Category Archives: 1 Early

Joe Simon, Editor

Joe Simon’s first comic book art was published in January 1940 (cover dates for Keen Detective #17, Daring Mystery #1, and Silver Streak #2). Yet just five months later he was already an editor for Fox Comics. On the face of it this was a rather dramatic rise in his career. Joe was (and still is) a talented artist but during those early days of the comic book industry there were other even more talented artists who never got further then the drawing board.

Some have attributed Joe’s success to having come from a more privilege background. Joe’s family did not live in one of the boroughs of New York City but that does not mean they were well off. Most of the time the family lived in Rochester where Joe’s father, Harry, struggled to support the family. Harry was a tailor by trade but his attempts at union organizing made finding jobs difficult. At one point the family moved to Chicago into a particularly rough neighborhood. Joe tells how at age ten he was in a fight almost every day as other boys tried to take from him what little he had. (Afterwards Harry would examine Joe’s knuckles to verify that he had given a good account of himself.) No there is nothing in Joe Simon’s background to suggest he had some advantage over his contemporaries.

Others have suggested that Joe’s college education was the reason for his quick career rise. One of the originators of this idea was, of all people, Jack Kirby. Jack should have known better. Joe did not attend any college and never received a degree.

Of course it was not just luck that Simon became an editor. Joe was obviously ambitious and a self promoter. One evidence of this can be seen in how Joe made sure to include his signature on much of his early art. Joe was not alone in being ambitious, other artists were as well. Will Eisner started as an artist before quickly seeing an opportunity of starting studio with Jerry Iger. Al Harvey started as an artist before becoming a publisher. But not all artists were so quick to try new opportunities. Perhaps if he had started earlier or had more money, Joe also would have tried setting up a studio but he did apply for the Fox editor position instead. Although not all artists were ambitious as Joe, there must have been some others who applied for the Fox editorial job. The other artist would likely have more experience in the comic book industry then Joe’s 5 short months. How did Joe manage to get the job?

Actually the experience of most, if not all, of Joe’s possible job competitors did not amount to much. It really amounted to having spent more time drawing comic books. Being a good artist, however, really was not a necessary feature of an editor. There were other tasks that an editor would need to do such as providing layouts, putting together an entire book, or interfacing with the printer or publisher. Joe had an edge up on other applicants in some of these other tasks. Previous to entering the comic book industry, Simon spent about seven years as a newspaper staff artist. “Meanwhile”, the Milton Caniff biography by Robert C. Harvey, provides a wonderful examination of his experiences as a staff artist and I am sure Joe’s was not that much different. Yes the job consisted in providing illustrations and such for the paper, but it also doing meant doing layouts, creating decorative embellishments (dingbats) and other similar choirs. It was the experience as a staff artist for a period of seven years that Joe could use to promote himself as a good candidate for the editorial position.

Acton Langslow

My thinking about Joe’s time as a staff artist was brought on by recent work that I have been doing on inventorying Joe’s personal collection. I have previously discussed some of Simon’s newspaper work. Work like sport and fiction illustrations, and political commentary cartoons. Recently I have scanned another aspect of his newspaper career, political portraits. There are 21 portraits all done on stipple board in crayon, ink and white out. Most of them are stamped on the back at the time of delivery. Unfortunately this stamp includes the day but not the year; the dates range from October 1 to 23. Some have names on the front and through the wonders of Google and the Internet I have found some of the names on a site called The Political Graveyard. Those that I have been able to identify are all politicians from Monroe County, New York. It is there fore likely that this was done while Joe was working for the Rochester Journal which according to his book, “The Comic Book Makers”, was from 1932 to 1934.

The above portrait was of Acton Langslow who, according to The Political Graveyard, was a Democrat, Candidate for New York state assembly from Monroe County 1st District in 1935. The two I selected for this post were both Democrats, but there were some Republicans as well.

Francis J. D’Amanda

Another has the name D’Amanda, which based on The Political Graveyard, was Francis J. D’Amanda a Democrat. Candidate for New York state assembly from Monroe County 3rd District, 1928, 1932; candidate for New York state attorney general, 1950; delegate to Democratic National Convention from New York, 1952 (alternate), 1956.

The manner of execution is quite interesting. The crayon (by this term I am referring to artist crayon, not those used by children) is used in a very loose manner with distinctive individual marks by the crayon. The hair and ties are done in ink using a brush with the ties being particularly rough. Yet when the original art is shrunk down in size, as it would have been for publication, the rough mannerisms disappear into an almost photographic representation. It was quite a performance by an artist who, if my dates are correct, was just out of high school.

Joe Simon as a Newspaper Staff Artist

Despite what has been said by what would normally be considered reliable sources such as Jack Kirby, Joe Simon did not go to college. Instead Joe used what experience he gained during his high school years to get himself a job after graduation as an artist assistant for the Rochester Journal American. Later he would go on to work for the Syracuse Herald. Much of what Simon learned during his time as a newspaper staff artist would serve him well during his career. The skill he developed with the air brush (for retouching photographs) would be used years later for creating the covers for Sick (a Mad-clone humor magazine). Joe became quite proficient in all manners of things needed in the publication of art. I am sure that this experience had a lot to do with why Joe was able to advance so quickly when he later entered the comic book industry.

Joe Simon
Sport Illustration by Joe Simon (1934)

However Simon’s experience was not limited to production, he would provide illustrations as well. Much of this was sports illustrations such as the example I provide above. This piece, as well as most of Joe’s sport illustrations, was done on stipple board. These boards had a textured surface that allowed pencils to be easily transferred to printing plates. The art was created in a size larger then the intended published version, with measurements provided in terms of the number of columns. Joe says that at the time a column was two inches wide. The above illustration therefore would be 10 inches wide in the actual newspaper. This piece originally had two paste-ups added, one of which has since been lost. The art on the remaining paste-up does not appear to be Joe’s work.

Joe Simon
Political Cartoon by Joe Simon

According to Greg Theakston (The Complete Jack Kirby) and even Joe himself (The Comic Book Maker), sport illustrations were pretty much all that Simon did. However Joe’s own collection indicates that was not the case, Joe did political cartoons as well. In the example I provide above (a four column or eight inch piece) Joe takes on a local political issue. I have no idea what the “Paper Ballot ‘Referendum'” is all about, but there is little doubt that Simon had a low opinion of the portrayed politician. The windmill brings to mind the futile quest from Don Quixote. Our politician will fare no better since he is on a rocking horse, but I love the way Joe cannot resist providing a very animated horse’s head. The council is degraded even further, being depicted as a Charlie McCarthy dummy under the politician’s control.

Joe Simon
Political Cartoon by Joe Simon

Some of the other political cartoons still in Joe’s personal collection concern Daylight Savings Time. Apparently Syracuse was one of the few local communities not to adopt the time change. Joe depicts a parade being viewed by the public. A small group of Daylight Time supporters proudly march together, each individual representing a different New York locality. Syracuse trails behind, out of step and goofy looking. There can be little doubt that Joe was calling to Syracuse to adopt the Daylight Savings Time.

Joe Simon
Fiction Illustration by Joe Simon

If we can use his collection to judge by, Joe did do a fair amount of political cartoons, just not as many as his sports illustrations. Joe Simon also at least occasionally contributed illustrations for fictional pieces. I must admit I am a little surprised at this. I was well aware that previously newspapers would often include fictional stories but I had thought that practice had been discontinued by the time Joe was doing newspaper work. Joe used a different media for this work, the three examples from his collection were all done using ink, gouache and, in the case above, some watercolor on illustration board. Because the result is more painterly, more effort must have been made to prepare them for printing. Perhaps they were used in a magazine insert were higher quality photographs would also be used. As in pulp magazines, these fictional illustrations would often include a caption. The board for the above illustration has on it in Joe’s handwriting:


Joe Simon
Fiction Illustration by Joe Simon

The first example of fiction illustrated that I provided was done in a style that is unusual for Simon. The second example that I show above, as well as another work in Joe’s collection, are immediately recognizable as Simon pieces. Despite the difference in media, the characters look very much like those in Joe Simon’s early comic book work. Not only that but in these two pieces Joe also used his own features for one of the men in the scene. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but in each case it was as the man whose quick draw gains control of the situation. In an earlier post I had suggested that Bill Everett was the source for a technique that Joe adopted of combining eyebrows and eyelids as one angular feature. This illustration work shows that I was wrong, Joe was already using pretty much the same technique before starting his comic book career. Regrettably there is no caption on the above illustration. Still I think we can be pretty certain that our quick drawing cowboy is the hero of the piece. Despite some pretty badly drawn hands, it is a exciting piece of art. Perhaps not as polished as other illustrators might do, but just the sort of thing that work well when Joe began doing comic books. The published piece would have looked a bit different. Simon marked with penciled ‘X’s the background, the counter top and parts of the center man’s jacket. This is a indication to the printer to fill theses areas with black.

Joe thought he did these fiction illustrations in the mid ’30’s, at which time he would have been in his early 20’s. That is a little surprising since Joe’s character in the paintings looks older. This might suggest that this work was actually done in the late ’30’s. Or it just might be that Joe purposely or unconsciously added a little weight to the face giving it an older look.

All indications are that Joe was doing quite well in his career as a newspaper artist. However there was a change going on with local papers were being bought up and consolidated. That included the one Joe worked for, and so he was out of a job. I suppose Simon could have moved and tried to get work in another community’s paper. However there was a shrinking supply of such possibilities and increasing number of competitors for the jobs. But I think more important was that Joe was ambitious. So he moved to New York and, as they say, the rest was history.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 1, In The Beginning

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 6, Amazing Man #10

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 1, Lighting and the Lone Rider

I have previously done a serial post on The Art of Joe Simon. It would be great to produce an outline of Jack Kirby’s art and how it evolved over the years. However the sheer volume of Kirby material makes such an approach impracticable. Although probably not completely accurate, my database shows that between 1942 and 1957 (that is from the start of working for DC until the time Jack started doing freelance work without Joe) Kirby did 5593 pages of art compared to 184 by Simon. To avoid the problem of an over abundance of work I will instead do some serial posts each focusing on particular periods, this one will be on Jack’s early years. As when discussing Joe Simon’s early work, I am faced with limited access to the publications, they are both rare and expensive. But hopefully I can provide enough to give a general idea of Jack’s early work.

Jack Kirby became a staff artist for Lincoln Features Syndicate in 1936 and stayed there until 1939. Most of his strips can be described as comic humor (for example Socko the Seadog, a take-off of Popeye). Jack also did a lot of “real facts” art (for instance Your Health Comes First). Unfortunately I do not have access to any of this work. Those truly interested in this very early work can find it in the recently published “The Comic Strip Jack Kirby” by Greg Theakston. However some of Jack’s syndication work included some strips with more action and, even better, some of these got reprinted in comics. One, Lighting and the Lone Rider was a daily that appeared in January and much of February 1939. This material was reprinted in Famous Funnies #62 to #65 (September to December 1939). Jack used a number of alias during these early years, here he signed them as Lance Kirby.

Famous Funnies #61
Famous Funnies #61 (August 1939) advertisement

Prior to running the strips, Famous Funnies #61 ran a number of advertisements announcing the appearance of the Lone Rider in their next issue. One ad is particularly important in that it took up a full page. Prior to teaming up with Joe Simon, Jack never did any comic book covers. This full page ad is the only thing we have to compare with some of Joe’s early covers. Like a cover this ad was meant to attract readers, although in this case to the purchase of next month’s issue. One would expect great effort to make this ad interesting and exciting as possible. Instead we find a rather lack-luster piece of comic art. Joe’s earliest covers were much more interesting. As we will see below when we examine his story art, it is not a question of Jack’s lacking artistic skill. One possible explanation is that all his previous work on syndication strips just did not prepare him for the challenges of a single larger piece of comic art. Another suggestion is that already at this early stage of his career, Kirby had developed a preference of story telling over cover art.

Famous Funnies #62
Famous Funnies #62 (September 1939)

Daily syndication strips require a different story telling pattern then that found in comic books. Whereas a comic book advances the story page by page generally 9 panels to a page, daily strips must tell the story a strip at a time with usually 4 panels. Further a comic book story is meant to be read in one sitting. A daily strip is read one strip at a time over a period of weeks or months. A strip artist must be careful to keep each day’s installment interesting or risk loosing his audience. Jack uses his first strip to just introduce his characters. Frankly I am not sure this was necessary or even a good idea. It probably would have been better to just get the story going and let the cast show up as required. But most peculiar is that there are two characters, Pepito and Texas, that do not appear in the story that follows.

Famous Funnies #65
Famous Funnies #65 (December 1939)

After the first strip, Jack does a good job of telling his story. To be honest the plot itself a bit unrealistic, but if the readers wanted realism they would not be reading a comic strip! The Lone rider uses his side-kick Diego to lure the old sheriff safely out of the way. Meanwhile he goes off to single-handedly capture Hutch Kruger and his gang. But he does so disguised as the old sheriff so everyone is convinced that the sheriff is the hero. All great stuff but then Jack does something very odd. He has the Lone Rider explain the whole plot to the sheriff. This means that for days at a time the reader is presented with what he already knows. For a daily syndication strip this would be a big mistake. The funny thing is the parts of the story that are flaws for a daily strip just do not have the same effect when you read the entire story at one time. Jack was already beginning to think of stories in a bigger way then a daily strip could adequately handle. As for his writing, even at this early date you can already see Jack’s writing style emerge. Take the last panel with the sheriff question and the Lone Rider’s reply:

But, but why did you do all this?

Sheriff Fletcher, my actions are only answerable to myself!

Jack would use this sort of laconic and enigmatic response throughout his career.

Famous Funnies #64
Famous Funnies #64 (November 1939)

This is not fully developed Kirby art. Fight scenes in particular lack the classic Kirby touch. But even with the small panel size and poor printing quality of Famous Funnies you can see Jack’s talent begin to shine through. Look at the beat-up Hutch in panel 2 of the third strip above, what a miniature masterpiece.

If you remember I said that Kirby introduced two characters, Texas and Pepito, that did not appear in the story. Well The Comic Strip Jack Kirby includes some Lone Rider strips that were never published. In it we find Texas, so in the beginning Jack was already setting things up for next story line. There is also a young boy that Texas calls “little Pete”. At first I thought that Jack had changed his mind about using Pepito so that he changed the character from Diego’s son to that of a rich man. But on reflection it occurred to me that Jack might have been setting up a Prince and the Pauper sort of switch between Peter and Pepito. Unfortunately Jack did not proceed far enough with the story for us to ever know. Although Jack never completed his second story line he did return to do some more work on Lighting and the Lone Rider. But there is a reason I want to discuss that work in another chapter.

Joe Simon, The Patriot

The Patriot #3
The Patriot #3 (August 1939) by Joe Simon

Today it is hard to believe that there every was much of a Nazi party in America. But in February 1939 22,000 Nazi supporters attended a rally at Madison Square Gardens. At this rally Fritz Kuhn attack the president, calling him Frank D. Rosenfeld. But the rally also attracted numerous protesters. So although the American Nazi population then was enormous by today’s standards they still a fringe group that would not have been considered patriots. Even though there was a large isolationist movement and no signs yet of the US entering the war, there was also many who could called themselves patriots and considered the Axis powers as enemies of the United States.

The Patriot #2
The Patriot #2 (July 1939) by Joe Simon

In 1939 Joe Simon was working in the newspaper business, his efforts in comic books had not yet started. Any doubts where Joe stood politically can be erased by his contribution to a publication called “The Patriot”. Joe provided that quintessential American symbol, the bald eagle, for one cover. On another he mocked the three dictatorial leaders, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin. The Patriot was a slightly over tabloid size magazine. It was rather thin, 20 pages including the covers. There was a lot of local advertisement, so it probably had limited distribution. With a title like The Patriot one might suspect it was suitable for reader with an extreme right political philosophy. But the articles in the magazine are about extolling American scenery, products and of course freedom. Pretty tame stuff and very much centrist for the political spectrum of those days.

The Patriot #2
The Patriot #2 (July 1939) by Joe Simon

But Joe’s views were not shared by all the people he worked with. Joe got his initial start in newspapers and a lot of guidance from Adolf Edler. Adolf sometimes would tell people he had been off to a nudist colony. In reality he was off to a Nazi Bund camp. You would think Adolf’s political convictions would have problems working with someone Jewish like Joe Simon. Quite the contrary, in fact Adolf seemed to actively hire Jewish workers and got along with them quite well. Apparently Edler’s tie to the American Nazi movement was due to his fondness for his homeland. But letters he received letters from Germany told of increasing persecution of Jews. Dismayed with what he learned led him to abandon the Nazi Bund group.

Joe Simon and Adolf Edler
Joe Simon and Adolf Edler

There was a lot of newspaper buyouts and closings and Joe lost his job. Joe moved to New York City and entered the comic book industry. Perhaps due to the experience he got from newspapers or perhaps just due to pure ambition, Joe rose rapidly from an artist to an art editor. When Joe and Jack Kirby created the ultimate patriotic hero, Captain America, who better to appear on the first cover as his adversary then Adolf Hitler himself. America had not yet entered the war, but there can be no question where Joe and Jack stood. Captain America Comics was a big hit, so many in the public probably agreed. In the 1954 Simon and Kirby created a new patriotic hero, the Fighting American. But times had changed and the Fighting American had a short run. S&K returned to the same thing once again in 1959 with their own version of the Shield (Secret Life of Private Strong) but this time it was cancelled due to legal threats from DC. Still the patriotic spirit did not leave Joe. In 2001 after 9/11 Joe responded by creating an altered version of the classic Captain American #1 cover. I wish I could include an image but alas because of legal questions I cannot. It shows Captain America delivering his famous punch not to Adolf Hitler but to Osama Bin Laden. Since I cannot show the 9/11 cover let me end this post with an image of the less often seen confrontation between Hitler and Captain America from the cover of issue #2.

Captain America #2
Captain America #2 (April 1940) by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

Happy Birthday Joe!

Star Spangled #48
Star Spangled #48 (September 1945)

Best wishes to Joe Simon on his birthday. Joe is still doing well although he has had a cold that he has not been able to shake for a number of weeks. Even so Joe is still very active. As we saw from his ad proposal Joe has some ongoing projects.

Joe Simon
by Joe Simon
Enlarged view

In honor of this day I post images of Joe’s first published comic art. This was done for his high school newspaper the name of which I unfortunately forget. I cannot say I fully understand the humor, perhaps you had to be going to his school to appreciate it.

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 6, Amazing Man #10

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

In his book, “The Comic Book Makers”, Joe describes being assigned his first comic book work. It was a seven page western. When Joe first started in the industry he worked on a variety of genre; science fiction, super heroes, crime and jungles stories. But this story in Amazing Man #10 is the only western I am aware of. Ranch Dude is an interesting example of Simon’s early work. I actually think it was one of his best efforts from that period. It has some features that distinguish it from other work by Joe. In Ranch Dude Joe adheres to a strict grid layout to the panels. For all other stories the panel sizes vary so that the gutters trace irregular paths. Also in Amazing Man Simon numbers the pages very simply, while in other stories the page numbers are enclosed, usually in a circle. Finally Ranch Dude is the only work I have seen where Joe makes the “splash” as a single panel no larger then the other panels.

Although cover dated as March, could Ranch Dude have been Simon’s first comic book work? But if it was why would it been kept as inventory for several months? The first published comic book work for Joe have a January cover date (the covers for Keen Detective #17 and Silver Streak #2 and the story “The Tree Men of Uranus”). Ranch Dude is six pages long, not the seven that Joe recalls in his book. But hey the book was written 50 years later, perhaps the page difference is just a memory lapse. My feeling right now is Ranch Dude is likely to be the first comic book work done by Joe Simon. It may be the “first comic book work” but as I said above it was not the “first published comic book work”. Tomorrow I will present the “first published comic work”. With all these subtle but careful phrasing I am beginning to feel like a lawyer!

I showed Ranch Dude to Joe and asked what he thought. He said that the presentation seemed simpler to him then for example the Trojak story in Daring Mystery #2 that came out a month earlier. But unfortunately Joe just could not remember his first work well enough to say if this was that story. In fact Joe said he never saw the published version of that work. He added the comment “who knew”? From previous conversations I took that to mean who knew that comics would last, that Joe would stay in that business or that over 60 years later people would care? However Joe did remember that the villain of the story, Bull Sendach” was named after his roommate in Syracuse Murray Sendach.

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

If this was Joe’s first comic book art then he adopted his working method right from the start. Compare the shooting man from panel 5 of page 4 with the one on the cover to Keen Detective #17. I cannot say what the source was but this repeated use of the same image show Joe was swiping from someplace. Also add some robes and the man falling on the right of the same panel becomes the Arab shot in Keen Detective #17. Previously I mentioned that Joe seemed to have picked up from Jack the theme of a hero slugging a foe so hard that he sends him flying. I recently showed that Simon used this device prior to meeting Jack. Here is an example at least two months before meeting Kirby, perhaps even four months.

Amazing Man #10
Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) The Iron Skull by Carl Burgos

I really cannot say what were some of Joe’s influences. He shared the Amazing Man Comics #10 with Carl Burgos. Carl did a really great story but I really do not think Simon picked up anything from Carl.

Amazing Man #10
Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) The Amazing Man by Bill Everett

Bill Everett was also in Amazing Man #10 doing both the cover and the feature story. I have to say that at least for these particular works I am not that impressed by Bill. The story by Burgos is better and I like Joe’s first covers much more then the Amazing Man #10 cover. However in the Amazing Man story Bill sometimes draws the eyes and eyebrows in a single angular form similar to the way Joe did. In his book Joe describes having to learn the simpler drawing methods necessary in comics. Perhaps he was given some comics with Bill Everett material in them as examples. Joe says he is not sure whether he met Everett.

Art by Joe Simon, Joe Simon as a Newspaper Staff Artist

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Before Kirby

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 3, Daring Mystery Comics #3

Daring Mystery #3
Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) Trojak by Joe Simon

Joe Simon created the Trojak feature in Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) under the alias of Gregory Sykes. He continued to work on Trojak in Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) but this time signing with his real name. Many of Joe’s mannerisms show up in this story, in particular his method of combining eyebrow and eye as a single angular form. There are differences between issues #2 and #3, particularly in the natives. The natives in DM #2 were clearly swiped, they are similar to some aliens from Silver Streak #2 (January 1940). It is not clear if the natives in DM #3 are swipes or not. As shown in my series The Art of Joe Simon (and certainly well known by many comic historians), swiping was a common technique used by Joe. So although I cannot point out any obvious examples in this story, that does not mean swipes were not used. Joe may just have done a better job integrating them into the story. I do believe we can confidently say that the large tiger head of the splash was copied from somewhere. Still Joe did a marvelous job on it and it is another example of Joe’s fondness for oversize figures and floating heads.

Daring Mystery #3
Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) Trojak by Joe Simon

Compared to DM #2 Joe seems to be advancing in his story telling ability. DM #3 actually contains two stories; Trojak’s efforts against a giant prehistoric beast and his fight against a Nazi army. Previously I discussed the hero slugging a villain on the cover of Champion #8 (June 1940). At that time I attributed this to the influence of Jack Kirby. It seemed a reasonable conclusion since Joe had just met Jack and Kirby became famous for this sort of slugfest. However it seems that conclusion was not correct. Take a look at panel 2 from the page above. Here Joe provides another example of a hero’s hitting with such force that the foe ends up flying. Since DM #3 has an April cover date while the Simon Fox covers start with May, it is unlikely that Joe and Jack have met. I will be providing an even earlier example in a future post.

I have to admit that every time I look at DM #3 I wonder if was correct to conclude that Joe was not responsible for Daring Mystery #4 (May 1940). But when I compare them side by side I always end up convinced that despite some similarities DM #3 and #4 were not done by the same artist. In general I have no problems distinguishing Joe’s penciling for this period. But I worry that Joe’s use of swipes may sometimes end up hiding his involvement. Previously I did not attribute the covers of Champ #22 (September 1942) or Speed #22 (September 1942) to Simon. I felt that they did not match the style of other Joe Simon covers of the period. The Gaven signature (another Simon alias) proved me wrong. Joe’s heavy reliance on swipes for these Harvey covers (particularly for Champ #22) does seem to make it difficult to find Simon traits. So I am concerned that something similar might be happening with DM #4. I plan to make a study of these early works for features other then artistic style to see if they might help to resolve this issue.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Footnote

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 3, Working for the Fox

Not Simon, Daring Mystery Comics #4

Daring Mystery #4
Daring Mystery Comics #4 (May 1940)

Some sources, including the GCD, attribute the feature Trojak from Daring Mystery #4 to Joe Simon. Joe had started producing covers for Fox with cover dates of May. However that would not necessarily indicate that Simon was unavailable to produce stories for Timely. Joe would create Blue Bolt which started in June so he did not work exclusively for Fox.

This particular story is not signed, that by itself is rather unusual for Joe. Before starting for Fox Joe seemed to have signed all his comic book work, including covers although he sometime used an alias. At Fox Joe did not sign all the covers, still 9 out of 16 Fox covers that he did are signed. Joe signed all stories that he drew until he teamed up with Jack Kirby. After that not every thing is signed and if there is a signature it is the joint Simon and Kirby signature. Even the Fiery Mask from Human Torch #1 (Fall 1940) which was drawn by Joe alone, is not signed. So an unsigned story by Joe published in May would be unique.

Simon had his own personal drawing style, but he mimicked other artists at times. For the Fox covers Joe copied Lou Fine’s manner since Lou had done a number of Fox covers previously. When Joe teamed up with Jack he would begin to adopt Kirby’s manner. But this Trojak story was before the Simon and Kirby team up. Further Joe was the original creator for this feature. So there would seem to be no reason for Simon to mimic any other artist. Therefore we should expect Joe’s own unique style. But that style is not found here. The depiction of the woman is the closest to Joe’s but even she can be distinguished. Simon had a technique of joining eyebrows and eyes into a single angular formation, but that also does not show up in this story. I am not sure who the artist was, but he was not Joe.

Art By Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Footnote

During a visit I gave Joe Simon copies of my restoration of the two stories in Daring Mystery #2. He had completely forgotten about both of them. Before he had begun to look at them I mentioned that he had signed one of them using a different name. Joe stopped and said “I bet you I know what name I used, Gregory G. Sykes”. Boy was I surprised, if he couldn’t remember the stories how could he remember the pseudonym? Sure he added a middle initial, but otherwise he got it right. Joe explained that in that in high school he and his friends sometimes used another name, his was Gregory G. Sykes.

He especially could not get over the ice bullets from the Phantom Bullets. As for Turjak Joe coyly wondered where he got that idea from. I went along with it and pointed out the subtitle “King of the Jungle”. Joe chuckled and admitted that as a kid he often went to the library to read Tarzan and had been a big fan.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Before Kirby

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 3, Daring Mystery Comics #3

Art By Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Before Kirby

The GCD lists Joe Simon as the artist for Solar Patrol in Silver Steak #3 (February 1940) and renamed as Planet Patrol in SS #4 (March 1940). I have not seen either so I cannot verify this attribution. Still the timing and Joe’s frequent signing of his work makes it likely to be correct.

Target #1
Target Comics #1 (February 1940) “The Case of the Black Widow Spider” by Joe Simon (signed)

In February titles we also find Joe Simon starting a feature in Target Comics #1 (Novelty Press) called T-Men. He does a similar job to the one he did in the tree man story for Solar Patrol. One important difference is that although he still does not use the standard panel layout, his deviation from a strict grid are small and there is never any question about the proper reading sequence. The story is a little better then the Solar Patrol one, but it is without the improvements shown in his Fiery Mask story for Timely. This may be just Joe still trying to adjust to a new art media. However I suspect that the T-Man story may have actually been done at about the same time as Solar Patrol but the publication of it was delayed. This is the first part of a two part story. But the way the first part ends leads me to wonder whether if it was originally meant to be two parts. The ending seems abrupt and not like a planned cliffhanger. When the story continues in the next issue it is quickly wrapped up in a few panels. My suspicion is that the story was originally eight pages. Either this is not the length the publisher asked for, or a length change was required later. In either case Joe did a little fixing to make it a seven page story with a “to be continued”. But when Joe returned to the story for the next issue he knew he wanted to have a half page splash and he wanted to proceed with the new story line. So he cut panels from the former eight page and pasted on the new page. If I am correct this is the earliest example of Joe using cut and paste as an editorial method, a technique that he would use throughout the rest of his career.

Daring Mystery #2
Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) “Phantom Bullet” by Joe Simon (signed)

The Fiery Mask did not reappear in the second issue of Daring Mystery. Instead Joe launched two new features. The first was Phantom Bullet. The hero has a gun that shots ice bullets. The idea being that after the ice bullet has done its work it melts, leaving the police without a clue. This was a hero? Although Joe still has a way to go, he has made progress in his comic artistry. Like last month’s Fiery Mask, this one has a pretty good story and the art work shows improvement. But Simon is still doing simplified drawing and his trademark angled eye/eyebrow remain. But his style seems consistent throughout the story. You might think that this was an indication that Joe did not do any swiping here, but you would be wrong. Take the kidnapped lady in panel 8 of page 9, rotate her until she is upside down, take a mirror image, and move her arms a bit and presto change-o she becomes the damsel in distress from the cover of Silver Streak #2. I said you would see her again. Guess what, Joe is still not finished with her.

Daring Mystery #2
Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) “Trojak” by Joe Simon (signed Gregory Sykes)

Another new feature for Daring Mystery #2 was a Tarzan clone called Trojak. This one is signed by Gregory Sykes. But don’t bother searching GCD or any other database for Sykes because you will not find any other trace of him. The way the “by” is written on the title panel, the similar ‘S’, the same style of page numbering, and the art style in Phantom Bullet and Trojak leaves no doubt that were both done by Joe Simon. Joe had so far shown a desire to promote himself, why not on Trojak as well? In all likelihood Joe was worried that Goodman would not want two stories by the same artist in one comic. I looked through the GCD listings for Daring Mystery in search for any other possible pseudonyms. I did find a couple of names that sounded suspicious; Maurice Gutwirth and George Kapitan. But further searching showed that they both actually were legitimate artists with a long record of comic book work. So Gregory Sykes seems a rare example of Simon using a pseudonym.

Daring Mystery #2
Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) “Trojak” by Joe Simon (signed Gregory Sykes)

Although stylistically similar to Phantom Bullet, the art in the Trojak story looks better. A lot of this has to do with all the action that was possible with Trojak and a jungle full of animals. The style is pretty uniform throughout the story except some of the natives look more developed. Sure enough, doesn’t the chief in panel 3 of the splash page look like the tree man from Solar Patrol? I wonder what the original source looked like?

The GCD does list Joe Simon as the artists for Trojak in Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940), #4 (May) and #5 (June). The date for #3 seems reasonable, those for #4 and #5 less so, but still possible. Daring Mystery #6 (September) includes art by Jack Kirby and so postdates this chapter.

Target #2
Target Comics #2 (March 1940) “Sabotage” by Joe Simon (signed)

As mentioned previously the T-Men in this issue starts by wrapping up the story line from the previous issue. Although handled much too quickly, the way the villain gets his just desserts is really quite funny. Hopefully someday this story will be reprinted. The art for the wrap up is a good match for what was done in the Target #1. However the rest of the story is done in a style that closely matches the stories in Daring Mystery #2 from the previous month. Joe uses larger page number in a circular field, exactly the same as in Daring Mystery #2. Further evidence that the publication of the work Joe did for Target was delayed a month compared to other titles.

The GCD lists Joe Simon as doing the T-Men feature in Target #3 (April 1940) but that one is signed Ben Thompson and was done in a different style. Ben Thompson has a history of doing comics at this time so I do not think it is a pseudonym. The GCD also list Simon as the artist for T-Men in Target #4 (May 1940). However I have not seen that issue.

Human Torch #2
Human Torch #2 (1) (Fall 1940) “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses” by Joe Simon

The first issue of the Human Torch was number 2 because Timely took over the numbering from Red Raven. With the high prices of key golden age comics, like the Human Torch #2, we are fortunate that Marvel has reprinted it recently. Red Raven #1 is cover dated September 1940, so the Human Torch #2 clearly comes after Joe and Jack met. But the Fiery Mask story in this issue was done by Joe Simon alone in a style similar to that he used before meeting Jack. This story is included here because I suspect that it might have been done earlier then its publication date would indicate. For those of you that have Greg Theakston’s “The Complete Jack Kirby, 1917-1940” compare the panel by Hal Foster of a man hollering with the one in the left corner of panel 3. Once more it appears that Joe is swiping from the same source material more then once.

In these first two chapters we saw Joe Simon adopt his own style. Yes there are variations due to Joe developing his skill, and there are also differences due to Joe’s swiping. But careful examination for Joe’s style can provide attributions even when the work is not signed. I could say that armed with this knowledge we are now prepared to identify all of Simon’s early work. I could say that, but it would not be true. In our next chapter we will see Joe adopt an entirely different style.

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 6, Amazing Man #10

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Footnote