Category Archives: Odds & Ends

Joe’s Dedications

I believe that I was digitally restoring comic book art before anyone else. I say that because I began when consumer scanners first became available. Having my own personal scanner opened up new possibilities. Previously I had used Photoshop to work on my fine arts printmaking. I would have to take my photographic slides to a commercial lab for scanning. It was inconvenient and expensive. After a week or so I would get back a Photo CD. These were special CDs for storing the scans, at the time there were no drives that could burn a standard CD. This was fine for slides, especially since I had no other choice, but having old comic books scanned by a commercial lab was completely out of the question. But when scanners became available to consumers I quickly realized their potential for comic book art restoration. Printers were a different problem as there were few color printers available and they way too expensive. Even the black and white laser printer I bought was a huge investment. But once I assembled these devices I began working on how to use Photoshop to restore the line art from the scans.

After some of what I would describe as trial work I started an ambitious project, to restore the line art for all the Simon and Kirby covers. When I look back I cannot believe decided to do that project. Not only would it require an incredible amount of work but also I did not have all the comics in my collection. It took a long time but I persevered. When I had restored all the covers I bound them by hand into books another time consuming project. In the end I had 24 sets of books (each set consisting of two volumes). Half of these went to Joe Simon for the help he supplied and because, well he was Joe Simon. Some sets went to various people for the scans they provided and a few went out as gifts. A lot of the covers were under copyright protection so it was never my plan to sell any copies and I might add I never have. I have no idea what these books are worth on the market because apparently the recipients valued them so much that none of the books have ever been offered for sale.

With those volumes completed I began to think of my next project. I was a little unhappy about only restoring the line art because comic books were meant to have color, or at least the comics during the period that Simon and Kirby were producing them. Fortunately by then color printers had become affordable. So I decided to begin restoring Simon and Kirby work in full color. This time restoring all the Simon and Kirby stories was not considered an option. It would be great if I succeeded in restoring everything but that would be way too many pages to accomplish in any reasonable amount of time. Once again I would hand bind restorations into books. The books would serve more than a personal purpose, we would use them to show publishers what could be done in the way of reprinting Simon and Kirby. This time I would only make two copies of whatever I restored, one for Joe and one for me. In exchange for his copy Joe would provide mine with some art. This was done on the end paper of the book. Now if Joe had just added pencil sketches there would be no problems since mistakes could be erased. But Joe liked to work in color which meant there was little that could be done with any errors.

Bullseye volume

What I expected Joe to provide would be the standard character sketches that comic book artists do all the time. Joe did just that sort of thing for the Bullseye book basing his piece on a drawing that Jack Kirby had done.

Boy Commandos volume

While the Bullseye was a more traditional character drawing, all the others that Joe did incorporated elements of humor. Not necessarily of the side-splitting variety but you can tell he just was not satisfied with just providing a sketch.

Manhunter volume

Surprisingly Joe drew Sandman in a book of Manhunter stories. The accompanying texts suggest that this was not an accident.

Sandman volume

With Sandman appearing in the Manhunter book it is not too surprising that Manhunter appeared in the Sandman book. Once again the text indicates this was deliberately done.

Foxhole volume

A soldier appears in the Foxhole volume but the text imply that this is not just any soldier but is meant to be Jack Kirby. All of Joe’s sketches were done on the end paper at the front of the book except this one which was done on the inside cover.

Foxhole volume

The Foxhole contained two sketches; a colored one on the inside cover (shown earlier) and a pencil sketch on the opposite end paper. This was the only book that got this double treatment as well as the only one dated. Usually Joe got the spelling of my name correctly but here he adds an extra ‘c’.

Duke of Broadway and the Vagabond Prince volume

Years before the current debate about growing disparity between the rich and the 99%, Joe provided his irreverent solution, “Eat the Rich” indeed.

Newsboy Legion volume

Joe sometimes commented about how one youthful character would with minor changes be transformed into another.

Headline volume

I am not sure why Joe put Captain America in a book of crime stories. Perhaps he felt that his humor was not appropriate for the crime genre? But I am not one to complain about getting Captain America art from one of his creators.

Stuntman and Boy Explorers volume

I inadvertently put the cover on upside down for one of Stuntman and Boy Explorer books. Needless to say I was very annoyed at myself about this but there was no way I was going to give the flawed volume to Joe. With his art Joe turned this defective book into something special.

Win A Prize volume

Uncle Giveaway offered prizes to the readers of Win A Prize Comics. Here Joe jokes that money is just paper but there was none left because it all went to Iraq. Joe was a lifelong Republican but he did not like Bush and he felt the Iraq war was a mistake. I believe Joe was still the kind of Republican that was not that unusual when he was younger but today is pretty much extinct, a least on the national level, that is a moderate Republican. Joe was very proud of the work he did to support John D. Rockefeller and similar Republicans.

Alarming Tales volume

A personal favorite because here I am depicted in the company of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Black Magic volume

Nobody would describe Joe as little and nobody that actually knew him would call him nasty. I never met Jack but nasty does not seem appropriate for him either. While not literally a portrait as far as I know this was the last time Joe drew himself with his old partner Jack.

I made a few more reprint volumes that Joe never added art to. I do not remember why that was but I am sure it was not due to any reluctance on Joe’s part. These final volumes were made about the time that negotiations had begun with Titan to reprint Simon and Kirby material. I think we both had other things on our minds. Now I treasure the volumes that Joe did provide his art and humor.

My Joe

New York Comic Con 2008

There already are numerous essays about Joe Simon’s life on the Internet written by people much more talented than me. The biggest problem for me is how to condense such a productive live into a article short enough that people would actually read without leaving too many important things out. Perhaps I will give it a try later but I thought instead that I would provide a more personal narrative about Joe.

I don’t count the time when I had him sign a Fighting American page of original art as the first time I met Joe Simon. That was at a Big Apple Con when it was held in the basement of St. Paul’s church. The noise level was so high and Joe’s hearing so poor that you could not have any real conversation with him. Still Joe was very kind to me and the other fans even though he was not making any money from us for his signings nor was he selling anything.

For me the first time I really got to meet Joe was at another Big Apple Con this time held at a convention room where you could actually have conversations. I was a big Simon and Kirby fan and had recently embarked on a project to digitally restore the line art to all the Simon and Kirby covers. It was an ambitious project to say the least and at that time I only had completed maybe fifty covers. I decided to make 11 by 14 inch prints of the three Champion covers for Joe and bring along the notebook of the rest of what I had done to show him. Hey what can I tell you, I was and still am a fanboy. When I gave him the Champion prints he stopped, looked at me and said “I am not mad or anything, but how did you manage to get a copy of my restoration of this cover, I just did it a couple of weeks ago”? I tried to explain that they were my own restorations and how I did it, but he was unconvinced and calmly repeated his question. We went around and around on this a couple more times with Carmine Infantino stepping in to try to explain to Joe what I was saying. But it was only when Joe began to notice the small differences between his recreation techniques and mine that he began to realize that it was just a coincidence. But during this whole exchange Joe was calm and friendly, I doubt I would have been if I had been convinced that someone had gotten a hold of my private work. Joe was interested in my project and I offered to give him copies of my restorations. Periodic visits to Joe’s apartment followed as I continued to do line art restorations of Simon and Kirby covers.

Joe with Mark Evanier signing Mark’s book “Kirby: King of Comics”

Joe was not anything like I expected him to be. If I were to condense the stories I had previously heard it would come down to that Joe was always claiming credit for what others, usually Jack Kirby, had done. All I can say is that this is not the Joe I came to know. For my visits I always brought Joe copies of my latest restorations. I was very interested in what Joe would have to say about them. You could tell Joe enjoyed viewing them very much. He would often make comments like “I had forgotten about that cover”. During the viewings Joe would frequently remark on how talented Jack Kirby was. But it was rare for Joe to say that he, not Jack, had done a particular cover. My experience was that when he took credit for some work he was almost always right. During this time Joe became involved in a lawsuit with Marvel over Captain America copyrights. On the Internet comic fans were often very critical of Joe for doing this, saying that Joe was unfairly trying to exclude Kirby from any credit. However I remember a diner I had with Joe and Carmine Infantino. Joe would not go into any details about any possible settlement with Marvel, but he did say that as part of any agreement Marvel would have to add to the Captain America comics a “created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby” byline. The details of his settlement that eventually was reached with Marvel were kept confidential but I do not think it was a coincidence that shortly afterwards Marvel began to include creator credits to Simon and Kirby in their Captain America comics.

Dick Ayers with Joe and New York Comic Con 2008

I have rarely read an interview of Joe Simon that I thought was any good. Not only were Joe’s answers generally not very informative but they also did not seem to lead the interview along. The Joe presented by these interviews turned out to be another example that was very different from the Joe I got to know from my visits. In this case I feel I understand why the interviews were so unsuccessful. During my initial visits I would ask Joe questions about specific covers or about other detailed issues that I as a fanboy was interested in. But Joe never seemed able to provide answers. The problem was not that Joe was trying to conceal anything nor did he have a bad memory. In fact I found his memory to be quite excellent. Joe could remember the address of the various places he worked. He could even remember the address of a store he used to buy his cigars back in the 50’s. However Joe’s memory was good for the things he was interested and that generally was not the same as the things that a comic aficionado wanted to know. I soon found that I learned more if I just provided copies of work and just let Joe respond as he wanted. When I asked questions I would keep them general. Not that it always worked, but sometimes it would get Joe into telling stories. Joe was a natural, he told great stories. Carmine Infantino once said to me that Joe was one of the best comic book writers, he just did not get the credit for it that he deserved. If you never had the opportunity to hear Joe telling stories then I suggest reading his book “The Comic Book Makers” or the more recent “My Life In Comics”. But do not read like a comic fan for its history, read it for what it is, a collection of stories. Do not look for what you want instead just follow Joe’s tales. That is not to say that there is not a wealth of information in these stories. However I will say that if you try to mine his stories for information you should remember one of Joe’s sayings, “never let facts get in the way of a good story”.

There was one glaring exception to all too often poor interviews of Joe, the one done by Jim Amash for Alter Ego #76. Now much can be said about what a great interviewer Jim is. Amash has many qualities that help to make his work with Joe and other comic artists so successful. His wide knowledge of the subject and experience from years of conducting interviews to name just two. But Jim also had a something special going for him, he was Joe’s friend. During many hours over the telephone Joe opened up to Jim in a way that he only would with a friend. Joe would often grumble to me about how much time he was spending on this interview with Jim but that was all bluff. I could tell how much Joe was enjoying it and Joe never did anything he did not want to. If you want to get some idea about what Joe was really like I can think of no better source than Amash’s interview.

Jerry Robison greeting Joe at New York Comic Con of 2005

Some consider Joe more that of a businessman then as an artist. When I was first getting to know him I sometimes felt that he wanted to believe that also. But even if he did it still was not true. Joe’s response to the cover restorations were always artistic. Sometimes he would suggest ways that the cover could be improved. A figure should placed further from the motorcycle it was leaping from. A different color should have been used in a particular spot. Sometimes Joe would make copies of original art in sections that he would then have to recombine. I watched him once start to use acrylic paint to retouch one of these to hide the edges between the sections. That is what he started to do but Joe ended up redoing much of the art itself. Joe had intended to make a reduced size copy of the original art and ended making a new version of it. One time Joe copied a piece of original art from his old magazine Sick. The art showed a giraffe with rabbit ear antennas coming out of its head. Joe was concerned that today few would know what the rabbit ears were so he retouched it replacing them with a satellite dish antenna. When I arrived once for a visit Joe told me that recently he had been taking xerox copies of one of his drawings of Captain America and hand painting them. Joe said that somehow he found this very relaxing. Sure enough I was able to look through a pile of these Cap pieces, all the same yet each one unique.

Tom Morehouse and Joe with the original cover art for Police Trap #2

I helped Joe at a number of comic conventions which gave me an opportunity to see Joe interact with comic book fans. At one Joe walked around the tables talking with various comic book artists. He was always quick to provide complements when he saw anything he liked. But even though some were showing pieces of Captain America, I got the feeling that none recognized who they were talking to. At the next show Joe did a similar tour of the artists but this time the artists would often realize at some point who Joe was. It was always amusing to see a comic artist turn from being a professional to just another fanboy. If they had a camera, they always wanted their photograph to be taken with Joe. He treated regular fans well also. At the shows Joe was promoting his reprinted edition of “The Comic Book Makers”. Joe would prepare some copies with a full color work of Captain America inside that would be sold at the show. Joe would also do quick sketches of Cap in books at the show. Yes Joe made money for this work but many of them immediately ended up on eBay where they were sold for up to twice what Joe charged. Joe was well aware of this but it did not bother him at all. Like most artists Joe was happy to sign what ever the fans brought. One fan had an unfinished drawing with a large stain on it. Joe said he remembered it but that he threw it away uncompleted because he spilled coffee over it. Someone had fished it out of the garbage and sold it on eBay. Joe chuckled about what had occurred, was a bit surprised that anyone would value such a damaged and unfinished piece, but he was happy to signed it.

J. David Spurlock, Joe and Roy Thomas at the 2005 Big Apple Con

Joe had a certain irrelevant humor about comics and even himself. When a major comic publisher sent him a royalty check for fifty cents, Joe framed it with a doctored picture of himself. To the picture Joe added a cup, scruffy hair and an eye patch transforming himself into a street beggar. During one of his legal battles over Captain America copyrights Marvel threaten to kill off the character. Joe proceeded with the help of his daughter Gail to paint a version of Leonardo’s Last Supper replacing Jesus with Captain America and the disciples with various super heroes. The meal itself was populated with numerous modern products. Joe had a penchant for cutting off pieces of his hair, adding them to a photograph of himself and then making from this a xerox. He would say he wanted to improve the look of his hair, but you could tell he knew full well how ridiculous the final results looked.

Joe and Stan Lee at the 2008 New York Comic Con

I only got to know Joe during the final years of his life but I did get to see at first hand a change in how Joe was perceived by the public. Earlier it often seemed that when Joe was not being ignored by comic fans, he was being abused by them. Joe once commented about a Kirby list on the Internet was that “they all hate me”. While that was not strictly true it was not all that far off from the mark either. Our attempts to get a publisher interested in reprinting Simon and Kirby work all seemed to fail, they just were not interested enough. When Joe was remembered by comic book fans at all, they usually viewed him as the one who handled all the business while Kirby took care of all the art. Over the years and little by little this neglect by the public began to change. I like to think I played my small part in making that change happen. Joe lived to hear Stan Lee describe seeing him draw Captain America alongside Jack Kirby, what a wonderful artist he was and how Joe was his mentor. And to read Neil Gaiman praising him as a great writer in the introduction to the Superheroes volume of Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library. Joe never made a big deal about these and other praise that he began to receive but I could tell it was very gratifying to him. Finally a publisher, Titan, was found with the foresight to begin reprinting some of the Simon and Kirby work. I saw first hand how excited he was to see the initial volumes that have been released by Titan. Unfortunately there was a negative consequence to this change as Joe lived to see others rush to reprint material before Titan could get it out so that once again Simon and Kirby would be exploited by a publisher. I will say that once Joe realized that this publisher would not be swayed by appeals to fairness he became very philosophical about the matter and did not let himself be upset about it. His final year was a particularly good one for Joe. During that time he saw the publication of his autobiography “My Life In Comics” and the release of the Captain America movie. Both of these gave him much pleasure.

Steve Saffel, Joe and two grand-daughters at 2011 New York Comic Con

I could go on writing about Joe Simon. After all I have been writing about Simon and Kirby in this blog for almost six years. But I fear I have already been rambling too long in this post. Joe was important figure in the history of comic books, truly a legend. It has been my great fortune to have been able to get to know the man behind that legend, to work with him and to be his friend.

Jerry Robinson and Joe at the 2008 New York Comic Con

Eddie Campbell on Romance Comics

Eddie Campbell has recently blogged about the Prize romance comics (It’s just comics- part 4). He has some complimentary things to say about my serial post the Art of Romance. But my suggestion is to visit his blog and scroll down until you find the start of It’s just comics and proceed to read all the parts. It will be worth your while because Campbell has some interesting things to say about the comics of the 50’s.

In one chapter Campbell discusses the work Alex Toth did for Standards Comics. Frankly Toth is an artist that I really do not know much about. He never worked for the Simon and Kirby studio and I do not believe he appeared in the comic books that I followed when I was young. Toth is highly praised by a lot of fans. I cannot say I understand what the fans are so excited about but neither am I turned off by what I have seen (unlike some other artists I can think of). Campbell does such a nice job of discussing Toth that I am encouraged to take the plunge and pick up a book about him. I have to admit at this time I am reluctant to purchase anything from the publisher whose book Campbell discusses but there is another book out about Toth that might do very well.

It is pleasant to see a blog from such a fine comic book artist as Eddie Campbell. I am a great admirer of the work he did on “From Hell”. I have to admit that I am not familiar with his other work but that should not be interpreted as any reflection on him. Unlike many Kirby fans I think great comics are still being made. In fact in my opinion we are going through a second golden age. Perhaps not in the number of books sold but in the variety and quality of what is being published. The only problem is that I only have the time and money to read a small fraction of what is out there. But I have no doubts that I will at some time read more work by Campbell.

Joe Simon at the 2011 New York Comic Con

Joe Simon at the Panel with editor Steve Saffel and two of Joe’s grand-daughters

Joe Simon made an appearance at the New York Comic Con Friday. Joe has not made many public appearances in recent years so this was a special occasion. To be honest, I was not at all certain that he would actual show up. While he is in good health and he gets around his apartment very well, getting to the convention is a difficult and tiring effort for him. But I believe with the Captain America movie, his autobiography “My Life in Comics”, and the just coming out “Simon and Kirby Library: Crime” inspired Joe to make the attempt.

The panel was well attended and I believe all had a good time. Everyone sang Happy Birthday as Joe entered the room. I think the only problem was that one hour was not sufficient time for all the stories Joe was trying to tell.

Joe Simon signing at the Titan booth

After the panel Joe did a signing at the Titan booth. Not surprisingly there was quite a line of people wanting signatures. Joe was only supposed to be at the booth for one hour but it ended up going an extra half hour. Much effort was made to keep the line moving but in the end there were a number of disappointed people. This was regrettable but necessary so that Joe would have enough strength for the trip home. For those fans who did get something signed I trust they realize that they have something very special. For those who were disappointed I can only hope they understand the limitations of someone at the age of 98.

Wish Joe Simon a Happy Birthday

Tuesday (October 11)* will be Joe Simon’s 98th birthday. What with an autobiography, a new Simon and Kirby Library book (crime) and a Captain America movie we have a lot to be grateful to Joe about. I once provided Joe’s email address so that readers could send their best wishes but that turned out to be one of my greatest blunders (despite my asking to keep the information restricted to this blog, it was immediately published on other lists). I am not going to make that mistake again. However I encourage readers to send their greetings to Joe. If you are on Facebook Joe can be reached at here. If you would like to send him an email I will forward any that you send to my email address (hmendryk at yahoo dotcom). If you will be attending the New York Comic Con on Friday (October 14) Joe will be doing a signing at the Titan booth after his panel is over (that starts at 3:45 so I expect Joe to be at the booth after 5:00). Or if you want to leave a video greeting Joe is now on You Tube.

* I originally got the day and year mixed up and wrote Thursday as Joe’s birthday. But it turns out that Joe was born on Yom Kippur so by the Jewish calender perhaps today (Saturday) is his birthday.

The Jack Kirby “Pop-Up” Museum

There is a new addition to the Simon and Kirby Blog sidebar. The button is not for donations to this blog but for a special project, a Jack Kirby Pop-up Museum. There is a link that provides further explanation on what this project is all about but I would like to make a few comments. Comic books have had a significant impact on our culture. And nobody had more of an impact on comic books than Jack Kirby. Despite the success of some big budget movies based on comic book characters, often ones that he co-created, the public remains largely ignorant of Kirby and his contributions. Jack deserves a permanent museum but that is a probably too ambitious a goal for right now. But a “pop-up” museum is a very realistic objective, with sufficient help. A Jack Kirby Museum open to the public for a period of a few months would attract a lot of attention and also provide the opportunity for an unprecedented display of Kirby art. So please support this effort with generous contributions.

Learn more here

Some More Joe Simon Interviews

I previously reported on an interview with Joe Simon and added that I thought there would be more coming out. Actually one appeared in Comic Book Resources a while ago but escaped my attention. A more recent one is in ABC News/Entertainment. With the recent release of the movie Captain America, the First Avenger it is not surprising that Joe is getting a bit of attention lately.

Negro Romance Comic on NPR’s History Detective

PBS has a weekly show where the show’s detectives try to uncover the history behind various artifacts. Last week they were presented with a coverless copy of Negro Romance Comics. I had known about the existence of this comic but because comics specifically aimed at African-Americans were so rare and are now so sought after, I have never actually seen a copy. Not that it ever occurred to me that there would be any connection between Negro Romance Comics and my main focus, Simon and Kirby. However it turns out that the art for Negro Romance Comics was done by Alvin C. Hollingsworth. Now the reader can be forgiven if that name does not ring any bells because while he did work for Simon and Kirby it appears he only provided art for four stories. Despite this limited amount of work, Joe Simon still remembers Hollingsworth; probably because there were so few African-American comic book artists then. You can see examples of his work in It’s A Crime, Forgotten Artists and The Captain Aero Connections. The History Detective episode can be viewed on PBS’s web site but be sure to scroll down to the bottom where scans of one of the stories from Negro Romance Comics is presented.

Commercial Work by Marvin Stein

“1001 Sales”, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

I have to admit when I decided to write a post about some recent commercial comics that I have come across I thought about giving it the title “A Newly Discovered Kirby Comic”. Such a title would surely attract attention and yes the cover to “1001 Sales” has a conspicuously Kirby marking. However it is not Jack Kirby that is referred to but Kirby Vacuum Cleaners. The artist to this commercial comic and two others that I will also discuss was Marvin Stein.

“1001 Sales” is a slim 4 page comic book. Really nothing more than a single sheet that has been folded. The paper is newsprint although perhaps a little better quality than the paper of typical comic books. But otherwise clearly recognizable as a comic book. Political and commercial comics were not that unusual years ago but have are pretty disappeared today.

“1001 Sales” page 4, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

The first page, which passes as a cover, may not be immediately recognizable as drawn by Stein. But this is due to the unusual pose and expression, at least compared to Marvin’s comic book work. But the art style found on the other pages clearly belong to Stein. The art was a bit more polished than his typical comic book work but this is to be expected for commercial publications. Actually Marvin’s commercial art seems much less dry than typical for this type of work as done by other comic book artists. Stein’s inking plays an important part of what makes this work so appealing.

“1001 Sales” is undated and the only marking on it is “produced by Visual Medium Co., Massapequa, N.Y.”. But the style matches Marvin’s work from 1955 to 1958 (after which Stein stopped drawing for comic books) that it was probably executed not long after.

I cannot resists a comment about the theme of “1001 Sales”. This comic was obviously aimed at Kirby salesmen to promote the use of the “contest close”. This was a device to achieve sales by appealing to potential customer’s better natures. Clearly there really was no contest which offered a special doll as a reward for the most sales. The mention of a daughter expecting the salesman to bring home this prize was obviously nothing more than a technique aimed at a customer’s maternal feelings. It really is surprising that such a blatant lie was being used to increase sales. However a check of Consumer Affairs suggest that similarly objectionable techniques may still be used by Kirby sales personal.

“Engin-Surance”, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

Stein created another comic “Engin-Surance”. Once again a short four page work, that is nothing more than just a folded sheet. This comic is marked as “Litho in U.S.A. by Visual Medium Co., Massapequa, N.Y.”. This is the same company that “produced” the “1001 Sales” comic. This suggests that Visual Medium was not an advertisement agency but the printer.

“Engin-Surance” page 2, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

Once again Marvin Stein’s hand is not as obvious on the cover art as it is in the interior pages but I do believe he did the cover as well. Frankly the art for “Engin-Surance” is nowhere nears as nice as in “1001 Sales”. It suffers from being a bit dry which is a typical failure of commercial art.

“Hidden Assets?”, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

The final commercial comic by Marvin Stein that I have come across is “Hidden Assets?”. Unlike the previous examples, this comic is eight pages long. The two sheets that formed the book were not stapled together but rather glued. There are no markings to indicate who produced this comic.

“Hidden Assets?” page 2, pencils and inks by Marvin Stein

The quality of the art falls somewhere between the two previous examples. Note the woman in panel 4. The way her head tilts down and to the side somewhat is a typical Stein pose. Also typical for Marvin is the particular way the perspective does not seemed to be handled quite correctly. The distortion is not enough to make to detract from the beauty of the drawing but enough to be distinctive.

I have seen commercial work by other comic book artists such as George Roussos for General Electric. But I have to say that normally I find the art much too dry for my tastes. But I rather like what Marvin Stein did commercially, particularly “1001 Sales”. Stein never received much recognition but he really was a talented artist.

It Ain’t Soup

Wilton of the West, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby

Mark Evanier provides an image of a Campbell’s Soup on his blog can when he announces that he is too busy to continue normal posting. It seems I have developed my own tradition, one where I use a scan of a Kirby page from Jumbo comics (see A Brief Pause and Another Brief Pause). Last weekend found me struggling with some particular difficult restorations while remaining determine not to let my schedule slip. In the end I kept to my schedule but was left without any spare time to initiate a post for this blog. So instead I provide a scan of Wilton of the West. This was one of the syndication strips that Kirby did for the Eisner and Iger studio. Some were used in early issues of Jumbo Comics but the image I provide was scanned from a presentation piece which provided higher quality reproduction.

I find Kirby’s work for Eisner and Iger particularly interesting because they show Jack in the process of learning his trade. I know there are some fans who continue to insist that Kirby had already reached a high level of skills but to me this was clearly not the case. Had Kirby’s comic career ended with his work for Eisner and Iger he would have become nothing more than a footnote in the history of comics. Talking heads dominate this page which would have presented a problem for any comic book artist. Kirby tries to keep it interesting by changing the viewing distance as well as adding various props. Jack was not completely successful in this attempt but you can tell he is trying. The page ends with a fist fight. Kirby was famous for his slugfests but here the depicted punch seems rather awkward. The inking is improved over the last page I presented. Kirby varies his inking depending from darker panels such as the first and fourth to simpler lighter ones such as the eighth panel. Here Kirby is still a long way from his mature inking style but that is what makes these pages so interesting. Jack did the lettering as well. Kirby’s lettering here is adequate but nothing more. While his lettering would improve somewhat, Jack never became a master letterer. But then again I cannot think of any golden age comic book artist that was good at both drawing and lettering.

My schedule will remain pretty tough over about the next month so I cannot guaranty that I will not be forced to put up a Jumbo scan again. However I hope that will not be the case because my recent post on the Police Trap pinup reminds me that I have not yet covered that title.