Prentice

This issue provides yet another writing credit, this time by Jack Kirby. Another gem of a story. This time it was drawn by John Prentice, one of my usual suspects (artists who did frequent work for Simon and Kirby). John did some other work in the Foxhole series but surprisingly never was given credit. This is surprising because not only was Prentice a veteran, he was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.

UPDATE (2/18/07): My attribution here of “The Face” to John Prentice is incorrect. The proper identification of the artist is Joe Albistur.

The Day After

I was going to work tonight on a couple more “Not Kirby” posts. But somehow it just does not seem appropriate the day after Jack’s birthday. So I have decided to continue with progressive proofs of covers. As I said yesterday progressive proofs provide prints of the individual colors which I scan separately and combine using Photoshop. I believe this provides the most accurate idea of what the cover looked like when it was first published. No retouching or color adjustments are required. Joe Simon only had progressive proofs for five covers left. Not surprisingly they were all for Mainline Comics, the short lived comic publishing company that Joe and Jack started.

In Love #1
In Love #1 (September 1954) by Jack Kirby and John Prentice

I have posted a smaller image of this cover proof before although I did not mention then that it was based on progressive proofs. In Love was the romance title for Mainline. Jack did the foreground figures and John Prentice drew the background ones. This is a unique example of two S&K artists working on the same cover. I wish that the original art was still around. Perhaps it could provide evidence as to why this was done by two artists.

Foxhole #4 (April 1955) by Jack Kirby

Joe Simon has told me that they (the S&K shop) did not do the color guides for the comics, that was the responsibility of the publisher. Once Joe was pointing out the artists in a photograph of the S&K studio. Joe said that one of the artists, whose name I forget, was the colorist. At the time I though Joe was contradicting himself. But later Joe described the financial deal that he had for producing comics for Prize. S&K had to cover all costs for producing the comics. When a certain percentage of the printed comics were shipped, S&K would get some money back and then share the profits from the actual sales. But I believe that when the deal was made making the color guides was not part of the work that S&K would have to do. But it would not make sense for the colorist to work elsewhere, in fact Prize may not have had their own artist bullpen. So the colorist would work in the S&K studio but be paid by the publisher Prize.

However Mainline Comics were S&K’s own company and so all work in creating the comics were their responsibility. So they oversaw, if they were not actually involved, in making the color guides. It seems to me that some of the Mainline cover color work is very different from work done for Prize. In fact some of them are in my opinion the best color work ever done for Simon and Kirby comics. The cover for Foxhole #4 is certainly one of these great color jobs. In fact it would not be anywhere near as dramatic without the colors.

Police Trap #2
Police Trap #2 (November 1954) by Jack Kirby

The first two Police Trap covers show the interior of a police station. Even though they were swipes from some paintings, they are just great Kirby covers.

In Love #4
In Love #4 (March 1955) by Bill Draut

Jack Kirby did not draw most of the work in the Mainline comics despite the fact that during this period he stop drawing anything for the Prize romances. Joe Simon is said to have handled most of the business aspects of the S&K shop but I suspect running their own publishing company required more business effort which even Jack had to help with. But there were other fine artists to help such as Bill Draut who did this cover. Actually yesterday when I wrote that Jack Kirby did the cover for In Love #3 that was not technically correct. The insert of the book cover was done by Draut.

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 1, The Beginning of the End

I am going to blog on the ending of the Simon and Kirby collaboration. I would like to go into it in more detail then I can comfortably cover in one post. So I will be dividing it up into a number of chapters.

The May 29, 1947 issue of Saturday Review had an article by Dr. Frederick Wertham. Dr. Wertham had a very dim view of comic books and their influence on the young. I wonder how many comic book artists and publishers knew about the article or had any idea on how it would affect their livelihood? I suspect not many, I am sure it was far from thoughts of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. They were too busy becoming comic book producers by launching crime titles for Prize and more importantly creating a whole new genre, romance comics. Those must have been exciting days for the two, and with the deals they made, Joe and Jack shared the profits from the success of their products. Although the future must have looked bright to our intrepid pair, Dr. Wertham’s efforts started to generate anti-comic sentiments in various communities. It did not all come at once, but built over the years until when his book “Seduction of the Innocent” was published in 1954.

The pivotal date was April 22 and 23, 1954. That was when a Senate committee questioned Bill Gaines. Apparently Gaines appearance was not mandatory, other comic publishers declined to show up. But Bill went to defend the industry, unfortunately his appearance had a completely opposite effect. Gaines testimony was a disaster, public sentiment against comics rose to even greater heights. In a effort to circumvent possible legislation (and perhaps also to drive some competition out of the industry), some comic publishers got together to create the Comic Code Authority. The code was adopted on October 26, 1954. In theory use of the Comic Code was voluntary. But publishers knew that once the Comic Code stamp started appearing on covers, comics without it would not be accepted by many newsstands.

So what were Simon and Kirby doing at the time of the Senate committee hearings? Well comic cover dates were usually two months after the distribution date. Typically it took one month to do the artwork, a month for the printer and a month for the distributor. However even in monthly titles, art may start on an issue before the art for the previous issue was completed. This means an adjustment of 5 or 6 months. So we could expect comics started at about the time of the Senate hearings would have cover dates of about October. Well for some time S&K were producing Black Magic, Young Romance, Young Love, and Young Brides for the publisher Prize Comics. The first issue of Fighting American, also for Prize, came out with an April date. But even more important Bullseye #1 came out with an August cover date. Joe and Jack started this issue before the Bill Gaine’s appearance before the Senate committee. But had they noticed the anti-comic sentiment spearheaded by Dr. Wertham?

Bullseye #1 cover
Bullseye #1 (August 1954)

Bullseye #1 was more then the just the start of a new Simon and Kirby title, it was the start of Mainline Comics. Years back Joe and Jack had gone from being comic book artists to be being comic book producers. Now they were trying to make the transition to being comic book publishers. Bullseye was the first Mainline comic; Foxhole, In Love, and Police Trap would follow shortly. It was a big step but they would still be receiving income for the comics they produced for Prize. S&K probably tried to keep Prize unaware of their involvement in, let alone their ownership off, Mainline comics. Unlike their usual practice, early Mainline issues did not have any Simon and Kirby signature. Only the fourth issues would carry a stamp indicating it was “another Simon and Kirby smash hit”. Starting up Mainline must have taken a lot of time and effort. Kirby’s efforts largely went to work on the Mainline comics only. S&K still produced comics for Prize, but Jack’s pencils would only appear in Black Magic and Fighting American, they would not appear in the romance titles. For the Prize romances they depended on their stable of freelance artists to fill the void left by the absent Jack.

Bullseye #1 splash
Bullseye #1 splash (August 1954)

Simon and Kirby did not do many pure westerns, work of that type was limited to a few covers. Prior to Bullseye they had combined the western and kid gang genre to make Boys’ Ranch for Harvey. They even tried western and romance combo, although that turned out to be much more a romance then a western. Now with Bullseye Joe and Jack mixed the western and hero genre. The idea was not unique, perhaps the most famous example would be the Lone Ranger. But you can count of S&K to make an exciting comic out of it. As a baby, Bullseye is saved by his grandfather from an Indian massacre that takes lives of his parents. As he grows, the hero apparently is a natural genius with rifles and pistols as he surprises his grandfather with his accuracy. An encounter with the Indian Yellow Snake leaves Bullseye with the loss of his grandfather and with a target branded on his chest. Bullseye takes to the road playing the part of a peddler, even his horse has a disguise! Of course there is lots of action in the stories, but often humor as well. It is a shame that this title has never been collected together as a reprint volume.

In Love #2 by Bill Draut
In Love #2 (October 1954) by Bill Draut

As the originator of the romance comic genre, it comes as no surprise that Simon and Kirby would want to include a romance title in their Mainline comics line. But by 1954 there was an abundance of romance comics. So S&K decided that to make In Love unique it would include “novel length” story in each issue. The romances that Joe and Jack produced for Prize Comics often included stories of up to 13 pages long, longer then most of the competition. Now In Love would have stories up to 20 pages long and they would be divided into chapters. I have already described the story from In Love #1 “Bride Of The Star” in a post I did about The First Romance Comic. That story was penciled entirely by Jack. But Jack did only one chapter of “Marilyn’s Men” from In Love #2 the other two were done by Bill Draut. Jack returns to do the entire novelette for In Love #3 “Artist Loves Model”. That story is based on reworking of an unsuccessful syndication proposal. Issues from In Love #4 on do not have these extra-length stories. Whether that was because of S&K felt that the novelettes was not a successful idea, or because of other problems is not clear.

Foxhole #2
Foxhole #2 (December 1954)

With Foxhole Simon and Kirby entered into the war genre. This was new for them as the closest they had done before was the Boy Commandos which was more a kid gang title then a war one. Here Joe and Jack would add their own twist to make the title unique. The stories in Foxhole were written and illustrated by war veterans.

Police Trap #2
Police Trap #2 (September 1954)

Mainline comics would also include a crime comic, titled Police Trap. The special angle to this title was that all the stories would be centered on the police, not the criminal. This may have been a response to all the adverse attention that crime comics had received recently, including ones that S&K had launched (Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty). But it certainly resulted in stories that portrayed the police in a better light and the criminal in a worse one.

Mainline seemed to have a good lineup of titles. I would think that of all the Mainline titles, Bullseye would have the best chance to attract attention. It seems a perfect match for Kirby’s talents, allowing lots of action and humor. Although the western/hero combination may not have been unique, there does not seem to be much competition at that time. S&K have shown previously that they could do excellent crime stories. Here there was competition, but crime comics were receiving a lot of bad publicity. By centering the stories on the policemen, Police Trap could hope to escape some of this adverse attention. The other titles, In Love and Foxhole, were probably the weakest entries. Both had plenty of rival publications, in fact at this time there was an abundance of romance comics. Neither was sufficiently unique to be sure of attracting initial buyers. Still they were S&K productions and were done quite well. Given time they could develop a following.

Chapter 2, Problems in the Industry
Chapter 3, Unlikely Port in the Storm
Chapter 4, A Friend Provides a Helping Hand
Chapter 5, The Return to Romance
Chapter 6, A Friend’s Romance
Chapter 7, On His Own
Chapter 8, If At First You Don’t Succeed
Chapter 9, An Old Romance
Appendum 9, Mea Culpa
Chapter 10, A Fly in the Mix

Foxhole Checklist

Last update: 6/7/2020

    r:  = reprint
    s:  = script
    l:  = layout
    p:  = pencils
    i:  = inks
  name  = signed
 <name> = signed with an alias
 {name} = signed as Simon & Kirby
 [name] = unsigned attribution

Foxhole (Mainline)
   #1 October 1954 (cover)  
       (cover) 1 pg P:[Kirby]  
       "Brain Wash" 6 pg P:[Albistur]  Lt:[Oda]
       "Causality" 4 pg P:Walton  Lt:[Oda]
       "A Day At The Beach" 4 pg  Lt:[Oda?]
       "Fox-Hole Joe" 1 pg  (text)
       "Operation Foul-Up" 1 pg  (text)
       "Eight Ball Hero" 5 pg P:[Prentice] I:[Prentice] Lt:[Oda]
       "Fruit Salad" 6 pg P:[Draut] I:[Draut] Lt:[Oda]
   #2 December 1954  
       (cover) 1 pg P:[Kirby]  
       "Booby Trap" 6 pg P:[Kirby]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Action" 1 pg  (text)
       "Walkie-Talkie" 3 pg P:[Draut] I:[Draut] Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Hot Box" 2 pg P:[Kirby]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Dishonorable Discharge" 10 pg  
       "Yellow" 1 pg  (text)
       "Replacement" 4 pg P:[Draut] I:[Draut] Lt:[Ferguson?]
   #3 February 1955  
       (cover) 1 pg P:[Kirby]  
       "Chicken" 5 pg P:McCarty  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Listen To Me, Sam" 6 pg P:Gates  Lt:Marty
       "Joyride" 1 pg  (text)
       "Snow" 1 pg  (text)
       "The Face" 6 pg W:Kirby P:[Albistur]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "G. I. Yaks" 1 pg P:Gates  
       "Office Upstairs" 6 pg W:Oleck P:McCarty  Lt:[Ferguson?]
   #4 April 1955  
       (cover) 1 pg P:[Kirby]  
       "30 Year Man" 6 pg W:Oleck P:[Albistur]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Suicide Run" 3 pg P:McCarty  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Mayhem In The Sky" 5 pg P:Gates  Lt:Marty
       "Coward" 1 pg  (text)
       "Find And Fire" 4 pg P:Draut I:[Draut] Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Mess Sarge" 1 pg  (text)
       "It's Mutual" 5 pg P:Galindo  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "G.I. Yaks" 1 pg P:Gates  

Foxhole (Charlton)
   #5 July 1955  
       (cover) 1 pg P:{Kirby}  
       "Glide To Glory" 6 pg P:McCarty  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Three Bagger" 1 pg  (text)
       "Soundin Off" 1 pg P:Gates  
       "Lucky Stiff" 6 pg W:Kirby P:[Albistur]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Kamakaze Joe" 6 pg P:Gates  Lt:Marty
       "Masquerade" 1 pg  (text)
       "Fun In A Foxhole" 1 pg P:Gates  
       "Hip Pockets And The Paper Bullets" 3 pg P:Draut I:[Draut] Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Morale" 1 pg P:Gates  Lt:Marty
       "Bell Bottom Bill" 1 pg P:Gates  Lt:Marty
   #6 September 1955  
       (cover) 1 pg P:[Kirby]  
       "Decision At Dieppe" 6 pg P:[Albistur]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Hazard" 1 pg  (text)
       "Even Steven" 4 pg P:[Kirby]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "G.I. Laughs" 1 pg P:Gates  
       "Secret" 1 pg  (text)
       "Listen To The Boidie" 4 pg P:[Kirby]  Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "G.I. Laughs" 1 pg P:Gates  
       "The 50th Man" 3 pg P:[Draut] I:[Draut] Lt:[Ferguson?]
       "Dear Joan" 6 pg P:Mastroserio  
   #7 March 1956  
       (cover) 1 pg  
       "Express to Extinction" 6 pg  
       "Han River Trap" 9 pg  
       "Challenge Under Fire" 2 pg  (text)
       "Armored Doom" 5 pg  
       "Major Error" 5 pg