Category Archives: 3 Timely

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 5, Timely and the Red Raven

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940)

Joe Simon’s last set of covers for Fox Comics were cover dated July 1940. Joe went on to become art editor for Timely. When Joe arrived, Timely had three superhero titles. Marvel Mystery Comics was their big seller, largely due to the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner features. The other two titles, Daring Mystery and Mystic Comics do not appear to have been as successful. Each presented a dazzling assortment of features that would last only a few issues before disappearing. Previously Joe had done some work Daring Mystery through Funnies Inc, the shop that created the art for all Timely’s comics. (see my posts on Daring Mystery #2 and Daring Mystery #3). Now Timely’s owner Martin Goodman wanted to cut out the middleman and set up his own art shop. Although an editor, Joe worked on a freelance basis.

Science Comics #5
Science Comics #5 (June 1940) by Joe Simon

Previous Timely comics had been anthologies, but Joe’s greatest success so far had been with Blue Bolt. Blue Bolt was an anthology also but was named after the key feature. Joe convinced Goodman to do the same thing with a new hero, the Red Raven. While at Fox Comics, Joe had drawn a similar flying figure called the Eagle for the cover of Science Comics #5 (June 1940). But the success of Timely’s new title would depend largely on the key feature. Joe had to make sure the Red Raven story was especially good. The story would be 17 pages long, seven pages more then any other of the features in the comic. But surprisingly the Red Raven story was drawn by an unidentified artist. Jack Kirby drew the cover for Red Raven #1 along with two of the stories, so it is clear that he was available to do work. At this point Kirby was already doing all the drawing for Blue Bolt and was clearly a much better artist then the one Joe actually used. I can understand that as editor Joe might not want to draw it himself, but why did he not turn to Jack for this?

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “The Red Raven” by unidentified artist

According to Joe and Jim Simon’s book, “The Comic Book Makers”, Jack Kirby did not immediately follow Joe to Timely but continued at Fox. In the book Joe says it took three months. The last Blue Beetle strip that Jack did was published on March 9, 1940. Syndication strips are usually created only a week or so before publication. Comic books take longer to be created and the covers are dated with the removal time, not the distribution date. The result of all this is that comics will have a cover date that is five to six months after work started. This means that the first comics that Jack worked on after Fox would be cover dated August or September. I believe that Joe is right about Jack staying at Fox but perhaps it was not for a period of months but actually weeks. If when Joe started work on the Red Raven Jack was only available on a moonlight basis Joe might have reluctant to use him for the all important feature story. By the time Jack transferred to Timely it was too late to change artists.

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “Mercury in the 20th Century”

The credit given for “Mercury in the 20th Century” go to the writer, Martin A. Bursten (actually spelt Burstein). This is Kirby’s earliest foray into a feature loosely based on mythological characters. The hero is of course Mercury and his adversary is Pluto. Pluto is causing havoc in the world and has taken the mortal disguise of Rudolph Hedler, leader of Prussland. America was still at peace, but Europe certainly was not. In this story Mercury uses his powers as a god to thwart Pluto war promoting activities.

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “Mercury in the 20th Century” page 7

Inking on this story is different from that on Jack’s pervious comic book work. The inking used to define the form is lighter. Further spotting is not limited to form, but includes shadows and design aspects. Page 7 shown above provides good examples. Although Jack did not limit spotting to form when working for Blue Beetle or Lightn’ and the Lone Rider the way it was used in those works was different then what was done here. I believe someone other then Jack did the inking for this Mercury story.

In panel 4 from page 7 of “Mercury in the 20th Century” notice the large size of the man on our left. Similar large ears on people viewed from behind was a Kirby trait in the future during the years he and Joe worked at DC. But it also shows up occasionally at other times, the image above is perhaps the earliest example. But this trait is not as common during Jack’s period at Timely. This is because during this time Jack would not use this viewpoint as often and when he did he would not always get the ear size wrong.

Red Raven Comics #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) “Comet Pierce”

Jack also provided a science fiction feature, Comet Pierce. In many ways this story is written and drawn very much like his previous sci-fi work. The biggest difference is before the hero was a sort of sheriff of the stars while here Comet Pierce is a rocket ship racer. Once again lots of flying rockets, monsters and of course a beautiful woman. Even the inking is similar to the earlier work in that it is largely limited to describing form. But “Comet Pierce” is even more important in that for the first time a story credit’s uses the newly acquired name of Jack Kirby. The credit is for Jack alone, not for Simon and Kirby. Yet another reminder that although Joe and Jack worked together for Blue Bolt, they were not yet truly a team.

But the Red Raven title only lasted one issue. Because of the amount of time it took to get a comic book published, three months, it it clear that Red Raven Comics was discontinued well before any idea could be made about how well it would sell. Martin Goodman may have liked the idea about having a comic title dedicated to one key hero but he may have gotten cold feet about basing a comic on a new, untried, character. Instead it was decided to start a title for the successful Human Torch and (to save money on a new mailing permit) take over the numbering from the Red Raven. The first Human Torch would therefore be issue #2 and would be cover dated as Fall 1940.

Simon and Kirby Meet the Shield

I am doing a guest blog posting tonight at Comics Should Be Good called Simon and Kirby Meet the Shield. Check it out.

Featured Cover, Captain America #1

Captain America #1
Captain America #1 (March 1941)

When I recently ran my Simon and Kirby cover contest I was curious about what some fans considered their favorite cover. There are many possible covers by Simon and Kirby that could be candidates, they put much effort into their covers. There are few S&K covers that I would consider poor works and even in those cases they are often better then covers by many of their contemporaries. One cover I fully expected to be selected was Captain America #1. Cap #1 is truly one of the icons of comic book covers. Whenever I talk about Joe Simon to those of my friends with no interest in comic books I tell them that he was one of the co-creators of Captain America. I doubt that they could name more then a handful of comic book characters but they always recognize Cap. Comic books as we know them today have a long history. But there are few comic heroes that extend throughout much of this history, fewer still if we exclude those with significant costume changes. Captain America was only missing for a fraction of comic book history. Last, but not least, is the presence of Hitler on the cover. Adolf shows up on a number of war time covers but I doubt that any are as famous as this cover and it was done about a year before the U.S. entered the war. Yes I think we can certainly say that the cover for Captain America #1 is an icon.

But aside from it being an icon, is Cap #1 really a great piece of comic book art? I have to admit when I first asked myself this question not only was I unsure, I did not even know how to go about finding the answer.

One place to start is to examine how well the cover tells a story. I realize others may disagree, but for me this is generally an important criteria. Covers of a lot of famous characters just standing around as if posing for a camera just do not do anything for me. Comic books tell stories and I expect the covers to do so also. Well the story told by Cap #1 cover is pretty clear. The bent bars in the window on our right indicate where Cap forced his way into the room. At great risk to himself, Cap rushes forward to deliver one of Kirby’s famous punches to the villain (easily recognized as Adolf Hitler). Although the U.S. was not officially at war with Germany it is clear that Hitler had already strike out against us. Not only are there invasion plans on the left, but in the rear we find a television showing the destruction of a U.S. ammunition plant. There is a blurb that declares

Smashing thru Captain America came face to face with Hitler

Frankly this blurb is really superfluous, it tells us nothing that the image does not already provide. S&K would provide better blurbs in the future and eventually would often leave them out. So I conclude based on the story telling criteria that the cover for Captain America #1 is completely successful.

Another approach to judging the Cap #1 cover would be to compare it with other iconic covers. As a hero Captain America may have played an important part in the history of comic books, but he pales beside Superman and Batman. But when you compare the cover for Cap #1 with Action #1 or Detective #27, well there is no comparison. The covers for Action #1 and Detective #27 may be icons, but artistically they do not even come close to Cap #1. So from comparing icons with icons I again conclude that this cover is deserving of praise.

Well Hitler plays a prominent part of this cover, but how does Cap #1 compare with other comics that depicted Hitler? I cannot claim to have made an exhaustive search for covers to use for comparison, but I certainly have not found any other Hitler cover that I like better. Dial B For Blog has made a more thorough examination and has reached the same conclusion. Not part of his list is the cover to Captain America #2 but I included an image in a recent post. Although both have Hitler and are done by the S&K, issue #1 seems much better then #2. It is not hard to understand why, after all it is much more satisfying to see Adolf getting punched then just being surprised. So Captain America #1 cover does well when compared to other Hitler covers.

Looking at Captain America #1 from various viewpoints I have ended up concluding that this really was a great cover. Although being an icon has made it more difficult for me to evaluate this cover, that does not mean I consider it a negative aspect. Quite the contrary I believe that with its iconic status added to its artistic merits the cover for Captain America #1 is truly one of the greatest covers that Simon and Kirby have produced.

There is one aspect about Captain America #1 that I have not explored in this post. That is the part it played in the history of Kirby’s early artistic development. I have touched on early work by Jack Kirby in my serial post on the Art of Joe Simon here and here. But early Kirby is a subject that deserves a more thorough examination and is one that I plan to make the subject of a serial post in the near future.

The Human Torch #2

I do not think I will surprise anyone by observing that the early Timely comics are high price items, particularly the key issues. There are probably very few, if any, comic book collectors who can afford to purchase complete runs of early Timely comics. That is why I am grateful that Marvel has reprinted some of them in their Marvel Masterworks Golden Age series. I would like my readers to always keep this in mind as I write some negative criticism on one of these books, The Human Torch Volume 1.

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

I have recently been able to scan a coverless but not too beat-up copy of Human Torch #2. That is actually the first issue for that title as it took over the numbering from the defunct Red Raven Comics #1. Seeing the original comic was a revelation. In Chapter 2, “Before Kirby” of my serial post on The Art of Joe Simon I discussed the Fiery Mask story by Joe Simon. I included an image of page 5 scanned from the Masterwork book. You can see the image I used below. I have since replaced it with a scan from the original comic, which you can see above. Take the time to compare the two images. Even with the relatively low resolution that is needed to include in this blog page it should be pretty obvious the difference in quality. The reprint version looks rather blurry. Because of the glossy paper used and the modern printing technology this cannot be blamed on the printing. Rather it looks like it was re-inked with an insensitive hand. Joe did a much better job inking this story then you could tell from the reprint.

Hunan Torch #2
The Human Torch #2 (Fall 1940) same page as above as reprinted in Marvel Masterworks.

Simon’s story was not the only story to be adversely affected by the poor art restoration. Actually all the features in this comic look so much better in the original. Colors in Golden Age comics just can not compare with what modern presses can produced. Yet the colors in this reprint are actually inferior to the original.

Hunan Torch #2
The Human Torch #2 (Fall 1940) “Introducing Toro, The Flaming Torch Kid” by Carl Burgos

I could not resist including an image by Carl Burgos. Not because it shows how much better the original art was, since the reprint’s job on this page was better then most. I include it because it is such an great example of Carl’s excellence at telling the story. His progressing from the entrance of the Human Torch, the weapon removing his flame, the villain issuing his threat to the now disarmed hero, and ending with the Torch showing what he can do with his intelligence and courage. The only problem I have with this page is the awkward use of the circular panel. In a few months Simon and Kirby would show the right way to use this device.

Hunan Torch #2
The Human Torch #2 (Fall 1940) “Sub-Mariner Crashes New York Again” by Bill Everett
Enlarged Image

Sometimes the differences between a masterpiece and a more routine piece of art is actually very small. When I originally read Everett’s Sub-Mariner story in the Masterwork volume I was not very impressed. Do not get me wrong, you could tell Everett was doing a great story telling job. But the art itself did not do much for me. In my opinion none of the stories in this comic suffered as much as Everett’s from the reprint. The reprint inking was not any worst in Sub-Mariner but it completely masks what a masterpiece this story really is. Even the image I provide above does not do it justice, but I hope you can get a better idea from the enlarged image.

I am not able to compare the reprint with the original for the other issues in the Masterpiece volume. But it sure looks like they suffer from the same problems. I want to repeat what I said above, that even in the current somewhat poor restoration this Masterwork volume is a welcome addition to a fan’s library. But it is a shame that Marvel missed a chance to provide a volume that could have been absolutely amazing.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #10

Captain America #10
Captain America #10 (January 1942) “The Phantom Hound of Cardiff Moor”
Enlarged view

In Captain America #9 Simon and Kirby continues with an interesting variation in the use of the three compartment design. The splash pages opens on the left, the normal reading order, with a one of those case cards from Captain America’s personal files along with five floating heads. The text indicates that they may all die unless they can be saved by Captain America. However this is not like previous presentations of the various characters. Here no particulars are supplied for the possible victims, not even their names. In a way they are more reminiscent of the ring of floating heads from Cap #7. Both use the floating heads to suggest an emotional content, audio pain in Cap #7 and fear here. But the floating heads here are irregularly arranged, unlike the circular pattern in Cap #7.

The next compartment, the most important center, is used for the enactment. As usually the scene has a minimal cast, in this case Cap, Bucky and their canine foe. The large and obviously vicious hound has leapt from above at our heroes. This was an unexpected attack because Cap and Bucky are depicted off balanced. The attack is aimed at Cap who did not even have time to position his shield, he is unprotected and in dire peril. Cap and Bucky tilt in opposite directions providing an interesting X pattern. However Cap leans his head to face his opponent and his raised right arm goes opposite to leaning of the body. Caps head and right arm therefore connect with the arc of the hound. This along with Bucky’s tilt lead the eye to the right section.

A case can be made that this splash is actually a four, not a three, compartment design. I think of it as three parts because the two sections balance across the center. But the right section is not composed of floating heads, but rather consists of a single circular panel. In fact the panel provides the same character group as the enactment section, but it now includes a victim. Here we are informed that there may be more to the secret of the hound, because he also walks like a man! Sure enough, the hound is now almost man like in form and standing on two feet. The small silhouettes of Cap (identifiable by his shield) and Bucky are approaching. This panel could be interpreted as the prequel to the enactment section. But if that were true then why would the hound have caught our heroes so off guard? Because of the poses of the figures in the enactment portion and the use of a circular panel on the right the two sections are strongly connected in a oval pattern. Even the trees and rock formations lead the eye to this oval and tend to keep it there.

Towards the bottom is the third (or fourth) compartment, the start of the story. Here in smaller then usual panels we are provided with yet another presentation of the canine attack. Alone and at night a man crosses a bleak landscape, obviously the same one as presented above. We then see him alerted to and fleeing from danger, the distant approach of the hound, followed by the actual attack and death of the man. At this point any perspective purchaser should be well aware of what sort of thriller awaits him, provided he parts with his dime.

I described the enactment compartment as placed in the center of the splash. Actually only the attack occurs there, the landscape for the enactment occupies the entire double page. The floating heads, circular panel and story panels give the appearance of being pasted onto the enactment art. The story panels have lifted from the bottom and are free on both sides to help with that affect. Hence the reason for the smaller then normal story panels. To add to the impression of pasted art, the text accompanying the floating heads and round panel cast shadows. These shadows are not only over their panels but over the enactment landscape art as well. But it is best not to take this pasting too literal. On the left a limb of a background tree lies on top of the floating head panels. This despite the fact that the panel in turn lies on top off, or before, a foreground rock. I do not think this was an error. The limb could easily have been shown clearly crossing over the panel. Instead it barely overlaps the panel edge and is easy to overlook. A sort of inside joke. Further some of the floating heads are shown in front of both the text and the shadow. This gives the heads an almost 3D effect.

The double page splash was the most ambitious of all the splashes that Simon and Kirby had done for Captain America. It makes one wonder what they would have done next. Alas it was not to be as this was their last Simon and Kirby issue of Captain America. As we shall see S&K would return to the double page splash. But they would not be the complicated designs found in the Captain America comics.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #9

Captain America #9
Captain America #9 (December 1941) “The Black Talon”
Enlarged view

In Captain America #9 Simon and Kirby returned to a three compartment design for the double page splash. It opens up on the left with the enactment portion. No victim or foe this time, S&K have simplified the enactment to just Cap and Bucky. The pair are in a room, clearly not the tent that they share in their alter egos of private and camp mascot. Behind them on the wall is a portrait of President Lincoln, just the sort of thing you would expect from our patriotic superheroes. The only thing missing is a similar image of George Washington, it was probably on another wall. Cap is shown shuffling through their case files, the cabinet is marked as such on its side. From the first issue these stories have been presented as from Captain America’s cases, here we are provided with a visual representation of that fact.

As the eye moves toward the center of the splash it is led into the second section of the design. A case folder is opened up with the file identification serving also as the story title. Back lighted with the red folder we are presented with an image whose evil demeanor and positioning over a victim indicates that this is obviously the villain. Cap’s foe is posed so that it is clear that his right hand is unnatural. Arranged below and to the right, as if they are the folder’s contents spilling out, are a set of very irregularly shaped panels. These panels are not to be mistaken for the start of the story. Instead the panels are the comic book equivalent of a movie trailer. Joe and Jack mean to present enough to get our interest, but not too much as to spoil the story. To aid this effect none of the trailer panels have any text to clarify what is going on. We are presented with a scene from an operation, the origin of the villains unusually right hand. The doctor stares at what he has done with an intensity that recalls the Frankenstein story. The doctor’s only concern is the miraculous procedure he has just performed. He is unaware of the ramifications of the operation, nor would it have stopped him even if he knew. Another panel presents the outcome as we see the fiendish hand being used to strangle a victim. In the last panel, beside a painting depicting the dark hand strangling Captain America, we find the same thing occurring during a struggle between the villain and Cap. Tied up with ropes, Bucky looks on helplessly. Could this be the end of Captain America? Buy the comic and read the story to find out, or at least that was the intent of trailer compartment of the design.

Finally we leave the trailer section and enter the start of the story in the bottom corner of the splash. The story panels standard panel grid visually separates it from the irregular panels of the trailer. But by placing the two sections adjacent to each other there is also connection.

For me the story panels are still not as well integrated with the rest of the splash as the musical note panels found in the double splash from Captain America #7. But the Cap #9 splash is still an excellently integrated piece of comic book art. The story title and trailer section is just a marvelous idea, even better then the floating head title design of Cap #7. Although I still prefer Cap #7 this Cap double splash is incredible.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #8

Captain America #8
Captain America #8 (November 1941) “Case of the Black Witch”
Enlarged view

Working with a double page allowed Simon and Kirby to do things that just were not feasible with a single page. In the previous two issues of Captain America, the artists were able to construct the splash using three components. Two of the components were common to both Cap #6 and #7; the scene or enactment and the panels for the start of the story. Cap #6 presented the caste of characters as the third component while Cap #7 presented a story title design that included floating heads. Even with the double page such a three part design was only possible because the enactment portion need only show a limited set of characters; Captain America, Bucky, the villain and the victim. Were any more required something would have to give.

Apparently for Cap #8, Simon and Kirby wanted a lot more from the enactment portion. So they abandoned the three component design. There is no presentation of the story’s characters and the story title is simple and placed off in the corner. The Captain America emblem is combined with some eerie heads but it too is restricted to one edge. S&K kept the story introduction, but limited it to a single panel placed with the title on the side. This allowed the staging to include a host of goblins, demons, ghosts and serpents. But even with the extra weird figures all is not chaos. A flame and smoke from a candle rise from the bottom and divide the stage in half. On the right Bucky supports the fallen victim while Cap prepares to defend them. On the other side are all the evil opponents, Cap is certainly up against overwhelming odds. The divide is only crossed twice. Once at the bottom with a crossing by a long serpent like beast (a dragon?), and the other cross at the top by the grasping hand of an oversized witch. Oversized figures was a device not used on any of the Captain America covers but was not all that unusual for the splashes.

The Captain America emblem for this splash has been given an unusual placement, along the bottom instead of the normal location at the top. This emblem appears to always have provided a difficulty. On one hand it was desirous that the emblem stand out on the page. On the other hand it should not intrude on or take over the rest of the art on the splash. These conflicting goals were not completely reconciled in the previous double splashes but appear to have been here. By placing the emblem at the bottom, S&K could take advantage of the long serpent to separate it from the rest of the art. By adding the eerie heads and the small, sometimes humorous, art along the bottom edge the artists have effectively framed the emblem off into its own area.

This is another great composition and probably the best example among the Cap double splashes for a large group in a single depiction. So far each double splash seems to present unique designs as Simon and Kirby explore new territory. Like I said at the start, they may not have been the first to do two pages splashes, but I cannot think of anyone else at that time making such innovative use of this large area.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #7

Captain America #7
Captain America #7 (October 1941) “Horror Plays the Scales”
Larger Image

Simon and Kirby have completely mastered the double page splash with Cap #7. The important center is now occupied by the title “Horror Plays the Scales” and a ring of floating heads. Perhaps you remember me saying that floating heads and oversize figures were devices that Jack Kirby did not use often on covers but were devices that Joe Simon used for covers throughout his career. The Captain America covers did not use either floating heads or oversized figures but both devices appear in the splashes. On this splash the floating heads are obviously under torture with most trying to cover their ears. Behind them is are multicolor rings with musical notes floating about.

If the title and floating heads do not make it obvious about the nefarious use of music, the scene of the splash does. It is divided by the central design into left and right sections. On the left is a violin maestro in the thralls of playing his instrument. The musical notes that he is generating are shown flying up toward the right. The eye follows these notes into the top of the rings of the central design. The eye then follows the stream of musical notes that enters the right section of the scene. The musical notes stream then wraps around the head of a man. Now is revealed what effect the maestros music is having. The man, obviously in a trance, advances with a knife toward Bucky who is tied up on a chair. But Captain America descends from above to save the day. I have no idea where Cap leaped from. While the left section shows a music hall, the right section takes place on a city roof top.

Along the bottom of the splash is the start of the actual story. Unlike what was done in Cap #6, the story section in Cap #7 is well integrated with the rest of the splash. The background to the story panels has strips like the scales of music notation. These scales are given various colors that give them a visual connection to the color rings behind the floating heads. On the left is a musical symbol, I am afraid I am ignorant about music so I do not know what it is called. Following this symbol are a row of musical notes. The round part of the notes are actually the panels of the story.

For me this is perhaps the most interesting design of the Captain America double splashes. That is not to say that the rest are not successful, only that Simon and Kirby would experiment with other different designs.

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #6

Captain America #6
Captain America #6 (September 1941) “Who Killed Doctor Vardoff”
Larger Image

I do not think Simon and Kirby invented the double page splash. I seem to remember an earlier example in a Kazar story in Marvel Mystery Comics and I make no claim that was the earliest either. Using the centerfold for such a purpose would seem natural for anyone aware of how a comic was made. Because of the vagaries that occur in the folding and stapling of a comic only in the centerfold could a publisher be sure to get a good double spread without registration problems. No I doubt that S&K were the first to do a double splash, but I do not think anyone else at that time did as many or as well.

S&K already had produced a number of comics before their first double splash. In those previous comics are really terrific examples of single page splashes. So it should be no surprise that their first attempt at a wide splash (Captain America #6) would be so successfully done. In it Joe and Jack integrate a scene as well as a caste of characters. The scene occupies only a relatively small portion of the splash, but it is in the center and so commands attention. We find Captain America and Bucky over the victim of a hanging. Although the victim is now on the ground, the noose is still around his neck and the rest of the rope goes up to the top of the splash and then the end drops back down. But the heads of the characters, even the deceased, are turned to our right where the masked hangman stands holding another noose in both hands. Oddly the shadow that he castes also holds a noose but in just one hand.

The noose’s rope that the hangman holds trails along the lower part of the splash visually connecting the various characters arrayed in a broad ‘U’ shape. Besides Bucky and Cap we find a scientist (the victim), a lab assistant, a mob moll (with her cigarette in her mouth as she speaks, a sure sign that she is not respectable), and a mysterious man (whose monocle and cigarette holder indicate that he is a nefarious foreigner). As the eye follows the rope to our left side in ascends until it is covered by a large question mark. But where the rope disappears is well placed because the eye follows the upper part of the question mark until the rope reappears and the victim is portrayed hanging.

Below the splash are a row of story panels. The splash was used to catch the browser’s eye, while the story panels would get him interested in the story. That way when the newsstand owner called “you buying or what? this ain’t no library” hopefully the reader would have become involved enough to purchase the comic. S&K extend the splash panel’s edges to enclose the story panels also. This attempt to integrate the splash and the story panels is the greatest weakness of this double page. In the future Simon and Kirby would use other means to overcome this defect.

The first double page splash already has some features that we will see in others. Often these wide splashes do not just provide a scene but something more complex. It is not just that this sort of thing takes advantage of the greater width, it actually could not be done effectively on a single page. What is presented in the splash is a well integrated “story”. However like some the Harvey covers that I have written about previously, there are logical inconsistencies in what is presented. The Hangman and his shadow holding the noose differently. The victim shown three times, once on the ground surrounded by Captain America and Bucky, also still hanging on the left side and finally as one of the characters describing himself. But like those Harvey covers I really do not consider these true defects. The splash is not meant to be a snap shot, instead variously timed events are represented together. Everything is well placed to provide a sort of condensed story, without the ending of course!

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 5, Side by Side

In the previous chapter I described the cover Champion #9 (July 1940) as the first joint work by Simon and Kirby. In the same month the two also worked on the title story for Blue Bolt #2. But their working method for Blue Bolt was different then the Champion #9 cover where Jack did the pencils and Joe did the inking. For Blue Bolt Joe and Jack would each work on different pages of the same story. This was probably an expedience that allowed a story to be completed in a shorter period of time. Working jointly on different pages would be a practice that Joe and Jack would use for a time before Kirby ended up doing nearly all the drawing.

Even Joe agrees that Jack was an exceptional artist. But it would be a mistake to attribute the good pages to Kirby and the poorer ones to Joe. Frankly I believe that this is an error that some experts have fallen into. Instead we should look for features that are characteristic of the particular artists. There are some devices that Kirby used often like a bad guy sailing through space from the hero’s punch, or the use of exaggerated perspective on a figure. Simon, or anyone else trying to copy Kirby, would include these but would not do it as successfully as Jack. Other Kirby traits, such as square fists or finger tips are all too easily copied and should not be relied upon. Finding Joe’s touch can be a bit more difficult. But there are some traits that crop up both in these pages and the work that Joe did before.

Blue Bolt #3
Blue Bolt #3 (June 1940) “The Green Sorceress Reforms” page 7 by Jack Kirby

Blue Bolt #3
Blue Bolt #3 (June 1940) “The Green Sorceress Reforms” page 6 by Joe Simon

With both Jack and Joe working on different pages of the same stories it is understandable that there would be adjustments made so that the final product would have a more uniform look. We do find Joe beginning to change his drawing style to be more like Jack’s. In Blue Bolt #1 Dr. Bertoff has a scruffy look but when Kirby drew him he had was more nobler. As we see in the above images from Blue Bolt #3 Joe began to draw the Doctor more like Jack did. What we do not see in these jointly drawn Blue Bolts is any attempt by Jack to adjust his style to conform more to that of Joe Simon.

Blue Bolt #3
Blue Bolt #3 (June 1940) “The Green Sorceress Reforms” page 10 by Joe Simon

In the previous chapter I mentioned page 10 as having a panel that seems to have been the source for the cover of issue #3. I also said that although Greg Theakston (The Complete Jack Kirby, 1917 – 1940) attribute this page to Kirby, I was not so sure. Now that that I look at it again I still believe that this page was penciled by Simon. But I say this not as a criticism of Greg, but as an example of the problems faced when trying give credit for these pages. Often there really is not enough distinctive traits on a single page to make a confident attribution. In this case I find the rock formations more like Joe did in Blue Bolt #1 then those by Jack. The eyes of the attaching soldiers seem to be in the classic angle style that Joe used.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “The Legion of the Doomed” page 5 by Jack Kirby

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “The Legion of the Doomed” page 3 by Joe Simon

From the Fiery Mask story from Daring Mystery #6 we find further examples of Joe adjusting his work to appear more like Jack’s. However certain Simon traits such as the angular eye/eyebrow construction can still be seen. Look at the unmasked hero from panel 2 of page 5 by Jack and compare it with the version on panel 6 of Page 3. I believe this shows that Joe is starting to get pretty good at mimicking Jack. Of course it is possible that Jack did some work on a page otherwise done by Joe. In cases like this I do not know how to be certain.

Daring Mystery #6
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “The Legion of the Doomed” page 4 by Joe Simon

Page 4 of Daring Mystery #6 is interesting as an example of how often Joe would use swipes. Scholar Stan Taylor has sent me some scans from Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond. From these it can clearly be seen that three of the four panels of this page have swipes from Raymond’s Flash Gordon. I posted one of them in my footnote to my last chapter. Because of the differences between the cover of Blue Bolt #3 and Raymond’s panel of Flash Gordon running, it might be unclear whether Joe really used it as the source. But the similarity between Raymond’s work and the running man on this page leaves no doubt that Joe used this particular Flash Gordon example for swiping. The scans provided by Stan show the same exact poses as those Joe did on this page. But in none of these cases does Joe copy the details from Raymond. For example Joe’s demon is just an ordinary man when done by Raymond. Although there are some examples in the Fiery Mask story from Daring Mystery #1 where Simon was particularly close to his Hal Foster source material, generally Joe simplifies and alters the original. There does not seem to be any attempt by Simon to make himself out to be another Hal Foster or Alex Raymond. Some are critical of any comic artist that uses swipes, I do not share that opinion in all cases. With Joe it only bothers me when his copying does not integrate properly, which unfortunately in these early years is sometimes the case.

Also of interest from page 4 of DM #6 is panel 5. This almost splash-like panel has a large floating mash with eyes. This is a varient of the floating heads that Joe Simon would use from time to time. As I have said before this sort of thing does not seem to be something that Jack favored.

Captain America #1
Captain America #1 (March 1941) page 7 by Jack Kirby

Captain America #1
Captain America #1 (March 1941) page 3 by Joe Simon

Generally in this blog I prefer to use images taken from the comics or from original art. Very little original art of Captain America by Simon and Kirby still exists. I suspect that no art from CA #1 has survived. But Joe has copies of the flats from the first Captain America issue. Flats were made from the original art without color with each flat showing the four pages laid out as they would be printed on one side of sheet of paper. They are the next best thing to the original art so I could not resist using them as my examples both Joe and Jack’s penciling from this comic classic.

Work on Captain America included the use of a number of assistants. Among the task that these extra hands provided was helping with the inking. This introduces even more variation to the look of the art above that caused by joint penciling work by Joe and Jack. Perhaps because of these new inker or maybe because Joe is better at mimicking Jack, but some of the Simon touches such as those angular eyes have disappeared. However there are other distinctive traits used by Simon. For instance look at Bucky in panel 3 of page 3 of the Sando and Omar story. Notice how his lower face projects, I think of it as a muzzle affect. This will sometimes be seen again in Joe’s work for children and occasionally women. But Jack does not give his children the same sort of muzzle.

Captain America #1
Captain America #1 (March 1941) “Introducing Captain America” page 1 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

Pretty much the entire origin story of Captain America was drawn by Kirby. But I feel that there is one exception, the large standing figure of Cap on the first page. I find the square-ish face and the pose in general to agree with Joe Simon’s style. Even the inking seems different from that of the rest of the story. But the figure of the running Bucky has all the Kirby touches.

Target #10
Target Comics #10 (November 1940) by Joe Simon

Although Joe may not have penciled any stories during the time period we are examining here, he did some covers. There was a time that many attributed the cover for Target #10 (November 1940) to Jack Kirby. Now I believe it is generally recognized that this cover was actually done by Joe Simon. Like a number of Simon and Kirby covers from this period, the central figure of the Target is more finely inked then the background figures. This cover illustrates a common practice that Joe often followed, distorting reality in order to better tell the story. Joe presents the Target further forward then the skylight he had just crashed through. This was undoubtedly done to make the hero the largest and most important figure of the cover. The criminals under attack are still towards the back where logically any bullets they shot would not be able to bounce off of the front of the Target’s chest as depicted. I admire these sort of pictorial distortions, too much adherence to realism and logic can detract from a comic book cover. Having said that, Target #10 is not among my favorite Simon covers. One problem I have with it was probably not Joe’s fault, the colorist used red for most of the broken skylight where it should have been white with purple streaks. This makes it more difficult to recognize that the Target has crashed through the skylight. A more serious problem is the rather distorted perspective to the room that detracts unnecessarily from the subject of the cover. But the major drawback is the hero seems posed more to offer himself as a target then to be attacking the villains.

Pocket Comics #1
Pocket Comics #1 (August 1941) by Joe Simon

The Target #10 was prior to Simon and Kirby’s work on Captain America. Several months after the start of Captain America Joe Simon began to provide some covers for Al Harvey’s new Pocket Comics (#1, #2 and #4). These covers are unsigned but Simon has stated that he did #1 among others. Although Pocket #1 is in a different style from earlier covers, once before we have seen Simon change styles and we will see him do it again in the future. The three covers are so similar to one another that there is little doubt that they were done by the same artist. The drawing of the face for the Spirit of 76 has the same square jaw as some of Simon’s previous work. Attribution of these covers to Joe Simon seems reasonable given the evidence we have.

For Pocket #1 (August 1941) Simon uses a small area very effectively. Satan, a villain with his own feature in the comic, towers over and threatens New York City. He is attached by an army, but their small size leaves little doubt that they will not be very effective. Indeed Satan’s attention is drawn to the approaching, and also oversized, patriotic hero the Spirit of ’76. As in other of Joe’s covers, size is used as an indication of importance and is not meant to be literal. The depiction of Satan owes more to previous covers by Joe (Silver Streak #2 and Wonderworld #13) then it does to the villain’s appearance in the story.

Pocket Comics #2
Pocket Comics #2 (September 1941) by Joe Simon

The cover for Pocket #2 follows the same formula as used in #1. A large Satan is attached by a diminutive and ineffective force (in this case a navy), while the oversized Spirit of ’76 comes to the rescue. Also included is another scene with an oversized Black Cat. This really is not a bad cover but when compared to its predecessor it looks inferior. Despite having more area to work with Simon’s drawing is simpler. The changes to Satan may make him more like the character in the story but they also unfortunately make him seem less threatening. Finally the Spirit of ’76 has a running pose that suggests he is not truly running toward Satan.

Pocket Comics #4
Pocket Comics #4 (January 1942) by Joe Simon

Joe’s contribution to the cover of the last issue of Pocket Comics is one of his masterpieces. On the face of it looks like Simon has turned to a realistic depiction for the Spirt of ’76 and the Black Cat. But has he really? The hero strikes down a foe, but how could that be since the Nazi is behind the Spirit of ’76 who is running forward? The Black Cat smashes through the bars of a window in the center of the room to prevent another Nazi from stabbing the patriotic hero in the back. But could the heroine entering in the middle of the room really be able to grab the arm of a foe towards the back? But Joe could not have told this story as effectively if he had adhered to a more realistic presentation. The inking, which I believe to be by Joe, is bold and assured. There is some crosshatching like the Fox covers, but most of the inking was done using a brush.

Simon and Kirby’s association with Timely, and Captain America in particular, would end and they would begin to work for DC. But there was a gap of a few months before S&K would appear in Adventure and Star Spangled. Coincidentally Al Harvey’s pocket sized comics books venture would fail at the same time because their small size made them too easily stolen. It would also take a few months before Harvey would return with normal sized comics. Some of the covers for the relaunched Harvey line will be the subject of my next chapter.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 4, Footnote

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 6, Jon Henri