Category Archives: Publications

Joe Simon: The Man Behind the Comics

I have noticed that Amazon has a entry for Titan’s “Joe Simon: The Man Behind the Comics: The Illustrated Autobiography of Joe Simon“. It is listed being released on April 19 at a list price of $24.95 but at $16.47 from Amazon. Amazon UK also lists the book but get this, there is already someone selling a used copy! That is absolutely impossible. Not only has the book not been printed, it has not even been put together yet.

“From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin”

Steven Brower has made the following annoucement on the Mort Meskin List:

The book “FROM SHADOW TO LIGHT: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin” is finally off to the printer. A September pub date is listed on Amazon but as far as I know Fantagraphics is trying to get it out for San Diego. The book is 220 pages with over 200 illustrations, comic art, advertising art, personal art, photos. Great news is I was able to show lots of DC work, starting in the 40s right through the 60s. I believe it is going to be a beautiful book and will go a long way towards setting the record straight about Mort, including his influence on comic book art and storytelling. There are never before published quotes form a myriad of artists, Kubert, Infantino, Starr, Stein, Olesen, Steranko, Simon and even Roussos and Kirby.

The book has an introduction by Jerry Robinson, and was done under the auspices of Mort’s sons, Peter and Philip. There are many who’s help was invaluable, too numerous to mention, but I want to cite Dylan Williams for his incredible generosity in sharing his own research and resources.

There is no way I can be objective about Titan’s upcoming “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”. I have been way to wrapped up in that project to be unbiased. But if I were to exclude from consideration Titan’s Simon and Kirby library, I can easily say that this is the most important upcoming book out there. This is big, I mean really BIG. Mort Meskin is the most overlooked comic book master. Most comic book fans have no idea about the breadth of this artist’s achievements. I have tried from time to time in my small way to point this out but a few posts are simply not enough to set the record straight. You need a book to do that and this is that book.

“From Shadows to Light” in September, “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” in October”; all I can say we are living in exciting times. And for those lucky enough to go to San Diego you maybe able to pick up both volumes!

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

The reader might think that my big event for last weekend was the Eisner nomination for “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. As great and unexpected as that was it was far from the most significant event. No, my big event was completing the final pages for “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”.

Doing the art restoration for that book was an arduous and lengthy process. It began about a year ago at a time when Titan had not yet made a decision about the contents of the book. Normally I would not want to begin such a project without a clearly defined plan but I was assured that no matter what the book would include Fighting American. It turned out there was good reason for the indecision. Originally the superheroes were to be done in two volumes but Titan had found a way to publish it as a single book but at a cost that will be a lot less than the two separate volumes.

While the prospect of 480 pages of Simon and Kirby should warm the heart of any fan, I must admit it left mine filled with trepidation. How could I come up with a schedule for so much work with such a wide range of restoration challenges? Well I just did the best I could. It turned out that for about a half a year I was able to meet my schedule. Then unfortunately I encountered some restoration problems that seriously threw me out of the schedule. I eventually figured out techniques that allowed me to handle similar problems in a much faster manner but I was never able to recover the slipped time. So in the end my restoration went much beyond the original plan. I am happy to say that Titan believes it can recover from my lateness and still get “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” out with the same release date which is late summer or early fall (Amazon is still listing it as October 12). I am also told that Titan hopes to have advanced copies available for those lucky enough to attend this year’s San Diego show.

And what a book “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” will be! The size will be about 7 1/2 by 11 inches. This is the same size as Marvel’s old Visionary line of books which should be able to reproduce the art in its original dimensions. And while my restoration took longer than any of us would have liked this had no impact whatsoever on the quality of the results. In fact I am certain that the reader will find it superior to the work in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. When I worked on BoSK the Captain America story was about the last thing I did. It was done using original flats (proofs of the line art) that Joe Simon had kept all these years. I was so please with the results that I resolved to make use of that technique whenever I could. It means extra work but the results are worth it.

As for the contents it will be all the superheroes that either Jack Kirby or Joe Simon drew that are not owned by either Marvel or DC. Specifically that means:

  • The Black Owl
  • Stuntman
  • Vagabond Prince
  • Captain 3-D
  • Fighting American
  • The Shield (Private Strong)
  • The Fly

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

The Black Owl was among Simon and Kirby’s earliest superhero work. Only Marvel Boy and the Vision for Timely predate the Black Owl, and even then only be a few months. Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl shows the beginnings of some of their trademarks that made Captain America such a success. (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl)

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

I have not written solely about Stuntman for some time, but only because I posted on it early in my blog (Stuntman). What can I say, Stuntman is filled with great art, action and humor. Of course Titan’s upcoming book will have all the published Stuntman stories but as a special treat it will also include the previously unpublished “Jungle Lord”; this thanks to the help of John Morrow (of The Jack Kirby Collector fame). The sudden cancellation of Stuntman left “Jungle Lord” without the finishing spotting but all the lettering and the outline inking were completed. As an additional bonus, two of the Stuntman stories were restored from original flats from the Simon collection. While every effort was made to restore all the scans to the best possible quality you simply cannot beat line art from flats or original art.

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Many fans have underestimated Joe Simon’s talents as a penciler. Hopefully “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” will enlighten them. All three Vagabond Prince tales will be included one of which (“Trapped on Wax”) has never been published in its entirety. “Trapped on Wax” was restored from the original art and the other two stories from original flats. Harvey Comic’s of Vagabond Prince were exceedingly poor (even for Harvey) so Titan’s versions will be really special. (Vagabond Prince, Trapped on Wax, The Madness of Doctor Altu, and Death-Trap De Luxe)

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Not surprisingly, Captain 3-D #1 has never been reprinted. Originally it posed a problem for Titan as well. What would they do, offer the book with 3D glasses? The solution I offered was to drop the 3D effect and restore it to the line art. After all Jack Kirby’s perspective was so effective it did not need the 3D gimmick. I have also colored the material in a manner consistent with methods used in other Simon and Kirby productions. Captain 3-D was inked by an array of artists including the Steve Ditko at the start of his career. Now readers will be able to judge for themselves who inked what; you can get my take on this subject in my post Captain 3D.

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Titan’s book will contain all the original Fighting American stories, not just those with art by Simon and Kirby. It will include Simon’s cover for Harvey Fighting American #2 and the George Tuska drawn “The Mad Inker” neither of which have been published before. “The Mad Inker” is missing the splash page but this does not seem to affect the story which is otherwise complete. Marvel reprinted Fighting American in 1989 but a good portion of it was what Marvel now terms reconstructed art. In “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” you will get nothing but pure Simon and Kirby.

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Most of Private Strong and all of the Fly stories were restored from original art. I even got permission from Titan to re-master “Come into My Parlor” which appeared in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. Not that the restoration in BoSK was that bad but the restoration from original art is just so much more special.

There is an introduction by Neil Gaiman. I do not think that for anyone who has read Gaiman’s Sandman series would be surprised that he is a big Simon and Kirby fan. I have to say the fact that Gaiman was going to do the introduction for this book impressed my niece more than anything else concerning the projects I have worked on. There are also a couple of short essays by Jim Simon. I have not read Jim’s contribution but judging by the introduction Jim wrote for Marvel’s Boys’ Ranch reprint I am looking forward to what he has to say.

Future volumes of Titan’s Simon and Kirby library will include great material. But I do not think any of them will so thoroughly cover Simon and Kirby’s collaboration. “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” spans from some of their earliest work together until nearly their last (only the retro Sandman for DC was a latter collaboration).

It has been implied on the Internet that some of my recent posts have used restorations from “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”. That simply is not true. However, all the images I have used in this entry are from Titan’s upcoming book. Unfortunately the low resolution of images used for the Internet does not give them justice. The reader will have to buy the book to get the full impact. You will not regret it.

“The Best of Simon and Kirby” Nominated for an Eisner Award

The Eisner Award nominations have been announced and they include:

Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books

  • The Best of Simon & Kirby, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, edited by Steve Saffel (Titan Books)
  • Blazing Combat, by Archie Goodwin et al., edited by Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)
  • Humbug, by Harvey Kurtzman et al., edited by Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)
  • The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures deluxe edition, by Dave Stevens, edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)
  • The TOON Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (Abrams ComicArts/Toon)

What a pleasant surprise but what strong competition. I have heard of Humbug and The TOON Treasury but have never had the chance to examine them. But my collection includes Blazing Combat and The Rocketeer and they are both incredibly beautiful and important books. So I am not holding expectations that The Best of Simon and Kirby will actually win. It is just great to have played a part on a book that has received the recognition that such a nomination entails.

Joe Simon and the Newsboy Legion Archives

The Newsboy Legion, volume 1

During a recent visit to Joe Simon I picked up a copy of DC’s “The Newsboy Legion by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby” volume 1. This post will not be an unbiased review as I was one of the contributors having provided all the covers. I have been extremely busy with restorations for “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” but I had previously scanned and cleaned up these Star Spangled covers so providing them to DC did impact my commitment with Titan. The covers are generally not what I would call full restorations but I think they came out rather well. The restoration of the stories was done by others (Rick Keene and Mike Montagna) and is even better than the work done for “Simon and Kirby’s Sandman”. I know there are some who are critical of DC’s approach but I am not one of them. I am pleased to see that only Marvel continues to follow the outdated technique of art “reconstruction” (a code word for recreation).

This first volume covers the work that appeared in Star Spangled issues #7 to #32 (April 1942 to May 1944). Joe and Jack provided DC with a handsome inventory before they went into military service. Because of that inventory this volume is almost exclusively work by Simon and Kirby with only three stories and a single cover drawn by other artists.

There are some aspects about this archive that I am less satisfied with. Mainly the smaller dimensions of the book requires that the art must be slightly reduced in size with narrow the gutters and margins. This was true for the Sandman archive as well. But I suspect this was all done to keep the cost of the book low. The dust jacket shows re-colored Simon and Kirby art. I am not a fan of the use of modern coloring on gold and silver age comic art. The line art was made for the type coloring and printing that it originally received. I have not seen any examples of the successful use of modern coloring applied to older art. But hey it is just the dust jacket and it is the contents of the book that really count.

A particular appeal feature of this reprint is the introduction written by Joe Simon. It seems so obvious a choice that I do not know why Joe is not asked to do more of these. Joe is a great writer and this is another of his fascinating essays. I will not discuss the contents at this time so the reader will just have to buy the book. But it does cover a wide range of the history that lies behind the Newsboy Legion.

Simon and Kirby’s Captain America was so innovative that it changed the comic book industry. However it was at DC that the Simon and Kirby collaboration really jelled. Which is why I am so pleased that DC will be reprinting so much of this important material. There should be a volume two for the Newsboy Legion and DC has announced the first Boy Command volume as coming out in November. Simon and Kirby fans live in exciting times.

Joe Simon and thee Newsboy Legion Archives

Star Spangled #7 shows that Volume 1 of the Newsboy Legion will be released on March 9, 2010. If past experience is any guide, the book may actually appear in comic stores a week or two before that. This volume covers the Newsboy Legion and the Guardian stories that appeared in Star Spangled Comics #7 to #32 (April 1942 to May 1944). This is the entire Simon and Kirby story run created before the artists went into military service. That would leave Volume 2 to stories drawn largely by Gil Kane and perhaps another artist. While that might sound attractive to many potential readers of Volume 2 I expect most will be disappointed because at that time Kane was nowhere near the talented artist he would become. However there will also be some stories in Volume 2 by Simon and Kirby from when they returned to civilian life and a lot of their covers.

One of the things that I could not understand about the Marvel golden age reprints is why that company never got Joe Simon to provide any of the introductions? Well DC caught on to that idea and Joe has written the intro for the first Newsboy Legion volume. Joe tells me that it will include some previously unrevealed facts about the Newsboy Legion. I have not read it so I do not know what that might be. I have read many other unpublished essays by Joe and I am confident that this introduction will be a good read because he is such a great writer.

I am sure I will have something to say about the book when it comes out but I will not be writing a review. It turns out that I also have played a part in this book although admittedly a small one. I do not know if the restorations of the Newsboy Legion stories will be done in the same approach as the Simon and Kirby Sandman Archive but I do have a comment to those who have criticized the work done for that volume. Some have said that not enough effort was done on restoring the scans. Worse yet some have tried to align the work that I did on the Best of Simon and Kirby with Marvel’s approach as examples of how DC should be doing their archives. Well all I can say is that greatly disagree with that assessment. There maybe a superficial resemblance to my work in BoSK to Marvel’s archives but superficial is all it is. Marvel’s reprints are essentially recreations and on close examination show inaccuracies. While my restorations for BoSK may look different from the S&K Sandman Archive in fact both are based on scans with no line art recreation. When it comes to reprints I want to see the original artists’ work not some reinterpretation by a modern artist. That is much, much more important than whether printing defects such as registration problems are corrected.

DC’s New Book, The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Joe Simon gave me a copy of DC’s new book “The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby”. Amazon lists the release date as August 18, but it may be in comic books stores sooner then that. Simon and Kirby worked on Sandman (along with Manhunter, the Newsboy Legion, and Boy Commandos) just after leaving their highly successful run of Captain America at Timely. It was with Captain America that Simon and Kirby achieved fame but it was at DC that their unique collaboration really took root. This book provides all the Simon and Kirby Sandman stories that appeared in Adventure and World Finest Comics. That means the book contains all the independent Sandman stories that Joe and Jack did but excludes Sandman’s appearance in All Star Comics as part of the Justice Society of America. The Sandman also excludes some Sandman stories done by other artists while Simon and Kirby were doing their military service during the war. Included also is Simon and Kirby’s last comic book collaboration, a remade Sandman from 1974. Only the first issue of the 70’s Sandman is here since Joe and Jack once again went their separate ways. With 290 pages of art that is a lot of Simon and Kirby and at $39.99 a real steal. At that price you could not even buy a single issue of the original comic let alone the entire run.

There are two basic philosophies about how to reprint old comic book art. One approach is to recreate, or as Marvel calls terms it reconstruct, the art. The other approach is to use cleaned up scans. Recreated reprints can look superficially attractive but the reader is actually getting a modern artist interpretation of the original work. Depending on the artist doing the recreation this may or may not be very accurate. Reprints using scans are accurate but not always pretty because of the primitive printing of the original comics and the deteriorations that they have suffered with age. I prefer reprints that use scans and I am happy to say that is the approach that DC has adopted for this volume.

The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

In all honesty there are some problems with The Sandman. The book is 7 by 10.5 inches in size. This is a common dimension for books of this nature but it meant that the art had to be reduced in size. However it is not much smaller then the original and reading is not really impaired. I would have preferred the original size but that would have meant a larger book with a correspondingly higher sales price. It is not the height of the original comics that caused the difficulty but rather the width. DC was obviously trying to limit the amount of size reduction and so the margins and gutters are rather narrow. The image above shows the resulting page format. The narrow gutter does not really affect the reading but as can be seen it does make scanning difficult.

There is a nice introduction by John Morrow, publisher of The Jack Kirby Collector. Morrow provides some much needed background for those not steeped into the history of Simon and Kirby. However there is a secret rule that says that every volume reprinting Jack Kirby material must include an essay by Mark Evanier, in this case it is an afterword. Of course I am being a little bit facetious about there being such a rule, but only a little bit. Evanier not only knows more about Jack Kirby then anyone else but he is also a marvelous writer. His presence in The Sandman, or any other Kirby volume, is always much appreciated.

What can I say, this is after all the Simon and Kirby Blog and this book is prime Simon and Kirby. Buy this book to find out how a second rate backup feature became the star of Adventure Comics. Buy this book to see how exciting Simon and Kirby could be. But buy this book.

“The Best of Simon and Kirby”, It Is Real

Dust jacket front cover for “The Best of Simon and Kirby”

I have a busy schedule and so I have to budget my time. I had set aside a period last Saturday for doing some scans for this week’s blog post. That was the plan. That is until Steve Saffel dropped by that day with an advanced copy of Titan’s book “The Best of Simon and Kirby” (Steve is the book’s editor). Well so much for my original schedule as I spent the rest of the day pouring over my copy of this long awaited book. Good things come to those that wait. Actually this time great things came. I cannot begin to describe how pleased I am with this book.

Those readers that have followed my blog closely know that I did the art restorations for this book. So I am hardly unbiased. Still I really believe anyone who likes Simon and Kirby will want this book. This is a large book (12 1/2 by 9 1/4 inches, about the same size of Mark Evanier’s “Kirby: King of Comics”). While I have nothing against the standard archive sized books it is really nice to see Simon and Kirby art larger then life.

Jack Kirby was the master of exaggerated perspective. His figures often seem to jump right out of the page. The dust jacket uses a collage of Simon and Kirby art including the Fighting American from the cover to the second issue. All the art are from scans except for the figure of Fighting American which is fully restored. The result is Fighting American really seems to jump off the page even more. That may not seem possible but it’s true.

Actual cover for “The Best of Simon and Kirby” (in pieces because I cannot scan the entire book at one time, it is too big!)

The only thing I have against the dust jacket is that it hides the cover. When you buy this book (notice I assume the reader will buy it) be sure to remove the dust jacket in order to admire the cover. The cover is a Stuntman double page splash and it looks terrific.

Joe Simon writes an introductory. Joe’s a great writer and the introduction shows his usual flair for story telling. The book is divided into eight chapters and Mark Evanier provides a short essay for each. What can I say, nobody is more knowledgeable about Jack Kirby then Mark Evanier. I wonder if the time Mark spent as Jack’s assistant had anything to do with what a great writer he is? In any case scholarly knowledge and great writing skills make for some marvelous essays.

But let us be honest, all that is window dressing. The real reasons for buying this book are the Simon and Kirby features. There are plenty of those; 192 pages of story art and 5 covers. All, as I said above, larger then the original published size. There are plenty of smaller illustrations accompanying the essays as well. Perhaps the biggest difficulty in publishing a book called “The Best of Simon and Kirby” is picking what to include. There are so many great Simon and Kirby stories to choose from. I cannot promise that everybody’s favorite will be in this book but I can say that all were selected because of their outstanding quality. No Simon and Kirby work was excluded from consideration because it was not available for any reason. Even Marvel and DC has agreed to the inclusion of some work that they have ownership rights to. All genres are included with chapters on action heroes, science fiction, war, crime, westerns, horror, humor and romance. The period covered ranges from one of Joe Simon’s first published stories and goes up to the work Joe and Jack did on the Fly. Most of the art in this book was done by Jack Kirby with all the remaining work done by Joe Simon.

The printing has been completed. My copy of this book went by air mail but the rest of the copies are literally on a slow boat from China. The latest issue of Comic Shop News says this book will be out in April. However I have been told that it will get to Amazon in a month and a half and stores in a couple of months which would put it at May. In any case soon to be at a store near you!