Category Archives: Bullseye

Bullseye #7, This is the End

Bullseye #7 (August 1955), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The bulls-eye pattern returns to the cover image for Bullseye #7. The overlapping figures creates an interesting design where the background figures are carefully framed by the foreground ones. It is always little more than guesswork when trying to credit who did what in the Simon and Kirby collaboration, in this case I suspect that Jack did the layout since this sort of careful arrangement of figures was often found in the work he produced later when working without Joe. While it is an interesting composition, it is not at all clear what is being depicted. All three individuals appear to be aiming their arrows at different targets, so it does not appear to be a shooting contest. Bullseye’s smile would be out of place for a combat usage. In any case why would a cavalry soldier be using a bow and arrow? While Simon and Kirby covers generally can be decoded to reveal a story, the cover for Bullseye #7 seems meant to be nothing more than an compelling image.

Bullseye #7 (August 1955) “Duel in the Sky”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The first story, “Duel in the Sky”, has an unusual opening; no splash panel and the title occurs below two panel tiers and above another story panel. Kirby has used splash-less stories before but this one is special. The first three panels have no text and show nothing more than Bullseye’s alter-ego traveling over a western landscape. Simon and Kirby usually try to fill their stories with as much as possible so allocating the three panels used in this introduction is quite special. Obviously the introduction was considered worth it but perhaps the splash was sacrificed to make room for it (it is the only Bullseye story without a splash). This introduction shows Bullseye returning to Dead Center, his birthplace, to visit his friend Long Drink. Normally Bullseye traveled about; only in one other story (“The Ghosts of Dead Center”, Bullseye #3) does Bullseye visit Dead Center. This sort of reference to his past was unusual at that time where continuity was pretty much neglected in comic books.

Kirby always had a penchant for technology so I suspect it was his idea to include balloons in this story. The use of such a technology at that period is not unrealistic. During the civil war an attempt was made to use hot air balloons for observation. Unfortunately the balloons became a target and at least one was shot down. In any case the balloons adds interest to another Simon and Kirby masterpiece. It does not hurt either that the story ends with another fantastic Kirby fight.

Bullseye #7 (August 1955) “The Flaming Arrow”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

While “Duel in the Sky” has a perfectly acceptable ending, “The Flaming Arrow” picks up from there with Bullseye going off to prevent an errant balloon from falling into the hands of Mexican bandits. It is a short but rather nice piece that ends with Bullseye returning to visit Long Drink once again, the last page being a bookend to the first page of “Duel in the Sky”. In fact the same three panels, with slightly different cropping, that showed Bullseye traveling show up again.

Bullseye #7 (August 1955) “The Stolen Rain God” page 5, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The next and what would turn out to be the final Bullseye story, “The Stolen Rain God” opens with a double page splash. I have discussed this piece of art previously in my yet to be completed serial post (The Wide Angle Scream, Almost an Afterthought). Simon and Kirby had a long history of the use of these wide splashes but there were only two created during the Mainline/Charlton period and this was the only one actually published on two pages (the other from Win A Prize #1 was rotated and printed on a single page, see the previous link).

Since I have already posted on the splash page, here I include an image of page 5. It serves as a reminder that while action was the key component of many Simon and Kirby productions, and Bullseye in particular, humor also played an important roll. The very physical humor found in the last three panels is very typical of Kirby.

Bullseye #7 (August 1955) “Fightin’ Mad”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon?

This issues ends with a Sheriff Shorty feature drawn by Kirby. This makes Bullseye #7 the only issue from that title entirely drawn by Jack. Normally this would make issue #7 a very special comic. The Sheriff Shorty story is special alright but for the wrong reason. It is a rare example of a clunker drawn by Kirby. The action scenes are uncharacteristically poorly executed and this cannot be blamed on the inker. Further the humor does not quite work. Hey everybody can have a bad day.

None of the Mainline titles lasted very long at Charlton, they were usually terminated after two issues (except for Foxhole which lasted for a third issue but that last issue appears to have been produced by Charlton without any involvement from Simon and Kirby). Bullseye was not an exception and issue #7 would be the last. In my opinion, all the Mainline titles were special but for Kirby fans Bullseye would be the most important. None of the other Mainline titles has anywhere near as much of Kirby drawn material. The only comic from this period that does was Fighting American. Which makes it especially unfortunate that Bullseye has never been reprinted. With the resurgence of interest in Kirby, hopefully that will change in the not too distant future.

Bullseye #6, The Missing Tomahawks

Bullseye #6 (May 1955) “Tomahawks For Two” page 7, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Sometimes I miss the most obvious observations. Fortunately often one of my readers sets me straight. Shortly after putting up my Bullseye #6 post I got an email from Charles R. Rutledge:

Just out of curiosity, did the Comics Code make S&K remove the Tomahawks from the hands of the fighters? They’re fairly obviously blocking and hitting with things that aren’t there. It’s especially evident in panel four of page seven. Look at the Indian’s hand and follow it to where an object, presumably a tomahawk would be hitting the ground as Bullseye rolls out of the way. See my hastily scribbled tomahawks below. Also, one would expect tomahawks on the splash page of a story called tomahawks for two and Bullseye’s upraised hand does look as if it might have been drawn.

His tomahawks may be hastily scribbled but they made his point completely obvious. I have never seen the original art but I have absolutely no doubt that it would show white-out in those areas. The Comic Code was recently introduced, for Bullseye first appearing on issue #5. Either “Tomahawks for Two” was drawn before the Code was enforced or Joe and Jack had felt that the fight scene was not too violent even with the tomahawks. After all children could see that sort of thing on television at the time. But the Comic Code was rather excessive when it came to the use of weapons so the tomahawks had to go.

Nice work and thanks Charles.

Bullseye #6, The Composition

Bullseye #6 (May 1955), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Among other things, Simon and Kirby are today celebrated for all the successful creations. Most comic book artists were fortunate if they had one popular creation while Simon and Kirby multiple successes (Captain America, the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos and the romance genre are perhaps their most significant). But not every Simon and Kirby creation received favorable recognition. While today many consider Boys’ Ranch as Joe and Jack’s finest creation, in its day it just did not sell well enough to avoid an early cancellation. It is unclear how successful Mainline, the Simon and Kirby owned publishing company, would have been with Bullseye or any of their titles as Joe and Jack were doubly unfortunate in their timing. One problem was that under the pressure of public criticism the entire comic book industry had started to crash. The other difficulty was the economic difficulties that plagued  Mainline’s distributor, Leader News. The second problem was not unrelated to the first as Leader News depended greatly on the revenues from EC, a comic publisher particularly attached by critics. When Leader News folded so did Mainline. Simon and Kirby then turned to Charlton to publish the former Mainline titles. Joe has said that Charlton offered them the best deal but with the collapsing comic publishing industry there probably were not many alternatives. Because of the amount of time required to print and distribute a comic book, the art for Bullseye #6 was probably already finished before Mainline had actually failed. The fact that Bullseye #6 was released by Charlton on its normal scheduled time indicates that Simon and Kirby spent little time looking for a replacement publisher for their Mainline titles.

The cover for issue #6 was the least successful of the Bullseye series. Unlike all the others issues, the bulls-eye pattern plays a part in the design of the title but not the actual image. What is presented is little more than an illustration from the interior story. Only from the cartouche would the reader understand the significant of the two foreground figures. It does have the distinction of being one of the only two cover art of the Mainline/Charlton titles that bares a Simon and Kirby signature (Foxhole #5 was the other).

Bullseye #6 (May 1955) “Tomahawks For Two”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

“Tomahawks for Two” is the start of the most ambitious story that Simon and Kirby did for Bullseye. With a total of twenty pages divided up into four sections, it is a much longer Bullseye story than any other. Actually it is longer than most Simon and Kirby stories created after the war. I use the term sections, because although they are essentially chapters, they are not actually called such.

It is not just the length that is special, the story is probably the most unusual Bullseye tale as well. Two Indian brothers, twins actually, one of who is peaceful (called the Prophet) and another a warrior (named Scalp Hunter). Bullseye saves the Prophet but later ends up in a hand to hand combat with Scalp Taker.

Bullseye #6 (May 1955) “Tomahawks For Two” page 7, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

I could not resist including the fight scene. Kirby was unequaled when it came to choreographing such fights and this is one of his best. In this case he deviates from the 3 by 3 panel layout that he typically used for such battles. Although this is not a grid layout, there is enough symmetry that the reader’s attention is not drawn away from what really matters. As usually Jack has also minimized the background so as not to distract from the fight.

Bullseye #6 (May 1955) “Bulls-Eye And The Killer Horse”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

In an unusual and untypical manner, Simon and Kirby turn away from the tale of the two Indian brothers and now tell one about a boy and his love of a wild stallion. It is quite possible that this story was originally a stand-alone feature that was retrofitted into the Indian brothers story. If so its last panel was reworked to include a distant Indian observer and a caption that ties the scout to the next chapter of the story.

Bullseye #6 (May 1955) “The Coming of the Sioux”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

This story picks up with the scout seen in the last panel of the previous chapter. Next we see Bullseye and the family from the “Killer Horse” story being interrupted at their dinner. This is followed by plenty of action and a rousing battle between two Indian tribes. I really do not want to provide too many details for fear of spoiling it for those who have not read it yet. But it is perhaps the most complicated plot ever used by Simon and Kirby and it ends with the death of one of the two Indian brothers.

While “The Coming of the Sioux” has a true ending, Joe and Jack follow it with a short coda, “The Man Who Lived Twice”. This piece in a way mirrors the beginning of “Tomahawks for Two” that initiated the story arc. Here we find the fate of the surviving Indian brother. Again I do not want to go into any spoilers but this story arc is one of the best that Simon and Kirby ever presented. Kirby’s art is in really top form as well. Bullseye #6 is a forgotten Simon and Kirby masterpiece.

Bullseye #6 (May 1955) “Sheriff Shorty”, art by Al Gordon

Bullseye #6 marks the return of Sheriff Shorty, a feature first introduced in Bullseye #3. This time the artist was Al Gordon, whom I am not at all familiar with. Gordon’s depiction of the characters follows those from Bullseye #3 so closely that some have attributed that story to Al as well. However as we have seen (Bullseye #3, Here’s Kirby) the origin story was drawn by Leonard Starr. While Gordon is not as good an artist as Starr, he still does a respectable job on this short (four page) piece.

Bullseye #5, The Secret is Out

Bullseye #5 (April 1955), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby were big self promoters. They often signed the art they created and included a “Simon and Kirby Production” label in the books that they put together for Prize Comics. Which is why it was so unusual that their names were never used in any of the earlier issues of the Mainline titles. Bullseye #5 was the first to include a stamp reading “another Simon and Kirby smash hit”. The exclusion of their names from the Mainline titles up to now was probably an attempt avoid a conflict with Prize for whom Joe and Jack continued to produce comics. I do not think it is a coincidence that the first issue with the Simon and Kirby stamp was also the one with the first postal statement in which Joe and Jack are listed as the editors. If the people at Prize had not figured out who was behind Mainline Comics before this, the gig would certainly have been up with this issue.

My favorite Simon and Kirby cover keeps changing depending on my mood, but if I were to pick the top dozen covers they would always include that for Bullseye #5. The bulls-eye pattern has played the central design element of all the title’s previous covers, but it was truly inspirational to convert it using Indian motifs. The bulls-eye now looks like some sort of flattened teepee. It is a pretty busy pattern, so the foreground is just Bullseye grappling with an Indian. The whole thing is topped of by some really beautiful inking of the figures by Jack Kirby. The image I provide has not been restored but rather was based on progressive proofs. Progressive proofs were made of the individual color plates and the sequential combinations that they would undergo during printing. This usually was done from the lighter colors to the darker ones so that proofs were made of yellow, magenta, yellow + magenta, cyan, yellow + magenta + cyan, black then the completed combination of all plates. The above image was made by scanning the individual proofs for yellow, magenta, cyan and black then overlapping them in Photoshop. No editing was needed to provide the most accurate recreation of the original Bullseye cover possible.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Headhunter”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

A classic western tale of a cowboy accused of murder, a lynch mob looking to bypass justice, a bounty hunter aiming for a payoff at any price, the true killer trying to pin his crime on an innocent man, and off course Bullseye to save the day. This is the first issue of Bullseye published under the overbearing eye of the Comic Code Authority. However Bullseye was never overly violent and so the censorship does not really detract from this fine story.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Grandma Tomahawk”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

“Headhunter” was pure drama so Simon and Kirby backed it up with a humorous piece, “Grandma Tomahawk”. A small but spunky elder lady leads a crusade against alcohols and immorality with secret help from Bullseye. One again inked by Kirby himself except for page 2.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, art by unidentified artist

Another humorous piece but this time drawn by an artists other than Kirby. Frankly few attributions have given me more trouble than trying to figure this piece out. There are suggestions of Mort Meskin throughout but on a whole this look so unlike his work that I very much doubt that he was the penciler. The inking is very distinct from Mort’s style as well. I played with the idea that this might be have been done by George Roussos whose work often shows Meskin’s influence. But comparing side-by-side this piece with some by Roussos shows they are very distinct. And again the inking is nothing like that by Roussos. It is very frustrating not to be able to come up with a convincing attribution because the artist clearly was very talented.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint” page 3, art by unidentified artist

Mort was not that common a name so I consider the placard with that name in panel 4 as a homage to Meskin by the artist of this piece.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the leading lady of “Tough Little Varmint” and “The Adventures of Sheriff Shorty” (Bullseye #3 link 1) were both named Penny. The most likely explanation would seem to be that the scripts for both were done by the same writer.

Bullseye #4

Bullseye #4 (February 1955), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The cover prominently includes the target in its design, as do all the Bullseye covers. The original art for this cover still exists. However apparently the top of the original art had been cut off (probably by Simon and Kirby to be recycled for another cover). In cases like that it is common that the art would be restored by adding a stat of the missing piece but in this case the entire top section was inked by hand. The restorer did a good job with the lettering but pretty much botched up the small figure of Bullseye throwing a tomahawk.

Like the last issue, this one has two Kirby penciled and inked Bullseye stories. As I mentioned before this was much more Kirby than any other Mainline title.

Bullseye #4 (February 1955) “The Pinto People”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

A wounded man seriously in need of medical attention, an Indian warrior desperately seeking a rifle, an Indian tribe that runs with their horses not on them, and two villains out for what they thought would be an easy score. This is a very imaginative but rather meandering tale. It would seem to me that this story has more of Kirby and less of Simon than usual. Some readers may like that others may not.

Bullseye #4 (February 1955) “The Pinto People” page 3, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Not only faster than their horses, the Pinto braves never stop running. You even have to lasso one down in order to have a discussion. I am not sure why they have the horses to begin with or where they are running to. For that matter where are the rest of the tribe? But the story moves so fast and the art is so terrific that chances are the reader does not even get around to be bothered with all of that.

Bullseye #4 (February 1955) “Doom Town”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

“Doom Town” is a more classic Simon and Kirby story. Here our hero is accompanied by an unusual creation, Major Calamity. A magnet to bad luck so disastrous that people either want to kill him or flee. But Major Calamity is not the villain of the story that dishonor goes to Big Red Devlin. Only Major Calamity can save the town, with of course Bullseye’s help. What follows is pure Simon and Kirby. Plenty of action, a great fight and a touch of humor. Fortunately this story has been reprinted in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”.

Bullseye #4 (February 1955) “Ghost Town Ambush”, art by unidentified artist

No sooner that the Sheriff Shorty feature gets introduced than its place is taken by another story. (Do not worry Sherriff Shorty will be back.) Frankly “Ghost Town Ambush” is a pretty poor replacement. I do not know who the artist is but he really is not all that good. If anything the writing is even worse. It tries to use all the cliches but nothing seems to work. A one point a villain on a horse sneaks up behind a sentry all the time saying out loud what he is doing. Boy some sentry. All in all this is surely the most forgettable story in the entire Bullseye title.

Bullseye #4 (February 1955) “Ghost Town Ambush” page 7, art by unidentified artist

Why such a clinker? Well the lettering provides a clue. That first letter in the captions is often enlarged and colored. While Howard Ferguson often used that device when working for Simon and Kirby it was not used by his replacement Ben Oda. Its appearance in “Ghost Town Ambush” suggests that this story was not actually produced by Simon and Kirby. This was the time that the comic book industry was starting to crash. Simon and Kirby picked up some

Bullseye #3, Here’s Kirby!

Bullseye #3 (December 1954), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The first two issues of Bullseye could be considered as a scaled down version of the Simon and Kirby MO; Jack drew or laid out the first issue but provided a single story for the second. However Bullseye #3 falls completely out of the pattern. There are two new Bullseye stories in the third issue and both were drawn by Kirby. All the subsequent issues of Bullseye would also have two Kirby drawn stories as well. No other Mainline title would have nearly as much Kirby involvement. Only Fighting American (a Prize title) got as much attention at that time from Jack, and even that title followed the more standard Simon and Kirby MO with less Kirby toward the end. There is little doubt that Simon and Kirby considered Bullseye their most important title at that time. Even today Joe considers Bullseye as one of his favorite comics.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “Devil Bird”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

In the 50s dinosaurs may have helped to sell comics but frankly they were difficult to make truly threatening. Back then (the 50s that is) dinosaurs were depicted as lumbering brutes dragging their tails along behind. Truly scary dinosaurs, of the Jurassic Park variety, would not be possible until years later when scientists realized that birds and mammals were better models for dinosaurs than crocodiles. Kirby bypasses all those problems by using in this story the flying reptiles pterosaur (technically not dinosaurs). Devil bird indeed. This is probably the scariest depiction of a prehistoric animal ever in the history of comics. And certainly my personal favorite Bullseye story.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “On Target”, pencils by Jack Kirby and John Prentice, inks by John Prentice

Simon and Kirby decided to include in this issue a condensed version of the Bullseye origin story (they had done the same thing for Fighting American). The original art for Bullseye #1 was done on illustration board, so a razor was used to cut around desired panels and they were peeled off the board and mounted on another. This was a simple and cost effective method but the unfortunate consequence is that today most of pages the original art from Bullseye #1 are missing a panel or two.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “The Ghosts Of Dead Center”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

While not truly a humorous piece, “The Ghosts of Dead Center” provides a bit a humor. There is money to be made when the railroad is built through Dead Center. Well that is once it is rid of those pesky “trespassers”. Unfortunately for those avarice villains, Bullseye has overheard their plot and even more unfortunately Dead Center is where he was raised and where his Indian friend, Long Drink, still resides. But Bullseye is just one man against many so he uses various tricks to defeat his foes. And that is where the humorous touch comes into play.

Comics from the golden age did not have anything like the concept of continuity. Once past the tale of the origin and the stories were pretty much independent. This was largely true with Simon and Kirby as well. But here at the ending of the golden age we have a story that refers back to Bullseye’s origins. Not quite like modern continuity, but much further than anyone else would use until the Marvel Universe was created in the 60’s.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “The Ghosts Of Dead Center” page 7, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Kirby uses a 7 panel layouts for all the story pages save the last. A more standard layout would have 6 panels so the extra panel meant that none of the pages had a grid layout and some of the gutters would meander across the page. But the last page has 9 panels in a symmetrical grid arrangement. Kirby seemed to like this panel layout for his fight scenes. I feel this layout minimally distracted from the images. Kirby would also downplay or eliminate the backgrounds. Therefore all the attention is drawn to the fighting figures and the choreographed action. Nobody did this sort of thing better than Kirby.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “The Adventures of Sheriff Shorty”, pencils and inks by Leonard Starr

With this issue Simon and Kirby would begin using a backup story that did not involve Bullseye. Leonard Starr has the honor of introducing the new feature Sheriff Shorty. The piece appears to be unsigned but hallmarks of Leonard’s hand occur all over the story art. I wrote that the piece appears to be unsigned but note the funny series of short lines along the left splash panel margin over the green pitcher. Frankly I had never noticed it before but recently I had the opportunity to conduct a careful examination of the original art. What the art shows is that white-out was used along both the right and left borders to reduce the width of the image area by a small amount. It was small but enough to cover Starr’s signature which had gone along the original panel border going from bottom up (that is as if the page had been rotated clockwise 90 degrees when he signed it). What remained of the signature was considered too unimportant to clean up. Although covered by white-out, Starr’s signature can still be made out on the original art so there is no question about the attribution.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “The Adventures of Sheriff Shorty” page 4, pencils and inks by Leonard Starr

Starr was very fond of using tall narrow panels for work provided to Simon and Kirby. Actually he pretty much got out of the habit for his more recent romance art but narrow panels show up often in the Sheriff Shorty story. But notice the odd arrangement of this page. The last panel almost seems like an after thought and frankly a rather intrusive one at that. Here again my examinations of the original art provides an explanation. The art shows that the last panel was pasted on afterwards and panel 6 had been tall and narrow like all the other panels. Further this was not Starr’s doing. There exists another page of original art that never made it into the story. A panel was cut out of that unused art page and with some rearrangement became the last panel of page 4. This re-editing was almost certainly done by Simon and Kirby and it was the sort of thing that in the future Joe would do very often.

Bullseye #2, Western Scout

Bullseye #2 (October 1954), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

As I discussed in the previous chapter, the previous modus operandi for Simon and Kirby was to make much use of Kirby in the initial issues of a new title and then make more frequent use of other artists for later issues. However in general the Mainline titles deviated from that pattern. The first issue of Bullseye could be viewed as a somewhat scaled down version of the original MO in that Kirby drew the first chapter and provided layouts for the other two. Unlike the first issue, Bullseye #2 was not a long story divided into chapters but instead provided three independent stories each done by a different artist. One of the surprises here was that Kirby did not do the lead story.

Bullseye #2 (October 1954) “Trial By Fire”, art by an unidentified artist

Simon and Kirby used a lot of different artists during this period. This was probably due to the combination of supply (comics had begun to crash resulting in a number of artists looking for work) and demand (there was a need to replace the normally prolific Kirby who was preoccupied with business matters). With such a large selection of artists to choose from, I am surprised that Joe and Jack picked this one to do the lead story “Trial By Fire”. It is not that he is a poor artist (he actually did a pretty good job on this story) but I just cannot help feel that someone else (John Prentice or Bob McCarty) could have produce a superior story. As the reader may have gathered, I have not been able to identify the artist although further research should rectify that situation. The splash may have been laid out by Jack Kirby although without seeing other work by the artist it is hard to be sure.

Bullseye #2 (October 1954) “Trial By Fire” page 6, art by an unidentified artist

While it is possible that Kirby laid out the splash, it is clear that the rest of the story was not based on Kirby layouts. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the fight scene on page 6, but it definitely was not drawn the way Jack would have done it.

Bullseye #2 (October 1954) “Union Jack”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The splash page is a typical Kirby fanfare. What a great splash panel. Back to back, Union Jack and Bullseye take on the world, or at least the room. Bullseye even seems to be enjoying himself. The story panels are also by Jack and he use of tall narrow panels is unusual for him. The inking looks a lot like the work of John Prentice, but that would be surprising as John was not the artist for the rest of the story.

Bullseye #2 (October 1954) “Union Jack” page 2, pencils and inks by Bob McCarty

For the remainder of the story, pencil honors went to Bob McCarty. For a short period Bob had become a Simon and Kirby regular and with good reason. This story is a good example of what McCarty was capable of. His handling of action was very unlike Kirby’s, but is by no means a criticism. I am a great admirer of McCarty and this story is arguably the best piece from Bullseye by an artist other than Jack.

McCarty typically made much use of a pen in his inking but without abandoning the brush. “Union Jack” shows less of the pen work than usual but I still believe it was inked by Bob. I am not, however, convinced that Bob inked the splash page as well. McCarty never signed his work for Simon and Kirby but some of his pieces for Foxhole were provided credits.

Bullseye #2 (October 1954) “Grand Prize”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Humor almost always plays a part in Simon and Kirby creations but generally not so dominate a factor as found in “Grand Prize”. It is a marvelous little story with lots of purposely goofy characters and other visual humor. All the more enjoyable because Kirby supplies the inking himself. I suspect it was this emphasis on humor that explains why it was not used as the lead story, a spot normally taken by Kirby.

Bullseye #1, Simon and Kirby’s Own Western

Bullseye #1 (August 1954), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

In 1954 Simon and Kirby launched their own company which they called Mainline. For years Joe and Jack had produced comics but this time they would be publishers themselves. Mainline released four titles: Bullseye*, In Love, Foxhole and Police Trap. I have previously written about Foxhole and In Love, but had not gotten around to the other two titles. For various reasons this seems like a good time to correct that neglect. Certainly my delay in discussing Bullseye was not due to it being an inferior comic. While Foxhole remains my personal favorite of the Mainline titles, Bullseye has much to recommend it particularly for Kirby fans.

Simon and Kirby’s modus operandi for creating new titles was for Jack Kirby to provide much of the art for the initial issues with less support from Jack in latter releases. This was decidedly not the MO for the Mainline titles. The closest any of them come to the original MO was In Love where for the premier issue Jack drew the featured story, a whooping 20 pages. Kirby drew little for the second issue and while In Love #3 had a lot of Kirby almost all of it was a recycled syndication proposal strip. Kirby provided no story art for Foxhole #1 but 8 pages for Foxhole #2 and nothing thereafter until Foxhole #6. Jack provided very little for Police Trap until the final issues. Why the change in MO? It certainly was not due to any change of opinion about the value of Jack’s art. After all he would provide most of the cover art. The logical explanation is that much of Kirby’s time was required to help run the new company. I have seen a invoice submitted to Simon and Kirby during this period that deducts an advance Jack Kirby gave to the artist.

The way Simon and Kirby introduced new features changed over the years. The Captain America origin story is short and seems little more than something to get quickly out of the way so they could go with the more interesting stories. The origin story seem to become more important to Simon and Kirby over the years. With Bullseye, except for a few fillers, the entire magazine is dedicated to the origin story. The origin is told in three chapters; “The Boy”, “The Youth”, and “The Man”.

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, The Boy”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by John Prentice

The saga starts with Bullseye’s birth during an Indian attack. The raid turns into a massacre and only the baby and his grandfather, Deadeye Dick, escape. The boy is raised by his grandfather and an old Indian scout, Long Drink. Under the old man’s tutelage, Bullseye becomes a master marksman. The Indians return and brand the boy’s chest with a target, the Bullseye mark that plays an important roll in the design of the comic covers and splashes.

The boy being an orphan is a common theme for Simon and Kirby. Previously the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos and the boys of Boys’ Ranch had all been orphans. Much has been made of Kirby’s making orphans of their characters but it is good to remember that he was not the only one doing this. After all Superman, Robin and Billy Bates (Captain Marvel’s alter ego) were orphans as well.

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, The Boy” page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by John Prentice

The first chapter is drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by John Prentice. Well except for page 2 which is sufficiently different from the rest that I believe Prentice drew it as well. Prentice does not use the Studio style inking that was so commonly applied to Kirby’s pencils but instead John works in a manner more typical of his own work. Kirby’s art was influenced by Milton Caniff while Prentice followed the footsteps of Alex Raymond. With such disparity in styles you would think the combination of Kirby pencils and Prentice inks would be a poor mix but I think it comes off surprisingly well. Jack’s inkers during the Simon and Kirby collaboration range the gamut from horrible to amazing but I feel Prentice ranks among Kirby’s top inkers. However I do not believe John ever inked Jack’s pencils other than in this Bullseye issue.

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, The Youth”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by John Prentice

Bullseye not only the master of pistols and rifles, but in all manners of weapons that are shot or thrown. For this splash Kirby has created a classic example of exaggerated perspective. What a great combination of action and humor. John Prentice did the inking but it appears Kirby did some touch-ups (for example adding the picket fence crosshatching on the green shirt and the drop strings on the grey pants, see my Inking Glossary). Generally Simon or Kirby would ink the splash page but having Prentice do the inking provides a much better integrated chapter. John does a much better job ink the splash for this chapter than he did for the previous one.

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, The Youth” page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by John Prentice

The rest of the chapter following the splash page was penciled and inked by John Prentice. John does a good job, but of course I expect Kirby fans would prefer that Jack had done the honors. I have chosen one of the more uncharacteristic pages from the chapter to show above. I provide this page because it best address the question of Kirby layouts. One of the conclusions I reached in my long serial post Art of Romance was that Kirby did not generally provide layouts for stories drawn by other artists as has so often been asserted by Kirby fans in the past. When I previously showed this page in the blog (John Prentice, Usual Suspect #3) Nick Caputo pointed out that the Judge looked like a Kirby creation. I have to admit that the heavy set Judge does not look like a typical Prentice character. However I find panel 2 to be an even more convincing example of a Kirby layout. It seems so typical for Jack and I have never seen John do anything like it. So I agree that Kirby may have been providing layouts for this chapter. There are other panels that look more like Prentices’s own layouts so I suspect that either Kirby provided only a rough or incomplete layout or that Prentice felt free to modify them whenever he desired.

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, The Man” page 7, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by John Prentice

The third chapter was executed in the same manner as the previous chapter; a Kirby penciled and Prentice inked splash followed by a story drawn and inked by Prentice. Once again there are indications the Kirby provided some layouts. Panel 4 of the page shown above is a really good piece of evidence supporting a Kirby layout. While Prentice did not do a lot of action scenes during the time he worked for Simon and Kirby, what fight scenes he did looked nothing like this one. I do not recall ever seeing among Prentices’s art such a rotational slug or the way the man falls back. But both are frequently occurring motifs in Kirby’s work.

So does the fact that Kirby provided layouts of some sort for Bullseye contradict my conclusion based on the romance comics that he did not provide layouts? Not really because during the Mainline period things were done rather differently than what had previously been the norm. Typically Kirby’s contribution to the first issue of a new title would be more significant than what occurred in Bullseye. Apparently Jack was too busy with Mainline business matters to devote much time to the art. Providing layouts was the next best thing to doing drawing himself.

This begins another serial post. I am not sure yet whether I will write a separate article on each issue or combine some. While each Mainline title has its own unique qualities, Bullseye is something special. Particularly for Kirby fans.


* This title is most commonly called Bulls-Eye but I am not sure why. Bullseye is a name and it should be spelled in the manner used by the creators of that name. The hyphen was never used in the actually comics. On the cover and splashes the name occupies two lines so I suppose a good argument can be made that Bulls Eye should be the proper designation. That name format also appears in some of the indices, but others use the single word form, Bullseye. When the character is referred to in the actual stories he is always called Bullseye.