Category Archives: Kirby Or Not

The Puzzling Simon and Kirby Artist

The Simon and Kirby studio employed a number of artists whose identity has not been determined. So it might seem odd to spend much time writing about just on of them. I have written before about the artist that I will discuss here but he has such a puzzling combination of traits that I want to collect in one place what little I known. (previously in Art of Romance, Chapter 4 and Chapter 8, and What? Who?)

Young Love #1 (February 1949) “Fickle”, pencils by Jack Kirby and inking by an unidentified artist

The earliest piece of work that I believe this artist had a hand in appears in “Fickle” from Young Love #1 (February 1949). The man in the splash panel and second story panel is long and lanky with a small head. This is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this unidentified artist. Although somewhat stylized, the woman in the first story panel looks very much like she was drawn by Jack Kirby. In fact the entire story consistently looks like Kirby’s work although tall lanky figures appear in different places. There is little doubt that Kirby did the pencils and the unidentified artists was in this case an inker. The quality of the inking in the story is quite variable and so I suspect more than on artist had a hand in the inking. This was after all the unusual practice in the Simon and Kirby studio, at least when it came to work drawn by Jack. For the most part the inking was done in what I describe as studio style inking with such techniques as picket fence crosshatching and abstract arc shadows (Inking Glossary). It does seem that some of the parts that show the tall lanky figures display much less of these techniques.

Many months will pass before the next piece that I attribute to the unidentified artist. That is not to say that he did no more work. Having contributed to the inking of one Kirby piece I suspect he may have help ink others as well. That other inking work just has not yet been identified.

Real West Romances #4 (October 1949) “The Perfect Cowboy”, pencils by Jack Kirby and inking by an unidentified artist

The tall and lanky figure appears once again in “The Perfect Cowboy” from Real West Romances #4 (October 1949). That style is best shown in the splash page but I have chosen a page that portrays a number of this artist’s style. Even so the lanky figure can be seen in panels 1 and 3. The story is inked in the studio style but it exhibits some rather unusual twists to that style. The artist uses picket fence crosshatching in the woman’s hair as can be seen in the last two panels of the page. This gives the hair a rather unusual look and is something I have never seen another artist do. Actually this seems to have been a bit of an experiment by this artist and is one that he did not repeat. Another unusual inking technique is the use of simple crosshatching in the some of the dust clouds such as seen in the third panel. I have never seen another Simon and Kirby artist do that but if this also was an experimental inking technique it was one that the inker was happy with and would use again.

Many of the faces seem somewhat simplified particularly in the way the eyebrows are depicted which is rather like Meskin’s approach. The woman’s eyes often seem to be at a bit of an angle with one another in a manner similar to that used by Marvin Stein. I hasten to add that neither Meskin nor Stein drew lanky figures or used simple crosshatching in dust clouds. While some of the faces may look a little like the work of Meskin or Stein, others look very much like the work of Kirby. In fact the entire story is laid out in manner so typical of Kirby that I have little doubt that Kirby did the pencils for this story and our unidentified artist did the inking. Unlike “Fickle” the inking is consistent throughout the story and I am confident that it was largely the inking by one hand. Frankly I suspect the original pencils were rather nice but the inker’s heavy hand has pretty much overwhelmed Kirby’s pencils.

Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949) “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail” pencils and inks by an unidentified artist

This artist next appears in “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail” from Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949). The splash provides an excellent example of this artist trademark tall and lanky figures. There are certain panels in the story that seem to look a little like Kirby’s work and others that suggest Mort Meskin. However the great majority of the art seems distinct from either Kirby or Meskin so I feel pretty certain that these are this artists own pencils. Those parts similar to Kirby or Meskin are probably due to swiping.

For the most part this story is inked in the studio style. While the inking has its own unique traits it does resemble Meskin’s inking when that artist inked Kirby pencils. The unidentified artist inked eyebrows very much like Meskin and this may be one of the reason that the art has such a Meskin look to it. Once again we find simple crosshatching applied to dust clouds such as seen in the splash panel above. I have not found any other artist in the Simon and Kirby studio who did this.

Western Love #3 (November 1949) “The Blue Blood and the Bum” page 7, pencils and inks by an unidentified artist

Another story by this artist, “The Blue Blood and the Bum”, was published in the same month. It appeared in Western Love a title that combined the romance and western genre. As such it makes for easy comparison to “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail”. Some of the same traits appear such as tall and lanky figures, simple cross hatching in dust clouds and simple Meskin-like eyebrows. There does appears that the inking has less of an emphasis on the studio style. The story on a whole seems to mimic less the style of Kirby or Meskin.

Prize Comics Western #80 (January 1950) “Trial by Six-Gun”, art by two unidentified artists

The final example that I have found for this mystery artist is found in “Trial by Six-Gun” from Prize Comics Western #80 (January 1950). The tall and lanky figures found in the splash panel seem a perfect match for the work of this unidentified artist. However the rest of the story, including the two panels below the splash, look very different from this artist’s work. Two months seem much too short a time to effect such a transformation and so I am sure this is the work of another artist. How such a combination came about will probably remain one of those minor mysteries.

These five stories are all that I could find by this artists despite much searching. I will admit that it is quite possible that he did some inking of Kirby pencils that I did not spot. I guess my main interest in this artist was to come to understand exactly what was his contribution to “The Perfect Cowboy”. A comparison of that story to the others has convinced me that “The Perfect Cowboy” was penciled by Jack Kirby and owes its unusual look to the overwhelming effects of the unidentified artist’s inking.

Not Kirby? Wrong! Marvel Masterwork’s Marvel Comics Volumes 6 and 7

I have never particularly liked the way that Marvel does their reprint volumes. But even coverless copies of golden age Marvel Mystery Comics are now so expensive and rare that I am certain I will never have a complete run. So I have been buying some of Marvel’s Golden Age Masterworks. I know I have to be careful in using them for study but still Marvel has done everyone a service in providing them. I recently picked up volume 7 of the Marvel Comics series which finishes Simon and Kirby’s run of the Vision feature. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the contents page only to find that some of the Vision stories have been attributed to other artists! I pulled out my copy of Volume 6 and found that this practice had started in that volume. I decided I would write about why these attributions are so very, very wrong. I will only be discussing the pencils as inking attributions are difficult to determine and there is nothing like a consensus of that subject. But hey, if Marvel Masterworks cannot get correct pencil attributions for such a distinctive artist like Jack Kirby, what chance is there that it got the inking attributions right?

Marvel Mystery Comics #21 (July 1941) “The Vision” page 6, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 6)

The Masterworks only credit Kirby for the pencils of splash page, the rest of the story is attributed to Al Avison. Not the inks mind you, but the pencils. There is an asterisk on this attribution for a footnote that states:

It was not industry standard in the Golden Age of comics to provide detailed credits for each story. The credits in this volume represents the most accurate information available at the time of publication.

Really? I would have thought that the Jack Kirby Checklist (Gold Edition) would be the most accurate information available and it attributes this story to Jack Kirby. Now I admit there are occasions when I disagree with the JK Checklist (most often because sometimes it credits work to Jack that Joe Simon penciled, an artist who was very familiar with Jack’s art and very good at mimicking him). However the Checklist is the best source for Kirby attributions and I always proceed cautiously when I disagree with it. Now in the case of these Marvel Masterwork credits it is important to remember we are discussing the pencils. Inkers often assert their own personal styles over another artists pencils. The art must be examined for features that would not be derived from the inker. For Jack Kirby two features that I often look for to spot his work is the presence and handling of exaggerated perspective and fist fights. Kirby was the master of these two art forms and no other artist every managed to do them quite like Jack. I am not saying that these are the only distinctive traits that can be used for spotting but that they so common that they often are all that is needed for attribution purposes. Both techniques are presented on page 7 of the Vision story from MM #21. Like many artists, Avison tried to copy Kirby’s slugfest style but he never came close to what can be seen on this page. Particularly panel 5, it is hard to believe that anyone would fail to recognize Kirby’s distinctive hand in that minor masterpiece.

Marvel Mystery Comics #22 (August 1941) “The Vision” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 6)

Once again for the Vision story in Marvel Mystery Comics #22, Marvel Masterworks only credit the first page to Jack and the rest of the story as penciled by Al Avison. While the story includes some fist fights that look to me like they were done by Kirby they are not as convincing as those found in MM #21. But look at panel 7 of page 2 shown above. Kirby loved to show figure heading forward to the viewer and this panel is a great example of the exaggerated perspective that is required to accomplish that. In this case Kirby brings the torso lower than usual even for his work but he still convincingly pulls it off. I have never seen Al Avison effectively use such exaggerated perspective. I will be providing an example below of how Avison tries something similar but as we shall see it is easy to distinguish from Kirby’s work.

Marvel Mystery Comics #25 (November 1941) “The Vision” page 6, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from the original comic book)

Marvel Masterworks correctly credits the pencils for the Visions stories from Marvel Mystery Comics issues #23 and #24 to Jack Kirby so they need not be discussed here. The credits for MM #25 are rather peculiar as Kirby is said to have done the title page and the layouts while the “art” was done by Al Avison, Ernie Hart and Mike Sedowsky. It is well known that Kirby did some layouts during the silver age but he has often been credited for doing layouts during the golden age for such artists as Mort Meskin, Bill Draut and John Prentice. Such claims are bogus in almost all cases as I have frequently shown in posts in this blog, particularly in my Art of Romance serial post. However there was some work from the Simon and Kirby studio that looks like Kirby provided layouts and there are some others that I struggle with whether they are examples of Kirby layouts or inking that overwhelmed Kirby’s original pencils. During the silver age, Kirby’s layout could get rather tight and detailed in some places. Much more than would be expected for something described as an layout. But this would be true only for certain sections while the layouts for the rest of the story seem to have been much looser. so one of the criteria that I use for recognizing Kirby layouts is to look for how consistent the entire story is. A story that looks consistent throughout is more likely to be the result of the work of an inker’s heavy hand no mater how unusual it may look for a piece of Kirby art. Even so making these distinctions can sometimes be difficult but not so in the case of the Vision from MM #25. That story looks so like Kirby’s style throughout the entire story that it is hard to understand why anyone would think it is just Jack’s layouts.

It would not be legally right for me to provide the entire story so I will pick one of the more distinctive pages. This is another slugfest full with examples of exaggerated perspective. All done in so convincing a manner it is hard to believe any artist other than Kirby could have done it. The original pencils must have been so tight that no one should call it a layout. (It is pages like this that show what a master Kirby was at exciting action.) These are not Kirby layouts but true Kirby.

Note the way how some of the figures have their feet rotated somewhat so that the soles face the reader more than would strictly be expected. This is a typical Kirby trait. This is a style that could  be mimic by other artists. After all Simon adopted it as well even in work for the Coast Guard done while Kirby was serving in Europe. But still it would not be expected to show up in work done from layouts.

Marvel Mystery Comics #26 (December 1941) “The Vision”, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 7)

Of all the incorrect attributions found in Marvel Masterworks, the Vision story for Marvel Mystery #26 is the one I understand the most. Not that I agree, but I do think I understand why they went so wrong. This is probable the most unsuccessful Vision story that Kirby ever drew and also one of the most poorly inked. But quality is a poor tool to use when trying to determine the correct attributions. Even the best artist has his bad days. Again it is best to turn to things like the handling of exaggerated perspective when deciding who actually penciled the art. The Masterwork credits Al Avison and Ernie Hart for all the pencils, including the splash page. Look at the figure of the Vision from the splash page. He advances toward the reader in a typical Kirby pose. The neck is hidden and the torso is squat due to the effects of the perspective. One leg retreats while the other is thrust forward as the Visions strides toward the viewer. I have never seen Avison do anything nearly as successful and I doubt anyone can find something that Hart did that looks like this either. While the quality of the art in this story is not Kirby’s best, there are many other examples of exaggerated perspective that I do not think anybody but Kirby could have done.

This story is not without is problems. Look at the man with the blue suit in the splash. His upper body does not seem properly jointed to the lower portion. The tree monster’s root that crosses in front of the figure seems to have confused the artist. A similar thing can be observed on the cover for Young Allies #2 (Winter 1942) a comic that appeared not very long after MM #26 (advertisements for it appear in MM #28). I am uncertain what to say about this. Is it a rare Kirby failure or an example of another artist’s work? I tend to suspect the latter. I can easily see it as an later addition by another artist. If so it is not the only example of a Kirby splash modified during the Timely period (see Captain Daring from Daring Mystery #7 in Chapter 9 of Early Jack Kirby).

Marvel Mystery Comics #27 (January 1942) “The Vision”, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 7)

This is the last Vision story that I would credit to Jack Kirby. In this I agree with the Jack Kirby Checklist but not the Marvel Masterworks which says this was penciled by Al Avison. I must say I am rather puzzled by this as it is one of the better Kirby Vision stories. The inking is not as nice as some of the early Visions stories where Kirby inked his own pencils but superior to most of the inking from towards the end of Simon and Kirby’s stay at Timely. While I warn against using quality as a reference when deciding credits, I still would think that those responsible for the attribution in the Marvel Masterworks would have at least reconsidered when facing such superior work as this. Al Avison would do some great art after Simon and Kirby parted from Timely including the best golden age Captain America by an artist other than Joe and Jack. So good that some would claim Kirby provided layouts to him later in his career. That is another false claim (see Al Avison Did Not Need Any Help) but as good as Avison became his art never approached that shown in the Vision story for MM #27.

But there is no reason to depend on quality to decide who really provided the pencils for this story. Once again examining the exaggerated perspective and fist fights are sufficient. In the splash the Vision leans so far forward there is no sign of his neck while there is a very short distance from his arms to the top of his hips. His left leg advances toward the viewer will the right leg is trust backwards. This is the classical Kirby pose that Avison never truly used. similar expressive perspectives occur frequently elsewhere in the story as well as truly classic Kirby slugging.

Marvel Mystery Comics #28 (February 1942) “The Vision” page 4, pencils by Al Avison (from Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics volume 7)

The last Simon and Kirby Captain America comic had a January cover date, the same month as Marvel Mystery Comics #27. After which Al Avison took over the primary penciling of Captain America. So it is not surprising that the Vision story from Marvel Mystery #28 (February 1942) was also drawn by Avison, one of the few Vision attributions that I agree with the Masterworks. But it also serves as a comparison for all the Vision work drawn by Kirby that preceded it. The splash page shows the Vision advancing more to the side than toward the reader. While Kirby would sometimes does something similar it is not the classic Kirby pose that dominates the earlier Vision stories. The closest Avison comes in this story to that pose is found in panel 4 from page 4. Yes the neck is hidden and the torso shortened (although not that convincingly) but his left leg is only slightly advanced from the right. While the Kirby pose makes the figure look like he is rapidly advancing towards the reader in this one it looks like the Vision is taking a bow. And while in the future Avison would sometimes draw a rather good fist fight (although not nearly as good as Kirby’s) there are no slugfests to be found in this story. Avison’s Vision compare well with the Captain America stories he did but it remains in stark contrast to Visions stories that should correctly be credited to Kirby.

Except for the occasional signature, golden age comic books almost never provided credits. Attributions are therefore opinions, not facts, and people can be mistaken about their opinions. Even me, which is why in this blog I like to try to explain what the basis is for the credits I supply. But such an approach is not possible for reprint books like the Marvel Masterworks. Which is why it is unfortunate that they choose to provide credits anyway. There will now be many people who will treat the Masterworks credits in these two volumes as fact not opinions. The disclaimer applied to some of the attributions actually makes it worse because of the implication implied to those credits that are not so marked. That is they are so accurate that no disclaimer is needed but they are actually just as prone to error. Readers of the Masterworks volumes would be better served had Marvel avoided detailed crediting rather than depending on the opinions of a small group of people.

Young Allies and the L Word

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941), art by Jack Kirby

Recently there was discussion on one of Yahoo’s comic book lists about the correct attribution for the art for Young Allies #1 and #2. I do not want to get into details of that interchange, although I may disagree with some of the participants they are entitled to their opinions. But I thought I would write a post on Young Allies #1 to explain my position. The cover for Young Allies #2 presents its unique problems so I will discuss it some other time.

There can be no question about Simon and Kirby’s involvement with Young Allies #1. The punch throwing Bucky on the cover is so typical of Kirby that there can be no doubt that he drew the figure. I would go even further and confidently credit Jack with the Red Skull and Hitler as well. Normally that would be enough for me to attribute the entire cover to Jack Kirby; it was not Simon and Kirby typical procedure for Kirby to draw part of a cover then pass it on to someone else to finish it up (there are two exceptions that I know of, the covers for Detective #65 and In Love #1).

Three of the bound Young Allies, those on our left, have enough similarity to other Simon and Kirby creations that I would conclude Jack probably drew them. The soldier firing a pistol is a typical Simon and Kirby motif and although he is a little stiff I would assign him to Jack as well. I do have trouble attributing the last Young Ally, Whitewash, to Jack. While Simon and Kirby produced some stereotypical characters none of them ever went as far as this troubling image. Finally there is Toro. Frankly there is not much in Toro’s depiction that suggests Kirby but then there is little in the Simon and Kirby repertoire to compare Toro with.

To sum up there are parts of the YA #1 cover that clearly were done by Kirby, some parts that might be Jack’s as well, but other parts that may be someone else’s work. I will return to the cover after I have considered the story art as well.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1942) chapter 3 page 3

The book is one long story with 6 chapters. Each chapter, with the exception of the first, starts with a full pages splash. The first chapter begins with a sort of table of contents in the form of a matrix of reduced versions of the chapter splashes. This format of turning the comic into one long story is a device that Simon and Kirby would return to in Boy Commandos. While some of their later work did not take up the entire book Simon and Kirby did return every so often to long stories requiring multiple chapters. It is clear that different hands were involved in drawing this story. The story art certainly was not drawn by Simon and Kirby. I really have not carefully examined it and so I will not be discussing credits for the story art at this time.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941) enlarged Chapter 1 section of the table of contents

Although the first chapter actually starts with a table of contents that table includes an image that may have been the originally intended splash. For the most part everything seems drawn by Kirby. Fists are square in shape as is typical for Kirby. Bucky’s legs have a form often used by Jack. Of course nobody could depict a punch like Jack and this is a good example of a Kirby slugfest. In fact we shall see the attribution of this panel to Jack Kirby is the most secure of all the splashes. There are two troublesome aspects and they are the same ones found in the cover: Whitewash and Toro. Toro is an important part of the composition and the fall of the topmost Nazi soldier makes no sense without him. Yet the figure of Toro is as stiff and uninteresting as his depiction on the cover. Whitewash on the other hand just seems out of place.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941) Chapter 2

Bucky looks like he could have step out of a page from Captain America and I am quite comfortable attributing him to Kirby. The Red Skull is a bit awkward but this is not unusual for Jack’s work at this period. Otherwise the Red Skull looks like Jack’s work. Note how Whitewash is placed in the background. His attempt to escape the graveyard was meant to provide comic relief but his small size hides what would otherwise be his stereotypical facial features. Once again Toro seems stiff and uninteresting but still plays an important part of the composition.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941) Chapter 3

I am not sure why anyone would have problem with Chapter 3 being penciled by Jack Kirby; what with square fingertips, Bucky’s wild hair, and the disarrayed posses of the Nazi seamen. This splash more then any of the others is centered on Bucky with all other Young Allies delegated to the background. Toro, with his stiff flight, seems little more then a smaller version of the Toro depicted on the cover.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941) Chapter 4

Only in the splash for Chapter 4 do we find some decidedly non-Kirby elements. While there are some square fists (a cautionary example to depending on this trait alone when identifying Kirby art) the rest of the hands look very different from Kirby’s usual manner. The pile of Young Allies pinning Hitler lacks the action of typical Kirby art. Even the heavy boy’s readiness to use a hammer on Hitler’s rear end is not typical Simon and Kirby humor. Bucky has not only been placed in the background but now Whitewash gets to be the centerpiece of the splash which makes his stereotypic features all that more repulsive to our modern sensibilities. Toro is given the most dynamic pose of all the splashes or the cover. In short I do not think Kirby had anything to do with this splash, nor for that matter Joe Simon.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941) Chapter 5

The low viewing angle, the wide running stance of the Red Skull and the lower of the two Boy Commandoes Young Allies, and the soldier firing his pistol from above all are classic features of Jack Kirby’s art. Also note the Red Skull’s square fists; while I caution against depending on this feature its presence should not be ignored either. There is a crudeness to the art that makes this splash distinctive compared to the other splashes we have examined so far.

Young Allies #1 (Summer 1941) Chapter 6

Most Simon and Kirby splashes and covers have an emphasis on design that makes me believe that they had been laid out by Joe Simon (see my serial post The Wide Angle Scream). But there are others where the figures are distributed all over the image and interlink with one another like some complicated puzzle. I believe these “all over compositions” are Jack’s alone. The splash for Chapter 6 is an example of this type of composition. Jack really did not try to provide accurate anatomy but he paid careful attention to the underlying form. Kirby might distort the figure but he always did it without “breaking” the structure. It is just that sort of distortion that is found here in the legs found on Bucky and his thrown (and barely clad) opponent. Some of the Young Allies have been excluded from this splash, in particular Whitewash. Toro gets one of his most energetic posses but he still presents a stiff and awkward appearance.

Now that the cover and all the splashes have been presented what can be concluded? As I mentioned above the splash for Chapter 4 does not seem to me to have any significant Simon and Kirby involvement and I will be excluding it from my discussion. Otherwise all the splashes and the cover had Simon and Kirby involvement at some level. Jack Kirby brought to Captain America a dynamic art style that no other artist at that time came close to. That dynamism is found in the cover and all the splashes (again excluding Chapter 4). While Simon and Kirby’s presence seems pretty certain much of the art seems crude compared to what Kirby was penciling in Captain America at the same time. Although Joe may have been involved in some of the inking, I do not think Simon was stepping in to help with the pencils either. Thus one or more other artists are likely to have had a hand in this work as well.

It was probably the combination of the Kirby dynamic action with the crudeness of the drawing that has caused some to use the L word. Yes some are saying Kirby only did the layouts. Frankly I am getting pretty disgusted with the L word when applied to Jack Kirby. Normally when the term layouts implies that one artist would provide very rough or outline drawings with another artist then providing the details. A good example are the layouts that Carl Burgos did for Joe Simon (Carl Burgos does the Fly). When I say that I believe Joe would often provide Jack with a splash or cover layout that is what I am talking about. But my study of Simon and Kirby productions (particularly the romance comics) and Marvel silver age comics convinces me that Jack never did layouts of that type. Unfortunately we no longer have any examples of Kirby “layouts”, that is those left unfinished by another artist. But it is obvious even in the finished product that Kirby provided much more then mere outlines. Kirby “layouts” may have been a little rough but they were tight enough that his hand is still often detectable in the final product. In some places Kirby’s presence would be so strong that Jack must have provided very tight drawing. To call this type of work layouts is completely unfair to Kirby. Frankly I blame Stan Lee for first using this term for some work that Jack did during the 60’s. The only problem is that I have yet to come up with a better term. However it is clear that the proper credit for the pencils for cases like the cover and splashes for Young Allies is that Jack Kirby drew them working with other artists.

As for Young Allies I believe the cover and splashes (still excluding Chapter 4) all were done by Jack Kirby but with some portions tighter then others. Bucky invariably got the best treatment and Toro the roughest. It may sound like heresy but I do not believe that at this time Jack had any idea how to handle a human torch and since it was someone else’s creation little interest in figuring it out. While Kirby would carefully place Toro into the composition he left it the finishing artists to flesh him out and frankly they were not up to the job. As for Whitewash Kirby always seem to place him far in the background of the splashes, or leave him out entirely. I suspect that Jack really was not comfortable with Whitewash and this suggests that his presence in the Young Allies was dictated by someone else.

It’s A Crime, Chapter 10, The Master and His Protégé

(Justice Traps the Guilty #13 – #23, Headline #39 – #45)

This chapter will cover the Prize crime comics from the period December 1949 through February 1951. This is a longer period then I have lately been using in my serial posts but it defines a period where the art and artists are consistent. Actually the period started with JTTG #12 and Headline #38 that were included in the previous chapter.

Headline #43 (September 1950)

For much of this period the covers of the crime titles used photographs. When the photo covers began some months before (Headline #36 July 1949, JTTG #12 October 1949) it is clear that Simon and Kirby had a hand in them because both are present on the cover for Headline #37 (September 1949).

Justice Traps the Guilty #5 (July 1948), art by Jack Kirby

While neither artist shows up on any further covers, Simon and Kirby at least influenced the cover for Headline #43. The same theme appeared previously on the cover for JTTG #5 drawn by Jack Kirby. In both the criminal threatens to jump rather then allow himself to be arrested, the policeman has a personal relationship to the criminal (brother-in-law in one and old friend in the other), and a woman, presumably the criminal’s wife, looks on behind the protection provided by the cop. While the two covers have the same theme in reality they could hardly be more different. I do not know who was responsible for the switch to photo covers, but did they really believe that cheesy covers like that were better then those drawn by Kirby? What were they thinking?

Justice Traps the Guilty #18 (September 1950), art by Jack Kirby

Eventually the use of photographic covers ended for four Prize titles. This did not happen at once but was done over a three month period. The last photo cover were Prize Comics Western #82 (July 1950), Young Love #1 (July 1950), Justice Traps the Guilty #17 (August 1950), and Headline #43 (September 1950). The western romance titles had ended prior to the drop of photo covers but interestingly Young Romance did not switch like the other titles and photo covers continued to be used until 1954 (with a couple very short lived revival of art covers; issues #26, #27, #33 and #34). Photo covers for Young Love resumed with issue #23 (July 1951) and then also continued until 1954.

When drawn covers were resumed it was Jack Kirby who provided the initial cover art. In the case of Prize Comics Western this was only for one issue (PCW #83, August 1950) before another artist (so far unidentified) took over. For Headline Kirby would produce two covers (issues #44 November 1950 and #45 January 1951). Justice Traps the Guilty got five Kirby covers (issues #18, #19, #21, #22 and #23, September 1950 to February 1951. Note that the last Kirby covers for JTTG and Headline were dated about the same time but there are over twice as many JTTG Kirby covers. This can be explained by the fact that photo covers were dropped on JTTG before Headline and JTTG was at this point a monthly title while Headline remained a bimonthly.

Justice Traps the Guilty #20 (November 1950), art by Marvin Stein

Perhaps the reader noticed that in the middle of all final Kirby crime covers there was one missing, JTTG #20. This cover is unsigned but clearly was not done by Jack. Instead it was done by an artist, Marvin Stein, who has not yet been discussed in this serial post, It’s a Crime, or The Art of Romance but was discussed briefly in Prize Comics Western, a Rough History. I will be writing about Stein further below but here I would like to say that my attribution of JTTG #20 is based mainly on the policemen. The head of the cop in the foreground has a shallow depth to it that is characteristic of Marvin Stein when he draws a head from slightly behind side view. Stein also has a particular visual shorthand for more distant faces that can be seen in the background policeman.

Justice Traps the Guilty #22 (January 1951) “Brute Force”, art by Marvin Stein

Marvin Stein had an extended relationship with Prize Comics but how long he was actually employed by the Simon and Kirby studio is more uncertain. When interviewed by Jim Amash (Alter Ego #76 March 2008) Joe Simon said that they traded Marvin like he was some baseball player to Crestwood (otherwise known as Prize Comics). However Stein continued to work in the Simon and Kirby studio as Prize Comics had no art department. It would be nice to know when this “trade” occurred and although I will be offering a couple of possibilities the fact none is of my suggestions seems fully satisfactory.

Joe Simon once said to me that initially he did not think Stein’s art was that good but later Marvin improved greatly. Marvin signed many of his work and had a distinctive style over most of his career. The earliest signed work by Marvin Stein that I am aware of is “Brute Force”. The presence of his autograph is particularly important because otherwise it would be hard to provide an attribute since it does not exhibit many of the features that make Stein’s style so distinctive. Frankly I am fully in agreement with Joe’s negative evaluation of Marvin’s early work.

Young Love #19 (March 1951) “The Girl Who Loves Him”, art by Marvin Stein

Marvin Stein’s early work shows much variation. “The Girl Who Loves Him” was published only a couple of months after “Brute Force”. I have included this romance story here because if provides a better example of what Marvin’s early work looked like. While on a whole this early art looks different from later, and more typical, work by Stein, some of his style traits can be detected. Marvin often shows a man from above and to the side and when doing so draws them in a distinctive fashion. This can be seen in the man in the second panel. The woman in the third panel has eyebrows that extend into a thought line without much of a demarcation to distinguish the two facial features; this is also a trait often found in Stein’s later period. In particular, make note of how the woman is drawn in the second, third and fifth panels. Here Marvin’s style is different from his typical period but we will see it again in some unsigned works.

Justice Traps the Guilty #18 (September 1950) “Pirates of the Poor” page 6, art by Jack Kirby and Marvin Stein

While it is clear that during this period Jack Kirby contributed some covers, did he provide any art? Well if you believe The Jack Kirby Checklist, Jack provided two stories, one of them being “Pirates of the Poor”. I must admit that some time ago I had excluded this story from works attributable to Kirby. But one nice thing about the writing these posts that focus on specific periods is that it gives a better perspective when I review the material. There are parts of the art of this story that do look like they were done by Jack as for instance the man in the first panel. There are other parts that look like pure Marvin as in the shallow depths of the head of the men seen from behind in the second and last panels.

Justice Traps the Guilty #18 (September 1950) “Pirates of the Poor” page 9, art by Jack Kirby and Marvin Stein

The third panel has a distinctive Kirby touch to it and is very different from Stein’s manner of drawing either men or women at this time. For me the big giveaway is the manner of graphically telling the story. The use of “camera” angles just looks too advanced compared to other work by Stein in this period. It is, however, just the thing Kirby was so good at. But look how awkward the last two panels are, not the sort of thing you would expect from Kirby. While some may think this story was penciled by Jack and just inked by Stein I believe this is another case of Kirby providing layouts and another artist, in this case Stein, doing the finishing work and inking. In cases like this I credit the art to both artists.

Justice Traps the Guilty #19 (October 1950) “Alibi Guy” page 7, art by Marvin Stein

The other story that The Jack Kirby Checklists credits to Jack is “Alibi Guy”. Again this is a work that for a long time I did not believe was done by Jack. Having changed my mind about “Pirates of the Poor” I gave particular attention in my review of “Alibi Guy”. In this case, however, I still believe that the pencils were not done by Kirby. All the faces look like they were drawn by Stein; the man in the second panel of page 7 is the closest any of them come to Kirby’s style. Perhaps Jack did give a hand in that panel or perhaps Marvin just swiped it. The use of viewpoints in graphically telling the story is handled rather well, but is not suspiciously well done. Nothing in the use of “camera” angles convinces me Kirby was involved in even the layouts. There really is no comparison between “Alibi Guy” and “Pirates of the Poor” and I continue to exclude “Alibi Guy” from Jack’s work.

Marvin Stein was obviously very influenced by Jack Kirby. Even when Marvin was no longer working on Simon and Kirby productions he continued to work in the studio. Which brings the question about exactly when Marvin was “traded” off by Simon and Kirby to Prize? On possible date could be at the start of this period. But we have seen that during this Kirby provide layouts to Stein in “Pirates of the Poor”. So perhaps a better date would be at the end of the period covered in this chapter, which is after February 1951. It will be the subject of a future chapter for It’s A Crime but Stein played an important part in both Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty from March 1951 on. But art by Stein was still appearing in Young Romance and Young Love throughout 1951 and he was involved in Boys’ Ranch as well which ended in August 1951. Putting the “trade” at the end of 1951 would solve that problem but by then Marvin had been fully involved in the Prize crime titles for some time so what was he being “traded” to? Perhaps it is not wise to take the trading of Marvin Stein too literally and remember Joe Simon’s saying “never let facts get in the way of a good story”.

Of course Jack Kirby and Marvin Stein were not the only artists working on Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty during this period. But that will be the subject of the next chapter of It’s A Crime.

Chapter 1, Promoting Crime
Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title
Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves
Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real
Chapter 5, Making a Commitment
Chapter 6, Forgotten Artists
Chapter 7, A Studio With Many Artists
Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective
Chapter 9, Not The Same

Chapter 11, The New Team

Jest Laffs

Jumbo Comics #2 (October 1938) “Jest Laffs”

A few posts ago I present the image of the gag cartoon of a burglar from Jumbo Comics #1. Kirby scholar Stan Taylor had suggested that it may have been done by Jack Kirby. The cartoon was from page called Jest Laffs. Jest Laffs also appears in Jumbo Comics #2 and two of the cartoons there look like they were done by the same artist as the burglar from JC #1. There are a number of features that are shared, some more important then others. The use of darker regions with a raggy edge or the way the mouth is often placed off to the side of the face. I find the manner of depicting the nose and ears to be particularly interesting. It is in minor details like that individual artists often provide distinct mannerisms.

Jumbo Comics #2 (Octoer 1938) “Jest Laffs”

While the Jest Laffs page in JC #1 provides no credits, the title in JC #2 gives a Bob Kane attribution. There are other gags in the Jest Laffs page in both issues that are done in other styles. This could mean they were actually done by other artists. Or it could mean that Bob Kane adapted his style to one appropriate for the particular gag. After all Kane’s Peter Pupp, also in Jumbo Comics, was very done in a different style than his Batman.

I do not know enough about Bob Kane’s work to say whether any of it shows the same distinctive ears and noses found in the gag cartoons. It does not show up in Peter Pupp but that could just be due to the different nature between Peter Pupp and Jest Laffs. I have also examined much of Jack Kirby’s early cartoon work and could not find those distinctive ears and noses in any of it; including the one Jack did of a burglar.

For me this does not provide a definitive answer to the question of who did these particular gag cartoons but it does mean the Bob Kane should be considered along with Jack Kirby. Jack Kirby only appeared in the first three issues of Jumbo Comics. Although I have seen later issues, I was not examining them in relation to this question. If there are issues later then JC #3 with Jest Laffs gags that share the same traits then I doubt that Jack Kirby would have been the artist, if they stop with JC #3 then that would be another piece of evidence that they were done by Jack.

Jumbo Comics Addendum, Kirby Or Not?

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938)

Stan Taylor mentioned this gag cartoon that he believed was by Jack Kirby. I have to admit I do not share his opinion, but I thought I would include an image so everyone can see it. Identifying early work by Jack Kirby can be particularly troublesome and opinions can be expected to differ.

The Art of Romance, Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone

(Young Romance #5 – #8)

In this chapter I will be writing about the next four issues of Young Romance (#5 to #8). For the most part this set is a continuation of the earlier issues. The main artists were same; Jack Kirby, Bill Draut and the team of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. A couple of minor artists that appeared in issues #1 and #2 do not reappear, but a new one would have a contribution which I will discuss in more detail below. Young Romance is still on a bimonthly schedule. This is surprising because by now S&K and Prize were surely aware that they had a hit. When the crime genre Headline (starting with issue #23, March 1947) was a success Simon and Kirby launched Justice Traps the Guilty for Prize seven months later. Yet after over a year they neither made Young Romance a monthly nor created another title. Other publishers had not failed to notice; based on “All the Romance Comics Ever Published (?)” romance titles began to appear published by Fox (My Life #4, September 1948), Timely (My Romance #1, September), and Fawcett (Sweethearts #68, October). Perhaps Prize along with Simon and Kirby were surprised at their own success and fearful that it was just a fad.

Young Romance #8
Young Romance #8 (November 1948) “Love or Pity”, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby continued to be the most prominent artist for Young Romance. Kirby did nine out of the twenty stories in these four issues, or 97 out of 177 pages. It may have been even more since as I will discuss below a tenth story may also have been penciled by Jack. Kirby would continue to create the first story in the comic. This lead story would remain the longest story in the comic with thirteen or fourteen pages while other stories would have at most nine pages. The design of the lead story splash page would continue to have a character’s speech balloon used as the title caption. I particularly like the splash for “Love or Pity”. The design is done quite well with a close-up of a couple dominating the page and another section enacting a little scene like some sort of tableau. We have seen this emphasis in design for some of Simon and Kirby’s double page splashes, but it is also to be found in a number of the smaller splashes drawn by Kirby in Young Romance. In the depiction of the large couple we only get to see the face of the woman, the man’s face and his emotions remain a mystery. The woman arches her left eyebrow, looks askance and her hand’s placement on the man’s shoulder seems tentative. All this makes her appear apprehensive and her attempt to dispel her concerns by moving closer into the man’s embrace seems to have failed. From the title caption we learn why, she is uncertain about the man’s true feelings. Many have described Kirby’s woman as not being truly beautiful but it is a criticism I do not share. I find the woman in this splash attractive enough and, more importantly, very human. While some other artists might have been able to make the woman appear even more beautiful I do not know any that are able to invest them with the same sensitivity that Kirby has. Jack does not draw Barbie dolls but rather woman whose appearance reflects their personality and emotions. I find that makes Kirby’s woman truly beautiful indeed.

The second section of the splash depicts a crowd looking disapprovingly on as the woman runs away in shame. Jack has chosen a low viewing angle so that the woman towers over the background crowd giving drama to the scene. The woman’s pose is rather unusual; she looks more like she is tripping and about to fall. Not an inappropriate metaphor for her descent into scandal. The second section is well done but its impact suffers from its diminished size. Envision this section enlarged and expanded toward the right and you can imagine what a double page romance splash might have looked like had Simon and Kirby ever done one. It is too bad they never did.

Young Romance #6
Young Romance #6 (July 1948) “Disgrace”, art by Jack Kirby

One change that seemed to have taken place from the earlier issues of Young Romance was that action no longer appeared quite as commonly in Jack Kirby’s romance stories. Not that action disappeared completely, it would always show up in more Kirby romance stories then it does in those by any of the other studio artists. “Disgrace” is a case in point. If I had to pick one Kirby romance story most likely to satisfy the general Kirby readership, this would be the one. The heroine feels trapped in a coal mining town which she detests for the violence its inhabitants so frequently adopt. Her brother has managed to escape the town but she is dismayed at his career as a prize fighter and his particularly brutal nature. She falls in love with a man only to discover that he also is a professional boxer. She cannot accept more violence in her life so she breaks it off. Later she finds to her horror that her brother and former love are scheduled to meet in the arena. Where does her loyalty lie, with her violent brother or the man she still loves? Jack Kirby is justly famous for his depiction of a punch and the fight in this story is a pure slugfest.

Young Romance #8
Young Romance #8 (November 1948) “Love Can Strike So Suddenly”, art by Jack Kirby

Kirby may have tuned down his use of action but he still looked for means to keep his stories exciting. One of his techniques was to make use of the exotic location of some of the stories. Had the splash of “Love Can Strike So Suddenly” depicted a normal local it would have seemed quite banal. All the main characters are just standing around. Even the dialog is not nearly dramatic enough to rescue this page. However by inserting his cast into a street in India, Jack has made this one of his memorable splashes. I am sure Kirby has swiped this from some source, perhaps National Geographic, but I am also certain that he has made his version far more interesting then the original. I have recently discussed this story; it is the source for a swipe used years later in Simon and Kirby’s own romance comic In Love.

Young Romance #7
Young Romance #7 (September 1948) “Mother Said No” page 4, art by Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino?

The Jack Kirby Checklist does not include “Mother Said No” among its listings of Kirby’s work. It is easy to understand why, the man in the first panel of the page imaged above does not look he was drawn by Jack. Or does he? Kirby often drew his men with wild eyebrows but these look excessive even for Jack. But how much of these exaggerated eyebrows were in the original drawing and how much were due to the inker’s interpretation of the pencils? The layouts throughout the story look like they were done by Jack. It is hard to be sure, but once the eyebrows are ignored a lot to the drawing looks like Kirby to me.

Charlie Chan #1
Charlie Chan #1 (June 1948) “The Hit and Run Murder Case” page 9, art by Carmine Infantino

Nearly identical men’s eyebrows seen in “Mother Said No” can also be found in work that Carmine Infantino did in Charlie Chan. Compare the man in the third panel of page nine of “The Hit and Run Murder Case” shown above to the one in the first panel of the page I previously presented from “Mother Said No”. Further examples of Infantino’s work for the Simon and Kirby studio can be found in an earlier post. While the details of the eyebrows seem to match in the two stories, the proportions used in drawing the faces do not. Nor are Carmine’s layouts in Charlie Chan similar to those found in “Mother Said No”. The inking for “Mother Said No” was done in the studio style which would normally suggest Jack or Joe’s involvement. However Carmine used the studio style inking in some parts of Charlie Chan, particularly the splashes. I really need to do a more thorough comparison, but some of the spotting in “Mother Said No” does not look like it was done by either Jack or Joe. My initial conclusion is that in “Mother Said No” Carmine was inking Jack’s pencils. If that is true what is not clear is whether Kirby’s pencils were not very tight, or if instead they were overwhelmed by Carmine’s inking. In either case I am presently inclined to consider this a joint piece with Jack as the primary artist.

There is a serious problem with the analysis that I presented above because of an interview of Carmine Infantino from The Jack Kirby Collector #34. In that interview Carmine clearly said that Charlie Chan was the only work he did for Simon and Kirby, and later added that he never inked Jack’s pencils. I really want to do a more careful analysis before I am ready to contest Infantino’s statements so for now I consider my conclusions as preliminary. Hopefully a re-examination of this issue will be the subject of another post in not too distant future.

Young Romance #6
Young Romance #6 (July 1948) “Gossip”, art by Bill Draut

Kirby did not draw all the stories in YR #5 to #8; Bill Draut remained a significant contributor with seven stories out of twenty, or 52 pages out of 177. Bill’s art started to change. Gone were the splashes with an emphasis on design, I do not believe it would reappear in Draut’s work until 1954 for In Love. I suspect Joe Simon had a hand in laying out some of the earlier Draut splashes for Young Romance, but from this point on Draut would do it himself. The other change would be the appearance of more and more traits that would be typical of Draut. Note the brickwork for the fireplace in the “Gossip” splash. This is a Draut trademark that will reappear from time to time through his association with the Simon and Kirby studio. Another Draut trademark, which actually showed up before, is the brunette’s pose. Draut portrays a person’s anger by leaning the torso and thrusting the head forward, and sometimes having the person clench their fists. This is a pose not quite like any that I have seen Kirby use and it is one of the reasons that I do not believe Jack was providing layouts for Bill as some authorities have claimed.

Young Romance #5
Young Romance #5 (May 1948) “Jealousy”, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

The final two contributors to Young Romance #5 to #8 was the team of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. I attribute three stories from issues #5 and #6 to Robinson and Meskin, one of which (“The Inferior Male”) was signed. The Jack Kirby Checklist credits the splash page of “Jealousy” to Jack Kirby as inked by Joe Simon. The expressive formality of the foreground couple is not typical of Kirby. Nor are the long and simple eyebrows usually found in Simon’s inking. The only thing that suggests Kirby/Simon to me is some of the Studio style inking such as the abstract arch at the top of the wall and the picket fence crosshatching on the lower part of the woman’s dress (see inking glossary). However the “Jealousy” splash presents cloth folds created by long, narrow sweeping brush strokes, this is exactly the inking technique used by Mort Meskin. Also note the man has a type of grin that is so typical for Mort. The eyebrows found in “Jealousy” may also be found in the Robinson and Meskin work found in these early issues of Young Romance. The unusual formal pose of the couple would not be surprising for Robinson and Meskin. The only problem with a Robinson and Meskin attribution for the “Jealousy” splash is the Studio style inking which is not found in other R&M art. I think the best explanation for this discrepancy is that either Simon or Kirby in their roll as art editor stepped in to touch up the splash. I feel the splash matches the art in the rest of the story and it all should be attributed to Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.

July marked the last month that Robinson and Meskin art would appear in Simon and Kirby productions. Mort Meskin would return by himself over a year later, after which he would be a frequent contributor until the end of the studio. This is all very hard to reconcile with Carmine Infantino’s TJKC #34 interview where he says that he accepted the Charlie Chan job for the experience he would get by working with Kirby and Meskin. Carmine even describes Mort as working right next to Jack. Carmine’s stay was from June 1948 until February 1949 (cover dates). This does overlap Robinson and Meskin’s period (January to July 1948) but is well before Meskin’s solo return in December of 1949. I just do not find it creditable that Mort was working in the studio at a time when he and Robinson were probably producing more work for other publishers then for S&K. Would Mort and Jerry have been working separately? Would the small amount of work for S&K justify Mort’s presence in the studio? I am afraid I have to conclude that Carmine’s memory has failed him; perhaps he has mixed up the time of his presence in the studio with that of his brother Jimmy who did work for S&K at the same time as Meskin.

Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)

Not Kirby, My Date #4

My Date #2
My Date #2 (September 1947) art by Jack Kirby

My Date was a short-lived comic that Simon and Kirby produced for Hillman Publications in 1947. Perhaps mislead by the comics title, some today hold the belief that My Date was the first romance comic book. As I discussed in a post on this topic (The First Romance Comic) it is not a romance comic at all but rather Simon and Kirby’s take on teenage humor modeled on the popular Archie comics. For his contributions to the title Jack Kirby drew in a more cartoonish manner appropriate for the humor content. Jack’s altered penciling was not very drastic, it remains quite easy to identify his work. For instance, Kirby trademarks such as his exaggerated perspective can be found in the covers and stories that Jack provided.

My Date #4
My Date #4 (January 1948) art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

All four My Date covers have traditionally been attributed to Jack Kirby, as for example by the Jack Kirby Checklist. I have long felt, and I am not alone in this, that the cover for My Date #4 was done by someone else. Gone are Jack’s exaggerated perspective, replaced by a relatively shallow depth of field viewed straight on. The drawing for My Date #4 is cartoonier then in the previous My Date covers. House-Date Harry looks rather different on issue #4 then on the covers for #2 and #3, or from their story art as well. The same is true for Swifty who also shows up on My Date #1 and #2 covers.

Young Romance #3
Young Romance #3 (January 1948) “Love or a Career” page 5 panel 5 and page 7 panel 4, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Readers of my last post on the inking of Mort Meskin may have spotted the long close and narrow brush marks that are used on the My Date #4 cover to indicate the folds of the clothing. Not all of Meskin inking traits that I previously described are found, but I am nonetheless certain that Mort was the inker. This a bit surprising because at this time Meskin was still producing work mainly for DC and his first signed work for S&K studio would not appear for months later. Young Romance #3 has the same cover date as My Date #4 and in it is the story “Love or a Career”. Unfortunately this story is unsigned but Meskin’s inking is once again quite apparent. I will explain my full attribution of this art below when I discuss the first signed works. The art for “Love or a Career” is the closest match to the MD #4 cover that I have been able to find. Consideration has to be given for the more cartoony style used for the teenage humor comic, but see how close the female character is in the two panels I have selected from YR #3 compared to Sunny of MD #4, similarly shaped face, arching eyebrows, eyes and lips.

Justice Traps the Guilty #4
Justice Traps the Guilty #4 (May 1948) “Guilty Boys” page 1 panel 3 and page 5 panel 7, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Some months later art very similar to YR #3 appears in “Guilty Boys” from Justice Traps the Guilty #4. This is another unsigned piece with Meskin apparently doing the inking. This crime story was appropriately rendered more realistically then My Date #4 but similarities still show up. Note the comparable button noses of the boys to Swifty and to a lesser extent House-Date Harry on MD #4. The two boys on the right in the page 1 panel has a smiling cheek line similar to that of House-Date Harry.

Young Romance #6
Young Romance #6 (July 1948) “The Inferior Male” page 7 panel 3 and page 8 panel 4, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (signed)

Going forward two months provides two stories that bear the dual signatures of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. The usual assumption is that the first signature designates the penciler and the second the inker. But I know nothing about how the Robinson and Meskin team worked so this may not be a safe assumption. Still it does look like Meskin’s inking while at least some of the figure drawing and compositions do not appear to be his. I have posted about “The Inferior Male” twice before (here and here). The correspondence between the art in YR #6 and that in YR #3 and JTTG #4 is close enough that the same artists were probably responsible for all. As seen in the above panels the female still looks like a more realistically drawn version of Sunny from the MD #4 cover.

Justice Traps the Guilty #5
Justice Traps the Guilty #5 (July 1948)”Murder Special Delivery” page 3 panel 3 and page 4 panel 1, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (signed)

Issue #5 of Justice Traps the Guilty also has the Robinson and Meskin signature. As might be expected there is great similarities with the YR #6 that came out in the same month. But this comparison is not perfect. In JTTG #5 the female leads start to take on the more stylized look that is typical of most of Meskin’s work for S&K. But the females have not adopted the more triangular face as done later by Mort so there still is a slight resemblance to Sunny from the MD #4 cover.

Real West Romances #5
Real West Romances #5 (December 1949) “Tenderfoot In Love” page 2 panel 4 and page 8 panel 7 art by Mort Meskin (signed)

Mort Meskin would not show up again in S&K productions for over a year. By cover date of December 1949 things had clearly changed for Mort, the work would only be signed by him with no indication of any Robinson involvement. Meskin was no longer providing art for DC and this marks the start of a productive and consistent relationship with Simon and Kirby. In Real West Romances #5 the woman is drawn actually less stylized then found in the Robinson and Meskin’s piece in JTTG #5. Although not typical of Mort’s later work, the female in RWM #5 is not a very good match for that on My Date #4 either. This is largely due to the introduction of cheek bones that makes the face depart from the more simple geometry found on MD #4. Other similarities can still be found between the RWM #5 and MD #4, as for instance the old man’s eyebrows and smiling cheek line in the right panel as compared to House-Date Harry on MD #4.

Young Romance #16
Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “His Engagement Ring” page 1 splash, art by Mort Meskin (signed)

Meskin also appears during the same month in Young Romance #16. Once again Mort’s woman are not as stylized as they soon would be. but gone are the cheek bones that Mort provided woman in RWR #5. A resemblance to Sunny of MD #4 can still be seen, especially in the lady on the right of the above splash panel.

It may be a little surprising that a S&K production would have a cover drawn by an artist other then Jack Kirby. The only other non-Kirby covers were also done by Meskin along with Bill Draut, John Prentice and Ann Brewster. Those were all Prize romance covers with cover dates of 1954 and 1955, a period when Jack and Joe were busy with Mainline, their self owned publishing company. The reason Simon and Kirby made an exception for My Date #4 is most likely the same. A few months previously Simon and Kirby had launched Young Romance with Prize comics. As typical for them, most of the initial art for Young Romance was drawn by Jack. They had more recently lauched Justice Traps the Guilty. Not only was this all a lot of work for Kirby, it also was work for which S&K would have a share in the profits. Their deal with Hillman was not as good and so My Date #4 would be the last comic Simon and Kirby produced for that publisher with the exception of a single Western cover (Western Fighters #1, April 1948).

Alternate Versions of the Alarming Tales #3 Cover

Alarming Tales #3
Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) restored art, by Joe Simon

A recurring theme in my posts is how well Joe Simon could mimic Jack Kirby. This has resulted in a number of pieces that Joe did becoming attributed to Jack. Do not get me wrong, the overwhelming number of the items in the Jack Kirby Checklist are correctly attributed. Still there are a small number of entrees that are wrong and it is important to try to correct those mistakes. I would like to say that my study of Joe Simon’s art has enabled me to spot all the attribution errors that others have made. I would like to say that but it would not be completely true. A case in point is the cover for Alarming Tales #3. I provide an image of the restored line art to this cover above, a color version can be seen in a previous post.

In the past I have followed the Jack Kirby Checklist in saying Kirby did this cover. Not everyone agreed, for one sharp eyed Nick Caputo demurred. I was not completely satisfied with the Kirby attribution because I knew of the existence of another version of the cover art. It seemed to me that a comparison of the two would probably resolve the credit issue. As I hope to show in this post, that has turned out to be the case.Alarming Tales #3
Unused original art for Alarming Tales #3, by Jack Kirby.

I provide an image of the unused version above. A note of caution when comparing the two versions. The unused one is original art and therefore has not been subjected to the blurring and loss of details that are the results of the printing process, all of which the published version has been subjected to. Also the title on the original art is a recent addition. The presence of penciled text indicates the decision to come up with new cover art was made before title stats would have been applied to the original.The derivation of the final cover from the unpublished version is obvious, both have the same cast of characters in about the same positions. The greatest difference is the backgrounds. Not only has the background been completely changed, it has been pushed much further back in the released cover. A closer examination reveals that the people are not identical. The size of the old man has been increased while the relative size of the boy and, even more so, the men in the boat has been reduced. The old man’s head has been enlarged and the position of his left arm has been shifted. The details of all figures have been changed. Curiously the boy’s pants have been given a stripe like those worn by the USPS mail carriers. My original suspicion that reworked stats of the first cover were used to construct the final state was incorrect.I think most readers will agree with me that the original art is more beautiful then the final cover. So why spend the time and effort to replace it? The answer to this riddle is that the purpose of a comic book cover is to entice a viewer to purchase it. To do so it must stand out from the rest of the comics on the rack. The problem with the original version is that the old man is overwhelmed by the background. By simplifying and pushing the other elements back, the old man and his feat of walking on water becomes more obvious and dramatic. It is a question of design taking priority over artistry.

Alarming Tales #3
Close-up of the old man by Jack Kirby and the Joe Simon rendition.

Because the compositions of the two versions are so similar, we must look at the details in order to arrive at the correct attributions. Although not a standard part of Kirby’s repertoire, the old man of the first state seems to be not only his pencils but his inking as well. There are subtleties that his copyist is unable or unwilling to capture. Some of the alterations do seem on purpose, in the final state the old man has been made older and more frail. In doing so the published version has lost the quiet dignity and resolve that the original old man possessed.

Alarming Tales #3
Close-up of the young boy by Jack Kirby and the Joe Simon version

Personally I do not find much in the final state of the old man to suggest who was responsible. For an answer to that question I turn to a close-up of the young boy. Once again the original version seems to have Kirby’s touch all over it. Some of Jack’s style has been preserved in the published interpretation but purposeful alterations have been made as well. Frankly in Kirby’s hands the boy has been given a somewhat dim witted response to his predicament. The copyist on the other hand has widen the boys eyes, raised his eyebrows and furrowed his forehead. All this gives the boy a more intelligent and surprised reaction to being lead by the old man over water. It is the boy’s eyebrows that convince me that the copyist is Joe Simon. Similar eyebrows crop up often in Joe’s work going back as far as the cover for Champ #19 (June 1942) .

The men in the boat are typical Kirby creations. Unfortunately it is hard to compare the two versions because in the published one they have been reduced in size and their finer features lost by the reproduction process.

I mentioned above that I believe Jack Kirby inked his own pencils for the unused Alarming Tales #1 cover. That is not surprising because AT #1 is a comic where Jack did most of the work, including the inking. When I previously discussed the inking in AT #1 I found some of it similar to the standard Studio style while others were closer to the Austere style. On a whole I felt the material was transitional between those two Kirby inking methods. The inking style exhibited on the unused cover is a bit of an anomaly. It is true that the bow of the boat exhibits what looks like typical picket fence brushwork (see the Inking Glossary). It should be noted that it is unusual for the rails of a picket fence inking to depict literal objects like it does here with the bow edges. A better example of typical Kirby brushwork can be found in the folds of the boy’s shirt. They exhibit the tendency to be flatter then the underlying form that was common for Kirby at this time. The form lines on the tree on the left side of the image also look like Jack’s. But other inking methods used are very unusual for Jack, in particular the form lines on the old man’s pants. I do not recall Kirby ever doing something like that before.

Also unusual about the inking is the abundant use of white-out. Although Kirby was a bold inker his control was so great that he usually had to make few adjustments with white-out. Actually some of the white-out on the unused cover were not mistakes at all. Many of the trees in the background and some of the branches in the water were actually created by white-out. The old man’s hair was done by a combination of standard inking and the use of white-out. But mistakes were corrected, for instance the edges of the drooping fronds left of center on the top were worked over. Some earth lines in the background and a water stain on the upper part of the boat were removed. I am not sure what to make of Jack removing the bottom of the boy’s shoes. Perhaps it was done to indicate that he the lacked the old man’s confidence and so could not tread as lightly over the water surface? A most surprising correction is found in the depiction of the water, much of what now looks white has abundant use of white out. The white-out does not completely hide the underlying inking and judging from their faint markings the water surface was originally much darker.

Despite all the features that are not usually found in Jack Kirby’s inking, I find the combination of boldness and control so characteristic of his work that I am pretty confident to credit him with the inking. The published cover shows Joe Simon equally bold with his use of the brush but without the same nuance of control exhibited by Kirby. It is interesting that Joe made the water surface very dark, just the thing that Jack spent so much effort to remove from his own version.

I love comparing different artists’ versions of the same subject. It is not a question of trying to determine who the better artist is. What I find interesting are the different decisions each artist made and what the reasons for those decisions were.

Joe Simon’s Turn At Imitating

All the Harvey content with introduction stories that I have posted on so far have been drawn by Jack Kirby with Joe Simon’s involvement limited to supplying a splash panel. But that was not the only formula used for creating Harvey content pages.

Hi-School Romance #56
Hi-School Romance #56 (October 1956) “Rage of Night” page 1, art by Bob Powell

Jean’s parents did not approve of her boyfriend Biff. Biff convinces Jean to have a party at her house. Her parents will not be home and would not permit a party that included Biff without their supervision. Jean tells Biff that he cannot come to the party. Nick was a friend who went away to college but is back in town. Biff arrives at the party despite not being invited. Trouble begins which Nick helps to stop. Jean then realizes her true feeling for Nick.

Generally when I discuss Harvey romance stories I write about Bill Draut or John Prentice. After all these two artists did a lot of work for Simon and Kirby and that in turn is the subject of this blog. The truth of the matter is that most of the Harvey romance artists are not worth writing much about anyway. However Bob Powell does not deserve the same neglect. Bob was a talented artist with, at least during his earlier career, his own unique style. Unfortunately I believe he was one of the artists whose stay at Marvel had deleterious affect. Stan Lee asked his artists to use Kirby as a model of what Marvel wanted. These were not young artists just starting their careers. Rather they, like Bob Powell, had a proven track record and their own style. In trying to please Stan, Powell and others ended up surrendering too much of their own uniqueness while not gaining sufficiently from their attempts to apply Kirby’s methods.

Hi-School Romance #56
Hi-School Romance #56 (October 1956) content page, art by Joe Simon

Often it is not easy to make attributions for the Harvey content pages. That is with the exception that it is pretty easy to see that that the artist for the feature story did not do the introduction story. This introduction has a number of layouts very similar to Kirby’s. In particular the second panel with Jean and Biff in the foreground and Nick forlornly looking on in the background. But the drawing itself just does not seem Kirby to me. Now why that is may be hard to explain. It requires you to mentally delete traits that are imitations of Bob Powell. When I do this what I am left with does not look as much as Kirby’s work then the examples I previously provided for Harvey contents. What I see, once I look past the Powell imitations, remind me of Joe Simon. In this particular case there really is no reason to expect that Joe was trying to copy Kirby since Powell was really the artist to imitate. But I suspect that Simon had so often imitated or inked Jack that he just adopted some of Jack’s mannerisms. I believe the Kirby layouts we see in this contents are all second hand via Joe Simon.

Hi-School Romance #56
Hi-School Romance #56 (October 1956) “Rage of Night” panel 7 of page 3, art by Bob Powell

But not all the layouts look like Kirby’s. The last panel in particular would be unusual for Jack, or Joe for that matter. Jean is shown in a close profile with her chin and the back of her head cut off by the panel border. Despite Biff being behind Jean he is still brought forward. The pair of heads take up almost all of the panel. I do not think I have ever seen Jack or Joe do anything like this. But a search through the rest of Powell’s story shows that it was clearly swiped from panel 7 of page 3. Now we have already seen a Kirby swipe in a Harvey introduction story, still this sort of thing is more characteristic of Joe.