Category Archives: Prize

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 5, The Return To Romance

YL #55 Love War
Young Love #55 (March 1954) “Love War” by Jack Kirby

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby we saw the launch of Fighting American for Prize followed shortly by the creation of Mainline, Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company. Although Simon and Kirby continued to produce romance comics for Prize, they stopped including work penciled by Jack. Mainline only lasted a short time before it failed.

YB #25 His Beautiful Visitor
Young Brides #25 (November 1955) “His Beautiful Visitor” by Jack Kirby

In October, the month after Charlton released the last of what had been Mainline comics, a story penciled by Jack Kirby appeared in Young Romance #79. The next romance (Young Brides #25 November) would have Jack doing three of the four stories. Oddly there was no Kirby in Young Love #68 (December). After this we have a run of romance comics that are almost completely done by Jack Kirby (YR #80 to #85, YL #69 to 73, and YB #26 to #30). Kirby would do all 16 covers, 58 of the 65 stories, and 373 out of 416 pages (excluding covers). The percentage of Kirby in this run would be even higher if we excluded Young Love #71 which only had a single Kirby story. Of the 7 stories done by other artists; 4 were done by Bill Draut (YR #81, YL #71 and two in #73), 1 by Ann Brewster (YL #71), 1 by Ted Galindo (YL #71) and 1 by an unidentified artist (YL #69). Never before in the history of Simon and Kirby do we see anything like this. The closest to it occurred was with the launch of Headline as crime genre. There Jack did all of the first four issues (Headline #23 to #26, March to September 1947).

YR #84 Poison Ivy
Young Romance #84 (October 1956) “Poison Ivy” by Jack Kirby

At the beginning of the post I included a splash page from YL #55 that Jack did just before he stopped doing Prize romances in order to concentrate on Fighting American and the Mainline comics. Compare this to a page from YB #25 (“His Beautiful Visitor” see above) from the time of Jack’s return to these romance titles. Despite the similar panel layout the two look different. The spot inking in the earlier page is in the typical S&K shop style. But in the later work there is less spotting, particularly in the figures, giving the page a lighter look. When parts of the figure do get more spotting, it often is done by flooding a larger area, see “Poison Ivy” from YR #84 above. Brush techniques that were standard to the S&K shop style (like the coarse crosshatch that reminds one of a picket fence, or the rows of unconnected short strokes) are encountered less frequently. When these brush methods are used they tend to be done in a finer style then previously. These differences in inking styles seem to be present right when Kirby returned to doing these romance titles, but they appear to become more obvious over time.

Young Love #71
Young Love #71 (June 1956) by Jack Kirby

The same observations about the change in inking style can be made about the covers. However more effort was usually done on the covers. The old shop style crosshatching appears more often on covers although done in a finer style. Great care was sometimes taken, the lines in YL #71 (above) were done so fine that they look like they were done using a pen but the original art (still in Joe Simon’s collection) show that it was actually done with a brush.

This may be a good place to interrupt with a short discussion about how inking was done in the Simon and Kirby studio. All uninked art by Kirby done during the S&K collaboration that I have seen show that Jack did tight pencils done entirely as lines. No indications for spotting are found and folds in the clothing are indicated by simple lines. The next step appeared to be the inking of the panel outlines, balloons and the lettering. Then the art is inked closely following the penciled lines without any spotting. Next the spotting is done to bring a sort of volume to the forms and provide tonal variations across the page. Thus ignoring the lettering, the art can be said to have three stages; penciling, lining, and spotting. In an interview Carmine Infantino, who worked in the S&K studio mostly in 1948, describes Jack doing the spot inking. Martin Thall once described visiting the studio where a number of individuals were busy doing an inking job. My own examination of original art leads me to believe that often more then one hand was involved in the spotting. Frankly when experts attribute the inking to Jack himself, Joe or some other artists I do not know what they mean. Are they referring to the outlining or the spotting? Are they saying that all the inking was done by that one person or just parts? I really have no clue as to what the inking attributions by the experts means, I sometimes wonder if they know themselves.

YR #81 A Match For Linda
Young Romance #81 (February 1956) “A Match For Linda” by Jack Kirby

To me it appears that the line inking done during the all Kirby run of romances was done by different individuals. I have little confidence that I can identify most. After all they are following Kirby’s tight pencils and this is not Marvel Comics in the Silver Age with Stan Lee urging inkers to add their personal touches. I am pretty sure Jack wanted the line inkers to be faithful to his pencils. Still there are subtleties to the pencils and different responses to those nuances by the line inkers. One of the line inkers in some of these stories appears to have been Bill Draut. Take a look above at the eyebrows in the female on the splash page to “A Match For Linda”. Notice the tendency to it be a little long and simple. Compare this to a page below from “He Had Only Me” by Draut. Of course not every eyebrow in the Kirby story has the Draut form, after all Bill is trying to keep to the pencils. But when there is deviation from the Kirby look, it seems to be in the direction that Bill Draut would normally do. I have not made a careful examination of all the stories, but I think Bill also had a hand in the line inking for “The Unhappy Housewife” (YB #30), “Torch Song” and “Bust Up” (both from YL #73), and “Lizzie’s Back In Town”, “Lady’s Choice” and “Resort Romeo” (all from YR #85).

YR #81 He Had Only Me
Young Romance #81 (February 1956) “He Had Only Me” by Bill Draut

Although I feel I can see hands other then Bill Draut’s working on the line inking for some of the stories, I believe only one artist was doing the spotting. Yes there is a lot of variation in how the spotting was done or even how much spotting was done at all. But when crosshatching was done it seems finer then previous S&K shop inking. There is a consistent attempt to divide panels into light and dark areas, with the light sections predominating.

Young Romance #83
Young Romance #83 (June 1956) by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

The Kirby Checklist does not include the cover for Young Romance #83. Although it is not one of his best efforts, I really believe that Jack did the foreground couple. However the pair in the movie screen does not look like his work, but appears to me to be done by Joe Simon. The movie screen was done using a special product that allows an artist to get grey tones by applying special chemicals. The grey tone is actually achieved by the means of fine lines. Apparently Jack never got into using these sort of materials. But starting here we will find Joe experimenting with new techniques from time to time.

The all Kirby Prize romances were done from December 1955 to December 1956. This effort raises a couple of questions. One is whether the Simon and Kirby collaboration in effect during this time? The answer I believe is yes there still was some sort of joint S&K effort. Joe joined Jack in working on the cover to Young Romance #83. Young Brides #30 depicts a couple with twin babies, Joe had twin girls. Finally Joe still has the original art for the cover of Young Love #71 in his collection. But although I believe Joe and Jack were still jointly working here, the inking done on these issues convinces me that the way this collaboration was handled was different. I suspect that the S&K studio had closed at this point and Joe and Jack were working at their respective homes. They had worked from their houses earlier in their joint careers, but at that time they lived close to one another. Now they lived further apart and this made the same type of working arrangement difficult. Gone were the days of passing art back and forth until both were satisfied. Other then the line inking, most of the work we see here is by Jack. If you want to see the sort of stuff like the Simon and Kirby of earlier years, these romances will probably disappoint you. If your interest is in Kirby’s vision alone, here for the first time in many years you will find a purer Kirby. The quality of the work varies greatly, and this is not just because of the use of various line inkers. Kirby’s spotting can be very minimal at some times, rushed and sloppy at others. However I do not want to leave a negative impression, when all things work well the results can be very nice.

The other question that comes to mind is why do all Kirby issues at all? One possibility is that some change was made in the deal between the artists and Prize so that the money Jack received was not based on just the profits but somehow also on the number of pages he penciled. Or perhaps the finances for S&K were so poor that they could not have enough to pay their freelance artists. Another possibility was that the whole effort was an attempt to boast the sales for these romance comics. If it was an attempt to help a financially ailing line of titles it does not look like it succeeded. Young Love and Young Brides would be cancelled after December 1956. Prize Comics Western was already ended the previous September, so Prize was now down to one monthly (Justice Traps the Guilty) and two bimonthly titles (Headline and Young Romance). This was really a low point for the Prize company. Since Simon and Kirby no longer had a hand in the crime titles, only Young Romance remained as a source of income from Prize. The last Western Tales for Harvey was July 1956 and work for Warfront was limited to a few covers. In the next chapter I will write about Harvey romances, but let me say here that things must have looked pretty grim for Simon and Kirby by the December 1956 cover date.

Chapter 4, A Friend Provides a Helping Hand

Chapter 6, A Friend’s Romance

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 2, Problems in the Industry

Previously in Chapter 1 I discussed the disasterous appearance of Bill Gaines before a Senate committee and the creation of the Comic Code Authority. Simon and Kirby launched their Mainline comics just prior to these events.

But what was the comic industry like at that time? Without sales figures we can only guess based on information gleaned from the comics themselves. But Joe and Jack’s arrangement with Prize meant that they received a share of the profits. They must have had some idea how things were going with Prize Comics at least.

Judging from events that shortly followed the launch of Mainline, things were not going well for Prize. For comics having a September 1954 cover date, Prize had 4 monthly (Justice Traps the Guilty, Young Romance, Young Love and Young Brides) and 5 bimonthly titles (Black Magic, Fighting American, Frankenstein, Headline and Prize Comic Western). When we arrive at a cover date of May 1955 Prize only has 1 monthly (Justice Traps the Guilty) and 5 bimonthly (Headline, Prize Comic Western, Young Romance, Young Love, and Young Brides). This is a substantial decline in production, one way to look at is is to consider a bimonthly as half a monthly. From that view point Prize went from 6.5 to 3.5 titles a month. For Simon and Kirby the affects were even more drastic. At this time S&K were producing Black Magic and the three romances, they stopped producing the crime comics for Prize some time ago. Using the same type of calculations, S&K went from 4 to 1.5 titles a month for Prize. Remember Joe and Jack received a share of the profits, this drop had to have an affect on their cash flow.

The timing of the changes by Prize could be interpreted as a reaction to S&K’s becoming competitors. That would not have been a wise business decision on the part of Prize, but sometimes emotions rule over logic. But that does not explain the cancellation of Frankenstein Comics since S&K had nothing to do with it. With the last Frankenstein having a cover date of October 1954, this was too early to have been due to the The Comic Code. Comic code stamps would not appear on comics until April or May of 1955. I believe the best explanation is that Prize comics had not be selling that well recently, possibly as a result of the rise in anti-comic sentiment.

When the Comic Code did come into affect, Prize did not seem to have much problems with it. Despite all the adverse publicity directed at Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty, the contents of the Prize crime comics really were not objectionable. I don’t find much of a change in these titles with the arrival of the Comic Code. Nor did the stamp seem much of a problem for the Prize romance titles.

With Prize seemingly having problems, what about other comic publishers? Bill Gaines got a lot of undesireable attention at the Senate committee hearings, and not only because he came to defend the comic industry. I think it would be fair to say that Gaines’ publishing company, EC, exemplfied many of the things Dr. Wertham and other critics complained about. I am really not knowledgeable enough about EC to say whether he was experiencing sales problems before the Senate hearings. But clearly Gaines was well aware of the problems his comic line would face with the Comic Code Authority. His first approach to this was to launch a series of new titles just as the Comic Code was coming into effect. These titles (Aces High, Extra, Impact, Incredible Science Fiction, MD, Psychoanalysis, and Valor) had titles that seemed designed to avoid issues with the Comic Code. And all of these new titles showed the Comic Code stamp for the May 1955 covers. But although these titles avoid Code problems, they still seem to have sales problems. All these titles would disappear after a relatively short run, the last has a January 1956 date. Another approach to the code that Gaines tried was to publish his material in a magazine size format, and avoid getting Comic Code approval at all. This allowed him to use new titles like Shock Illustrtated and Terror Illustrated, titles that would be rejected under the Comic Code. Unfortunately this approach also seemed to fail after just a couple of issues with the last having a May 1956 cover date. But there was one exception to the magazine size format failure, that was the juvenile humor comic Mad. Mad remained popular and after the failure of all the rest of Gaines’ comic line, it would become the only publication for EC.

Artist Ross Andru and Mike Esposito started their own comic publishing company, MikeRoss Publications, even earlier then Simon and Kirby’s Mainline. I do not know the specifics of either their company or their publications, but their company also failed during this period.

We have seen from Prize, EC and MikeRoss that there is reason to believe that this was a difficult time for comic publishers. Apparently this was true with Simon and Kirby’s Mainline. April 1955 was the date for the last Mainline publication. Other then one Foxhole cover rejected by the Comic Code Authority that had to be replaced, S&K did not seem to have much problems with the new code. Final issues of Mainline comics had the code’s stamp on the cover. But Simon and Kirby’s attempt at become comic publishers had failed.

Mainline’s problems may not have only been due to low sales. Mainline, MikeRoss and EC shared one thing, they all were using the same distrubuter, Leader News. Now Mainline and MikeRoss were probably a very small part of Leader’s distribution, but EC was not. EC sales problems affected Leader News, and it is likely that Leader’s difficulties got passed on to Mainline and MikeRoss in late payments. Leader News would become bankrupt in July 1956. It is just possible that had Joe and Jack used a different distributor Mainline may have lasted longer. But it was a difficult time for comic books, so who can say?

Frankly this has been a lengthy post without any images. So this seems a good place to examine Prize romances during the period from April 1954 and September 1955. During this interval the Prize romance comics had no Kirby art. April was the same month that the Fighting American started. Also, probably without Prize knowing about it, Simon and Kirby started preparing for the launch of Mainline. It seems typical for Jack to do most of his penciling for new titles. Jack continued to pencil some work for Black Magic but that title would be canceled after issue #33 (November 1955). But it would appear that S&K continued to produce the romance comics. They were listed as editors in the postal declaration in April issues for 1954 and 1955 of Young Love and Young Romance and the May issue of Young Brides. Another indication that S&K were still producing the romances is that Joe Simon still has in his collection proofs for some of the covers during this period.

A couple of other changes occurred to the Prize romance comics in about this period. One was that photo covers were discontinued. Most of the romance comics used a photographic cover starting in 1949. There was one exception, for the period from August 1950 to June 1951 all the Young Love and four of the Young Romance had art covers. But the last photographic cover would be used in March 1954 and this time they would not return. Recently I asked Joe Simon about the printing the photo covers and he said that they cost a little more then art covers but with the large print sizes of the comics it was not much of a differance.

Also starting in 1949 was the use of a label a “Simon and Kirby production” on the first page of the lead story. Once started this label would appear in all S&K productions except for three issues. That is until after September 1954, when the the label disappears on all comics. They would remain off until returning in Young Love #64 in April 1955. But they would not always appear and in December 1955 the the last S&K production label would be used in Young Romance #80. The absence of the label does not necessarily mean that S&K did not produce those comics. The label was also missing from Black Magic #33 but that issue includes art by Jack Kirby and was almost certainly produced by S&K.

Up to this point Kirby was the primary penciler for all the covers for S&K comics that did not use a photograph. So who did the these covers while Kirby was busy elsewhere? Well if you have been reading my posts it may not come to a surprise that most of these covers were done by the usual suspects Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice. In fact for me their continued presence is the most convincing evidence that Simon and Kirby were still producing these romance comics.

I have already included Young Brides #21 (March 1955) in a post I did on Bill Draut. Bill did 13 of the 39 covers in question. Below is another Draut cover.

Young Romance #70
Young Romance #70 (June 1954) by Bill Draut

My discussion on Mort Meskin included his cover to Young Love #66 (August 1955). Mort provided 8 of the 39 non-Kirby covers. Let me provide another example.

Young Brides #16
Young Brides #16 (June 1954) by Mort Meskin

John Prentice, the last of the usual suspects, did 15 of the romance covers. In my post on John I have already provided an image of the cover he did for Young Love #58 (June 1954). So here is another example of his fine work.

Young Love #55
Young Love #55 (March 1954) by John Prentice

Did anyone add up the numbers? If you did you would have noticed that the usual suspects did 36 of the 39 covers that Kirby did not do. I admit I am not sure who did one of these covers, but the other two covers were done by Ann Brewster. I have not classified Ann as one of the usual suspects because she only did work for S&K for two limited periods. But she was a fine talent at least for romance, which is the only work I have seen of hers. But there is something quite unique about the two covers the Brewster did. Both covers were made from enlarged and flipped stats made from the splash page of Ann’s stories. I know that the covers were made from the splash and not the other way around because Joe Simon still has the “original art” for the cover to Young Romance #79 (Octover 1955). Except for some very minor touch ups, the cover is entirely stats. This is the first time that S&K have done this sort of thing, but Joe Simon would use a similar technique in the future for Adventures of the Fly #1 and Blast-Off #1.

Young Romance #79
Young Romance #79 (October 1955) by Ann Brewster

Chapter 1, The Beginning of the End

Chapter 3, Unlikely Port in the Storm

John Prentice, usual suspect #3

John Prentice was the last of the usual suspects (artists that worked frequently for the S&K studio for an extended period of time). John served in the Navy during the war, in fact he was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attached. Afterwards he went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for a short time. John arrived in New York in 1947 and the GCD shows him doing work for in Airboy Comics and Gang Buster. The first work he did for the Simon & Kirby studio was Young Love #4 (August 1949). Once John started with S&K he was a frequent artist for their productions. The work he initially did for S&K was pretty good, but John progressed fairly rapidly while until he achieved his mature style which really was exceptional.

YL #4 Two Timer
Young Love #4 (August 1949).

Joe and Jack must have thought highly of John’s work because he was an important contributor to Bullseye #1. The Bullseye origin story was divided into three chapters (“The Boy”, “The Youth” and “The Man”). Jack did all of the first chapter and the splash pages for both of the other chapters, but Prentice penciled all the rest of the story for the last two chapters. Bullseye was part of the Mainline comics, Simon and Kirby’s attempt at self publishing. But while doing Mainline S&K continued producing comics for Prize (Black Magic and the romance titles) during that time. Presumably because of his work load, Jack stopped penciling for these Prize productions. Prentice seems to have taken up some of the work for the absent Kirby because his page output jumps from an average of about 12 pages a month to about 26 during the period from March to October, the last month for Mainline comics.

B #1 The Youth
Bullseye #1, “Bullseye, The Youth” (August 1954).

Like Bill Draut and Mort Meskin, John seemed to worked in all of the genre from the S&K shop. Romance genre were the most frequent stories produced by the studio and Prentice’s style was well suited for them. John was probably the most realistic artist to work for S&K. His men tend to have small eyes and long faces. John’s women are attractive, but are not what I would call glamorous, perhaps sophisticated would be a better description. For some reason Prentice never signed any of his work for Simon and Kirby. Attribution of this work to John is based on work done for the Rip Kirby strip (see below).

YL #45 I Like It Here
Young Love #45, “I Like It Here” (May 1953).

Simon and Kirby’s timing in starting their own comic publishing company, Mainline, was unfortunate because that was the period when anti-comic sediment swept the country fueled by Dr. Wertham and a Senate Investigation Committee. Many publishers felt the effects, but it was probably worst for new companies like Mainline. Mainline’s last comics were dated April 1955. John Prentice’s last work for S&K’s Prize publications was Young Love #69 February 1956. However Joe Simon did some editorial work for Harvey during this difficult period, and Prentice work there on romances until February 1957 (Hi-School Romance #60). If the GCD can be trusted, John returned to work for DC, mostly on their version of the horror genre.

Young Love #58
Young Love #58 (June 1954).

I would like to repeat a cover that I posted earlier, In Love #1. This is one of the few covers that Kirby shared pencil duties with an artist other then Simon. The foreground couple are clearly Jack’s, but the background men were done by John Prentice. Ignoring covers with unrelated inserts, there was only one other cover that Jack shared with another penciler other then Joe during the S&K years. If you don’t know which cover I am talking about, don’t worry I’ll post it shortly.

In Love #1
In Love #1 (September 1954)

On September 6, 1956 Alex Raymond, the artist for the syndication strip Rip Kirby, died. Two months later Prentice took over this popular newspaper comic strip. John would do Rip Kirby until he in turned passed away in 1985. I’ve always heard how much work was involved in producing a comic strip for syndication. But the GCD continues to list comic book work by Prentice from 1957 on into the early 70’s.

Rip Kirby (5/6/58).

Well now I’ve managed to give a brief review on each of the usual suspects. But work by Draut, Meskin and Prentice is so common in S&K productions I am sure to be blogging on them from time to time. Although the usual suspects did a lot of work for the studio, there were other artists who would work for Joe and Jack for shorter periods of time. Many of these artists were quite talented, some later on would achieve fame. I’ll post on some of the other artists some other time.

Mort Meskin, the usual suspect #2

I gather that Mort Meskin is most famous for the work he did during the war. I’ve seen some of his Golden Lad covers and they are quite good. Because my main interest is in Simon and Kirby, I don’t have access to very much of the early Meskin material. However Mort worked at National Comics at the same time as Simon & Kirby, and fortunately some of the Adventure Comics have stories by Meskin. So I have some examples, including the splash page below (“Hitch A Wagon To The Stars”) from Adventure #82 with inking by George Roussos. Even at this time Mort had developed a reputation for being a rapid and prolific comic book artist. There is a story about Jack Kirby and Mort Meskin working side by side at DC each working on a rush job. And how their efforts resulting in a crowd gathering to watch both of them. By that time Jack was already well known, but many now began to take note of Mort’s talent.

Adventure #82 Starman
Adventure #82 (January 1943) Starman by Mort Meskin and George Roussos

Mort Meskin’s first contributions for a S&K production were some stories done with Jerry Robinson in Young Romance #6 (see below) and Justice Traps The Guilty #5 both July 1948. It appears to me that most of the penciling was done by Jerry while Mort’s contribution was largely inking.

YR #6 Inferior Male

Over a year later Meskin appears without Robinson as the penciler in Young Romance #16 and Real West Romances #5 both from December 1949. Once started Meskin would be frequently used not only for romance (Young Romance, Young Love, Young Brides and In Love), but also in crime (Headline, Justice Traps the Guilty and Police Trap) and horror (Black Magic).

Young Love #66

As Joe Simon tells the story in “The Comic Book Makers” initially when Mort was supplied with scripts he was unable to do the work. Joe then suggested that Mort should work in the S&K studio. Even in this environment Mort seemed to suffer from “artist’s block”. Then Joe hit on the idea of penciling some random marks on Mort’s page. No longer faced with a blank page, Mort was back to being a rapid penciler. As Joe tells the story, from then on every mourning it was someone’s responsibility to add those first random markings to Mort’s blank art boards. Mort was very prolific and did not seem to work exclusively for the S&K studio. During the period from January 1951 to January 1953 (cover dates) Mort actually produced more pages of art for the S&K studio then Jack Kirby did. Now this is not a completely fair comparison since Jack had more responsibility in the studio then just penciling. On the other hand the inking of Kirby pencils seemed to have been done by more then one hand, while as far as I can tell Meskin did all the inking for his own art at this time. Joe Simon once said about Mort’s work at the Simon & Kirby studio “He was probably the fastest, most inspired artist in the room, and certainly one of the most dependable.” Remember Jack was in that studio also, so this is no small praise.

Simon & Kirby Studio

That’s Mort “passing gas” in the center, along with Jack looking like he is about to hurl himself at the photographer. Joe looks amused by it all in the front. Jim Infantino and Ben Oda (letterer extraordinaire) are on the right but I have forgotten who that is on the left. I am not sure of the exact date for this photo, but Jim Infantino has a signed piece of work (“Let’s Talk Fashion”) in Young Romance #39 (cover date November 1951). Jim only worked for S&K for a relatively short time, so 1951 or 1952 is a good guess for the date of the photograph.

SWYD #1 The Dreaming Tower

Mort Meskin does not seem to get much attention nowadays. Even among the S&K artists he can easily be overlooked. He doesn’t have Kirby’s expressive and powerful drawing. Nor are his women as beautiful as those done by Bill Draut. Finally his comic art is not as realistic as John Prentice’s (usual suspect #3 who I will post on later). I admit when I first encountered Mort Meskin’s work I was not particularly impressed. But over time I began to realize that his strength was in his story telling. Often it is very unobtrusive. As you read Meskin’s work you may not even realize how he is manipulating what he is presenting. But if you have any doubts about how effectively he does it, take a look at the at the above page from “The Dreaming Tower” in Strange World of Your Dreams #1. The scenes he presents are rather ordinary. But the way he depicts them and his use of black gives the page an eerie effect that is just what the story needs. Kirby is one of the best story tellers, but he has never done anything like this. I am not saying that Mort was a better story teller then Jack. Just that each had their own unique approach.

By the way according to Joe, Strange World of Your Dreams owed its creation to Mort Meskin. In fact Mort is listed as an Associate Editor for the series. No other comic produced by Simon and Kirby have anyone other then Joe and Jack listed as an editor.

Sometime after the failure of S&K’s Mainline (about January 1955), the S&K studio disbanded. But I am still not sure if that happened at the same time as Mainline’s failure or if the studio lasted longer. Certainly by 1957 there was no studio since in that year Jack was doing work for DC without Joe. The last work Mort did for S&K was in Young Love #68 (cover date December 1955). Since Mort had been working in the S&K bullpen, perhaps about September 1955 marks the end of the studio also.

Mort Meskin has been nominated for the Eisner Hall of Fame this year. Although four artist will win that honor, there are some other impressive artists that were nominated (such as Jim Steranko). Fans don’t seem to talk about Meskin very much, so I despair that Mort will not receive enough votes. But if anyone deserves to belong in any comic Hall of Fame it sure would be Mort Meskin. There is an wonderful web site on him by his sons with an excellent biography. I really advise a careful visit. In particular be sure to read “The Second Comic Career of Mort Meskin” by Dylan Williams which is in the Comics section.

Bill Draut (usual suspect #1)

In previous posts I mention three artists that did a lot of work for the S&K studio over a long period of time. Because of the frequent appearance in S&K productions, I often refer to them as the usual suspects. In this post I would like to write about Bill Draut, the first of the usual suspects to work for the studio. During the war Joe Simon served in the Coast Guard. Joe spent a good part of this service in Washington working as a Coast Guard artist. One of the other artist who worked with Simon was friends with Bill Draut, then in the marines. When Joe got to know Draut he told him that after the war Bill should look him up in New York. When Joe rejoined Jack Kirby after the war, they made a deal with Harvey to produce Stuntman and Boy Explorers. Bill Draut joined in this effort and his first comic book work appeared in Stuntman #1. As part of their work with Harvey, Simon and Kirby would create comic series to be done by other artists. For Bill they developed The Furnished Room, Calamity Jane, and The Demon. Unfortunately Stuntman and Boy Explorers got caught in a comic glut, and were discontinued after a very few issues. But Draut’s contribution, the Furnished Room and Calamity Jane, would reappear in other Harvey comics about a year later. They probably represent unused material from the cancelled comics.

The Furnished Room

The Furnished Room was the first to be published appearing in Stuntman #1 in April 1946 (all dates for comics are cover dates). As was pointed out by Stan Taylor, this series was a S&K’s take on the popular syndication strip Mary Worth. The Furnished Room was essentially a soap opera with an elderly dowdy lady (this series version of Mary Worth). This dowdy lady would generally play a more peripheral part in the stories. The real stories were about the people who rented rooms from her. Because of the lack of superheroes, the Furnished Room may have been a little out of place in Stuntman but the series was really well done. The Furnished Room had a short run, all done by Bill Draut:

Stuntman #1 (April 1946) “The Furnished Room”

Stundman #2 (June 1946) “Triangular Troubles”

Green Hornet #37 |(January 1948) “The Smiling Salesman”

Green Hornet #38 (March 1948) “The Furnished Room” (reprint)

Calamity Jane

For Boys Explorer S&K created Calamity Jane which Draut would draw. This series were about a hardboiled detective who happened to be a female. The source for this idea seems to have been what is now called film noire. But in those movies the detective was a man, and women just played supporting rolls. The stories are presented as told by Calamity to the artist Draut. This was another good series which unfortunately did not last long, only three stories. But there is a story by Draut in Justice Traps the Guilty #3 that appears to be a reworked Calamity Jane. The detective was now named Ruth Lang, but a supporting character (the cabbie called Hack) remained unchanged. I previously posted on editorial changes Joe Simon did on one of the Calamity Jane stories.

Boy Explorers #1 (May 1946) “The Case Of The Hapless Hackie”

Green Hornet #35 (August 1947) “The Fat Tuesday”

Green Hornet #36 (November 1947) “The Man Who Met Himself”

Justice Traps The Guilty #3 (March 1948) “My Strangest Crime Case”

The Demon

The Demon was first published in Black Cat #4 (February 1947). The full title of the series is “His Honor the Demon”. The Demon has a rather unusual origin in that the hero is a judge frustrated because the law sometimes is helpless in finding and punishing the guilty. After one such case of a murdered man, he decides to investigate on his own. At one point he wears the same costume that the murdered victim was wearing at a party when he got killed. The judge did this in an attempt flush out the murderer. After a successful conclusion to this case, the judge decides to continue his extra-legal efforts using the same costume of a red demon. Again Bill was the only artist to work on this short run series.

Black Cat #4 (February 1947) “Double Trouble”

Black Cat #5 (April 1947) “The Man Who Didn’t Know His Own Strength”

Black Cat #6 (July 1947) “The Midnight Killer” (origin story)

Black Cat #7 (August 1947) “Too Cold For Crime”

In Love #4

After those failed series, Bill Draut continued to work for the Simon & Kirby studio. Although he did provide some crime (Headline and Justice Traps The Guilty) and horror (Black Magic) work, most of the stories he did was for romance comics (Young Romance, Young Love, Young Brides and In Love). I previously posted on an unpublished Artist and Model cover that he did. His style seems very conducive to romance work. His women have beautiful eyes with simple but effective eyebrows. But Bill’s simple eyebrows seem more awkward on his men. Strong action did not seem to be Draut’s forte, but that was not an issue for the love stories. He was gifted enough of an artist and observant enough of the S&K style, that one of the covers he did (Young Brides #21) has been attributed to Jack by the Kirby Checklist.

Young Brides #21

Joe Simon has always maintained that he and Jack encouraged their artists to sign their work. Bill Draut does seem to have taken advantage of that and often added his signature to his earlier work. Later his stopped signing his material but his style is still easily recognizable. Draut does not seem as productive as the other usual suspects (Mort Meskin and John Prentice). As far as I know during his association with the S&K studio, he worked for them exclusively. When the studio disbanded in the mid 50’s Jack and Joe continued as editors for Young Romance with Kirby penciling a story in most issues. But for whatever reason, Bill Draut did not do any work for those Young Romance comics. I am not sure what Bill did in the late 50’s but he seems to have stayed in comics. When Joe Simon produced some hero comics for Harvey in the mid 60’s, Bill Draut would pencil some stories. I also know he did some work for DC at that time. His work seemed delegated to lesser profile series and I don’t think his style was very popular in the 60’s.