Category Archives: Hillman

Simon and Kirby Colorists, Chapter 1, Hillman

Generally little is known about the comic book colorists during the golden age. Credits usually were not provided and while pencilers and inkers would sometimes leave signatures there was no outlet for colorists to make their contribution known. Occasionally there is documentary evidence about particular colorists but largely they remain anonymous. None the less I have begun to investigate coloring done on Simon and Kirby productions. I may not be able to identify all the colorists but I am still interested in seeing what can be learned about the effect different colorists had upon the comics.

Currently I have been examining interior coloring. Covers were typically handled by different printers than the interior pages. The special paper and attention given to covers allowed the use of colors and tonal gradations that did not appear in the interior art. Both the cover and interior art was printed using cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks (CMYK). In general, CMYK printing allows a wide range of colors to be represented. Actually not every color can be created by combinations of the CMYK inks but those that cannot are a very small part of the color spectrum and are so close to colors that can be printed by CMYK that their absence is difficult to notice.

However the interior art in comic books was printed using a very limited palette. CMYK printing achieves color tones by the amount of area the ink covers. Typically, and this will be true of all the comics I will be discussing here, interior inks were limited to three tones 100%, 50% and 25%. It is possible to use 75% ink tones but printers find it difficult to do properly with the primitive presses and poor quality paper used for comic books. I have seen 75% tones used in comic books but it is quite rare and with a special exception to be discussed below it was not done in the books I will be discussing.

There are further limitations. No tones were used for the black ink. Actually this was not too limiting because black tones, that is the grays, can be achieved using combinations of CMY inks. Another limitation is that none of the comics I will be discussing use 50% yellow. I have seen it done elsewhere but again it is very rare. With three levels of cyan and magenta, two levels of yellow and one level of black it is possible to create at most 48 colors* (including white, the absence of any ink). The palette is actually even more limited in practice since about a dozen are rarely used. Most are combinations that include 25% yellow.

Generalized Comic Color Palette

C, C50, C25, CM50, CM25, X, X, X
M, M50, M25, MY, YM50, YM25, X, X
Y, Y25, M50Y25, M25Y25, X, MC50, MC25, M50C25
CY, YC50, YC25, CYM50, CYM25, CY25, C50Y25, C25Y25
CM, C50M50, C25M25, C50M25, C50M25Y25, C25M25Y25, X, X
MYC50, MYC25, YC50M50, YM50C25, YC25M25, YC50M25, X, X

Referring to colors as, for example, 100% yellow plus 50% magenta plus 25% cyan (brown), is somewhat tiring. The industry uses a designation which I find confusing so instead I will adopt my own using the first initial followed, if not 100%, by the percentage. So my brown example would be YM50C25. I always placed them in the order of dominance or (when two inks are equally strong) the order they are found in CMY. While this is an improvement it is still too difficult to use lists of such color designations when comparing palettes used. So I have also developed a matrix to show the color palettes. I show above the standard color palette that I will be using followed by the corresponding color designations (where an X indicates an unused matrix location shown as black). If a color is not used in a particular palette it will be ‘X’ out in the matrix. The first row is for blues; the second for reds; the third row for yellows, flesh colors and purples; the fourth row for greens; the fifth row for violets and grays; and the sixth for browns and one dirty green (YC50M25). In the future I will either use some of the currently undefined matrix locations or add additional rows for colors not included in the current matrix.

Color Palette used by Hillman in Clue and Real Clue Comics.

Joe Simon has said that the coloring was the responsibility of the publisher. There was a period (cover dates March to September 1947) where Simon and Kirby were producing work for crime comics from two different publishers; Clue Comics and Real Clue Crime Stories for Hillman and Headline Comics for Prize. It would therefore be interesting to compare the coloring between the two. The Simon and Kirby work produced for Clue and its renamed title Real Clue used a more complete palette than those for Headline. The Hillman work used 38 colors (excluding black and white). But this is a little misleading because some of the colors were rarely used; deep blue (CM50), some of the purple tints (MC25 and M50C25), and red brown (MYC25).

Real Clue Crime Stories v.2 n.5 (July 1947) “The Terrible Whyos”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Hillman palette was the common use of light yellow (Y25). We will see that this color was not used in Prize’s Headline Comics. Considering how most colors that include Y25 are avoided, it is surprising how often light yellow (Y25) was used. In one case Y25 was used for an automobile but it seems a poor choice for coloring prominent objects. However light yellow was generally used for background areas and it was surprisingly effective in making accompanying white areas stand out.

As mentioned previously, red brown (MYC25) was rarely employed but the other browns (dark MYC50, heavy YC50M50, medium YM50C25 and light YC25M25) were more frequently used. However not equally so as light brown (YC25M25) was not used nearly as commonly as the other three browns. Another not so frequently used color was dirty green (YC50M25).

Real Clue Crime Stories v.2 n.7 (September 1947) “Gang War” page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby

Besides light yellow (Y25) the only other unusual colors with frequent use from the Hillman palette are pale green (C25Y25) and dark grey (C50M25Y25). Frankly with the very limited palette available for comic books the presence or absents of particular colors are of limited use in distinguishing different colorists. Also of use is how the artists uses the colors for the different objects. For instance the Hillman colorist generally uses middle green (YC50) for foliage and only much more rarely green (CY) or pale green (C25Y25). Police uniforms are dark blue (CM25) with brown shoes or boots. Caption boxes were colored with a variety of light colors; yellow (Y), light yellow (Y25), pale green (C25Y25), light orange (YM25) and even white. Desks and chairs are usual have a single color; generally dark brown (YMC50), heavy brown (YC50M50) or light brown (YM50C25).

Real Clue Crime Stories v.2 n.5 (July 1947) “The Terrible Whyos” page 4, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Most golden age colorists were more concerned with providing clarity to a scene by providing the different objects with distinct colors. Realistic coloring was not a high priority. So with the Hillman colorist we get such oddities as multi-color sidewalks, pale green buildings and some really bizarre interiors. Not very realistic, but all more interesting than if a more realistic, and therefore more limited, selection of colors were used.

Real Clue Crime Stories v.2 n.6 August 1947) “Get Me the Golden Gun” page 13, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

As previously mentioned, golden age colorists did not generally use graduated color tones for interior art. That is colors were restricted to mixtures of 100%, %50 or %25 of the cyan, magenta or yellow inks. But there was an exception to this rule and that was the use of simple color gradient usually to the background. The Hillman colorist made use of this varying a one ink of a color from 75% to 25%. Usually this was done rather smoothly but occasionally less care was taken. This was the sole exception that the Hillman colorist made to not using a 75% ink. The use of a starting value of 75% was not a whim. With the primitive presses used for comic books, 75% would sometimes fill in and become effectively 100%. If this happened to a gradient that started at 100% then a poor gradient would result with over much of it a pure color. With gradients starting at 75% any similar filling in would still provide a suitable gradient.

Although I have concentrated on the coloring of the Simon and Kirby pieces, the same colorists seemed to work on the stories drawn by other artists as well. The pencilers and inkers for Clue and Real Clue were used in other Hillman comics and were not the same ones that Simon and Kirby used for Prize’s Headline Comics. I therefore believe that Simon and Kirby were just supplying art to Hillman and not producing the entire comic as they were doing for Prize. I will compare the Hillman colorist to that used for Prize’s Headline Comic next week.

* the complete comic color palette for three levels of cyan and magenta, two of yellow and a single of black. Those marked with asterisk are not shown in my standard comic palette:

K        CMY25*      CM
C50MY    C50MY25*    C50M
C25MY    C25MY25*    C25M
MY       MY25*       M
CM50Y    CM50Y25*    CM50
C50M50Y  C50M50Y25*  C50M50
C25M50Y  C25M50Y25*  C25M50
M50Y     M50Y25*     M50

CM25Y    CM25Y25*    CM25
C50M25Y  C50M25Y25   C50M25
C25M25Y  C25M25Y25   C25M25
M25Y     M25Y25      M25

CY       CY25*       C
C50Y     C50Y25      C50
C25Y     C25Y25      C25
Y        Y25         W

The Gangs of New York

Simon and Kirby crime tales, at least the earlier ones, were based on true stories. In a recent post I wrote about Simon and Kirby’s “Let Me Plan Your Murder” and the serial killer H. H. Holmes on which the story was based. I noted differences between the story which Joe and Jack presented and the facts that can be found on the Internet. These differences could be explained either as “poetic license” or inaccurate sources. Unfortunately there is no way to decide between the two explanations without knowing the actual sources used by Simon and Kirby. I remember reading somewhere (but regrettably I am not sure where) that one of the books Simon and Kirby used was “The Gangs of New York” by Herbert Asbury (1928). The book covers New York’s criminal elements from 19th to the early 20th centuries. Apparently this book was quite popular as there were four printings in the first year alone.

Clue Comics vol. 2 no. 1 (March 1947) “King of the Bank Robbers”, pencils by Jack Kirby

One of Simon and Kirby’s first entries in the crime genre was “King of the Bank Robbers” which was about George Leonidas Leslie. The same title was used for Chapter 10 of Asbury’s TGoNY. Asbury’s presentation pretty much matches the story depicted by Simon and Kirby. The main difference between the two takes is that Asbury went into more details than Simon and Kirby. However Joe and Jack embellished the facts to make it more of a story.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2 no. 5 (July 1947) “The Terrible Whyos”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Another example of a story taken from TGoNY was “The Terrible Whyos”. Without Asbury’s book a reader might doubt the accuracy of some of the things presented by Simon and Kirby. For instance in the story of perspective new member to the gang being rejected because he had not killed anyone. This might seem like an exaggeration but according to Asbury:

It has been said that during their period of greatest renown the captains of the Whyos would accept no man as a member until he had committed a murder, or at least had man an honest effort to thus enroll himself among the aristocracy of the underworld.

At one point Pike Ryan presents a poster showing the business rates, that is what to charge for commissioned crime ranging from blackening eyes to “da big sleep”. In the book Ashbury describes how when arrested Pike Ryan was found to have just a list and while the wording is not identical the rates were just as Simon and Kirby provided.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2 no. 4 (June 1947) “Dandy Johnny Dolan”, art by unidentified artist

Simon and Kirby where not the only ones making use of Ashbury’s TGoNY. “Dandy Johnny Dolan” had no involvement from Simon and Kirby. While it just does not have the Simon and Kirby magic touch, it still is a rather nicely written and drawn story. But once again the events found in the story match what Ashbury presents in TGoNY, particularly how a cane Dolan took off one of his victims lead to being arrested for the crime.

All the comic book artists that used “The Gangs of New York” took liberties with the facts presented by Ashbury. In some case just to make a better story but in other cases because the true facts might be a little bit too much even in those pre-Comic Code days. Simon and Kirby might present some woman as a gangster’s girl friend but in reality she might have been a prostitute (and the criminal a pimp).

Even today “The Gangs of New York” is an enjoyable read. I understand it was reprinted about the same time as the movie of the same name came out. Ashbury does have a peculiar take on gangsters. As he tells it the gangs were all a thing of the past:

for there are now no gangs in New York, and no gangsters in the sense that the word has come into common use

It is hard to understand what Ashbury’s use of the word gangsters was if it excluded organized crime of his day. “The Gangs of New York” was published in 1927 about eight years after prohibition came into effect with the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Trade in illegal booze provided an abundant criminal income which propelled organized crime to great strength. Ashbury may have been blind to the new gangster, but the crime comics, including Simon and Kirby, were not.

Simon and Kirby and Their True Stories

Real Clue Crime Stories v. 2 n 6 (August 1947) “Let Me Plan Your Murder” pencils by Jack Kirby

During Joe Simon’s deposition given in DC versus Fawcett he described the work that they were presently doing as being based on true stories. At that time (1948) Simon and Kirby were producing crime and romance comics. It is hard to say how true their romance stories were but they did run advertisements offering to pay for reader submitted stories. While romance did not usually make the newspapers, crime certainly did. Therefore it is possible to compare what Joe and Jack created with historical facts.

I plan to research a number of crime stories but here I will start with “Let Me Plan Your Murder, H. H. Holmes the Monster of Chicago”. There really was a murderer with the name Henry H. Holmes, or rather that was the name he was using when finally captured (his original name was Herman W. Mudgett). Holmes was a famous serial killer whose exploits can be found in great detail on the Internet (The Murder Castle of H. H. Holmes, The Master of the Murder Castle, and Wikipedia’s H. H. Holmes  to mention just a few). There is no definitive count of the number of Holmes’ victims. The best estimates are in the range of 20 to 200. I will return to this issue below.

I will not summarize what is known about Henry Holmes as it is covered in detail in the links I supplied above. There is a lot to his story, much too much to cover in seven pages of a comic book. So it is not surprising that that much was left out in the story that Simon and Kirby told. But the question that interests me is how accurate were Joe and Jack for what they did tell? To start with how accurate was their portrayal of Holmes himself. The most prominent feature that Holmes’ possessed was his moustache. Kirby drew a distinctive moustache but that went out and slightly up while the real Holmes had a moustache that went down at the ends.

The story produced by Simon and Kirby have seven essential facts:

  • Holmes constructed his castle with frequent firing of the workers so that no one would understand the true nature of what he was building.

This is an accurate description of how Holmes’ constructed his castle. Frequent dismissal of the work crews not only hid what he was doing but Holmes would also refuse to pay them. Holmes may have built his elaborate building without spending any of his own money!

  • Numerous visitors to Chicago mysteriously disappeared.

Holmes operated his castle during the Chicago World’s Fair. He would rent out rooms to visitors. Apparently many visitors to the Fair never returned home. Did they stay at Holmes’ castle and become his victims or did they just go on to a new life and never return home? I cannot imagine that such a question could not be answered today but in 1892 they were left with only suspicions.

  • Holmes concocted an insurance fraud with Howard Pietzel but instead of substituting the body of some victim actually kills Pietzel.

This is correct. Left out of Simon and Kirby’s account was the story of Pietzel’s wife and children. Holmes somehow convinced Mrs. Pietzel to give him custody of three of her five children. Holmes would end up killing the three children and there are suggestions that was to be the fate of Mrs. Pietzel as well.

  • The cellar to Holmes’ castle was uncovered during the construction of a tunnel.

Simon and Kirby present this as an accident that started the unraveling of Holmes’ killing spree. Actually the tunneling was done after Holmes was apprehended and was done from the castle’s cellar. A large metal tank was found which when opened produced a horrendous stench. Despite the odor someone lit a match to see what was inside. The result was an explosion that fortunately left the workers without serious injury but any evidence of what the tank was used for was destroyed. 

  • Police investigated the Pietzel case for proof of Holmes’ criminal doings.

The tunnel was not what brought Holmes to justice what did that was fallout from the Pietzel insurance scheme. Holmes offered another criminal Marion Hedgepeth, a fee for the name of a lawyer who could be trusted. The lawyer’s name was provided and the fraud executed but Hedgepeth never was given his finder’s fee. A bad move on Holmes part because in revenge Hedgepeth reported Holmes scheme to the police. A examination of Pietzel’s remains did show that he had been murdered.

  • Holmes’ real name was Herman Mudgett.

Not much to say on this point as Simon and Kirby got it right.

  • After conviction Holmes confessed his crimes.

His confessions were well publicized but apparently not specific enough to indicate how many people Holmes actually killed. Probably so many that Holmes lost track.

Simon and Kirby got six of the seven essential facts correct. The one thing they got wrong (Holmes’ cellar discovered during tunnel construction) was not completely made up but did not play the part Joe and Jack presented. I do not know what source Simon and Kirby used for the story. Was the source material inaccurate or did Joe and Jack make the change on purpose? Without know the source we simply cannot tell.

On a side note, Simon and Kirby present “Let Me Plan Your Murder” as if told to a researcher. The motif of using someone tell the story was commonly used by Joe and Jack. The researcher of this story looks very much like “Red Hot” Blaze who regularly played the story telling roll in the Headline Comics stories that Simon and Kirby were doing at the same time. It is quite likely that “Let Me Plan Your Murder” was originally meant for Prize’s Headline Comics but for some reason switched to Hillman’s Real Clue.

Crime’s Better Half

Headline #26 (September 1947), art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby only worked in the crime genre during two periods. The first, and most extensive one, was from 1947 to about 1950 when the worked on Clue and Real Clue Comics for Hillman, as well as producing Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty for Prize. The second occasion was when they produced Police Trap for the own publishing company Mainline. Joe and Jack were always very creative and the crime genre gave them a wide range of subjects. They produced stories about gangsters, western outlaws, and other historical criminals. Another variation Simon and Kirby seemed fond of were women criminals. By no means were Joe and Jack the sole comic book creators that did work about crime by females (there even was a title Crimes By Women published by Fox). However like pretty much everything Simon and Kirby did, they created some very memorable work about women criminals.

Clue Comics volume 2, number 3 (May 1947) “The Battle For Packy Smith” page 11, pencils by Jack Kirby

The first of Simon and Kirby’s beautiful villains was Velvet. She appeared in the second story about Packy Smith, a gentlemen highly sought after for the element X contained in his body. Packy was much very taken with the charming Velvet Silver, only to end up betrayed by her for the bounty that a crime lord had placed on his head. But once she was paid for her efforts, Velvet then proceeded to betray in turn the crime lord and freed Packy. Velvet may have been larcenous but she also had a heart of gold. A villain you cannot help but love.

Real Clue Crime Stories volume 2 number 6 (August 1947) “Get Me the Golden Gun”, art by Jack Kirby

Packy never made a third appearance, but Velvet returned without Packy in “Get Me the Golden Gun”. It was the hero, Gunmaster, who now fell under her spell. While Packy had been a criminal himself, Gunmaster of course was not. So he found his attraction to Velvet to be very troublesome. While she was not quite so villainous as Velvet, Simon and Kirby developed a similar relationship between Riot O’Hara and Link Thorne in “The Flying Fool” (produced at the same time and for the same publisher Hillman).

Justice Traps the Guilty #4 (May 1948) “Queen of the Speed-Ball Mob”, art by Jack Kirby

Gunmaster and Velvet were clearly meant to be fictional however the work Simon and Kirby produced for Prize were meant to be considered as true stories (or at least initially). So similar mismatched romance between a hero and a criminal were not repeated in Headline or Justice Traps the Guilty. Still women criminals played an important part of the Simon and Kirby repertoire for Prize. Often when the lead character was a female, Simon and Kirby would present the story as if it was told by the woman. Generally in such cases, the story would start with what I describe as a confessional splash. A splash were the main character introduces the story with their speech balloon forming the feature’s title. This device was common in Simon and Kirby romance publications but only seems to be used by Joe and Jack for the crime genre when the protagonist was a woman. Most likely this was because male criminals generally had a very bad ending while the woman repent and paid her debt to society. Apparently Simon and Kirby preferred not to kill or execute even villainous women but had no qualms about providing the male criminals with such fates. In all honesty this form of sexual discrimination is still very much prevalent today.

Real Clue Comics volume 2 number 4 (June 1947) “Mother Of Crime”, art by Jack Kirby

The Simon and Kirby rule was all female villains where young and beautiful and would in the end repent their life in crime. But of course every rule has exceptions. I doubt many would call Ma Barker either young or beautiful. Not only does she come to a bad end, she does not sound very repentful either. It is a marvelous story that fortunately was included in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. If you have not bought the book yet, what are you waiting for?

Headline #25 (July 1947), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

It’s A Crime, Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real

(Real Clue Crime Comics vol. 2 num. 4 – 7, vol. 4 num. 4)

With Hillman’s June 1947 issue, Clue Comics became Real Clue Crime Stories. It was not just a cosmetic name change, the contents changed as well. Real Clue became a true crime comic. No longer would costume heroes Nightmare or Micro Face make any appearances. The feature Iron Lady, which was not a pure crime genre, would not appear again until three issues later (September). Most importantly the star feature, Gun Master, would no longer be the first story and would only appear once in each issue. In my opinion Simon and Kirby had little influence on Clue Comics; Hillman was already moving the title to give it a more crime genre feel. In essence though, Clue remained a hero genre book. I cannot help conclude Simon and Kirby had much to do with the change to Real Clue. Joe and Jack stories for Clue had showed how effective a purer version of the crime genre could be. Simon and Kirby would dominate the newly titled comic and for the first time provide all the covers.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 4 (June 1947) “Whistle-Stop Murder”, story and art by Dan Barry

Gun Master may have been pushed out of the leading feature spot but it was not completely abandoned as an important part of the new Real Clue. For the first three issues of Real Clue, Gun Master would place as the last story in the comic. Even more significant the stories would be, at 15 pages, the longest story in the comic. In an uncommon move the first Gun Master story, “Whistle-Stop Murder”, credits both the story and art to Dan Barry. In the early days of the history of comic books it was not at all unusual for the artist to do all aspects of the story. But that soon gave way to an industrial like division of labor with the penciler working from a script written by someone else. Examples like Dan Barry’s “Whistle-Stop Murder” became rather rare. Barry is an excellent artist but this shows he was a talented writer as well. I do not know if it was his idea or he was working from some directive, but Barry made an important change to Gun Master. No longer would the mysterious Councils of Elders appear and now Gun Master would get involved in a case through the simple expediency of a call for help from the authorities. Gun Master had now pretty much dropped all the trappings of the hero genre. This change may explain why although Simon and Kirby did further Gun Master stories (I was in error when I said in the last chapter that they would not) they never returned to the Packy Smith story arc. Mastermind criminals and explosive element X while fine in the hero genre, just had no place in the more typical crime stories that Gun Master would now appear in.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 7 (September 1947) “The Boy Who Would Be King”, art by Bernard Sachs

For whatever reason, in the fourth issue of Real Clue the Gun Master ending feature was replaced by an Iron Lady story. No changes were made to Iron Lady so her feature seems a little out of place in Real Clue’s emphasis on a purer variety of crime stories. The artist was Bernard Sachs who we saw in the last chapter as an inker for a Carmine Infantino story. Sachs would ink a number of different artists for Hillman Publications but here he is acting as penciler.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 4 (June 1947) “The Trail Of The Gun-Loving Killer”, art by Jack Kirby

The splash for “The Trail Of The Gun-Loving Killer” has a multitude of guns. Those on the table are particularly well handled even though some of the guns are laying on top one another. There is only one gun on the table that does not seem quite correct. On the other hand I have no idea how the rifles and other weaponry on the right are being held up. There is one rifle that seems leaning on something, but it is a story panel that visually holds it up. Simon and Kirby continued in Real Clue to exclude rounded panels from their story art and the above splash page is the only one from that title to have a semicircular panel. The drawing style adopted for Simon and Kirby crime stories remains in use. In reality the style is not so much adapted for crime as it also appears in The Flying Fool feature for Airboy. The inking style remains the same as seen previously in Clue Comics. Some of the traits for the Studio style are found such as drop strings and, as seen in the splash above, abstract arch shadows (see my Inking Glossary for explanation of the inking terms I use). The criminal has something akin to a shoulder blot but note how it seems made from overlapping form lines. This is an approach seen much earlier in work done for DC such as the Newsboy Legion.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 4 (June 1947) “The Trail Of The Gun-Loving Killer” page 7 panel 4, art by Jack Kirby

Shoulder blots typical of the Studio style appear in the same story. This one panel has shoulder blots, drop strings and an abstract arch shadow; the only key Studio style technique missing is picket fence crosshatching.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 5 (July 1947) “Wyatt Earp’s Bluff”, art by Jack Kirby

The shadow on the figures whose back is turned to us is not a typical Studio style shoulder blot, but those of his two opponents certainly are. At this time shoulder blots seemed to be used either to depict a shadow (as in the splash above) or to provide some form to the shoulder (in which case the blot would be narrower). Later Simon and Kirby would use of shoulder blots more abstractly; shoulder blots would appear without a hat to suggest a shadow or without providing a real sense of form. Again we find drop strings and abstract shadow arches in this splash. But no picket fence crosshatching. Simon and Kirby did make more frequent use of simple hatching as here in the center man’s hat and waist. At times the parallel lines would butt up against a line or row of drop strings so as to begin to resemble typical picket fence brushwork.

Simon and Kirby never produced a pure western genre comic. Boys’ Ranch was a combination of western and boy gang genre while Bullseye brought together the western and hero categories. The western romance comics were more romances then western. It is stories like “Wyatt Earp’s Bluff” in the crime comics that provides an idea of how Simon and Kirby would have handled a western comic. Too bad they never did, it would have been great. But then again S&K were great at just about every genre they tried their hand in.

The splash page has a compositional device that Simon and Kirby had made use of before; a low view point combined with a symmetrical placement of figures. The low viewing angle allows the central figure to tower above the others without seeming to look unnatural. The whole arrangement results in a triangular formation, a classic compositional device in the fine arts. For other examples of this type of layout see the covers for Daring Mystery #8 and Boy Commandos #1. In this splash however the central figure has his back turned to the reader thereby adding an element of mystery to the image’s tension.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 6 (August 1947) “Get Me The Golden Gun” page 12 panel 4, art by Jack Kirby

“Get Me the Golden Gun” from the August issue provides the earliest example of true picket fence crosshatching in the Hillman comics. When it does show up the picket fence brushwork is completely typical of the Studio style. The pickets are thick bold brushstrokes and they are associated with well defined rails. It would seem that the typical picket fence crosshatch did not evolve from the simple crosshatching but was just suddenly picked up. Perhaps when we return to Headline we may learn something more. The picket fence technique would be used in other panels in this story but not many of them. Further other stories from the same issue and the next one would not use this type of brushwork. After trying the new technique, it seemed that Simon and Kirby were not yet committed to it.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 6 (August 1947) “Get Me The Golden Gun” page 12 panel 4, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby considered himself primarily a story artist. Yes he did great covers and splashes but they were not as important to him as the story. I am sure at least some of the credit for the great splashes and covers goes to Joe Simon who Jack would later describe as a master at cover layouts. By this point in Jack’s career I seriously doubt that Joe did any story layouts for him. So when I see a panel like the one shown above I have to believe the credit goes to Jack. It is the final panel of the Gun Master story. The page uses a 4 panel layout and so the panel is larger then Kirby generally used. Even so it only covers a quarter of the page but the design gives it as much an impact of any splash or cover.

I simply cannot be sure what the pattern on the ceiling is meant to be. I presume is some sort of dome but it seems so oddly done. But that is my rational mind talking, as a design element is makes complete sense; in fact is crucial. The swirl it provides a bridge between the word balloon and the figures. Echoes of this swirl are found throughout the room; which if anything seems even more irrational then ceiling. Are those recesses in the background? How would that cornice on our right edge have connected to the ceiling? How could the round shape of the room in the background meet the rectangular shape of the cornice? What is that thing in our lower right corner? I do not know the answers to any of those questions but the bold curvilinear patterns visually connect all of these elements of the room and keep the eye constantly moving.

The foreground sculpture does not truly share the room’s pattern but has its own instead. The spotting on the figurine is bold but not when compared to the background. Still the spotting of the sculpture provides a life of its own giving the eye much to explore. I am a great admirer of how well Kirby handled the figure under the clothing. There is no doubt that the figurine’s leg nearest the view is flexed while the other leg is represented as holding the weight yet both legs are hidden by the flowing dress. The classical Greek sculptors figured out how to do this but while many fine artists have studied classical art there were few that could do it well. Kirby consistently makes it look easy even though as far as I can tell he never studies classical Greek sculpture.

The background room and the foreground statue provide busy surfaces to look at and therefore normally would be expected to dominate the image. However the simpler and more stable spotting provided to the two men actually attracts the eye and gives them an importance that overcomes their diminished size. The whole panel is a tour de force.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 4 (June 1947) “Dandy John Dolan”, art by unidentified artist

Simon and Kirby provided a lot of the art for the early issues of Real Clue. Besides the cover the duo would contribute 3 to 4 stories. But other artists make their appearances as well. Unfortunately I have no idea who drew “Dandy John Dolan”. He did other work for Real Clue and really is an excellent artist. Compositionally the splash for “Dandy John Dolan” is a good job but I have to admit what the seated figure is supposed to represent. He obviously is meant to be the same person ascending the gallows, but as he does not seem to be telling the story, what other function was he meant for?

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 5 (July 1947) “The Car Barn Gang”, art by unidentified artist

“The Car Barn Gang” is another work by an obviously talented individual that I am unable to identify. Another of those splashes that action is not always required for a good piece of comic art. In this case much of the interest comes from careful depiction of a dilapidated neighborhood. But another reason I like this splash had nothing to with the artist’s original intention. The dapper gang members that have taken over the neighborhood are an amusing comparison to the clothing that a modern day gang-banger would wear while in the hood.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 2, num. 6 (August 1947) “Brain-Man of Crime”, art by Robert Fujitani

One artist who makes his appearance in Real Clue is Robert Fujitani (who sometimes signed his work as B. Fuje). My primary interest is the Simon and Kirby studio but by no means does that mean that I do not admire artists who did not work for Joe and Jack. Certainly what little I have seen of Fujitani’s work impresses me a good deal. Overall what strikes me about the artists appearing in Clue and Real Clue, and that includes those I have not identified, is that they do not appear to have worked elsewhere for Simon and Kirby (except perhaps much later Dan Barry would). Keep in mind that S&K were producing Headline at the same time and would also create Young Romance in September. This suggests that despite the large influence that Simon and Kirby may have exerted on Real Clue Crime Stories, they really were not actually producing it.

Simon and Kirby would only work on four issues of Real Clue with the last cover dated September 1947. Other work for Hillman would end as well in the next few months. This suggests that although Hillman represented a good opportunity for well needed income to keep the Simon and Kirby collaboration going, it was not all that rewarding in the long run. The agreements Joe and Jack struck with Prize Comics were clearly much better financially and provided plenty of work. Having finally escaped the difficulties caused by the collapse of the Stuntman and Boy Explorer titles, Simon and Kirby would now build up their comic production studio.

Real Clue Crime Stories vol. 4, num. 4 (June 1949) “Captain Thayer’s War”, by an unidentified artist.

Normally with Simon and Kirby’s exit my discussion of Real Clue Crime Comics would end. Frankly with a single exception I have no access to any further issues. The Hillman titles deserve a good examination, but unfortunately I am not the one able to do it. However The Jack Kirby Checklist includes “Captain Thayer’s War” from the June 1949 issue as being inked, but not penciled, by Jack Kirby. As I have said before I would love to see how Jack would ink another artist’s work. However on close examination I do not find any of these inking attributions convincing and “Captain Thayer’s War” is no exception. I certainly understand how this mistake was made as the story is inked in the Studio style. Picket fence crosshatching and drop strings, hallmarks of the Studio style, are found in abundance. There are no true abstract arch shadows, but there are some rounded shadows of the type that S&K often used such as the one on the seat in the back. The only common feature of the Studio style that is missing is shoulder blots. However there are other inking manners that do not match those used by Jack Kirby. It is a little hard to make out in the image I have provided, but the shadow on the hat of the man on our right is made from five broad lines with rounded ends. I have never seen Jack use that inking technique. Nor have I ever seen an example by Kirby like the shadow of the hat in the second panel. Similar disparities occur throughout the story. I am convinced that this was not inked by Kirby, or Simon either for that matter. Do not let the cartoony style of the drawing mislead, the penciling of this story mimics Kirby’s style as well. The artist obviously has made a careful study of Simon and Kirby’s work. In cases like this one must not just look at the similarities between inking styles but also study the differences.

Chapter 1, Promoting Crime
Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title
Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves

Chapter 5, Making a Commitment
Chapter 6, Forgotten Artists
Chapter 7, A Studio With Many Artists
Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective
Chapter 9, Not The Same
Chapter 10, The Master and His Protege
Chapter 11, The New Team

It’s A Crime, Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves

(Clue Comics vol. 2 num. 1 – 3)

The same month that the first crime version of Prize Comic’s Headline was released, Simon and Kirby also appeared in Hillman’s Clue Comics (v. 2, n. 1, March 1947). Over the rest of the year Joe and Jack would do a wide variety of work for Hillman Publications; a Caniff style adventure (“The Flying Fool” in Airboy Comics), funny animals (“Lockjaw the Alligator” and “Earl the Rich Rabbit” in Punch and Judy Comics), teenage humor (My Date Comics) and crime (Clue Comics and Real Clue Crime Comics).

Clue Comics had started out in January 1943 as a hero genre anthology. The covers featured the costumed hero, the Boy King, and the interior included features such as Nightmare and Micro Face. It must not have been very successful because it began as a monthly, switched to a being a bimonthly with issue #4 and then quarterly with issue #8 before being put on hold after issue #9 (Winter 1944). Hillman rebooted Clue Comics after the war (cover date October 1946) and introduced Gun Master as the cover feature. Gun Master gave a more crime genre feel to Clue Comics but it remained as essentially a hero anthology with Nightmare and Micro Face continuing to be included. The revamped Clue must have been successful because it started as a bimonthly but switch to being a monthly with the March 1947 issue.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 2, April 1947), art by Dan Barry

Since the Gun Master did not wear a costume or have any super-powers, the covers for Clue very much had a crime genre feel to them. This can particularly be seen in the cover for the April issue shown above. This cover drew its inspiration from the more graphically brutal covers that some crime comics then used. The depiction of torture by electric iron certainly appeals to the more prurient tastes and goes way beyond what artists like Simon and Kirby would ever produce. The April cover is a bit exploitive and misleading as it does not represent the type of stories actually included in the comic book. Hillman would not repeat such a graphic depiction again for any cover of Clue Comics or the later Real Clue Crime Comics.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 1, March 1947) “Gun Master”

With the March and April issues, Gun Master played an even greater roll for Clue Comics as there were now two Gun Master stories in each issue. If Gun Master’s uncannily accurate ability with a pistol were not enough to convince one that he really belongs in the hero genre then perhaps the Council of Elders will. They were mysterious robed figures who directed the Gun Master. Not the sort of story device expected to be used in a typical crime story.

I do not know who the artist was for the above splash, but despite the complete lack of any real action he has managed in any case to make it interesting. Much of the effect of the splash is due to the low viewing angle and unnatural but effective perspective. From such a low view point the sides of the buildings and lamp post should converge towards the top but diverge instead, giving the scene an other-world appearance. The architectural details enhance the strangeness of the scene which I suspect is meant to be in Europe. Perhaps the weakest element of the splash is the upper of the two dead men. The way he is prompt up on his elbows seems unstable and unexpected for a corpse.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 1, March 1947) “Iron Lady”

A new feature, “Iron Lady”, was added to Clue Comics that both gave the comic a more crime comic feel while actually making the title untypical for that genre. “Iron Lady” was a feature about a female villain. Such an anti-hero theme had been used previously (such as The Claw) and female lead characters were also not that unusual but I am not sure if the combination had ever been done before. Her use of special gloves that gave her great strength shows once more that this really is not a crime story. Iron Lady’s appearance in Clue Comics is not her debut as I believe she appeared previously in Airboy Comics.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 2, April 1947) “Nightmare”

The revamped Clue Comic still retained some of its older features. Nightmare appeared in the March and April issues while Micro Face showed up in the May release. Judging solely by the covers of the early issues of Clue Comics, Nightmare originally had a young sidekick who somewhere along the line had been dropped. This hero appears from the smoke of a cigar which is reminiscent of the Flame from Fox Comics or Simon and Kirby’s Vision for Timely. Micro Face has a peculiar face gear that almost looks like a welder’s mask. These two costume heroes certainly work against the crime genre look that the revamped Clue seemed to be striving for.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 1, March 1947) “King of the Bank Robbers”, art by Jack Kirby

The Simon and Kirby’s contribution to the March 1947 issue of Clue was unabashedly crime genre. It was supposedly a true story and considering it was a period piece it probably was based on some real life criminal. No special powers here, just the career of a colorful criminal and his eventual downfall. Despite its short term attractions, in the end crime does not pay. The use of an oversized figure in the above splash is unusual for Jack Kirby particularly when doing crime comics. I tend to believe that when such oversized figures were used it was based in part on a Simon layout as oversized figures played a part in Joe’s art both before and after working with Jack.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 2, April 1947) “On Stage for Murder”, art by Jack Kirby

There was only a single Simon and Kirby piece in the March issue but their presence increased as they did two stories for the April issue and three for May. The art work done in the Clue Comics seems to be indistinguishable from that appearing concurrently in Prize’s Headline. This includes the type of inking done. In the previous chapters I have described this as part of the Sculptural style. Actually the use of style names is for convenience as inking used by Simon and Kirby was continually evolving and there really were no distinct breaks in the type of inking used. To lump it all together would mean to ignore the real changes that were made, but to divide the inking too finely into different periods would just confuse the issue. As I have been reviewing the art for this and the serial post “The Art of Romance” I have been coming to the realization that although during this period Simon and Kirby have not adopted all the characteristics of the coming Studio style of inking, they also were no longer working in quite the same manner as they had used during the war. In particular there was less emphasis on what I call form lines (see my Inking Glossary for explanation of my terms). These form lines were previously very dominantly used and were the reason I gave the name to the inking the Sculptural style. I am not going to try to answer this issue now but I am still interested in how the Studio style came into being. As with the art done for Headline, that for Clue Comics does not include the common use of picket fence crosshatching or shoulder blots. However as previously seen in Headline, abstract shadow arches, another technique of the Studio style, begins to appear more frequently. A good example is the splash shown above. Another Studio style technique is the use of drop strings and that mannerism also begins to become more common.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 3, May 1947) “Flowers for Roma”, art by Jack Kirby

Although the art used for Clue and Headline comics is pretty much the same the panel layouts are not. In my previous chapters on the crime art that Simon and Kirby produced for Prize Comics I noted that circular and semi-circular panels were used at just about the same level as previously in Stuntman and Boy Explorers. On an average this would work out to be about one round panel for every story page. The round panels are completely absent on any of the story pages that Joe and Jack did for Clue. There are two occurrences of circular panels in Clue and they both are restricted to the splash page. The circular panels on the splash page are truly story panels and so must still be considered, but even so there is a clear distinction between the panel layouts for Headline and Clue. I am just not sure what to make of that distinction.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 2, April 1947) “The Short, Dangerous Life of Packy Smith”, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby’s contribution to Clue Comics was not limited to “true” crime stories. They also had a chance to work on Gun Master as well. Because it was the key feature for Clue Comics it is not surprising that Joe and Jack did not make any serious changes to Gun Master. Gun Master remained an uncanny marksman who continued to receive his direction from the robed Council of Elders. However Simon and Kirby did make one innovation, they tried to provide the feature with a continuing story line while previously all the Gun Master stories had been stand alone units. What Simon and Kirby did was to introduce Packy Smith a man born with “element X” in his body and as the result doomed to an early death. If that were not bad enough it turns out that element X could be used to turn Packy into a human bomb. This results into a manhunt for Packy by not only Gun Master but by the criminal element as well. In the April issue the story ends with Packy Smith disappearance after haven taken a nose dive off a bridge. In the May issue Simon and Kirby continue the tale revealing that Packy had survived the plunge. Even the ending for the second tale was clearly not meant to be the finish as not only does Packy get away again but Gun Master has obtained the phone number to the criminal mastermind behind the manhunt. Unfortunately although Gun Master would make some further appearances, Simon and Kirby never returned to the feature to continue the story. Clearly Joe and Jack were not simply following someone else’s script.

Clue Comics (volume 2, number 2, April 1947) “The Finger Man”, art by Carmine Infantino and Bernard Sachs

As previously discussed there were a number of continuing features in Clue Comics. Simon and Kirby would produce most of the remaining “true” crime stories, but not all. “The Finger Man” is one such example. Fortunately it is signed otherwise I am not sure I would have recognized Infantino’s work. Besides his silver age comics I am most familiar with the Charlie Chan Comics that Carmine drew for Simon and Kirby in 1948 and early 1949. Despite the fact that Charlie Chan was done only a little over a year later, the style Carmine used was very different then the one shown here in “The Finger Man”. It would seem that Infantino adopted a Kirby influenced style just for the work on Charlie Chan. Carmine is an excellent artist and it would be interesting how his style evolved over the years. Unfortunately Infantino only worked for Simon and Kirby that once and so my knowledge of his art is otherwise limited to occasional pieces such as this. In “The Finger Man” Carmine is inked by Bernard Sachs. Sachs was a commonly used inker at Hillman at this time and he also did some pencil work.

Like the initial Headline art that Simon and Kirby did for Prize, the duo did not provide signatures on any of the work they did on Clue. The only work for Hillman that they signed was for My Date and a single cover for Western Fighters. As I mentioned in the last chapter it was very untypical for Simon and Kirby to leave out their signature on so much work. My Date was probably their idea and nothing like it was being produced at Prize so it is not surprising that they would sign work in that title. Otherwise Joe and Jack probably did not want to make it too obvious that they were providing work for two different publishers at the same time.

My conclusion after reviewing the material is that the drifting of Clue Comics into a more truly crime comic had little, if anything, to do with Simon and Kirby. But S&K’s influence on the title seemed to increase as time went on. The May issue of Clue Comics (v. 2, n 4) was the last before the title was renamed into Real Clue Crime Comics. This was more then just a name change but that will be covered in my next chapter.

Chapter 1, Promoting Crime
Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title

Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real
Chapter 5, Making a Commitment
Chapter 6, Forgotten Artists
Chapter 7, A Studio With Many Artists
Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective
Chapter 9, Not The Same
Chapter 10, The Master and His Protege
Chapter 11, The New Team

A Date Without Romance

Most of the work that Simon and Kirby did for Hillman in 1947 was for previously existing titles. The sole exception was My Date. Despite its title, My Date was not a romance comic (as I discussed previously) instead it is teenage humor and in particular an Archie-clone. Archie first appeared as a backup feature in MLJ’s Pep Comics during the war while both Joe and Jack were in military service. Archie was so successful that MLJ’s superheroes were eventually dropped and the company’s name changed to Archie Comics. 1947 found Simon and Kirby looking for a work so it is not surprising that the popular Archie would lead them to suggest teenage humor title to Hillman. Although My Date was not a romance comic it clearly was directed at teenage girls. There would be a lot of dating in My Date but no romance.

My Date #1 (July 1947) “My Date with Swifty Chase”, art by Jack Kirby

The first story in all the My Date issues would be by Simon and Kirby. Initially the feature centered on Swifty Chase a good hearted young inventor. Like Archie there is a love triangle but in this case the center of it is the beautiful Sunny Daye and Snubby Skeemer is Swifty’s rich and unscrupulous rival. The first story has quite a cast of characters as can be seen in the splash. Three of them were clearly meant for this story alone; Humphrey Hogart, his fiance actress Chandra Blake and B. O. his business manager (the three are shown in the center background of the splash). The rest seem to be meant to be re-occurring cast members. However issue #2 introduced a new character, House-Date Harry, who would quickly become the feature’s lead character while Swifty would be delegated to a supporting roll. This is the equivalent of Jughead pushing out Archie. The Swifty Chase feature would be Simon and Kirby’s only contribution to the title and only the last issue would have more then one Swifty or House-Date Harry story.

Kirby’s drawing for My Date is surprising good. I say surprising because Jack is most famous for his more realistic portrayals. Yet the Swifty Chase stories are filled with visually interesting characters all done in a more cartoony style then is typical for Kirby although not as cartoony as his work at the same time in Punch and Judy. I wish I can be as complimentary about the writing. The first story is really a masterpiece. Lots of action and funny turns of events. Having Humphrey Hobart in it also helped. Things changed with the introduction of House-Date Harry. The idea of the scheming but good hearted Harry would have been fine as one shot story line. With the recurring use of the House-Date Harry theme it becomes forced and not nearly so funny. I really cannot see Simon and Kirby being able to continue to make this feature interesting.

Incidentally, I once wrote that the first use of a pin-up by Simon and Kirby was for Boys’ Ranch. Well I was wrong. I forgot about the pin-up found in My Date #3. It depicts Harry’s new house-on-wheels. It was printed to be viewed by rotating the page but perhaps it was originally meant to be a double page pin-up.

My Date #2 (September 1947) “My Date”, art by Dan Barry

Not only was there a feature “My Date with Swifty Chase” but there was also another simply titled “My Date”. Interestingly “My Date” uses the same ribbon border on the splash page that is found in “My Date with Swifty Chase”. The premise for the feature was the supposed true stories as told to Jean Anne Marten. But after reading these stories it is clear that they are fictional. The feature “My Date” was drawn by Dan Barry in issues #1 to #3 and by an unidentified artist in the final issue. At this time Barry was doing a bit of work for Hillman including Airboy and the Heap. Besides comic books, Dan would also do syndication work on Tarzan (1947 – 1948) and Flash Gordon (1951 – 1990). Joe Simon told me that Barry did work for him during the Mainline period. Originally I thought this was on Charlie Chan but when I showed Joe that art he said it was not done by Barry. So at this point I have no idea what work Dan Barry did for Mainline. Barry seems a good enough artist but I cannot get very excited about the work he did for My Date.

My Date #1 (July 1947) “Ginny”, art by unidentified artist

Another feature in My Date is “Ginny”. Nothing particularly outstanding about this feature, it was just another teenage group. The most unusual member was a cigar smoking girl with the name of Big Bertha. (Big Bertha was a heavy gun used by the Germans during World War 1). I have no idea who the artist was but it was the same one in all four issues. In terms of drawing skills this artist really was not more exceptional then other artists in My Date (of course excluding Kirby). What really distinguishes him is his use of panel layouts. These were much more imaginative then even those by Simon and Kirby in the “Swifty Chase” stories.

My Date #1 (July 1947) “Ultra Violet” page 2, art by Jerry Robinson? and George Roussos?

Perhaps the most unique feature in My Date was “Ultra Violet”. The lead character Violet has a very active imagination. But she is no Walter Mitty, her daydreams actually affect reality. In the sequence shown above, Violet transforms into a glamorous school superintendent (that sure sounds like an oxymoron). Her actions in that roll have repercussions even after she resumes her more ordinary existence. Another daydream reveals the truth behind a musical idol (he has false teeth and wears a toupee). I rather like the fact that no explanation is given as to how she is able to achieve such transformations.

The first Ultra Violet story is unsigned. When writing in this blog I prefer to record my current opinions even when they are very tentative and in need of further investigation. Such is the case here where I feel the art looks very much like that by Jerry Robinson. You can see some of Jerry’s work with Mort Meskin in a previous post. However the art is not so well done as to suggest that Jerry inked it himself, nor is the inking by Mort Meskin. If it is by Robinson, and that still is a big if, then it may have been inked by George Roussos.

My Date #2 (September 1947) “Ultra Violet”, art by Dan Barry

The Ultra Violet features in My Date #2 and #3 were done by Dan Barry. Barry brought to the feature a more finished and elaborate style but I rather liked the original artist.

My Date #2 (September 1947) “The Rosebud Sisters”, art by Jack Keeler

My Date included stories that only appeared once. Was that intentional or were they tryouts that were judged to be unsuccessful? One unusual story was “The Rosebud Sisters”. Since the story is about a couple of elderly woman it seems very out of place in a comic devoted to teenage humor. The oddness of including this story was obvious even then since it was subtitled “Those 70-Year-Old Teen-Agers”. Fortunately the art was signed by Jack Keeler otherwise I never would have recognized it. Keeler had worked with Simon and Kirby previously having provided some 3 page Junior Genius stories for Stuntman. The Junior Genius was one of those humor strips with rather cartoony type of drawing. Keeler drew “The Rosebud Sisters” more realistically without completely loosing the cartoon-like effect.

My Date #2 (September 1947) “Lindy Hopp Dancing Lessons”, art by unidentified artist

Another curious feature is “Lindy Hopp Dancing Lessons” from My Date #2. What is unusual about it is although it clearly was not drawn by either Jack Kirby or Joe Simon it includes two characters from “My Date with Swifty Chase”. The boy in the green sweater and yellow hat is clearly Bumpy although he is referred to as Soud. Snubby Skeemer is correctly named but in this strip he will not hold a girl because when he does he breaks out in a rash. This is hardly consistent with his portrayal in the Swifty Chase stories.

My Date #3 (November 1947) “Date Snatcher”, art by unidentified artist

While recognizing My Date was not a romance comic, some have called it a proto-romance. The idea being that it lead the way to the first true romance comic book, Young Romance. Personally I do not buy that argument since I feel the best prototype was just what Joe Simon claimed, the romance pulps. Almost all of My Date was teenage humor albeit primarily aimed at a young female readership. There is some justification for a label of proto-romance for a couple of stories in My Date. “Date Snatcher” (My Date #3) and “Genius, That’s What” (My Date #4) are decidedly not humor. They both deal with relations between the sexes. However there are no kisses or expressions of love although the lead character’s sister in “Date Snatcher” does get married. Like the humor stories, there is lots of dating but no romance. Still very little would have to be changed to make these true romance stories so proto-romance seems appropriate for these particular features.

My Date #4 (January 1948) “Genius, That’s What”, art by unidentified artist

I am undecided about just what level of involvement did Simon and Kirby have with My Date. I am sure the title was Joe and Jack’s brain-child. Although not belonging to the romance genre, My Date was clearly aimed at teenage girls which was the same audience intended for the romance comic that Simon and Kirby were proposing at this time. All the covers were by Kirby except the last one which was by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin but that one also depicted Swifty Chase, Sunny Daye and House-Date Harry. Further the first story in the comic was always by Simon and Kirby. In fact the only art that Simon and Kirby signed for Hillman was for My Date and the Western Fighters #1 cover. All that would suggest that My Date was produced by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. But not everything in the comic supports that thesis. Usually any new Simon and Kirby title would feature a lot of work drawn by Jack but My Date would only have one Kirby story per issue (except for My Date #4). S&K would usually provide a feature with a story title while Hillman generally only used the feature’s name and My Date followed the Hillman format. Like Sherlock Holmes’s barking dog, what is most surprising is what is not present in My Date and that is Bill Draut. Draut played an important part in earlier the Stuntman and Boy Explorers comics and would again in Young Romance but he is completely absent from My Date. The only artist that worked with Joe and Jack previously was Jack Keeler and he only shows up once. I am not sure what to say about Dan Barry. Barry appeared in a number of Hillman titles in about the same time. Did Simon and Kirby introduce Dan to Hillman or was it the other way around? I am unfamiliar with the rest of the My Date artists and do not believe any of them did work for Simon and Kirby later. All in all there is a least a suggestion the Simon and Kirby did not have the full creative control over My Date that they obviously had with titles that they produced for Prize.

Simon and Kirby Take On Kiddy Comics

After the failure of Stuntman and Boy Explorers (published by Harvey Comics) by October 1946 (cover date) Simon and Kirby had to look elsewhere to keep their partnership going. DC was not really much of an option. Simon and Kirby had pretty much burned that bridge behind them when they made the deal with Harvey. Yes they still contributed to Boy Commandos, but Sandman had been cancelled months before and the Newsboy Legion would be a few months later. Joe and Jack would eventually do work largely for two publishers, Hillman and Prize. On the face of what S&K initially produced one might predict that Hillman would be the primary source of future work. While Simon and Kirby produced a crime title for Prize (Headline) they supplied a wide variety of genre to Hillman; crime (Clue and Real Clue Crime Stories), adventure (Flying Fool in Airboy), teenage humor (My Date), and most surprising kiddy humor (Punch and Judy). Furry animal stories seem such an unlikely product for Joe and Jack. However I doubt that Simon and Kirby felt there was any genre they could not do better then most other creators.

Punch and Judy volume 1 number 4
Punch and Judy vol. 1 no. 4 (Fall 1945) “How to Make Your Own Puppets”, art by an unidentified artist

According to the Jack Kirby Checklist, the first time Kirby drew something for Hillman was for Punch and Judy in the fall of 1945. If true it would have been one of the earliest things that Jack did after the war. The earliest other post-war work was the cover for Adventure #100 (October 1945, and no I do not believe this was done before Kirby went into the Army) so the date for the early Punch and Judy piece is just possible. At this point Joe Simon was still in the Coast Guard and so any work that Jack did was done without Joe’s help. The last time I wrote about this early Punch and Judy piece I was undecided about how correct the attribution to Kirby was. Since then I come to believe that “How to Make Your Own Puppets” should be excluded from work by Kirby. The timing seems wrong. It does not seem reasonable that immediately after returning to civilian life that Jack would seek out and find a company that he had never work for previously. Instead it would have made more sense to return to DC since at that point he still had a good relationship with that company. Yes I know Kirby did work for another company Lafayette Street Corp. (Picture News #1, January 1946, “You Can’t Loose A Faithful Dog”) but that had a cover date of months later. The inking for “How to Make Your Own Puppets” was not by Kirby. And last, but certainly not least, the drawing does appear to have any distinctive Kirby traits. Now it is true that the subject matter is not typical for Jack Kirby and therefore there is less to compare with it. But it is easy to recognize Kirby’s hand in some similar work for newspapers that Kirby did early in his career as well as the later work for Punch and Judy. So the absence of Kirby traits in “How to Make Your Own Puppets” is not a good sign.

Punch and Judy volume 2, number 9 (April 1947) “Rover the Rascal”, art by Jack Kirby

So if we exclude “How to Make Your Own Puppets”, the earliest work that Simon and Kirby did for Hillman was “King of the Bank Robbers” (Clue volume 2, number 1, March 1947). The next month Joe and Jack did another crime story and their first contribution to Hillman’s Punch and Judy Comics. Punch and Judy obviously catered to a younger reader then S&K normally dealt with. The feature story was about a about a wooden puppet that was very much alive, in other words a Pinocchio clone. Other stories included talking animals. Art was very simple consisting of little more then outlines. S&K first art for Punch and Judy was “Rover the Rascal”. This was a single page humor using a humanized dog family. I am not sure whether this was the first appearance of “Rover the Rascal” but it would not appear again. The line art was a simple as that found in the rest of the comic. The humor was of the slap-stick variety, something that Kirby gravitated towards. Probably the only exceptional thing about this piece was the use of a circular panel. That was a device that was very abundantly used from Captain America to Stuntman, but in the near future would become less common. All in all “Rover the Rascal” was not a very successful piece, but it was not a failure either. It was a beginning. For the rest of the year each issue of Punch and Judy what have at least one piece by Simon and Kirby and often two.

Punch and Judy volume 3, number 2 (December 1947) “Earl the Rich Rabbit”, art by Jack Kirby

One of the stories that Simon and Kirby would do for Punch and Judy was not their own creation. “Earl the Rich Rabbit” had appeared previously. I am not sure when it was created but the GCD has an entry for it for February 1947 issue (volume2, number 7). The Wikipedia says that Tony DiPreta drew it, but it is not clear if he was the creator or even when he worked on Earl. Jack Kirby did “Earl the Rich Rabbit” three times (June, October and December 1947). As generally was the case for Punch and Judy, the art for “Earl the Rich Rabbit” was very simplistic. Little more then outlines. Even so Kirby’s personal drawing style can often be recognized. There is little in the way of spotting but the spotting that was used was often drop strings (see the Inking Glossary for an explanation of inking terms). Considering their situation it is unlikely that Simon and Kirby had any studio assistants at the time. So it is likely that the inking was done by either Jack or Joe. There is little to go on, but what little there is looks like Jack’s spotting. The outline inking is just too simple to hazard a guess. The humor is often the slap-stick that Jack preferred. The “Earl the Rich Rabbit” stories that Simon and Kirby did were nicely done and funny in places. But I cannot help but feel that Joe and Jack’s hearts were not really into it. Since it was an ongoing feature I suspect that Simon and Kirby were not given any leeway to make the type of changes that would get their creative juices flowing.

Punch and Judy volume 2, number 10 (May 1947) “Lockjaw the Alligator”, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby’s most frequent contribution to Punch and Judy was “Lockjaw the Alligator” which appeared on four occasions. Lockjaw was a S&K creation and forms an interesting contrast to “Earl the Rich Rabbit”. The art is much more substantial in Lockjaw as compared to Earl. Although still simple relative to work by Simon and Kirby in other genre, the drawing is more detailed and the inking more substantial then the other funny animal stories. Drop strings are much more evident but there are no signs of techniques such as picket fence crosshatching. Most important is that forms are given a much more three dimensional shape. As I wrote before the inking was probably done by either Joe or Jack. In the case of the above splash I suspect it was Kirby doing the spotting.

Punch and Judy volume 3, number 1 (October 1947) “Lockjaw Goes To College” page 4, art by Jack Kirby

The humor is predominately slap-stick and can get pretty ridiculous. This is not a negative criticism because you can hardly expect talking animal stories to be serious (that only changed in recent years). Lockjaw really can be a lot of fun. I could not resist including one of my favorite pages. The image of an alligator on a college date is pretty ludicrous. Lockjaw’s cloths always looked funny but never more so then this tux. The dance sequence continues onto the next page where it goes to rather extremes, but it is panel 5 that is one of my favorite pieces of Simon and Kirby humor art.

The inking of the cloth folds does not look like Kirby’s which normally would have more elongated oval (spatulate) shapes. Also the placement of the folds does not look typical for Jack. So this story was most likely inked by Joe Simon.

Punch and Judy volume 2, number 12 (July 1947) “The Mystery Crooner”, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby had one other creation used in Punch and Judy; Toby and His Band. Toby had only one appearance but the fact that it was provided with both a feature name and a story title (not done for any of the other Simon and Kirby stories in Punch and Judy) suggests a hope for it to be a continuing feature. Toby was not a funny animal story but rather belong to the teenage humor genre. The surprise is not that Simon and Kirby would try teenage humor (after all Archie was a big success) but that they would try it twice for the same publisher. My Date was a not the proto-romance that some have tried to make it but rather another teenage humor comic. The fact that the first issue of My Date and the Toby and His Band story were both released in the same month suggests that Toby may originally have been conceived for My Date.

Toby also has a more then passing resemblance to another Simon and Kirby story: “Pipsy” from Laugh #24 (September 1947) published by Archie. Only a slight change in hair style would be required to morph Toby into Pipsy. Doreen, the leading lady from “Pipsy”, even has the same ribbon in her hair as Jill does in the splash for Toby and His Band. Since “Pipsy” was published just a couple months after “The Mystery Crooner” if it was not recycled art it was at least a recycled concept.

Although Simon and Kirby started out doing a greater variety of work for Hillman then for Prize by the end of the year things were very different. It was Prize that agreed to publish Joe and Jack’s Young Romance in September. The conversion of Headline into a crime comic by S&K must have been very successful as the first Justice Traps the Guilty was released in October. The deal that Simon and Kirby made with Prize must have been very attractive, particularly the sharing of the profits for the highly successful Young Romance. Simon and Kirby’s last crime work for Hillman would appear in September, the last Fly Fool and the last work for Punch and Judy would be in December, and My Date would end in January 1948. The last Hillman work would be a cover for Western Fighters #1 (April 1948). Left over inventory?

The Milton Caniff Connection

In 1934 Captain Joseph Patterson offered Milton Caniff the opportunity to create an adventure strip for syndication. Milton had been on salary working for Associated Press, now he would have a share in the profits his strip would generate. But the strip would not truly be his, as was customary at the time Caniff’s creation would actually be owned by Patterson’s syndicate. The strip was named Terry and the Pirates and it became very popular. Milton had free reign, Patterson respected Caniff’s capability and never exercised any editorial control of the comic strip. That is until Milt introduced the Japanese into his story. Caniff wanted Terry and the Pirates to be realistic. Since the story was located in China, after their invasion of that country it made sense for the Japanese to be a part of the story. Captain Patterson however was an isolationist and he ordered Milton to keep the Japanese out of Terry and the Pirates. Since Patterson’s syndicate was the true owner of Terry, Milton had no choice but to submit to this demand. Patterson’s isolationism, like that of many other Americans, would change a very short time later when Japan attached Pearl Harbor. Caniff no longer faced opposition and the real war would enter Terry and the Pirates.

Editorial interference was not the only problem Caniff faced due to his contractual arrangement for Terry and the Pirates. Milton had phlebitis, a condition where at any time a blood clot might form in his leg and then travel to another part of his body resulting in death. With care this might never happen but it was a possibility that could neither be eliminated nor predicted. There was little chance that Patterson would ever remove Caniff as the artist for Terry and the Pirates, but if Milt died all money from the strip would stop, leaving his wife without any source of income.

Terry and the Pirates was a very successful strip, in no small part due to Caniff’s injection of the real world into the story. Polls indicated Terry’s popularity, but they showed that the strip was not the most popular one. However the polls did not tell the full story and there is little doubt that Milton Caniff was the most followed cartoonist during the war years. This was due not only to Terry and the Pirates but also because of Male Call, a strip that Caniff produced for the armed service newspapers. Male Call was a bit too risque for family newspapers but was recognized as a great morale boaster for the men in our military forces.

After the war Caniff was approached by Marshall Field III who asked what sort of deal would entice him to leave Terry and the Pirates and create a new strip? Milton was very happy with his present financial status but questions of editorial control and security for his wife were still concerns. Caniff’s reply to Marshall’s question was simple, Milt wanted complete ownership of the strip. This was an unheard of demand, but Field did not hesitate to accept it. A deal was quickly reached that would be very rewarding for Caniff. Unfortunately Caniff still had nearly two years to go on his contract with Patterson. While that contract was in effect anything Caniff drew could be considered the property of Patterson. This left Field in the unusual position of trying to get newspapers to sign on without anything to show, not even the subject or name of the new strip. Based solely on Milton Caniff’s reputation, Field’s sales force managed to sign up 144 newspapers. All of this brought a lot of media attention and public interest as to what Caniff’s new strip would be like.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had special reason to be reminded of Milton Caniff. Shortly after the war Simon and Kirby had produced some new comics (Stuntman and Boy Explorers) for Harvey comics. These new titles suffered a quick death due to the glut of comics that were released once wartime paper restrictions had been lifted. With so much to choose from newsstands would provide rack space only for those titles with good recognition, new comics were out of luck. Harvey felt he had the answer to that problem, create a new title using a popular syndication strip. Not only did this provide instant recognition, only the cover art needed be made and the strips rearranged to fit the comic book format. This had been a successful approach for Harvey in the past with Joe Palooka and he now tried it with Terry and the Pirates. Joe and Jack would surely be aware of this not only because they were good friends with Al Harvey, but also because one of their Boy Explorers stories (“The Isle Where Women Rule”) would appear in the initial issues of Terry and the Pirates.

Caniff’s Steve Canyon premier in the weekly papers starting on January 13, 1947. Milt’s opened with an unusual gambit, the title character never makes an appearance throughout the entire week. The most we get to see of him is a portrait photograph that is handled by some of the story characters. The week’s story shows the representative of a wealthy and beautiful businesswoman attempting to meet Steve Canyon to hire him for an unspecified job. Canyon finally makes an appearance in the following Sunday strip, but for the first half of it we do not get to see his face. For Sunday we find Steve walking to his office. Upon arrival he is informed about the representative’s visit. Steve telephones him and effectively declines the job. Only an artist assured of his audience and his own talent would introduce a strip with such a slow buildup. But Caniff is the consummate strip artist and the introduction is anything but boring. It builds on the audience’s anticipation while providing an introduction to all the principals of the first story arc. The reader also learns that Canyon has an air transport business that is not very financially successful. The existing business acumen seems to be provided by his young secretary, a beautiful south Pacific woman.

Airboy Comics vol. 4 num. 5
Airboy Comics v4 #5 (June 1947) “The Flying Fool”, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby would debut a new feature in Hillman Publication’s June issue of Airboy Comics called the Flying Fool. The introduction begins with the arrival of some shady Chinese characters to the office of a flight service. They tell the beautiful Chinese secretary that they are seeking her boss for a business proposition. That boss, Link Thorne, arrives to find that the proposition is that a rival, Riot O’Hara, wants to take over Thorne’s business. A fight ensues and although he is out numbered, Link Thorne is the winner. Furious Link decides to pay Riot O’Hara an unannounced visit only to discover that she is a beautiful woman. The parallels of this story to Caniff’s Steve Canyon are pretty apparent. Both feature a talented pilot with an independent streak who has a small and not very successful air transport business. Both heroes’ independence nature leads them to reject a proposal from beautiful but ruthless businesswomen. Even the stories have a similar beginning where the businesswomens’ representatives arrive at the air transport offices but do not initially find the owners. There are differences, while Steve Canyon’s office is in an American city Link’s is in China. But that difference is not that significant because Caniff’s previous strip also took place in China. More important is the initial confrontation, while Steve Canyon verbally duels with the businesswoman’s representative over the phone, Link Thorne’s reaction is a typical Kirby slugfest. Also Simon and Kirby use the secretary to provide a taste of comedy into the story. Caniff was not blind to the usefulness of a sidekick to provide a comic element, he had such a character in Terry and the Pirates and would introduce one later in Steve Canyon.

The timing of the creation of the Flying Fool is of special interest. Comic cover titles are generally marked two months later then the actual release date, which would mean that the Flying Fool appeared on the newsstands in April. But the actual creation normally starts three to four months earlier; a month for the distribution, a month for printing, leaving one or two months for the art. Since Milton Caniff’s new strip was kept so secret and the Flying Fool story is so clearly derived from Steve Canyon, the S&K story could not have been started before mid January. This would only have left Joe and Jack a week or two to produce the art. It is a short story and Kirby was famous for his speed, however you cannot tell that it was a rush job from the final product. It is as beautiful an example of a Simon and Kirby production as any from that period.

Terry and the Pirates
Terry and the Pirates (left panel from April 17, 1936, right panel from December 20, 1936) art by Milton Caniff (both from “The Complete Terry and the Pirates” by IDW Publishing)

Most of Jack Kirby’s inking was done using a brush. This is not particularly unusual as working with a brush was common for comic inkers. It had not always been so, before comic books there were comic strips and initially they were inked largely with a pen. A brush might be used to flood an area with black, but in that case the black was used as a color. The use of a brush for chiaroscuro effects was first introduced in January 1936 by Noel Sickles in his syndication strip Scorchy Smith. Sickles shared his studio with Milton Caniff who quickly recognized the significance of brush work in both adding realism and saving time. Caniff began to adopt the use of a brush in Terry and the Pirates in March. Terry and the Pirates was much more popular then Scorchy Smith and so most comic artists picked up the brush technique from observing Caniff’s work. Caniff’s influence on Kirby is clear from the similarity of the Flying Fool to Steve Canyon, this surely includes art techniques as well. That right panel sure looks like the shoulder blot that Kirby used so often.

The basics of what I have written here were previously covered by Greg Theakston in his Complete Jack Kirby. However I have been able to add detail to that account because of the recent publication of two books. One is “Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff” by Robert C. Harvey published by Fantagraphics Books. This is a thorough and lengthy book full of information and insight. I am still in the process of reading it but nonetheless I can heartedly recommend it. The other is the first volume of “The Complete Terry and the Pirates, 1934 – 1936” by IDW Publishing. This is a beautiful volume with excellent reproductions. In fact for me it has become the highest standard for comic reproduction. The colored Sunday strips are nicely cleaned up scans. For reasons that I do not understand, most publishers recolor the work when they reprint it. I find the end result very flat, if not down right ugly. The only happy exception to this is the Spirit Archives where Will Eisner carefully specified the paper and color saturation levels. In the case of Terry and the Pirates this is not just a question of aesthetics, Milton Caniff did the color guides himself. His syndication recognized how important his coloring was and had one engraver whose sole responsibility was the Terry Sunday strips. Recoloring this work would have been a sin that IDW wisely avoided.

Not Kirby, My Date #4

My Date #2
My Date #2 (September 1947) art by Jack Kirby

My Date was a short-lived comic that Simon and Kirby produced for Hillman Publications in 1947. Perhaps mislead by the comics title, some today hold the belief that My Date was the first romance comic book. As I discussed in a post on this topic (The First Romance Comic) it is not a romance comic at all but rather Simon and Kirby’s take on teenage humor modeled on the popular Archie comics. For his contributions to the title Jack Kirby drew in a more cartoonish manner appropriate for the humor content. Jack’s altered penciling was not very drastic, it remains quite easy to identify his work. For instance, Kirby trademarks such as his exaggerated perspective can be found in the covers and stories that Jack provided.

My Date #4
My Date #4 (January 1948) art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

All four My Date covers have traditionally been attributed to Jack Kirby, as for example by the Jack Kirby Checklist. I have long felt, and I am not alone in this, that the cover for My Date #4 was done by someone else. Gone are Jack’s exaggerated perspective, replaced by a relatively shallow depth of field viewed straight on. The drawing for My Date #4 is cartoonier then in the previous My Date covers. House-Date Harry looks rather different on issue #4 then on the covers for #2 and #3, or from their story art as well. The same is true for Swifty who also shows up on My Date #1 and #2 covers.

Young Romance #3
Young Romance #3 (January 1948) “Love or a Career” page 5 panel 5 and page 7 panel 4, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Readers of my last post on the inking of Mort Meskin may have spotted the long close and narrow brush marks that are used on the My Date #4 cover to indicate the folds of the clothing. Not all of Meskin inking traits that I previously described are found, but I am nonetheless certain that Mort was the inker. This a bit surprising because at this time Meskin was still producing work mainly for DC and his first signed work for S&K studio would not appear for months later. Young Romance #3 has the same cover date as My Date #4 and in it is the story “Love or a Career”. Unfortunately this story is unsigned but Meskin’s inking is once again quite apparent. I will explain my full attribution of this art below when I discuss the first signed works. The art for “Love or a Career” is the closest match to the MD #4 cover that I have been able to find. Consideration has to be given for the more cartoony style used for the teenage humor comic, but see how close the female character is in the two panels I have selected from YR #3 compared to Sunny of MD #4, similarly shaped face, arching eyebrows, eyes and lips.

Justice Traps the Guilty #4
Justice Traps the Guilty #4 (May 1948) “Guilty Boys” page 1 panel 3 and page 5 panel 7, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Some months later art very similar to YR #3 appears in “Guilty Boys” from Justice Traps the Guilty #4. This is another unsigned piece with Meskin apparently doing the inking. This crime story was appropriately rendered more realistically then My Date #4 but similarities still show up. Note the comparable button noses of the boys to Swifty and to a lesser extent House-Date Harry on MD #4. The two boys on the right in the page 1 panel has a smiling cheek line similar to that of House-Date Harry.

Young Romance #6
Young Romance #6 (July 1948) “The Inferior Male” page 7 panel 3 and page 8 panel 4, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (signed)

Going forward two months provides two stories that bear the dual signatures of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. The usual assumption is that the first signature designates the penciler and the second the inker. But I know nothing about how the Robinson and Meskin team worked so this may not be a safe assumption. Still it does look like Meskin’s inking while at least some of the figure drawing and compositions do not appear to be his. I have posted about “The Inferior Male” twice before (here and here). The correspondence between the art in YR #6 and that in YR #3 and JTTG #4 is close enough that the same artists were probably responsible for all. As seen in the above panels the female still looks like a more realistically drawn version of Sunny from the MD #4 cover.

Justice Traps the Guilty #5
Justice Traps the Guilty #5 (July 1948)”Murder Special Delivery” page 3 panel 3 and page 4 panel 1, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (signed)

Issue #5 of Justice Traps the Guilty also has the Robinson and Meskin signature. As might be expected there is great similarities with the YR #6 that came out in the same month. But this comparison is not perfect. In JTTG #5 the female leads start to take on the more stylized look that is typical of most of Meskin’s work for S&K. But the females have not adopted the more triangular face as done later by Mort so there still is a slight resemblance to Sunny from the MD #4 cover.

Real West Romances #5
Real West Romances #5 (December 1949) “Tenderfoot In Love” page 2 panel 4 and page 8 panel 7 art by Mort Meskin (signed)

Mort Meskin would not show up again in S&K productions for over a year. By cover date of December 1949 things had clearly changed for Mort, the work would only be signed by him with no indication of any Robinson involvement. Meskin was no longer providing art for DC and this marks the start of a productive and consistent relationship with Simon and Kirby. In Real West Romances #5 the woman is drawn actually less stylized then found in the Robinson and Meskin’s piece in JTTG #5. Although not typical of Mort’s later work, the female in RWM #5 is not a very good match for that on My Date #4 either. This is largely due to the introduction of cheek bones that makes the face depart from the more simple geometry found on MD #4. Other similarities can still be found between the RWM #5 and MD #4, as for instance the old man’s eyebrows and smiling cheek line in the right panel as compared to House-Date Harry on MD #4.

Young Romance #16
Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “His Engagement Ring” page 1 splash, art by Mort Meskin (signed)

Meskin also appears during the same month in Young Romance #16. Once again Mort’s woman are not as stylized as they soon would be. but gone are the cheek bones that Mort provided woman in RWR #5. A resemblance to Sunny of MD #4 can still be seen, especially in the lady on the right of the above splash panel.

It may be a little surprising that a S&K production would have a cover drawn by an artist other then Jack Kirby. The only other non-Kirby covers were also done by Meskin along with Bill Draut, John Prentice and Ann Brewster. Those were all Prize romance covers with cover dates of 1954 and 1955, a period when Jack and Joe were busy with Mainline, their self owned publishing company. The reason Simon and Kirby made an exception for My Date #4 is most likely the same. A few months previously Simon and Kirby had launched Young Romance with Prize comics. As typical for them, most of the initial art for Young Romance was drawn by Jack. They had more recently lauched Justice Traps the Guilty. Not only was this all a lot of work for Kirby, it also was work for which S&K would have a share in the profits. Their deal with Hillman was not as good and so My Date #4 would be the last comic Simon and Kirby produced for that publisher with the exception of a single Western cover (Western Fighters #1, April 1948).