Category Archives: Prize

Featured Cover, Fighting American #3

Fighting American #3
Fighting American #3 (August 1954) by Jack Kirby

In a comment recently, Mike made a request for post on Fighting American. Well it happens that I just finished restoring the cover to Fighting American #3. The first two issues of FA were pretty much the standard action hero format. Fighting America and Speedboy were Simon and Kirby’s remake of their own patriotic heroes Captain America and Bucky. Atlas Comics had recently brought out a cold war version of Captain America along with the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. However the times had changed and despite Joe McCarthy, or perhaps because of him, the public did not consider the Communists as quite the same threat as the Nazis. Atlas Comic’s Captain America did not last long but Simon and Kirby adjusted to the times. With issue #3, Fighting American adopted a more humorous approach. Yes the Commies were still the villains, but nobody was meant to take Poison Ivan and Hotsky Trotski seriously.

Kirby Or Not, Young Romance #84

Young Romance #84
Young Romance #84 (October 1956)

The Jack Kirby Checklist does not include the cover for Young Romance #84 among works by this artist. Unlike my previous post on YR #85 in this case I can understand why. The woman has an angular face which is not typical of Jack’s work. The man’s face is of no help because it is almost completely hidden. But the man’s overly large ear is one clue. In earlier years, particularly while working for DC, Jack always seemed to make large ears for heads viewed from the back. Later Kirby seemed to make a conscious effort to correct this. But he would still slip into his old habit from time to time as in this cover. Another Kirby touch, although by no means unique to him, is the perspective view provided here. Jack was the master of the use of perspective. But for me it is the couple looking up on the left that provides the best evidence that this cover was penciled by Kirby. Despite their small size, or perhaps because of it, they seem to be classic examples of Jack’s distinctive background figures.

YR #84 was one of the comics from the period where Kirby was doing almost the entire comics for all the Prize romances. Previously in “The End of Simon & Kirby” I posted on this period. In that blog post I commented that some of the outline inking in these all Kirby romances seems to have been done by Bill Draut. Although it is difficult to be sure, I suspect Bill may also have done outline inking for the YR #84 cover. The simplicity of the woman’s eyebrows reminds me of Draut. I hasten to add that woman’s face it not due to Bill. Although not typical of Kirby, the woman is even less typical of Draut. In particular Bill preferred much longer eyebrows. The spot inking for this cover was not done in Bill’s own manner either. Most of the spot inking for the all Kirby romances seems to have been done by Jack himself and I think that is true for this cover as well. Inking for the all Kirby romances ranges from the exceptionally beautiful to the rather poor. My suspicion is that with all the work Jack was doing sometimes he was quite rushed and the inking would therefore either suffer or be minimal. The inking for YR #84 is an example of a job done well but with limited amounts of spotting.

The main part of the story depicted on the covers is pretty obvious, the ladder indicates that the man and woman are about to elope. I am less clear about the part played by the couple on the left. With the bags in front of them it is certain that they are not just on lookers. Either this is going to be a double marriage (the bags are theirs) or they are going as witnesses (the bags belong to the foreground couple). In either case the car that will be used to take them all away is parked behind them. Like most Simon and Kirby covers this one is carefully crafted. But it is constructed to best tell the story, not to be the equivalent of a snapshot. The ladder the man is on is way to far to the right of the window. It is hard to believe that the woman could safely transfer to the ladder. But placing the ladder correctly in relationship to the window would mean the man would also be moved more to our left. This would be disastrous to the composition, all the figures would be on one side of the cover while the other would be pretty much bare. Correcting the ladder placement would also mean covering the background couple and hurt the story that the cover is meant to tell.

Kirby Or Not, Young Romance #85

Young Romance #85
Young Romance #85 (December 1956) by Jack Kirby

I have renamed this topic from “Not Kirby” to “Kirby Or Not”. The title was fine originally since most of my post were about entries in the Jack Kirby Checklist that attributed work to Jack that was actually done by other artists. But lately I have delt with some work actually done by Kirby that was not included in the Checklist. The greatest majority of errors in the Checklist are those that falsely attribute work to Jack, but there are some of the opposite mistakes. I believe this imbalance is due to the fact that most experts look for “signs” of Kirby but fail to look for indications typical of other artists. Jack Kirby was much respected among artists and influenced their work either directly (swiping), indirectly (model), or all the grades between. Since experts are not always carefully watching for indications of other artist “fingerprints”, the tendency will be to err on the side of falsely attributing work to Kirby.

This particular cover comes toward the end of the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Previously they had tried to launch their own comic publishing company called Mainline. During the Mainline period Jack stopped penciling anything for the Prize romance comics, although I believe S&K still produced these comics. I suspect the business effort involved in Mainline was more then Joe could handle and so required Jack’s involvement also. Artists like Ann Brewster, Joe Albistur and John Prentice would take the place in these romance comics of the missing Kirby. But when Mainline finally failed Jack returned to doing work for Prize romances with a vengeance. For about a year Kirby would do pretty much all the art for Young Romance, Young Love and Young Brides. Such all Kirby comics were pretty unusual and had only occurred once before when S&K turned Headline into a crime genre comic. In the case of Headline all Kirby comics were done because Joe and Jack were trying to start up their studio after a previous failed attempt (Stuntman and Boy Explorers Comics). Once Headline was shown to be successful S&K began to use other artists. The late all Kirby romances was probably a similar attempt to restore the studio after the Mainline failure. If so it was not successful and Jack would begin doing freelance work for DC and Atlas.

I do not know why the Checklist missed attributing this cover to Jack. It seems a pretty obvious Kirby to me. I am not sure who did the inking but it was not the greatest job. The poor inking does have the affect of hiding Jack’s more subtle penciling. But the elderly man appears to be one of Kirby’s stock background characters.

Although not the best romance cover that Jack penciled I am still rather fond of it. It is pretty obvious that the humor was supposed to be the waitress so intent on the kiss that she fails to stop pouring the coffee. But for me the real humor is the old man. I love the way he stuffs his face with the piece of bread as he observes the couple.

Mea Culpa, correction to Chapter 9

In my last chapter to The End Of Simon & Kirby, An Old Romance I said

Prize must have truly started to recover, in August 1957 they relaunched Black Magic. That title had previously been a Simon and Kirby production, but their contract for that title with Prize must have been different. Joe and Jack would never have anything to do with the new Black Magic.

Well on the Kirby List Stan Taylor questioned that statement, pointing out that Dick Ayers has said that he did some work for Joe Simon for Black Magic.

I asked Joe Simon about the relaunced Black Magic and he confirmed that he did them without Jack Kirby. Joe added that they were done on a reduced budget.

So I am correcting my Chapter 9 post to say the following

Prize must have truly started to recover, in August 1957 they relaunched Black Magic. That title had previously been a Simon and Kirby production, but now Joe Simon would produce them on a reduced budget. Jack Kirby would never have anything to do with the new Black Magic.

So my thanks goes to that fine scholar Stan Taylor for this correction.

Chapter 9, An Old Romance

Chapter 10, A Fly in the Mix

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 9, An Old Romance

Young Romance #103
Young Romance #103 (December 1959) by Jack Kirby

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby their new comic publishing company failed. Joe and Jack produced comics for Prize and shared in the profits. But Prize was also having problems and cancelled some titles. In 1956 Jack would produce all Kirby Prize romance comics. In 1957 we find Jack doing freelance work for DC and Timely. Meanwhile Joe was getting Harvey to publish some new titles however none were big hits.

At the end of 1956 Prize was at a low point. They had one monthly title (Justice Traps The Guilty) and three bimonthly (Young Romance, Young Love, and Young Brides). But they obviously had a plan. In April 1957 Prize would publish a new title All For Love and cancel Young Love and Young Brides. But why cancel two romance titles and at the same time start a new one? For one thing I am sure Prize had not forgotten that three years before they had effectively helped finance Joe and Jack’s Mainline, a competitor comic publishing company. But there could also be a good business reason. Prize had to share the profit on the previous romance titles with S&K, that was part of the deal. If your titles are not making much profit, that left you with even less. But Prize had a contract with Simon and Kirby, I am sure they could not just take a title away. So they did the next best thing, they killed Young Love and Young Brides, set up their own title, and began producing that comic themselves.

As for Young Romance, Simon and Kirby are still listed as the editors in the postal declaration. Whatever their deal was it looks like it was still in place. Prize probably had cold feet about canceling their flagship title, Young Romance. Despite all the freelance work Jack was doing for DC, Atlas and Harvey, he still had time to pencil stories and an occasional cover for Young Romance. Most issues of these late Young Romance would feature one or two stories by Kirby. Jack even did a story of All For Love (volume 3, number 2, August 1959). For whatever reason, few if any, of the former S&K studio freelance artists returned to provide other stories. Despite Kirby’s presence, Young Romance was now just a shadow of its former self.

YR #99 Man Wanted
Young Romance #99 (April 1959) “Man Wanted” by Jack Kirby

The work Jack did for Young Romance after his year of producing the entire Prize romances seems to be a let down. This was the period where Kirby had begun to do freelance work for Atlas (Yellow Claw) and DC (Challengers of the Unknown) so perhaps he just did not devote much attention to Young Romance. Or perhaps it is because these late romances were largely inked by others. Whatever the reason the Young Romance work from 1957 are not the best that Jack has done. But as we enter 1958 the inking begins to change. I would say that by YR #92 (February 1958) a new style has immerged. Faces seem to receive even less spotting then before. Features like the noses, eyes and eyebrows become more abstracted, taking on an almost mechanical look and at times are even distorted. More often then before things like a nostril are indicated only by a thin line. From my description one might get the impression that the inking is unappealing. Quite the contrary, all these abstractions and distortions seemed aimed at an even more expressive effect. Jack’s Young Romance work from 1958 and 1959 is some of the best he has ever done. Jack did the spotting himself, whatever assistance he had with line inking was unobtrusive and the final results are pure Kirby. There are some variations in quality, but not nearly as much as had occurred in the past.

Young Romance #97
Young Romance #97 (December 1958) by Jack Kirby

YR #97 closeup
But at least some of the time Jack did seem to get some assistance in inking. It was not unusual for Jack to do a pretty rough job on hands placed near the periphery of the image, particularly women’s hands. Jack would fix up these hands at the inking stage. Most inkers were also artists, so if someone else was doing the line inking they also would correct it. But take a look at the close-up of a hand from the cover to YR #97 (December). What a mess the inker made of it. I am convinced that no artist inker would have done this, only someone who is not an artist would produce such a confused result. In his introduction to the Green Arrow trade back, Mark Evanier says that Roz Kirby helped Jack with the line inking for those stories (July 1958 to February 1959). I am convinced that Roz also helped Jack with at least some of these late Young Romances. I have not made a careful examination of all these YR, but I believe I also detect Roz’s help for the covers to YR #92 and #95 (February and August 1958).

Love Romances #83
Love Romances #83 (September 1959) by Jack Kirby

While Jack was finishing his tenure as a Young Romance artist, he was beginning to do some romance work for Atlas (soon to be called Marvel). But the work he did for Atlas was inked by other artists. Perhaps even at this early date, Stan Lee was encouraging his inkers to add their personal touches. I am sure he felt this would only improve the end product. But to my eyes there simply is no comparison between the Atlas worked inked by others, and the Prize work inked by Jack himself. But inking is not the only difference, the cover compositions are also different. Since the more recent Prize covers have compositions like those from previous years, it is not the late Prize covers that have changed. More likely Jack at Atlas was receiving instructions on what to do on the covers, perhaps even layouts.

Prize must have truly started to recover, in August 1957 they relaunched Black Magic. That title had previously been a Simon and Kirby production, but now Joe Simon would produce them on a reduced budget. Jack Kirby would never have anything to do with the new Black Magic.

Young Love #77
Young Love #77 (August 1960) by Joe Simon

The last Jack Kirby work for Young Romance would be issue #103 (December 1959). Previously the yearly postal declaration statement had listed both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby as the editors for Young Romance. But the next one in June 1960 would only list Joe. January 1960 was the last issue of Prize’s other romance title, All For Love. This cancellation was not a financial decision, instead it was due to the passing away of the editor. Prize turned to Joe Simon to edit a second romance title for them. Apparently Joe preferred to resurrect his old title Young Love, which started right away in February. In order to save on the postal registration fees, Young Love would take up the volume numbering from the All For Love title. Unfortunately the new Young Love would start with volume 3, while the old Young Love had ended with volume 8. This duplication of volume numbers often causes confusion among collectors and dealers. Without Jack Kirby or the S&K freelance artists, Young Romance and Young Love just do not seem the same. But occasionally an interesting artist does show up.

I don’t know how well these late Prize romances were doing, but there must have been some value in the titles because Prize continued to publish them even after canceling Justice Traps the Guilty (April 1958) and Black Magic (November 1961). Joe Simon would remain editor for the two romance titles until the last Prize issues (June 1963). After that Prize Comics would end and DC would take over publishing Young Romance and Young Love. I doubt that Joe continued as editor once DC arrived, but he would return to do some editing on these romance titles years later.

Chapter 8, If At First You Don’t Succeed

Appendum 9, Mea Culpa

Artist and Model

The Jack Kirby Comics Weblog has posted a real nice My Own Romance and made the comment

I think there was some rule that said Kirby had to do at least one artist/model themed romance cover for every publisher he did romance comics for

So I checked and I am sad to say Jack did no artist/model theme cover for Harvey. I have already posted the first issue of Young Romance for Prize which does have that theme. Simon and Kirby used the theme again for Young Love #72 also published by Prize

Young Love #72

But for a short time Joe and Jack had their own publishing company Mainline with a romance title In Love. The third issue of In Love had, surprise, surprise, an artist/model theme cover. In fact the contents was a story about a comic book artist and model. I ask Joe about it once and he commented that they always like that theme. Apparently they liked the idea so much that made a proposal for a comic book or oneshot called “Artist and Model”. Two covers were made for that proposal, one by Kirby and the other by Bill Draut. Jack’s cover was used for the In Love #3 but Draut’s was never published.

Artists and Models

Artists and Models

Now For A Not So Little Romance

I blogged about Simon & Kirby acting as editors, but now I want to discuss what comics they actually produced. But I will be leaving aside the hero theme comics for which S&K are famous. Comics like Fighting American, Boys’ Ranch, and Bullseye. These were classics but their short runs show that they were commercial failures. Simon and Kirby had their greatest success in comic anthologies. Comics like the long running Young Romance Comics.

Young Romance #1

I once asked Joe about what sort of deal he had with Young Romance, the comic that started a whole new, and very profitable genre. He said that S&K paid all the costs of producing and packaging the art. They received nothing in advance from the publisher. The money would only start coming in when 40% of the printed comic was shipped to the distributor. After the shipping advance they would start sharing the profits. Joe remarked that contrary to his reputation as a savvy business man, it really wasn’t that a great deal. Most of the financial risk was on S&K, and if Young Romance wasn’t as widely successful as it was, they would have lost a bundle.

Young Romance #1 has a cover date of September 1947 and it had a very long run published first by Prize (124 issues) then by National. Like many others, S&K copied their own success and produced Young Love also published by Prize (94 issues) and National. But the romance genre continued to be profitable so S&K later produced Young Brides, that title was not so long running (30 issues) and was only published by Prize. But since YR and YL were so long running, clearly S&K did not produce them all. So which ones did they do? Well they pretty much told us about some of them. Starting with YR #13 (September 1949) the lead story of the comic would be labeled as a “Simon and Kirby Production”. It didn’t matter who the artist was and the label would only show up on the lead story. Once started, the S&K label would appear on pretty much every YR, YL and YB they produced. With only a few exceptions until about around August 1954 (YR #73, YL #61 and YB #16). The S&K label did not reappear until May of 1955. Even then it was used sporadically (YR #78, #80, YL #64 and YB #22, #24 and #25). The last appearance of the label was in December 1955 (YR #80).

So why the gap in use of the S&K label? Well one thing that happened at the beginning of the gap is that S&K started Mainline and became publishers of their own comics. Bullseye #1 first appeared with a cover date of August 1954, the same date the S&K last appears. Mainline was a commercial failure and its last comics was cover dated April 1955. The S&K label reappears in the romance comics in May 1955. One reasonable explanation would be that while Mainline was in operation S&K were not producing the Prize romances. Perhaps there was friction because Prize now viewed S&K as competition, particularly since Mainline had there own romance line, In Love.

As I said it is reasonable to say that between August 1954 and May 1955 (cover dates) that S&K were not producing Prize’s romance comics. It may be reasonable, but I don’t believe it is true. The first reasons is what I refer to as the usual suspects. S&K studio employed a number of artists on a freelance basis. But Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice were regulars both in the length of time and amount of art. We may not be able to follow the money, but we can follow the artists. We have to be a little cautious since they did not work exclusively for S&K. But any comic where the usual suspects are prominent was likely to have been produced by Simon & Kirby. And the usual suspects were prominent during the gap. In fact they did most of the covers.

Another reason to believe S&K continued producing the Prize romances is a story Martin Thall tells. The comic company of Mike Esposito and Ross Andru also met their demise during the comic crisis of this period. According to Thall, they sold unused romance artwork to S&K (at a bargain price) and delivering it to Jack Kirby’s house. Three stories penciled by Andru appear in the Prize romances of November and December 1954 (YB #19, YL #63 and YR #75). Andru also did some work for S&K in 1952 but that was too early to be what Martin is talking about. But the 1954 stories fit the timeline perfectly. And this is right in the middle of the S&K label gap.

But if S&K produced these romance comics through the 1954 and 1955, when did they stop? Well if we follow the usual suspects we find them prominent until December 1955. Then something surprising happens, Kirby is all over the place. From YR #80 until YR #86 (December 1956) Jack did pretty much the entire issues for all the Prize romances. This includes YL #69 to #73 as well as YB #26 to #30. Jack did 74 stories and covers over this period. Joe seemed to have been part of this because the cover to YR #83 appears to have both their hands involved. Further the cover to YB #30 depicts a couple with twin babies, Joe had twin girls. Finally Joe still has the original art to YL #71. In these issues John Prentice has only one story (YL #69), Bill Draut 3 (#71 and two in #73) and other artists provided only three more stories (Ann Brewster and Ted Galindo both in YL #70 and an unidentified artist in YR #81).

Young Romance #80

Why was Kirby so prominent in these particular romance comics? Well perhaps one reason is after the failure of Mainline, S&K had financial problems and perhaps could not afford to continue to pay their freelancers. In fact they may have had trouble finding work for themselves. YR and YL were monthly titles. But after the December 1954 issues the next YR would have a cover date of April 1955 and become a bimonthly. YL would not be published again until 1960. Although this is all after the Kirby romance run, it may reflect that the Prize romance comics had become less profitable. Remember Joe and Jack shared in the profits but had to pay the expenses to produce the art.

Starting in 1957, Jack’s pencils would appear in most issues of YR until #103 (December 1959). But the usual suspects would not. There is one other piece of evidence that can help. At one point comics started to include a yearly statement. The statement included the name of the editors. I’ve heard that this statement was not always reliable. But that was for editors that worked directly for the publisher. I think that in the cases of S&K this statement may be more trustworthy. The earliest statement is the February 1950 issue of YL where Joe and Jack are listed as editors. The last time they are so listed is the April 1959 issue of YR. Starting with the June 1960 issue of YR only Joe Simon is listed as editor. The August issue of the resumed YL also list only Joe as editor. My information may be incomplete, but the last time I have a listing for editor as Joe is the April 1963 YL. But in a few months National would take over publication of YR and YL and I suspect they would use their own editors.

So it would appear that Jack’s involvement in the Prize romances ended in early in 1959. Even that is surprising since in 1957 he started to work for other publishers like National and Atlas. Although Jack may have taken S&K ideas to these publishers (such as Challengers of the Unknown), nothing indicates that Joe did any work for them. To me this means that by 1957 there was no Simon & Kirby studio. Whatever working relationship Jack and Joe had, it was a very different one then they had during most of their partership.