Category Archives: Harvey Covers

Speed #20 (July 1942)

Speed #20 

I think this is Jack’s penciling because of his typical exagerated perspective. Yet another variation of Captain Freedom’s costume. Jack Kirby was famous for his frequent failures to get costumes right. But in the case of Captain Freedom I am not sure what the correct costume is, it keeps changing even in the stories. Captain Freedom is a true superhero, he has super strength and can fly (or perhaps he is just jumping great distances). But on all the Speed covers that Jack and Joe did they both protray Harvey’s patriotic hero more normal, sort of like they did Captain America.

Green Hornet #7 (June 1942)

Green Hornet #7

I love the way Simon and Kirby make a cover tell a story. The Green Hornet is rushing to attach a killer clown. If the clown carrying a wicked knife wasn’t enough, the lady on the lower level carries a newspaper with headlines that are hard to make out completely but clearly includes “CLOWN … CRIMINAL …”. Behind her is a fallen policeman, his gun laying at his side, clearly the Green Hornet will be taking on one tough clown. The press above is printing the front page for the latest edition declaring “DIES IN ELECTRIC CHAIR” with a picture of the clown, obviously printed ahead of time because the clown escaped before facing his execution. The Green Hornet had better be careful because this clown has nothing to loose.

The Green Hornet cover for June is a bit of a puzzle. The floating head looks like it was done by Joe Simon, The killer clown and the running Green Hornet seem to be Jack Kirby’s hand. The rest of the figures have bits of both. My take on this is that it was original penciled by Jack without the floating head. Joe added the large head and maybe touched up some other parts. Truly a joint effort. Once again signed as Jon Henri.

The inking on this cover includes irregularly patterned “hay” that we have seen before on the cover to Speed #17. When discussing that cover I noted that the same pattern appears in some of Al Avison’s work, including the splash from Pocket #1. Both Speed #17 and GH #7 covers also share some inking styles and lack the S&K shop style that appears on other Harvey covers. I now suspect that both covers were inked by the same artist and that artist may have been Al Avison.

Champ #20 (July 1942)

Champ #20

The hits keep coming. So many of the covers that S&K did for Harvey are just amazing. But this one is another of my favorites. The exaggerated perspective in the Liberty Lads are a signature style for Jack Kirby, so he is the primary penciler. S&K literally demonize the Japanese foe. This sort of thing would not be considered politically correct today, but during that war artists worked under a different standard.

I have seen penciled on the margins of the original art that this was inked by Al Avison. But that sort of notation is suspicious. I have seen an awful lot of S&K art and only on one other page have I seen a similar annotation as to the inker of the work. I strongly suspect that these notes were made by subsequent owners or art dealers. In any case at this time Avison was at Timely working as their primary artist for Captain America. As such he was very busy and it is unlikely he would have time to do this inking.

Joe Simon comments on the Harvey Covers

On I couple of visits to Joe’s place, I brought him printed copies of the pocket size Harvey covers (Pocket #1-4, Speed #14-16) as well as the regular size Speed #17.

Initially Joe commented that he only did a couple of pocket sized covers. But when he looked at the cover he said that Pocket #1, #2 and #4 were his. The only question was about Speed #16. Initially he said that he thought he did it, then latter he said he may not have done it. Joe commented that the feathering on the legs of Captain Freedom was not like he would do it. He also felt the drawing was rather poor. Joe also said he did Speed #17.

Joe also spotted the Jon Henri signature on Speed #17 and commented that his middle name was Henry. He also said that John Henry (I am assuming this spelling since this was an oral conversation) was a writer that he meet while serving in the Coast Guard. John Henry did some writing for the S&K after the war. But off course Joe was in the Coast Guard after the Jon Henri covers so that was just a coincidence.

Speed #19 (June 1942)

Speed #19

June is Joe Simon’s months since he did both Champ #19 and Speed #19. Both signed as Jon Henri. To me the give-a-way that this is Joe’s penciling is the depiction of the Japanese impersonator. The whole idea of the Japanese setting up to disguise himself as Captain Freedom only to be interrupted by the real thing that seem to me to be something Simon would come up with. Captain Freedom’s fist is square like Jack Kirby would do it. But Joe had inked Jack’s work and was familiar with these sort of traits.

This Speed cover depicts a horde of Japanese soldiers coming down a flight of stairs and entering the room. Actually this is not too unusual at the time. Compare it to the cover for Speed #17 penciled by Jack Kirby where it is Captain Freedom who enters from a stairway. Some covers by Al Avison ( Speed #16 and Pocket #3 have the horde of advancing enemies, but lack the stairs. But in Speed #14 Avison had the stairs, but fewer enemies. But after this period where this motif seemed somewhat popular, I don’t remember S&K ever returning to the enemies entering from stairway motif. But surprisingly it shows up much later in art Joe Simon did which I believe was meant to be the cover for Fighting American #2 by Harvey meant for 1966. The art has a smaller number of enemies but it does show the stairs.

Harvey’s FA #2 was never published and the art I mentioned above has no indications for what it was intended. But Joe still has original art for two Fighting American stories that are marked as Fighting American #2. They are done on Bristol board, not the thick illustration board used for the Prize Fighting American art (1954/55). One of the stories (“The Beef Box”) got published in the Fighting American reprint volume published by Marvel in 1989. All the art intended for FA #2, including the cover, was done by Joe Simon.

Champ #19 (June 1942)

Champ #19

This is one my favorites of the Harvey covers. Once again there is a Jon Henri signature, but this time it was Joe Simon doing the pencils. The visual humor found in the primary crook, will reappear later in the Duke of Broadway. Even the bullet’s near miss of the policeman is more humorous then it is suspenseful. Joe portrays the Liberty Lads younger then Jack did. If they look familiar that is because they actually are Gabby and Scrapper from the Newsboy Legion.

It is amazing to see how well all the pieces of the story are present. The robbed bank, most of the policemen ineffectively on the other roof, the single policeman in the correct location is about to taken care of by the crooks before they make their get-away. That is except for the Liberty Lads approaching unseen from the back, about to save the day. What a masterpiece.

Joe could work in a style close enough to Kirby’s that to this day many are fooled. But he had his own vision too and I am a bit surprised that so many experts still attribute this cover to Kirby. I suspect many use aesthetics to distinguish the two; for them if it is one of the better covers Jack must have done it. Jack did most of the penciling and Joe acknowledges that Kirby was an incredible artist. But I am here to tell you that Joe Simon is a lot better artist then many give him credit for.

Again this cover was published in 1942, not 1941 as listed in the Checklist.

Speed #18 (May 1942)

A damsel in distress. A fiend finishing off a gravestone just before performing the final act. But have no fear, it’s Captain America to the rescue. But wait, where’s Bucky? But wait again, that’s not Captain America! Captain Freedom was Speed Comics’ patriotic hero. In the hands of Jack Kirby, Captain Freedom would look even more like Captain America then he already had. It must have brought some satisfaction to Simon and Kirby that they could still show how Cap should be done.

Speed Comics #18

Captain Freedom first appeared in Speed #13 with a cover date of May 1941. This was before Al Harvey was publisher for Speed. According to Joe Simon, Irving Manheimer (president of Publisher Distributing) did the publishing of Speed Comics then. The distributors loved comics at that time. Captain Freedom was created by Franklin Flagg, do you think that could be a pseudonym? Once Captain America become a big seller, copy-cat patriotic heroes became abundant. But even so, Captain Freedom seems particularly close in design to Captain America. Similar placement of red and white stripes, a circle of stars replaces a single star on the chest, and shoulder pads replace mail armor. The “skull cap” is similar particularly to the Cap in Captain America #1. And of course the rank of Captain is shared by both.

Speed Comics #13

What makes the similarity surprising is the Captain America #1 was cover dated March while Speed #13 is dated May. According to Joe Simon, comics typically took about a month to create, a month to print, and another month to distribute. But that would put the creation of Speed #13 to at best a month before Captain America #1. So we seem to have a case of an obvious copy-cat patriotic hero created before the original hit the new stands. How was that possible? I think part of the answer lies in a adverisement on the back cover of Speed #13.

Speed Comics #13

If you missed it, below is a close up of the comicscope. On the sides is a clear depiction of Captain America and Bucky. If maybe a little hard to notice because it is behind a star, but Cap carries his triangular shield. Further Cap is wearing his original “skull cap”, with his neck bare. Interestingly, Cap and Bucky are mistakenly depicted as wearing shorts, just like Captain Freedom. A similar ad, without Cap, was on the back of Speed #12. Cap and Bucky were crudely pasted over the original ad’s art, parts of which are still visible around the edges. With the placement of this ad in the same issue, and presumably with an explanation of who the hero was, Manheimer had advance notice of Captain America. He therefore could respond with the creation of their own patriotic hero.

Speed Comics #13

But having answered what source Manheimer used to launch Captain Freedom, we now have to wonder how the comicscope ad could have known about Simon & Kirby’s creation? Comicsope was the invention of Bob Farrell, who was Victor Fox’s right hand man. According to Joe, Farrell got free advertisement for comicscope in Fox comics. That is Fox’s Samson that is being projected on the wall in the ad from the Speed #13. But according to Joe, he never saw Bob Farrell for a number of years once he (Joe) left Fox Publications. So how Bob Farrell got to see Simon & Kirby’s new creation before it was published remains a mystery.

This Speed #18 cover was primarily penciled by Jack Kirby.

Champ #18 (May 1942)

Champ Comics #18

Joe and Jack had done three covers for this series when it was published by Worth under the title Champions. Now the line was being done by Harvey after his unsuccessful pocket comics. Here and in the comics published at the same by National, we find the start of the real Simon & Kirby style. I believe the reason this happened now is that before at Timely there was a large crew working on Captain America. But initially there was probably only Joe and Jack at National. This really forged their collaboration. The Captain America covers were exiting but now Joe and Jack have taken it to a new level. Forget about how the Liberty Lads managed to get into this aerial fight. Who cares how one of them is able to slug a Jap off the plane with the propeller in between them? What matters is the story of the daring rescue of our capitol from the Japanese menace. How could a kid possibly pass this cover up without at least stopping to see what was inside. Unfortunately the contents did not, could not, live up to the cover. For that the comic reader would have to buy National’s Adventure or Star Spangled comics.

Another Harvey cover signed as Jon Henri. But does anyone have a doubt, that Kirby penciled this cover?

By the way, the Checklist uses an incorrect date for this cover as well as for #19, #20 and #21. They were all done in 1942, not 1941.

Speed #17 (April 1942)

Al Harvey must have been a great salesman. As Joe Simon tells it, Al’s great idea of pocket size comics (Pocket, Speed and Spitfire) were very popular. Unfortunately one of the reasons for their popularity was the ease that kids could steal them. That fact did not make them popular with the newsstand owners. You would have thought that when the last of these small comics were published in January 1941, that would have been the end of Harvey’s publishing career. Instead not only did Speed Comics return in April as a regular size comic, Harvey took over publishing Champ Comics in May, and then even more surprising Green Hornet in June. Al would turn again to Joe Simon, and now Jack Kirby also, to help with the covers.

Speed #17

When Harvey resumed publishing, S&K were working for National. Joe and Jack’s version of Sandman was out in March (see image below), their version of Manhunter and their own creation the Newsboy Legion came out at the same time as Speed #17, and their creation Boy Commandos would come out in October. National was even using the Simon and Kirby name on their covers. It was pretty unusual at that time to use the creator names to promote the comic. Even so Joe and Jack would do covers art for Harvey. But they would not sign these with their own names. Instead some of the work is signed Jon Henri. I don’t believe that anybody in the industry or at National was fooled by this. I think the real reason that they did not use their own names is that Simon and Kirby had now become a brand name. It is one thing to give Al Harvey a helping hand, it is another to compete against yourself.

Adventure #72

This cover has the Jon Henri signature. In later posts I shall show that other Henri covers would be penciled by either Jack or Joe. The overall composition is not unlike a classic Al Schromberg. Despite all that is going on, S&K seem to handle it well and present a clear story. But it is a layout style that was pretty unusual for them. Even though published by Harvey, this is very much a Captain America cover. Compare it to Captain America #10 which even has similar hooded figures. The art style is closest to what had been done at Timely. But the typical Simon and Kirby art had already appeared and National and would also show up on all the later Henri covers. I suspect that this cover was actually done just after leaving Timely and before their work at National gave birth to a true S&K style. Penciling was primarily done by Jack Kirby.

I admit that I am not comfortable with golden age ink attributions. But on this cover there is a peculiar inking pattern in the chute and the ceiling of the room above it. A similar inking style appears on the splash page that Al Avison did for Pocket #1. I have also seen it in “Red Skull’s Deadly Revenge” from Captain America #16, again by Al Avison. However I have also seen something similar on the covers for Champion #8 (Joe Simon) and #9 (Jack Kirby).

Pocket Comic #3 (November 1941)

I have saved Pocket Comics #3 as the last small sized cover that I would post on. If Speed #14 to #16 were done by Al Avison and if Pocket #1, #2 and #4 covers were done by Joe Simon, it would seem natural to say Joe also did Pocket #3. In fact the depiction of the Black Cat matches the one Joe does for Pocket #2 and #4. On none of the Speed covers is there any indication that Avison could execute such a convincing pose for the Black Cat. But as soon as we turn to the rest of the cover, problems set in. The soldier being prepared for shipping (via C.O.D) just does not seem to lay down in the box. The Nazis are white skeletal figures in red hooded clocks. I would describe the robbed figures with the same term I used for Speed #15 and #16, goofy. The track record so far for the pocket comics is that Joe did well executed covers, Al rather crude ones, Joe presents intimidating villains, Al goofy Nazis.

Pocket Comics #3

The action takes place in a long corridor done in forced perspective. There are more red clocked Nazis advancing from the end of the hallway. This is all similar to the tunnel in Speed #16 but not seen elsewhere. This suggests that both covers were done by the same artist.

My conclusion is that the cover for Pocket #3 was done by Al Avison, perhaps with an assist by Joe Simon on the Black Cat figure. After S&K left Timely, Al would not work for them again. But their paths would cross at Harvey comics after the war. I am sure I will post on that sometime but until then, and in difference to Nick (who wanted to see more Avison) here is a splash page from Pocket Comics #1.

Pocket Comics #1

At this point we have examined all the Harvey pocket comics. The best is yet to come, however they will be different not only in size but also in style. So let’s recap the attributions so far.

Pocket 1 (August 1941) Joe Simon
Pocket 2 (September 1941) Joe Simon
Pocket 3 (November 1941) Al Avison
Pocket 4 (January 1942) Joe Simon

Speed 14 (September 1941) Al Avison (signed)
Speed 15 (November 1941) Al Avison
Speed 16 (January 1942) Al Avison