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An Unusual Simon and Kirby Offering on Cochran Auction

Last Friday Scoop had an interesting article, Simon & Kirby Rarity Added to Cochran Auction. A very small image was provided for what was said to be the original art for the unpublished cover for Stuntman #4* penciled by Jack Kirby and inked and colored by Joe Simon. Now the image was very small but to me it clearly looked like a recreation, not like original comic book art.

Russ Cochran’s web page includes a better image and rather interesting documentation (Simon and Kirby – Stuntman No. 4 color comic cover art 1946). The larger image confirms that it was what I would call a recreation and not original comic book art. The original art for this image does exists and can be seen on What If Kirby.

Cochran includes documentation where Joe certifies that this was original art. But read carefully what Simon states. Joe describes how the art was created in 1946 with Joe providing the layout and lettering and Jack doing the pencils. Then Joe states:

Around 2000, while searching through a pile of art work in my possession, I discovered the artwork for the cover of Stuntman #4 that Jack Kirby and I had created in 1946. I decided to ink and color the piece.

Note Joe says he inked and colored the piece in 2000. That means the original art was still just pencils when he completed it. That is not what I would call original art. Now I have not seen the actual piece so I cannot determine if there really were Kirby pencils beneath those modern inks. It is hard to be certain from just images, but the art appears to be done on something like Strathmore paper which Joe frequently used in his recreations. Original art for Simon and Kirby during that period was all done on illustration board. Joe did recreations of comic book art over many years. He not infrequently would put a piece aside uncompleted. Sometimes he would finish it later, sometimes not. My suspicion, and it is nothing more than just a suspicion, is that Joe started a recreation of the cover and stopped while it was still just pencils. He then put it aside only to forget about it. When he came across it again he had forgotten its origin and believed it was Kirby’s original pencils. I may not be certain exactly how the art came to be created, but I am convinced that Joe really believed the story he provides.


* Simon refers to this as the Stuntman #4 cover. What If Kirby calls is the cover for Stuntman #3. Neither is the correct designation. Actually there is an in house advertisement for Stuntman #2 that provides a small image of this cover. However the art was replaced when Stuntman #2 was released. So it is actually a rejected cover for issue #2.

Harvey Horror: Black Cat Mystic #58

Black Cat Mystery #57 was cover dated January 1956. In what was a recurring theme, Harvey would not publish the next issue until September. The Code Approval stamp on the original art for the Contents page has a January 6, 1956 date. This suggests that the lateness of issue #58 was not due to the creators but that Harvey held off publishing it. A similar tardiness plagued Western Tales as well. It seems that after the creation of the Comic Code, Harvey concentrated on specific genre. Most importantly where comics for the very young (Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey, etc.) or reprints of syndication strips (Dick Tracy, Joe Palooka, etc.) which would have no problems getting Comic Code approval. Harvey’s romance comics must have been doing well enough even after the Comic Code to continue for a few years before being cancelled. But it appears that Harvey had little commitment for other genre such as superheroes, horror or westerns.

With issue #58 the title would change once again to Black Cat Mystic. While crediting Joe Simon as the editor for BCM #57 is only a little bit more than a guess, his involvement in BCM #58 is pretty clear; the entire issue was drawn by Jack Kirby. Such dominance by Kirby was a typical technique used by Simon and Kirby when launching a new title. Simon has stated that they would sometimes create an entire issue before presenting their idea to a prospective publisher. That way if the publisher tried to steal their idea they could still beat them out since theirs was completed and ready for the printers. It is possible that this was the case for BCM #58 as well but I doubt the art was created too far in the past. The inking used in this issue is a mix of what I call Studio and Austere styles. That sort of mixture is fits well with the 1956 date (see Jack Kirby’s Austere Inking, Chapter 5).

Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Although not identified by name, the cover presents the ghost Mister Zimmer (to be discussed further below). The inking of figure of the ghost and his aura has been printed in read and green respectively. It would be interesting to see how this was handled in the original art but as far as I know it no longer exists.

Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) Contents page, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The first page of the interior is devoted to a splash introducing the ghost Mister Zimmer who was meant to be a recurring character in the title. The text includes a minor error by referring to the comic book title as Black Cat Mystery and not the new name Black Cat Mystic. Note the drop capital of the letter ‘T’. It includes a circular shadow. This form of drop capital was typical of the lettering of Howard Ferguson (see In the Beginning, Chapter 9, More Moonlighting). None of the other lettering shows any of Ferguson’s characteristic traits and of course Howard had passed away years before. But it does seems that the letterer was very much aware Ferguson’s lettering.

Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) “Read to Us, Mr. Zimmer”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Mister Zimmer’s appears in the first, featured, story. It is an interesting concept to have as the protagonists a ghost and two children. Mild fare even compared to Simon and Kirby’s Black Magic but just the thing to provide fantasy without getting in trouble with the very restrictive Comic Code. The story was inked in a good match for Kirby’s Austere Style. One explanation for this is that Jack inked this story last. However considering the importance that Mister Zimmer is given in the comic it seems more likely that it was completed first. While it is attractive to think of an artist’s style gradually evolving in reality there may have been a number of advances and retractions.

Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) “Mystery Vision”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The stories in Black Cat Mystic and Alarming Tales (to be discussed later) are generally five pages long. Black Magic had short stories but longer ones as well. With such a short space stories had to advance quickly. Jack Kirby was very adept at this and all these stories are small masterpieces.

Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) “Gizmo”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

While perhaps not technically a robot, “Gizmo” visually is one. Therefore it one of a number of robots that Kirby drew over the years (Marvel Stories v2 n2, Blue Bolt #4, Real Fact #2). Other examples will be found in future chapters of this serial post. Gizmo is perhaps the least impressive one but still Kirby’s robots always seem larger than humans. “Gizmo” is an early prototype to stories done a few years later that Kirby and others drew for Marvel Comics. The basic theme is that the monster’s appearance misleads people about its true nature.

The splash panel is a good example of Studio Style inking especially with the abundant use of picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary). However the rest of the story seems to be done in the Austere Style. Another example of the mixture of inking techniques found during this period.

Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) “Help”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

“Help” has a surprise ending, or at least it tries to be surprising. Such type of endings played an important part in post-Code horror. If you are not allowed to scare your young and sensitive reader, then at least give an unexpected ending. I am not sure how successful of a technique this was. I remember as a youngster reading Marvel’s monster comics, which made frequent use of the technique. It did not take me too long to find the surprise ending not so surprising. I became bored with the comics and stopped reading them.

Black Cat Mystic #58 along with BCM #59 and Alarming Tales #1 (to be discussed in future chapters) are very special comics as the contents were drawn entirely by Jack Kirby. Unfortunately the printing of Harvey Comics was particularly poor.

Weird Mysteries

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959), art by George Tuska

This post is not about some strange puzzle of comic book history but rather about a magazine of the name Weird Mysteries. The publisher was Pastime Publications but so far I have not been able to identify any other title that publisher ever released. The indicia provides the publisher’s address which was in Holyoke Massachusetts. Holyoke was the home of a number of printers so the address was likely a convenience probably for a new publisher or one who wanted to hide their association with the title. Today the contents would seem quite tame but at that time there had been public protest about comic books and the Comic Book Authority had been formed a few years before to effectively censor comic book content from material not judged suitable for young readers. The contents of Weird Mysteries #1 would never had been accepted by Comic Book Authority but magazines did not fall under its jurisdiction. But a publisher of a magazine like Weird Mysteries might want to hide from any public scrutiny.

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) Introduction, art by Carl Burgos

The introduction presents Morgue’n the magazine’s “monster of ceremoanies”. It is a fitting opening to a magazine of horror stories frequently with sarcastic content. The attribution of this piece is from the GCD. Actually that is the source for all the credits that I provide in this post. My usually policy with the GCD is trust but verify. While I can verify some of the attributions there are others that I am not familiar enough to do so.

Justice Traps the Guilty #1 (October 1947), pencils by Jack Kirby

The introduction art for Weird Mysteries #1 clearly was swiped from the cover for Justice Traps the Guilty #1 (October 1947). I do not believe that this was a random choice. With the exception of one signed piece of art (discussed below) no credits were provided in Weird Mysteries #1 and to my knowledge nobody has previously suggested who put the magazine together. I believe it was Joe Simon. This is not at all a firm conclusion as it is based on circumstantial evidence. One piece of this circumstantial evidence is the swiping from the cover of JTTG #1. Such swiping was very common for Simon particularly at this period. All the artists that have been credited to work in WM #1 worked for Joe during this period.

Some other circumstantial evidence will be discussed below. To my mind the most significant support of Joe’s involvement is that he had possessed the flats for the entire contents of Weird Mysteries #1. Flats are proofs of the black art just as they would be printed (that is four pages to a sheet). Joe kept quite a number of flats but the majority of them were for comics that he had involvement of one kind or another. For instance he had flats for some of the Harvey comics that included Simon and Kirby material such as Stuntman and Boy Explorers. Joe even had the flats for the first issue of Captain America (now there is an untapped treasure). He also had flats for comics that he was the editor as, for instance, Race for the Moon. There are a some flats where I have found no evidence of Joe’s involvement (so far) but they are a small minority.

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “The Ragman”, art by George Tuska

Besides the cover art, George Tuska provided some interior stories for Weird Mysteries #1 as well. Tuska is, for me, the easiest artist to spot in this magazine. One of his most outstanding features of his comic book art style is the jutting jaws that he often provides to men which is very obvious in the scan I provide from “The Ragman”. If I am right that Weird Mysteries was Joe’s project than this would seem to be the first time that Tuska worked for Simon. George shortly help Joe with superhero work for Archie Comics (see Double Life of Private Strong, the Final Issue).

Note the use of typesetting in place of hand lettering. Typesetting was used throughout the magazine. While I do not remember anything that Joe produced before this made use of typesetting, it became standard for the magazine Sick that Joe would begin to produce in the not too distant future (the first issue of Sick was cover dated August 1960).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “From Fear to Eternity”, art by Angelo Torres

I really not that familiar with Angelo Torres’ work. This is largely due to the fact that I have not yet studied the long running Sick magazine where Torres is said to have done some work. But pieces like “From Fear to Eternity” seems a good match to art that I have seen attributed to Torres.

This might be a good time to mention the production of the original art. Line art in the magazine was inked in the typical method for comic books, that is through the use of pen or brush. The grey tones however were produced in a manner not normally found in comic books of the day. I am sure I will think of it later, but presently the name escapes for the special art boards used (the name was supplied by Mark Evanier in the comments, it is Craftint). When a special chemical was painted on the board grey tones emerged. These tones were not like water colors but rather consisted of small dots suitable for printing. This provided a cost and time saving method for producing the art. Again while Joe had not previously used this technique it was typical for the magazine Sick. Although we can not be certain, but the technique used to produce the art probably was the same as used for Sick. That is all the text and captions would be produced by typesetting and applied to the art board. The artist would in turn ink in the art and provide the gray tones after which it was camera ready.

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “A Good Daughter”, art by Joe Orlando

At this time Joe was also putting together art for Prize romance comics. One of the artist that he employed was Joe Orlando (see the Art of Romance, Chapter 37).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “A Shriek in the Night”, art by Carl Burgos

Another piece that can be attributed to Carl Burgos. Carl met Joe quite early in their careers when Joe was just starting working in comic books and Carl already had his big hit, the Human Torch. Simon was Timely’s first editor but Burgos at least initially worked through the shop Funnies Inc. As far as I been able to determine Burgos did no work for Simon (with or without Kirby) until Race for the Moon #3 (November 1958) where he contributed two single page pieces (both titled “Report from Space”). Carl would also help Joe with layouts for the Adventures of the Fly (Burgos does the Fly).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “Twin Bads”, art by Paul Reinman

“Twin Bads” is the only piece in Weird Mysteries signed by the artist. Paul was working for Joe at this time mostly for romances comics (see Art of Romance, Chapter 36, Chapter 37 and Chapter 38) but he also did at least one story for the re-launched Black Magic (“The Night of August 9th”, BM #42, July 1960).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “Sick Greeting Cards”, art by unidentified artist

I do not know the artist, but the two page work “Sick Greeting Cards” is another piece of circumstantial evidence linking Weird Mysteries #1 to Simon. A little over a year later Simon would create a new Mad clone that he would call Sick (The End of Simon and Kirby, Chapter 10). Sick was filled with a sarcastic humor that in places appeared in Weird Mysteries #1, as for example “Sick Greeting Cards”.

So while I can provide no proof there is a bit of circumstantial evidence that Joe Simon was the editor of Weird Mysteries #1. If that is true than this horror magazine would be a sort of prototype for Sick. The indicia for Weird Mysteries #1 indicates it was supposed to be a bi-monthly title but there was no further issues. Two months is much too short a time for financial returns on the sale of the magazine so its cancellation much have been for other reasons.

Joe Simon, 1913 – 2011, Goodbye Joe

Joe Simon passed away Wednesday (December 14). Joe had been in declining health for something like the last six weeks.  Of course his passing is deeply regretted but his end seemed a good one to a great life story. I am sure I will write more about Joe in the near future but I hope my readers will excuse me if I leave this message as a very short one. He was a legend and a good friend who I will greatly miss.

“Simon and Kirby Library: Crime” Some More Reviews

I have come across some more reviews of Titan’s newly released “Simon and Kirby Library: Crime”. Once again they are all very favorable reviews but on a more personal note they all nicely give high praise for the restoration work on the volume. It is always pleasant to be recognized for one’s efforts. However I am not at all bothered by the fact that most reviewer’s have overlooked the restoration. To me it says that my restorations for the book have no serious flaws to distract the reader thereby focusing attention to the work of Simon and Kirby which is, after all, what this book is all about.

I did get a chuckle out of Kristian Horn’s review for Ain’t It Cool News. He remarks that the book is “straight on villainous fun ” “not meant to be taken seriously”. Which is of course true, Simon and Kirby produced great stories full of action. However one of the examples that he gives of a story “not meant to be taken seriously” is “a killer shooting people with a rigged up wooden leg in order to help solve the world’s overpopulation problem”. However while Joe and Jack always played a little loose with the facts this story is basically true (A Story too Incredible to be Real).

I really hope this book does well. Superheroes might be popular these days but the crime stories are my favorite Simon and Kirby productions. If this book sells well enough Titan may published the remaining crime material in another volume. Believe me, those stories are every bit as good as those included in this volume.

Comics Worth Reading

Nerdy Nothings

Ain’t It Cool News

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby

Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940) pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon (the first use of the Simon and Kirby credits)

I am pretty busy but not too busy to acknowledge Jack Kirby’s birthday. After all he is half of what this blog is dedicated to. While it is his collaboration with Joe Simon that commands my greatest attention, Jack had a long career that included work with Stan Lee and on his own. Any one of these periods would be enough to insure Kirby’s placement among the foremost comic book artists but all together make him nothing less than Kirby, King of Comics.

The Golden Age of Captain America, Revamping a Failing Title

Captain America #66 (April 1948), “Golden Girl”, art by Syd Shores, 2299

Captain America had a shield to protect himself against flying bullets but poor Bucky did not. Despite this lack of protection Bucky managed to survive seven years with the single mishap of once been shot with an arrow by the Red Skull. Now Bucky’s luck has run out. Of course today he would have killed off but during the golden age of comics heroes did not come back from the dead so instead Bucky was just severely wounded. But back then, and it is still true today, death or injury were both a means of trying to boasts comic book sales. With Bucky out of commission, Captain America turned to Betsy Ross to become Golden Girl, his new partner. Syd Shores provides an impressive splash but the villainess seems to have fired not at Bucky but the Golden Girl instead.

The backup story still features Bucky. Prefixes have been dropped from the job numbers which seem to have continued from the series that previously used ‘SL’. The “Golden Girl” story has job number 2299 while “Swords of the Cavaliers” was number 1708. Thus this story appears to have been older material that would be used up while it still could be.

Captain America #67 (July 1948), “The Secret Behind the Mirror”, art by Syd Shores, 2189

“The Secret Behind the Mirror” was not the best Captain America art that Syd Shores provided but it would be the last (at least during the golden age). Shores removal from Captain America certainly was not a reflection on this artistic talent. Syd was one of the best artists to pencil Cap during the golden age exceeded only by Jack Kirby and Al Avison. Superheroes in general, and Captain America in particular, were in a decline and Shores was transferred to other more lucrative titles. Unfortunately the artists who were left to take his place were just not nearly as talented.

Captain America #68 (September 1948), “The Enigma of the Death Doll”, art by an unidentified artist, 2210

Not only had Syd Shores departed from the title but full page splashes disappeared as well. Thus ended a long series of really impressive comic book art. I am not contending that all the Captain America splashes were first rate pieces of art but a great number of them were. As the case with the period covered in the last chapter, none of the art was signed and for the most part I have really no idea what artists to credit the work to.

Captain America #69 (November 1948), “The Weird Tales of the Wee Males”, art by an unidentified artist, 3563

Golden Girl was introduced in the hope of increasing sales. But that was not the only attempt to improve the title’s popularity. After years of stories of Captain America versus spies and criminals the title began to include more fantastic stories. Actually such stories were not totally new for Captain America as Simon and Kirby had included stories with a distinct horror aspect. Captain America #10 was the last issue that Simon and Kirby had completed but that had already created a double page splash for issue #11 with Captain America amidst a host of very small people. Ironically years later “The Weird Tales of the Wee Males” returned to this same theme. Normally I would not consider the artist used for this story as a particularly good match for Captain America but he does such a marvelous job on the “Wee Males”. I am not claiming this feature is a masterpiece but it is full of fun and marks the beginning of some imaginative stories.

Captain America #70 (January 1949), “Worlds at War”, art by an unidentified artist, 3984

Captain America versus Martians. What kid could resist this? I know I can’t. Perhaps the unidentified artist may not have been the most masterful drawer of Captain America but this is another story saved by a imaginative writer. Not Pulitzer Prize material but much better than the by now stale run of common criminals.

Captain America #70 (January 1949), “The Man Who Knew Everything”, art by Peter Tomlinson?, 4248

Unfortunately “The Man Who Knew Everything” is not as interesting as “The Weird Tales of the Wee Males” or “Worlds at War” and normally I would pass it by without a mention. During this period Captain America was drawn by a number of artists that remain unidentified. It would be nice to rectify this situation even though some of the artists were less than stellar. Possible clues can come from unexpected sources. My copy of Captain America #70 has a note accompanying “The Man Who Knew Everything” story to the effect that it was drawn by Peter Tomlinson (or perhaps Tumlinson). By no means am I suggesting that such an attribution should be accepted on face value but I do believe it warrants further investigation. Unfortunately so far I have been unable to locate any information about an artist with that name.

Captain America #71 (March 1949), “Trapped by the Trickster”, art by an unidentified artist, 4615

Bucky’s last appearance in Captain America Comics occurred almost a year before “Trapped by the Trickster”. In an unusual example of continuity during the golden age of comics Bucky is released from the hospital and rejoins with Captain America for an adventure. There is no sign of the Golden Girl and the story ends without any indication as to whether Bucky might appear again. Surely this story was meant to see if there would be some sort of reader response. If that was the purpose apparently either there was little response or most favored the Golden Girl. Bucky would not reappear again during this run of the title.

Captain America #72 (May 1949), art by an unidentified artist

The splash panel for “Murder in the Mind” was nothing more than a very reduced size copy of the cover colored only in yellow. So I will use an image of the actual cover instead. This story is another where Captain America has a rather unorthodox adventure. This time through a special form of hypnosis Cap and the Golden Girl enter the mind of a criminal. Of course such a journey cannot be taken seriously but given that premise what follows is an interesting and inventive story.

Captain America #72 (May 1949), “The Tricks of the Trickster”, art by an unidentified artist, 4483

The Trickster appear in the last issue yet here he is again. But with the exception of the Red Skull such repeat performances were unusual. This time Captain America was not accompanied by either Bucky or the Gold Girl.

Captain America #73 (July 1949), “The Outcast of Time”, art by an unidentified artist, 3772

“The Outcast of Time” is another imaginative story where Captain America journeys through time. Oddly the GCD attributes this story to Gene Colan. It might bed hard to believe that such a crudely drawn story could have been done by such a master, however Colon would have been quite young at this time. Unfortunately I have not studied Gene Colon’s career and so will leave it to others to determine the accuracy of this surprising attribution.

Captain America’s Weird Tales #74 (October 1949), art by Martin Nodell?, 6047

Once again I am going to deviate from my general practice in this serial post and include an image of a cover. As I have mentioned above there is little information available as to who did the art for Captain America during the period covered in this chapter so any evidence about possible artists should not be ignored. GCD has the following comment on this cover:

Updated cover credits from Tony Isabella from Gary Colabuono who was able to glean the information from Marty Nodell’s personal effects (August 6, 2006).

I have also noticed that Atlas Tales also questionably attributes this cover art to Martin Nodell and I will follow their example.

Note the title change from Captain America Comics to Captain America’s Weird Tales with the emphasis largely on the Weird Tales. The backup stories belonged to the horror genre and as mentioned above even the Captain America features were often not typical superhero material.

Captain America’s Weird Tales #74 (October 1949), “The Red Skull Strikes Again”, art by an unidentified artist, 6047

It seems fitting that the last Captain America story of the run would feature his old nemesis the Red Skull. Apparently in his last appearance the Red Skull really did die as this story shows him residing in hell. The Red Skull contrives to have Captain America brought down to hell for one last battle. Do I have to say who wins?

Unlike previous issues, Captain America #74 had only a single Cap feature. There was a Captain America’s Weird Tales #75 but it did not include any Captain America stories and so will not be covered here. After a run of nearly eight years Captain America would come to an end. While not every story was a masterpiece it was an interesting run well deserving of being reprinted. Unfortunately at the rate that Marvel is currently releasing the golden age archives of Captain America it will be many, many years before they reprint the entire series. (That is not criticism, it is to Marvel’s credit that they are reprinting so much golden age material.) Next week I hope to cover the attempt by Atlas to relaunch the title in the next decade.

The Golden Age of Captain America, Crime Fighter

Unfortunately I do not have access to any of the Captain America Comics from immediately after the war ended. It would be interesting to see how Timely handled the transition to peace. Did they use up stories about Axis spies even after the war had ended? Or did they trash the outdated stories and create new ones? Or rework them to seem new? With the war over Captain America might seem a hero without suitable foes. Actually the post-war period was a difficult time for all superheroes, not just the patriotic ones. But Cap problems really began during the war. Captain America Comics became a bi-monthly with issue #42 (October 1944), a clear indication of diminished sales. Because Cap never was a true Super Soldier, the transition from spy smasher to crime fighter really was not that great.

Captain America #57 (July 1946), “Death on the Downbeat”, pencils by an unidentified artist

Identification of the artists working on Captain America is a greater problem in this chapter compared to previous ones. There is not a single artist signature from Captain America #57 on. (Such a complete absence of signatures surely was a policy decision.) The way inking was handled seems to have changed. Previously the same inker would be used on a particular penciller. It appears that Al Avison was generally inked by Syd Shores and when Syd Shores became a penciller he was inked by Vince Alascia. While I have not been able to identify the other Cap pencillers they seemed to be finished by the same unidentified inkers. However after the war it seems that the inker used for a particular penciller could vary. Another problem is that the quality of the art had become more variable. None of the art produced after the war ended seems to have the attention to detail that previously was found.

The GCD lists Al Avison as the artist for “Death on the Downbeat”. There really is nothing by Avison that seems comparable. Certainly his earlier Captain America art was done in a very different style. But that may not be a sufficient criteria since some artists returned from the war with a changed style. Some art by Avison was appearing in some Harvey titles at this time so he was back working as a comic book artists. I have not seen Avison’s Harvey work from this same time but a story done a year later is in a very different style. Although without some uncertainty my opinion this was not done by Al Avison. The boots that Cap and Bucky wear lack flaring and so I am sure this was not done by Syd Shores either. Whoever the artist was he did a real nice job. Look at the great handling of Cap in an unusual perspective although it is always possible this was swiped.

Captain America #58 (September 1946), “The Sportsman of Crime”, pencils by Dick Briefer?, D-205

GCD also lists Al Avison as the artist for “The Sportsman of Crime”. The thugs in the splash seem consistent with Avison’s style. However Cap’s figure is much more robust that I have seen Avison use. The rest of the story art is even further removed from Avison’s style. It does remind me of another artist’s work and here I am really going out on a limb but I think it may be Dick Briefer. Briefer was doing Frankenstein and an occasional Prize Comics Western piece for Prize Comics in a much more simpler and cartoon-like style so this attribution might seem a bit far fetch. However Dick used a more realistic style both earlier and later in his career. The Human Top story Briefer did for Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940) is actually a fairly good match for “The Sportsman of Crime” despite the years that separate the two works. Unfortunately I have not seen anything by Briefer in a more realistic style from this period to compare with so I consider my attribution to Briefer as very tentative. Since this is a blog I prefer to voice my latest opinions even though there is a good chance that I may change my mind in the future.

Captain America #58 (September 1946), “The House of Hate”, pencils by an unidentified artist, D-88

I have no idea who the artist might have been for “The House of Hate” and frankly he is not one of the better artists used in Captain America. But I use it here as a segue into a short discussion of job numbers. Job numbers were not used for Timely art during the war years but become prevalent afterwards. During the period covered in this chapter there is only a single story without a job number somewhere in the splash. There really is nothing that can be said with any certainty about the significance of the job numbers other than they obviously were used to help keep track of the work. Other than that we are left with deductions based on the occurrence of the job numbers themselves.

The best discussions of job numbers can be found in Tom Lammers’ “Tales of the Implosion”. Lammers has observed that there are three periods; at first job numbers had a prefix (D, R, SL and others), by 1948 the job numbers were without prefixes, and finally starting in 1952 prefixes returned. But there is a difference between the two prefix periods. During the final period prefixes seemed to be reintroduced as a method to simplify overlong job numbers. As the job number for a given prefix became too large a new letter (generally the next letter in the alphabet) was chosen and the numbering restarted. Thus generally there would be no long periods of concurrent use of two or more different prefixes.

In the earlier period prefixes were used concurrently. The prefixes found in the Captain America Comics covered in this chapter are ‘D’, ‘R’ and ‘SL’. Within each prefix series the numbers generally increase with time but not with any great consistence. For instance issue #58 has one Cap story with the job number D-88 and the other D-205. The numbers for prefixes ‘D’ and ‘R’ were lower and seemed to progress slower than those for ‘SL’. The ‘R’ job numbers appear only in the Human Torch stories that appeared in each issue of Captain America Comics and only one Human Torch story has a ‘SL’ prefix. With two exception the Captain America stories all have ‘D’ or ‘SL’ job numbers. One exception was one without any job number and another with a job number without a prefix. The prefix-less job number is in the same numerical range as some of the ‘SL’ job numbers so I suspect the ‘SL’ was just inadvertently left off.

So what does it all mean? Well it seems likely that ‘SL’ has some connection to Stan Lee. But what connection? My interpretation is that the prefix has some editorial connotation. ‘SL’ job numbers were used for stories that Stan Lee was the editor while the ‘D’ and ‘R’ were for stories handled by another editor. Now that interpretation is nothing more than a working hypothesis but if it is true may help in winnowing out the stories that could have been written by Stan Lee. Not that an ‘SL’ job number means that Lee wrote the story but rather any story with a ‘D’ or ‘R’ prefix number would probably not have been written by Stan.

Captain America #59 (November 1946), “The Private Life of Captain America”, pencils by Dick Briefer?, D-227

Captain America #59 marked a special occasion as it formally brought Captain America into the post-war period. Previously Cap’s alter ego, Steve Rogers, was a private in the army. With the war over he now became a teacher and Bucky became his ward and pupil. With his spy-smashing days behind him (or at least for now) Roger’s life as a civilian simplified his new crime fighting career.

Issue #59 also provided the first editorial credits that have appeared in Captain America Comics for some time. Stan Lee was the Editorial and Art Director, Syd Shores the Art Associate and Al Sulman the Editor. I do not know if this marked the first Cap issue since Stan Lee returned from the military but it is suggestive that previous Captain America issues lacked ‘SL’ job numbers.

Captain America #59 (November 1946), “The Private Life of Captain America” page 3, pencils by Dick Briefer?

“The Private Life of Captain America” also includes a retelling of Captain America’s origin story. I believe this is the first time Cap’s origin has been told since his creation in March 1941. The story follows the original one close enough that I suspect the artist and writers were using a copy of Captain America Comics #1 as a reference.

Captain America #59 (November 1946), “House of Hallucinations”, pencils by Syd Shore, SL-663

“House of Hallucinations” matches Syd Shore’s style so well that a signature really is not required to provide him credit. With all the fine inking I wonder if Shores was inking himself as well. It is a great splash with lots of action going on.

Captain America #60 (January 1947), “The Human Fly”, pencils by Syd Shores?, D-163

It seems so obvious today that if you are going to have a superhero you should also have super-villains for him to combat. But this simple concept was not followed very often during the golden age. Most of Captain America’s foes were nothing more than spies or criminals. Some might put on a costume but otherwise they were just normal people. The Human Fly of this story is an example of a proper super-villain. Not only does he have a costume and a secret identity but he has special gear that allows him to walk up walls (he was not bitten by a radioactive fly).

I like this splash but there are lots of problems with the perspective. The Human Fly’s foot and hand gear does not sit properly on the building’s side, the perspective of the upper part of the building is at odds with the lower part, and Captain America is precariously placed on the ledge (although that might have been intentional). But the odd perspective used in portraying the Human Fly and Bucky seemed handled rather well. This is all not surprising if my attribution of this piece to Syd Shores is correct. Shores did a better job handling perspective than most golden age artists but he still had problems with it.

Captain America #61 (March 1947), “The Red Skull Strikes Back”, pencils by Syd Shores?, D-243

The Red Skull was Captain America’s arch nemesis during the period he battled Axis spies and saboteurs. The reader may be forgiven for thinking that the Red Skull would have been dropped now that the war was over. But of course he was much too impressive a villain to retire. No explanation was given on why he was back and had become just another criminal mastermind. Captain America in the splash is a mirror image swipe from the cover to Captain America #7 (see Genesis of a Cover, Captain America #105). Not a close or mechanical copy but a swipe nonetheless. Such swiping is unusual in either Captain America Comics or art by Syd Shores.

Captain America #62 (May 1947), “Melody of Horror”, pencils by Syd Shores, SL-1394

I do not believe all the Captain America art from this period was done by Syd Shores but it does seem that all the interesting art was. The splash for “Melody of Horror” is simply a great compositions. Only the villain shadow is shown which make him all the more mysterious and threatening. The unusual posses of Cap and Bucky are handled very well. The lady violinist, the center of all the attentions, seems sufficiently endangered. What more can you ask from a splash?

Captain America #63 (July 1947), “The Parrot Strikes”, pencils by Syd Shores, SL-1406

Is it just me or are some of the villains just lame. I mean how dangerous could a bad guy called the Parrot be? How threatening could a big nose be? This splash reflects Shores often penchant for symmetrical and triangular compositions. The one saving grace is the very dynamic pose that Shores has given Captain America.

Captain America #64 (October 1947), “Terror at the Fair”, pencils by Syd Shores, 1445

Another triangular and somewhat symmetrical compositions. But in this case the villains’ dramatic stomp saves the day. It helps that the villain wears a costume. He may not have had true super-powers but at least he was no ordinary criminal.

Captain America #65 (January 1948), pencils by Syd Shores

For these posts I have concentrated on the stories and not the cover art. During the war many of the covers were done by Alex Schomberg. Schomberg was a great artist but his covers generally had nothing to do with the comic book’s contents. But the cover for Captain America #65 actually does a better job of indicating the theme of story “When Friends Turn Foes” than the splash does. Horrors, a woman has come between Captain America and Bucky. Say it ain’t so! Well of course it ain’t so. But it appears that Timely was thinking about Captain America and his partnership with Bucky which would lead to dramatic changes that began in the next issue. It is also a good place to end this post but next week I hope to discuss what I believe are some of the most interesting Captain America comics since Simon and Kirby left Timely.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on the Internet

I am a bit late, but there are some Simon or Kirby related items on the Internet that I thought my readers might like to know about.

It has been on the Internet for a long time, but Simon Comics has been redone. If that is not enough, there is also the new Joe Simon Studio. Not enough Joe Simon? Then check him out on Facebook. I just cannot get over the fact that Joe Simon is on Facebook. I have to admit I am a 20th century guy and I just do not quite get what Facebook is all about. But Joe has inspired me to try to join the 21st century.

But what about Jack Kirby? Well there is the new Jack Kirby Discussion Group. Frankly there was an old Kirby list that had gotten to be a rather unfriendly site and I personally am glad to see it go. This new Kirby group is public and a friendly place to be. Also What If Kirby has returned to the Internet. It is a great place to visit particularly because of all the Kirby original art provided. Currently there are 400 pieces of Kirby art shown but it keeps growing. Simon and Kirby fans should check out the splash page from Captain America Comics #6.

A lot has been going on in the Kirby copyrights legal fight during my absence from the Internet. I have not had a chance to catch up but one of my favorite blogs, 20th Century Danny Boy, seems to be covering it quite nicely.