Category Archives: Alternate Takes

Alternate Takes, Adventure #79

Adventure #79
Adventure #79 (October 1942) by Jack Kirby

I have featured this cover before but this time I thought it might be interesting to compare it with the splash page, both drawn by Jack Kirby. Usually when I do an Alternate Takes post I compare Jack with another artist. But this splash is so similar to the cover that it makes you wonder, could both have been cover proposals? Perhaps not since the splash version would have gone too far into the section for the comic title. This was not a problem with the splash, especially since the feature title was arched. I find the splash more dramatic. With the slight counter tilt to the head Manhunter looks intent in hunt of the Nazi submarine. The bent knees make is seem that once he finds the right time Manhunter will lunge for the kill.

Adventure #79
Adventure #79 (October 1942) “Cobras of the Deep” by Jack Kirby

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 7, The Spirit #12

The Spirit #12
The Spirit #12 (1963) by Joe Simon

Super Comics published reprints of comic stories. Producers of comics that had fallen on hard times could sell the plates to Isreal Waldman at what I am sure was a low price. In the “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon describes selling Mainline titles to Waldman and the buyer’s concern with just getting the plates and his lack of interest in the copyrights. That must have also been true with whatever deal Eisner made since Will always kept the copyrights to the Spirit (except for a period where he did his wartime military service).

Although the contents of Super Comics were reprints the covers were new. I have to admit when I saw this cover in Joe’s book I thought Simon was taking liberties with the Spirit character. The Spirit attacking a mad scientist and his robots seem to me to be a little out of character for Eisner’s feature. But the comic does have such a story inside. I guess I have been biased by my reading of DC reprints of the Spirit. By the way these are absolutely the best books of comic reprints that have ever been produced. DC is doing a fantastic job, I just wish more archives were done that way. Most unfortunately still continue to use glossy paper and overly bright colors. However the Spirit Archives have not reached the final years. I know Wally Wood ghosted for Will on some Spirit adventures in space. So I suppose that this story is also a late one with a story line different from the earlier years that I am familiar with from reading the archives. Anyway Joe did take some liberties, there is no fight scene in the story quite like the one on the cover. I love the way Joe has turned the robot eyes into headlamps that provide a spotlight on the Spirit. Also Joe changes the arm stumps of the robots in the story to more manlike hands which gives them a much more menacing affect. I am less thrilled with the visor Joe has provided the villain with. And what is the significance of the large eye on the instrument’s CRT?

The Spirit #12
The Spirit #12 (1963) by Will Eisner

This post is not only a post of an example of some solo work by Joe, it is also an Alternate Take post, only this time with Simon not Kirby as the cover artist. But the splash page for the story was probably originally a cover for the newspaper comic book insert. Will Eisner was the master when it came to cover/splash designs. He was always changing the logo and often provided designs the integrated the logo with the art. Although this splash is more of a composition then a design it is still wonderfully done. The empty background brings all attention to the figure of the villain dropping his army of robots. A low viewpoint allows the robot formations to still seem threatening despite their small size. Notice how most of the figure is in shadow, this allows the falling robots to really standout. While Joe gave an exciting fight scene, Will was more subtle and using just visual effects provided a threat. I am no scholar on Will Eisner, for instance I have trouble distinguishing some of the ghosting Lou Fine did on the Spirit during the war from Will’s art. Still this splash looks very much like Eisner’s work to me.

The Spirit #12
The Spirit #12 (1963) by unidentified artist

Although I am convince Will Eisner was responsible for the splash, the rest of the story looks like someone else was ghosting for Will.

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 5, Harvey Hits #12

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 1, In The Beginning

Alternate Takes, A Curse on You!

Black Magic #3
Black Magic #3 February 1950) by Jack Kirby

As I mentioned previously, Jack Kirby would often draw a cover based on a story done by another artist. This is not unexpected because Simon and Kirby produced comics. They came up with the plots, had writers provide the scripts, made alterations to the writing, farmed the work out to various artists to draw, made corrections to the art that was returned, and provided the publisher with a complete comic. All of that activity was paid for by S&K, they would then get a share in the profits. The only work that they did not finance was the coloring. But although the colorist was paid by the publisher, a photograph shows one working in the studio. Having all this control S&K were well aware what would be in a particular comic. Some of these artists were very talented but Jack would earned the title “the King” for a reason. S&K were well aware Jack’s importance to the sales. The cover was also vital for attracting the comic buyer so Jack would end up providing pretty much all the covers for S&K productions with the exception of photo covers. Sometimes Jack would draw a cover for a story that he also drew but often it was for a story based on another artist.

This is the case of the cover for Black Magic #3 (February 1950). The goal for a S&K cover seemed to be to provide a summation of an entire story in just one scene without of course giving the ending. Both Joe and Jack were just so good at that. Although BM #3 was obviously drawn by Jack, who can say exactly what Joe’s contribution was. However their collaboration worked, what was produced were cover masterpieces the likes of which were never seen again after their breakup. We may not know exactly how the man died on the cover to BM #3, but there is little doubt who was responsible. The sight of the frail little man shaking his fist over the body is just chilling. The other characters provide the information needed as well as the appropriate reactions. The scene is enclosed in a circular field. Well perhaps enclosed is not completely accurate because the characters and the rug interrupt the circle at various points. The use of this design technique dates back to one of Joe Simon’s first covers, Keen Detective #17 (January 1940). Black was often used as a background color for Black Magic and it is particularly effective when used with the circular field here in BM #3.

Black Magic #3
Black Magic #3 February 1950) “A Curse on You” by Mort Meskin (signed)

Mort Meskin seems the perfect artist for a story like this. Jack was great but action was he forte. Mort was able to develop a story very effectively and “A Curse on You” is no exception. This is the 50’s and S&K are not Bill Gaines so you know that in the end that little man from the cover will get his just desserts. Some have unfavorably compared Black Magic to the more extreme horror comics of the time. But the use of excessive violence or gruesome depictions were never an interest for Joe and Jack. The stories in Black Magic are very much the same as Simon and Kirby did for titles in other genre. It is hard to understand how someone can praise Simon and Kirby but condemn Black Magic.

Usually the splash panel served a purpose similar to that of the cover, it tries to visually grab the reader’s interest for the story that follows. Mort’s splash panel is rather unusual in that it is also very much part of the story. Here we are provided with the details of how the cover’s victim met his demise. The cast of characters is not quite the same, Jack had replaced the boy with the woman who plays a different part in the story.

A number of people have made the claim that Jack provided layouts for even artists like Meskin. It is really hard to believe in this case. I am sure Kirby would never had shown a man falling down a staircase like this. He would have shown the man with the face in horror and the arms stretching to the reader as the figure almost flies through the air. Mort provides a more literal version of a man who trips and ends up helplessly heels over head. Kirby’s version would be more exciting visually but Mort’s sets up the story better. These sort of differences are also found throughout the story.

Summoning Demons

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 (December 1951) by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby produced the earlier run of Black Magic (#1 to #33). During that period Jack would not necessarily draw stories for every issue but he did all the covers. This means that it was not too unusual for Kirby to draw a cover based on an interior story by another artist. This can provides some interesting comparisons of how different artist handle the same subject. But as you will see in the example I am providing here that there are other possibilities.

Simon and Kirby gave great care in the covers for the comics that they produced, and Black Magic #8 is no exception. It provides a complete story in just one image. Minus the conclusion of course, they wanted you to buy the comic to get that. In this cover we are presented with a marvelous demon of the type only Kirby could create. He is crouching, almost as if ready to spring with deadly intend at the first opportunity. The comments of the lady and the old man indicate that the demon was summoned and only the magic circle confines it. The young woman looks astonished and horrified while the man seems a little too smug. You get the feeling that despite the assurances the man gives nothing good is going to come out of what he has done.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 “Donovan’s Demon” by unidentified artist

The story is unsigned but the GCD attributes it to Bob McCarty. I am pretty certain that is not correct. I have not posted on McCarty yet so I do not want to get into an analysis of why I do not think he did this story. For now let it suffice to say that I find Bob to be an excellent artist. Joe has remarked to me that they hired the best artists and in general I agree with him. However this story artist definitely fall into the lower echelon of the shop talent. A story like this requires at some point to present the reader with a good depiction of the demon. This artist only gives us a shadow and even that is not very impressive. Many have made the claim the Kirby provided layouts for the stories that artists drew for S&K. I just do not believe that is true in this case. Kirby would use shadows to tone down the affects of distressing subject matter such as a man hitting a woman or a murder taking place. But I do not believe Jack would ever consider only showing a shadow and never the actual demon as was done in this story. Further the layout of the story just does not seem to me to have the Kirby touch.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 “Donovan’s Demon” by unidentified artist

The last panel on page 4 has a marvelous depiction of a women. It is so good that it just stands out from all the rest of the page. Clearly Jack Kirby has once again step in acting as art editor. Considering how poorly the story artist drew this character elsewhere I shudder to think what she looked like before Jack’s rescue.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 “Donovan’s Demon” by Jack Kirby and unidentified artist

The splash page provides an alternate take from the comic cover. Here, like the women, we do not actually see the demon. But even without the man’s claim that he can see the demon, we know that something unnatural is here. Smoke bellows from the chair without any sign of a fire. It may only be a draft, but the candles’ flames and smoke snake eerily about. Even the chair seems to have a presence beyond that of a mere piece of furniture. The woman was clearly done by Jack and is a good match for the one on the cover. On the other hand the man was obviously drawn by the story artist. Unfortunately he seems overly large compared to the woman. Because of the exaggerated perspective of the rest of the splash, I think Kirby got her size just right. The candles are a recurring motif for Simon and Kirby. We recently saw a similar one in the double page splash from Captain America #8. I cannot think of another S&K example of a chair handled quite like the one from this splash. However the exaggerated perspective that is done so well here is a Kirby trademark and seems beyond the capabilities of the story artist. So I would say Jack drew the entire splash except, unfortunately, the figure of the man. So here we have a chance to see alternate takes of the same subject both by Jack Kirby himself.

A Criminal Swipe

Headline #56
Headline #56 (November 1952) by Marvin Stein (signed)

In 1952 Marvin Stein provided a cover for Headline. I have not said much about Stein yet in this blog. For now let me say that a 1949 photograph from the Jack Kirby Collector #25 shows him in the S&K studio. Marvin’s work also shows up in some of the studio productions from around that time and it has been reported that he did inking work for S&K. It has also been said that he was a great admirer of Jack Kirby.

Initially the crime comics Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty were Simon and Kirby productions and they are listed as editors. Kirby drawn stories were frequent in these comics. All drawn covers (as opposed to the photographic covers) were done by Jack. Early in 1951 this changed. Nevin Fiddler was listed as the editor and Kirby no longer supply work for these crime titles. Marvin Stein now becomes a conspicuous artist for the crime titles. In fact Marvin draws just about all the covers and provides stories for most issues. A photo of the S&K studio of about 1951 or 1952 does not show Meskin. I conclude from all of this that S&K no longer produced the crime titles and that Marvin Stein was mostly providing work for the new editor, Nevin Fiddler.

The Headline #56 covers is signed by Marvin Stein and is in his style so there can be little question that he was the artist. The inking on the policeman whose back is turned to the viewer is reminiscent of S&K studio inking. But the rest of the cover’s inking is not particularly like that done by S&K shop. Nor does the composition seem very like covers produced by Simon and Kirby. The subject of the police using a one-way mirror to trap criminals is, as far as I know, pretty unique for crime comics of the time. The cover does not correspond to any of the interior stories.

Police Trap #6
Police Trap #6 (September 1955) by Jack Kirby

In late 1955 Charlton would publish the final issues of titles originally done by Mainline, Simon and Kirby’s own short lived publication company. One of them, Police Tray #6, appears to be a swipe from the Headline #56 cover by Stein. Police Trap #6 was one of Jack’s poorer efforts but he still seems responsible for the pencils. The inking has signs of S&K shop inking, particularly the abstract arc shadows. Hopefully by now most Kirby fans realize that Jack would swipe from time to time. His sources for the swipes were generally from photographs, paintings or illustrations. At this point in his career it was unusual for him to swipe from other comic book artists particularly from someone like Marvin Stein. Police Trap #6 only shares the unusually concept with Headline #56. The composition differs in important ways between the two, mostly due Jack’s policemen being given less of the cover and his criminals brought much more forward. Still it is surprising that Jack would the same unusual subject.

I see no reason to “defend Kirby’s honor”. Unlike some, I have no problems with swiping, as long as the swiper creates something with his own individual touch. It could be said that Jack has certainly done that with Police Trap #6. While not denying the possibility that this is another example of a Kirby swipe, I would like to offer another possible scenario. The covers published by Mainline seem much better then when the titles were done by Charlton. For whatever reasons S&K did not seem to put into the Charlton issues the same effort that they had previously done. If they were trying to do a rush job or cut corners it is very possible that they might turned to previously unused material. Perhaps the PT #6 cover might originally been made for Headline or Guilty but abandoned then because it was not quite good enough. It that is true then Marvin Stein could easily have seen it when he was working in the studio and used the idea a few years later. It would not be the only Stein swipe from Kirby. This is just a thought and I am not convinced one way or the other.

A Tale Twice Told

I’m busy tonight working on the next chapter to The End of Simon & Kirby. But I thought I would point out a happy coincidence that occurred in two chapters. I’ll provide links but chances are both chapters are on this page, so it might be easier to just scroll down. In Chapter 2,I included an image of the cover to Young Love #55 done by John Prentice. It turns out that that cover is based on a story done by Jack Kirby in the same issue called “Love Wars”. I just happened to provide a scan of the splash page to Jack’s story in Chapter 5. I find such alternative versions interesting for the insight it provides into the artists. Mind you I am not saying that Jack’s splash gives an idea how he would have done the cover. When it came to the romance comics, Jack’s splash pages seem spicier then his covers.

This example of an artist doing a cover based on a Kirby story may be unique during the S&K collaboration, I’ll have to check. Also rare are examples of Kirby and another artist doing alternate takes of the same cover. I included scans of covers by Jack Kirby and Bill Draut in “Artists and Models“. I can think of only one other example from the S&K period.

There are however a number of examples of Jack doing the cover based on a story by another artist. I think it may be fun sometime to post a series of examples of these alternate interpretations.