Category Archives: Publications

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.

Another Milestone, Simon and Kirby Library: Science Fiction

I have recently completed another milestone, all the restorations for Titan’s upcoming Science Fiction volume for the Simon and Kirby Library. This will be another book about the same size as the Crime volume. I do not have the book layout in front of me but you can get an idea of the size by the fact that I did 344 pages of art restorations. Of course the page count describes the thickness but the other dimensions will match those used in the Superheroes and Crime volumes. Those dimensions are important because they allow the art to be reproduced slightly larger than it was originally. I understand why some publishers go the cost saving route of smaller books but frankly some of the effect of the art is lost with the size reduction. I am so pleased that Titan has managed to publish the larger sized books at an affordable price.

The Science Fiction volume covers a long period of Simon and Kirby collaboration as did the Superheroes book. It actually includes some work that Simon and Kirby did on their own; Joe’s early “Solar Patrol” and Jack’s three “Solar Legion” stories. Also there are all the Blue Bolt stories, including the origin story that Simon did by himself which had been absent in a earlier tradeback. The book also has all the science fiction stories actually done by Simon and Kirby for comic book titles Alarming Tales, Black Cat Mystic, Race for the Moon and Blast-Off. As a bonus the volume also includes some stores drawn by Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.

As for the restoration think of what I did for the Crime book only better. Better because this time I had 72 pages of original art and another 11 pages of flats* to work from. All the work reprinted in the Titan book from Race For The Moon and Blast-Off was based on original art or flats except for a single introduction page. This is important because at that time the printing of the Harvey comics was rather poor. Race For The Moon and Blast-Off included some very detailed inking whose effect was greatly lost in the printing of the original comics. The Simon and Kirby’s Library version will be the first chance to see these stories as the inkers intended.

Does anyone really care about the process for comic book restorations? Once you get past the part of whether the art was recreated or not, all that is truly important is how nice** the printed results look. And as far as I know Marvel is the only publisher still recreating art for their reprint books. Yet there is one guy who works for Marvel that is constantly attacking me on one of the Marvel lists for, among other things, chemically bleaching my pages. I have never criticized using chemically bleaching in restoration. I just find that the price of old comic books today generally makes it too expensive a process. That is why I developed my own methods a part of which includes digitally bleaching scans. There is no way I could afford to chemically bleach comics like Blue Bolt. But the Science Fiction book includes work published in the late 50’s and mid 60’s some of which I had inexpensive low grade copies that I submitted to chemical bleaching. I wonder if anyone will be able to tell which have been worked on with chemicals and which digitally? I cannot see how they could. In any case my commitment is to provide the best restorations possible by whatever means; original art, flats, chemical bleaching or just digitally.

Amazon still lists the release date for this book as in October. Unfortunately because of some help I provided Joe Simon’s family after his untimely passing as well as extra work I had to do for my “day job” caused me to fall behind in my restoration work. I am not positive but I believe the book is now scheduled to be released in early January. It saddens me that Joe only got to see my restorations for Blue Bolt. This was probably the volume that Joe had the most interest in primarily because of all the incredible inking done in Race For The Moon and Blast-Off.


* Flats are proofs of the line art arranged as they would be printed. They are not quite as good as original art but far superior to work from than the original published comics.

** Of course different people have their own idea of what nicely restored art means. for me that means cleaned up colors and printing on flat paper.

Jack Kirby Collector #59

I have received my copy of the Jack Kirby collector #59. All JKC issues are welcome additions for any Kirby fan but #59 is special. Unfortunately one reason it is special is that JKC has returned to the standard magazine size format. John Morrow explains why this happened and I am not about to criticize his decision but I will miss how well the former tabloid size presented Kirby art.

Treasure #10 (December 1947) pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

One of the reasons I am excited about this issue is that it includes some of my Simon and Kirby cover restorations. Specifically the covers for Shield-Wizard #7, Speed #18, Green Hornet #7 and #9, champ #20 and Treasure #10. While pretty much every cover done by Simon and Kirby are great, these particular covers are among my favorites. Especially the covers for Harvey Comics. The Harvey covers were done at the same time Simon and Kirby were working for DC and their collaboration had, in my opinion, really taken root. I have restored all but a few of these Harvey covers and posted about them during the start of my blog (Harvey Covers). Someday I hope to get a change to finish the few remaining un-restored Harvey covers. One little quibble, the JCK credits Irv Novick with inking Shield-Wizard #7. I find that attribution rather doubtful. Judging by the art Novick did for MLJ he went into military service at just about this time, and his unavailability was probably the reason Simon and Kirby got the job in the first place. I previously wrote about Simon and Kirby’s work on the Shield as a guest poster on Comic Book Resources (Simon and Kirby Meet the Shield).

Perhaps more important to comic book fans will be Arlen Schumer’s presentation of The Auteur Theory of Comics. I, and a couple of other bloggers, have presented Schumer’s theory but now hopefully a larger audience will get a chance to get first hand what the theory really is about. This is important because I doubt that many of the critics found on the Internet have actually read what Schumer has to say. Certainly they have not correctly characterized the Auteur Theory and therefore they have not been able to present a meaningful discussion.

I am also pleased that Steven Brower’s Kirby’s Collages In Context is also included in JKC #59. It was previously posted on the Internet but well deserves a chance to reach a larger audience. This issues includes a short color section giving the reader a chance to see some of Kirby’s collage to their best effect.

While these were my personal highlights of Jack Kirby Collector #59 they are by no means the only good reads in this issue. A number of the recurring columns are present. I always love reading what Mark Evanier has to say but I am sure each fan has his own favorite. And of course there are lots and lots of Kirby art. That alone makes the issue worth buying.

Doug Wildey’s Masterpiece

Doug Wildey was one of the often forgotten comic book artists. I am mostly familiar with the work he did for Harvey comics with Joe Simon as editor but he did more work for other outfits like Atlas (Marvel). He obviously used photographs as reference in his work. Now I have no problem with an artist using photographs, many comic book artists did at least occasionally. However it is not without its problems. One is that the difference between sections based on photographs and those not can be jarring and negative to the work as a whole. Further poses can be stiff and unnatural. So while theoretically I do not care if a comic book artist works from photographs, too much dependency on photos is detrimental to an artist’s work. Apparently Wildey never got the memo. Yes he used photographs but it is hard to tell how he did it because his work consistently attractive and there is nothing stiff about his figures.

It is clear that Doug care deeply about the quality of the work he created. The original art for comics that he did show that he provided a lot of detail and special effects. It is surprising that he would do this because he must certainly have known that much of this careful work would be lost in the printing. Not only was fine details often a waste of time it too could have a bad impact on the work. There are those fans who admire finely worked pencils and inking but I could generally describe such art as dry. There is probably nothing worse for comic book art than being dry. Doug Wildey did not get that memo either. One description I would never use in describing Wildey’s work was dry.

Unfortunately a comic book artist’s reputation generally depends on whether he ever had the chance to work on a popular feature. Do nice work on a popular feature and fans will even pay attention to the rest of a comic book artist’s work. Unfortunately most comic book artists do not get a chance to work on something really popular and I believe Doug Wildey was no exception. That is not the same thing as Doug never working on something really good. Wildey did have a masterpiece, it just did not draw as much attention as it deserved. Doug’s masterpiece was a western which has recently been reprinted in “Doug Wildey’s Rio”. Rio was Wildey’s creation and not only did he do the pencils and inking but the writing, lettering and coloring as well. This book presents this work largely from the original art so this really is Wildey’s creation. As good as Wildey was in the 50’s and 60’s, he out did himself for this work. Rio truly was Doug Wildey’s masterwork.

Doug Wildey’s Rio is presented in a truly nicely packaged volume that is large enough to properly present the work. As I mentioned the book mostly uses the original art therefore there is some variation in the coloring and some of the work is uncolored. Further Doug was still working on one story when he passed away. While this story is unfinished it is effectively complete, that is while the art might be sketchy in some parts the story is all there. There is also a nice introduction by Mark Evanier who obviously is very knowledgeable about artists other than Jack Kirby. This is a book that I highly recommend. Many thanks to IDW for really doing this reprint right.

Spirit World

I got a pleasant surprise when I visited my comic book store last night, DC’s reprint of Spirit World. What a marvelous time this is for Kirby fans as more and more of his work is being reprinted. Had someone told me a decade ago that DC would reprint Spirit World I would not have believed them, actually I would have thought they had lost their grip on reality. Spirit World was by no means a Kirby classic. It received remarkably poor distribution. Mark Evanier describes not being able to locate any copies at newsstands but finding bundles of them at a distributor’s warehouse that had never been delivered. DC’s confidence in it was so low that it was cancelled after a single issue, much too soon to be based on any sales figures. It is not even a cult classic, it rarely comes up in discussions about Jack Kirby’s art. But everything Jack did he did well so it is great to see this work back in print.

“Amazing Predictions” page 3 (from the reprint)

Kirby wanted Spirit World to be a high quality magazine printed in color but that is not the way DC would publish it. Instead a wash was applied to the line art and the results were printed using a dark cyan ink. Frankly it was not the best approach. But that is the approach that was originally made and was repeated for the reprint. Although I wish DC had initially followed Kirby’s wishes I believe their decision for the reprint to reproduced the effect of the original publication was the correct one. The quality of the reproduction in the reprint is exceptional. There are times when the original magazine was a little clearer but others where the reprint did a better job of presenting the art. But these differences are minor variations unnoticeable unless the two are compared side by side. One important improvement made for the reprint was the paper. I have never been a fan of using a yellowish paper in an attempt to match the current look of comic books. That look is due to aging and was not the look the books had when they first appeared. Using a yellowish paper for the Spirit World reprint would have darkened the cyan inked and ruined the effect. Instead DC has wisely used a flat white paper for this reprint.

“Amazing Predictions” page 3 (with Photoshop adjustment)

One of the special treats of Spirit World was all the collages that Kirby created for it. Kirby’s collages have been receiving more and more attention in recent years. Recently Steven Brower has devoted an article on the subject (Jack Kirby’s Collages in Context). I must admit that as a young reader I was not overly impressed with Jack’s collages but as an adult I greatly admire them. Part of the problem with the collages was the rather poor printing they originally received. I could not resist using Photoshop to convert one of the Spirit World collage to a better quality black and white. In my opinion it is a distinct improvement. However remember that Kirby originally meant Spirit World to be printed in color and take a look at the original art of the same collage that is included in Brower’s article. What a difference and what a lost opportunity that DC did not follow Kirby’s wishes.

“Witch Queen of Ancient Sumeria?” page 2 (from the reprint)

Spirit World was cancelled after a single issue but Kirby had already completed the art for the second issue. The Spirit World reprint includes the work that had been meant for Spirit World #2. I understand that these stories had been used in some of DC’s horror and mystery comics but the reprint only uses the line art. What a contrast between the two sections of the current book. While Spirit World #1 was inked by Vince Colletta and issue #2 by Mike Royer that is not the real reason for the difference in the appeal of the two sections. What is really shown is the rather detrimental affects of the wash and cyan ink had on the initial issue art. Kirby was at the top of his artistic form and it really shows in this last section.

There is a small essay in this latest book by Mark Evanier. Evanier’s writings have appeared in a number of books on Jack Kirby (including Titan’s The Best of Simon and Kirby). With good reason as there probably is no one more knowledgeable on Kirby (if only he would finally publish his full biography on Jack). But what Evanier has to say is particularly important concerning the Spirit World as he was present and involved in its creation.

“The Burners” page 6 (from the reprint)

Colleges played a small part in the second issue of Spirit World. But I could not resist including the sole exception. I hope to someday to discuss the Spirit World more fully, this has been more a review of the reprint book. I will not try to predict how successful the Spirit World reprint will be but I do believe it is a worthy addition to the collection of any Kirby fan.

Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby by Charles Hatfield

Hatfield devotes a chapter to discussing Kirby’s art and in particular his style. This section was of particular interest to me because it is by using aspects of an artist’s style, particularly seemingly insignificant ones, that an artist’s work can be identified. Much of the books’ discussion concerns applying, or rather attempting to apply, the theories of Charles Sander Peirce to Kirby’s work. I believe that Hatfield does a good job of describing Peirce’s theories, but then again since I was completely unfamiliar with them I cannot say how accurately they are presented. By his own admission applying Peirce’s theories on Kirby’s art is a difficult match but Hatfield feels that there is much to be learned from the attempt. It certainly provided me with an alternate way of looking at things which is the chief value in a book like “Hand of Fire”.

Hatfield also makes use of a definition of Will Eisner that “style results from the failure and frustration, from grappling with one’s own weaknesses as an artist and turning them to advantage”. While there is some truth in this, I feel it is only partial explanation of how an artist’s style is accomplished. Some aspects of an artist’s style may originate from his deficiencies, particularly earlier in a career. Kirby’s penchant for big ears during his first DC period comes to mind. But an artist style usually evolves over time and this generally is not due to any deterioration of his capabilities. Rather artist often go through a process of refining their work by filtering out what they consider unimportant aspects and emphasizing those of greater personal significance. Kirby’s style while working on the Fourth World books was, in my opinion, his best graphical efforts and this certainly not due to his failure to grapple with his weaknesses.

There is a chapter on the history and authorship of the Marvel Universe. It is a balance view which while emphasizing Kirby’s importance does not diminish or discredit Stan Lee’s contributions. I suspect Kirby Cultists will not be pleased but I was. Hatfield’s discussion of two common misapprehensions (that Marvel made superhero stories realistic and that the comics were created with a pre-planned continuity).

Included in the book is a lengthy analysis of Kirby’s work for DC, that what is commonly called the Fourth World. Hatfield obviously feels that this was the most important point of Kirby’s career. I admit that is an opinion that I do not share. But I still find his discussion about this work to be insightful and interesting. In fact the best that I have ever read.

“Hand of Fire” is not the type of book one would pick up to see great art. There is a small color section and some black and white illustrations scattered through the text. All the work shown was selected to match discussions in the text. So this is not a book to pick up just to see great Kirby art. But it is a great book if you want to enter into a discussion about Jack Kirby and his art. You may not agree with everything Hatfield writes, but you will understand why he takes the positions that he does and you may his ideas challenging.

The Next Two Simon and Kirby Library Volumes From Titan

Titan has announced the next two volumes for the Simon and Kirby Library as has been reported in Comic Book Resources. One of them, Horror, had been previously announced and is now scheduled for release in 2013. The book scheduled for the fall of 2012 is Science Fiction. Because the material in this volume was so dear to Joe Simon he held it back and it was not part of the original agreement with Titan. However recent events had caused those plans to be altered.

As I wrote above, the Simon and Kirby science fiction was very important to Joe. One of Joe’s earliest creations and the first that can be described as a real hit was Blue Bolt. It was while working on Blue Bolt that the Simon and Kirby collaboration took root. Most of the initial Blue Bolt stories had been previously reprinted some years ago in a small trade back. Considering the state of the art at the time it was a valiant effort but by today’s standards somewhat flawed. But the most puzzling thing about this earlier reprint was that it failed to include the origin story from the first issue. I am happy to write that the Titan volume will include first story and that all the stories have been fully restored. If you have seen the Crime volume from the Simon and Kirby Library you know what to expect. I showed Joe the Blue Bolt restorations a few weeks before his passing and he was quite pleased.

Who was the best Kirby inker is a much debated issue. I would say that nobody was better inking Kirby than Kirby himself closely followed by Joe Simon. But putting those two titans aside who did the best job inking Kirby? Of course most fans would probably chose some silver or bronze age inker. But I would say the best Kirby inking work appeared in Race for the Moon published in 1958. In his recent autobiography, “My Life In Comics”, Joe says this was the joint effort of Reed Crandall, Angelo Torres and Al Williamson. It was a beautiful job but one that did not live up to its full potential due to the notorious poor printing of Harvey Comics. Fortunately all of the Race for the Moon material will be restored in the Titan volume using either original art or flats (production proofs of the line art, the next best thing to original art). Altogether the Science Fiction book will include 82 pages based on original art and 18 from flats.

I could go on about all the important Simon and Kirby science fiction that will be in this volume including some surprises. And I probably will in a future post. But for now let me just say that this will be a very important Simon and Kirby volume that no fan will want to miss.

It is sad that Joe will not see the published results for either of these two volumes of the Simon and Kirby Library. But it is great that the Simon and Kirby legacy will continued to be published by Titan. The books being published by Titan are the only ones authorized by the estates of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime Makes the NY Times Best Selling List

Titan’s new book, “The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime” has made it to #5 on the NY Times best selling list of hardcover graphic books. There it is among such luminaries as Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Moore (Neonomicon), Robert Kirkman (the Walking Dead), Graig Thompson (Habibi) and others. I think that is quite an accomplishment for comics produced over 60 years ago.

“Simon and Kirby Library: Crime” Has Been Released

While some individuals were fortunate enough to be able to pick up a copy of Titan’s latest release, “Simon and Kirby Library: Crime”, at the New York Comic Con it has not been available to the general public until this last week. I have seen a number of books reviews including one by USA Today (see links below) all of which are very favorable. Four of the links provide sample stories from the book and I will put them at the top of the list of links and provide the title of the story previewed.

I hope this book does well. As I mentioned previously crime and romance are my favorite Simon and Kirby genre. If this books sells well enough Titan may publish a second crime book that would include all the rest of S&K crime stories.

USA Today (“Queen of the Speed-Ball Mob”)

Crave On Line (“A Phantom Pulls the Trigger”)

boingboing (“Burned at the Stake”)

IGN (“The Life and Death of Public Enemy Number One”)

Comics Worth Reading

The Daily Blam!

Comics Cavern

Comic Book Collectors Club

My Advance Copy of Simon and Kirby Library: Crime

I am thrilled to say that I have received an advance copy of “Simon and Kirby Library: Crime”. This is the second book in the Library series and it matches the size of the previous Superheroes volume. Well not completely matches but with 320 pages the Crime book is still an impressively sized book. For those readers that have not seen the Superheroes book, the Library books are 7 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches in dimension. This allows the comic art to be reproduced at slightly larger than their original dimensions for enhanced readability.

scan from the book

I love everything that Simon and Kirby produced but I do have some favorites. While superheroes are popular and were a logical choice to start the Library, it is not my favorite genre. What I love above all others are Simon and Kirby’s work on crime and romance which makes this volume very special for me. I think it will be special for many readers as well. Simon and Kirby were masters at making interesting comics but with crime they had a natural source for excitement and action. And boy did they take advantage of it. Simon and Kirby worked on crime comics for two relatively short periods but put together an impressive amount of work. This book brings together 315 pages of what has been described as the best of Simon and Kirby crime. I am not sure that “best of” is completely accurate. Joe and Jack did such a great job on the crime genre that I do not think it is possible to pick the best ones. There is only one crime story (not included in this volume) that I feel was not up to par for Simon and Kirby (and I suspect there would be many fans that would say my opinion of that story is wrong). However much effort was made to provide this book with a lot of variety in the stories. This volume contains a little less than half the Simon and Kirby crime so that if it sells well enough the rest of the material could be collected into a second volume. I am not saying that is the plan but I have no doubts that it could happen.

scan from the book

I am very proud of the Simon and Kirby books that Titan has published. However I have to admit that certain things came out better in the proofs than in the actual printed books. Now some publishers might have just blamed the printer or said that good was good enough but Titan took a different approach. Instead each book has been examined to determine what could be done to make the next one even better. This approach has really paid off. I am truly please with the crime volume and I am sure the readers will be as well.

Amazon lists the book as being released on October 25 but it is likely to appear in some stores earlier than that. “The Simon & Kirby Library: Crime” will be sold by Titan at the upcoming New York Comic Con. Joe Simon will be doing a panel on his autobiography at 3:45 on Friday. Joe rarely makes public appearances anymore so this is something special. I suspect that afterwards he may be doing a book signing.