Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sky Masters, Libro 2


I have recently received a copy of Sky Masters of the Space Force” Libro 2. Jack Kirby’s Sky Masters syndication strip is being reprinted in Spain and this is the second of three volumes. I previously reported on the high quality of the first volume but the second is even better. Off course I still have the same complaint, I cannot read Spanish. I know that some of my readers do not have that problem so if you are interested in finding out how to purchase a copy visit the website of the publisher, Glenat.

Technical Difficulties

Some of my readers may have found my blog unavailable from time to time, perhaps with a reference to a mysterious database error. Not only that but most of my sidebar is gone. This problem affects not just the Simon and Kirby Blog but the entire Jack Kirby Museum (sponsors of my blog). I cannot say what the problem or when it will be resolved but it is being looked into. All I can ask is for my readers’ patience until this problem is fixed.

Fighting American, Chapter 2, Fighting With Humor

For two of the patriotic heroes created by Simon and Kirby the alter ego was a soldier (Captain America and the Shield) but for Fighting American it was as a television commentator. These two career choices are not as dissimilar as might be assumed because both provide the alter ego with a patriotic background. The patriotism of soldiers is self evident while as a commentator Johnny Flag can show his patriotism by denouncing Communist supporters. This probably seemed a good choice at first, but not as events progressed in America politics. As mentioned in the last chapter of this serial post, Joseph McCarthy had obtained great popularity in his crusade against Communist and their sympathizers that he declared were imbedded in the government and many American institutions. McCarthy was not without critics and his popularity began to plummet following a television show with Edward Murrow, called See It Now, which aired on March 9, 1954. Afterwards Johnny Flag denouncing Communists seem much too close to McCarthy’s tactics. Further the Red Menace no longer looked as threatening as the Nazi’s during WWII. Apparently Atlas either ignored the shift in American politics or did not know how to respond to it as the Captain America stories they published went unchanged. However Simon and Kirby both saw and knew that something had to be modified if Fighting America would have any chance of becoming popular.

Fighting American #3 (August 1954) “The Man Who Sold out Liberty”, art by Jack Kirby

Joe Simon admits that they changed the type of stories for Fighting American because of McCarthy’s political downfall (as told in “The Comic Book Makers”). The timeline supports his statement as well. The creation of a comic book would start 5 months earlier then the final cover date (1 month to create the art, 1 month to print it, 1 month to distribute and cover dates were 2 months after the comic was actually released). Murrow’s television show on McCarthy was early March so the first Fighting American issue to reflect the impact of the show should be cover dated August which was the cover date for issue #3. In fact the first story for FA #3, “The Man Who Sold Out Liberty”, would have been quite at home in either of the first two issues; criminals and spies, lots of action and no particular emphasis on humor. The only thing that sets this story apart from earlier Fighting American issues is the villain “Square Hair Malloy” who seems like someone out of Dick Tracy.

Fighting American #3 (August 1954) “Poison Ivan”, art by Jack Kirby

Enemy spies appear in another story in issue #3 but how serious could any reader take Hotsky Trotski and Poison Ivan? It wasn’t just the names that were funny, Simon and Kirby poked fun at them as well. Poison Ivan is shown corrupting a small group of boys with outlandish propaganda:

All the great sports were invented by communists heroes… basketball, football, gin rummy – hide and seek – and bingo.

In one scene Poison Ivan is shown poking his little finger into his ear. While humor was also an element found in even their most serious work, Simon and Kirby has taken Fighting American to a whole new level. Comedy would now be an essential part of almost all the stories.

Fighting American #3 (August 1954) “Poison Ivan” page 7, art by Jack Kirby

Poison Ivan may have been portrayed as a fool throughout the story but when it came time for a confrontation with the Fighting American he suddenly became a worthy opponent. Jack Kirby drops into a 3 X 3 panel arrangement and has each panel focus on only the fighters. The result is a fast moving, action filled, fight sequence of the kind that Kirby did better then anyone else. Fighting American may have become a predominately humor comic but Jack never seem willing to completely abandon action in any genre.

Fighting American #3 (August 1954) “Stranger from Paradise”, art by Jack Kirby

One of the oddest stories in issue #3, or perhaps in the entire Fighting American series, is “Stranger from Paradise”. It is a modest 2 pages long with a almost strict 3 X 2 panel grid and a splash panel that is little different from the rest of the story panels. The Fighting American only appears in two panels and is easy to overlook in one of them. Speedboy plays a bigger roll but the true hero of the story is young boy from Russia. It is unusually wordy story for a Simon and Kirby production and perhaps the only one they did where the art takes a backseat to the text. That is not to say the art isn’t great just that so much of the humor is found in the script.

Fighting American #4 (October 1954) “Tokyo Runaround”, art by Jack Kirby

“Tokyo Runaround” is a great story full of action and humor. But check out the splash, what a masterpiece! The design works well with the story’s theme and of course no one could make such effective use of the oddly placed running figures as Kirby.

Fighting American #4 (October 1954) “Operation Wolf” page 4 panel 3, art by Jack Kirby

The Communists were not the only ones to be made fun of by Simon and Kirby; even Fighting American could be on the receiving end. The annoyed gun bearer was Rhode Island Red.

Fighting American #4 (October 1954) “Homecoming: Year 3000” page 4, art by Jack Kirby

While the Fighting American title now combined humor and action, “Homecoming: Year 3000” from issue #4 was pure science fiction. Even more oddly the Fighting American never even makes an appearance and his alter ego, Johnny Flag, only shows up at the very beginning and ending of the story (the story is presented as Johnny Flag’s dream). The simple explanation for this anomaly is provided by the name of the story’s hero, Starman Zero. Starman Zero was the protagonist for syndication strip that Simon and Kirby created called Tiger 21. Tiger 21 was never picked up, actually all the original art for the strip never got past the lettering stage with all the strip art remaining as uninked pencils. Thus “Homecoming: Year 3000” was Simon and Kirby recycling unused material. Starman Zero does share a special connection with Fighting American; they both have an origin where a machine is used to transfer the mind of one individual into another body.

Fighting American, Chapter 1, Captain America Returns

Fighting American, Chapter 3, Jumping the Shark

Further Responses to Joe Simon’s Open Letter to Marvel

A couple of days ago I posted Joe Simon’s open letter to Marvel Comics. Gerard Jones posted a response in the comment section of that post. To make things easier for the reader here is Gerard Jones comment:


Thanks very much for posting this. Joe has certainly earned the right to tell me (or anyone else) that I’m full of shit–and I’m sorry if I gave offense or got things wrong. I actually made repeated efforts to contact Joe about this issue when I was writing my book but I was told he couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about it (I assumed for legal reasons). I’m doing my best here to piece the truth together from what’s available, and any more information would be very much appreciated. Whatever helps us get closer to the truth. Many of my most valuable learning experiences have followed someone telling me (if not in exactly those words) that I’m full of shit.

Thanks again,
Gerry Jones

I passed on Gerry’s response to Joe and have recieved from him the following:

Dear  Jerry:
I apologize for the crude remark. I was annoyed by your statement that there was no information ever about the royalty history. Actually, I have no record of you ever checking with me or with the Kirby family. If so, you would have known that there were papers and  notified letters confirming our position, some from Morris Coyne, the chief accountant of Timely who told his story backing up Simon and Kirby.

I loved the Masterworks book but my problem with all of them is the dust cover or introductions are mostly pure fiction. The collectors need more and deserve more research . As a journalist you should do more of this  .

Thank you for your controlled reply.
Joe Simon

The material from Mister Coyne was presented at the recent legal circus where Marvel Sued Simon, not the other way around. There were other affidavits


Joe Simon and the NY Comic Con

I am happy to report that Joe Simon will appear at the New York Comic Con on Saturday, April 19. Joe will be at the Abrams booth signing Mark Evanier’s new book “Kirby King of Comics”. The last convention that Joe has attended was the 2006 Comic Con.

Red Raven Contest

The contest is over, so if you have not received my email (or if your initials are not GS) I am sorry to say you did not win. Please do not be discouraged, the number of contestants that respond to my contests are surprisingly small so those who do enter have good odds.

Daring Mystery and Joe Simon BK (Before Kirby)

To achieve an understanding of Joe Simon as a comic book artist it is important to study some of the work that he did prior to meeting Jack Kirby. Unfortunately Joe’s initial efforts are from the early days of the golden age of comics so the comics that Simon’s art first appeared in are now rare and expensive. This would not be too great a problem if the work had been reprinted. Sadly that has not been the case, even a trade back reprint of the Blue Bolt stories failed to include Joe’s origin story. Fortunately Marvel has recently published Daring Mystery 1 for their Golden Age Marvel Masterpieces series. This volume reprints Daring Mystery issues #1 to #4 and therefore provides four or five early stories by Joe Simon. I hesitate on the exact story count because I keep going back and forth whether to attribute the one from DM #4 to Joe, although he has said he did it. These stories include one of his first published works (the Fiery Mask story “The Fantastic Thriller of the Walking Corpses”) and all of them were done over the period before meeting Jack Kirby.

Daring Mystery #1
Daring Mystery #1 (January 1940) “The Fantastic Thriller of the Walking Corpses” page 8, art by Joe Simon

In the past I have been somewhat critical of the reprint job Marvel did for their Golden Age Marvel Masterpieces volume on the Human Torch. The restoration of the art for that volume included some modern re-inking. This not only diminishes its value for comic scholars but also makes what was some really great artwork look rather inferior. Therefore I was curious how accurate the restoration was done for Daring Mystery. I am happy to say that restoration of the line art looks very exact. The only place I found anything that could be described as re-inking was a case where apparently the original colorist supplied a shirt in one panel that Joe had apparently failed to include (see panel 4 of the original above). In this case the modern restorer adding line art that did not originally exist. Although I would have preferred it if the restorer added nothing that was not originally there, this seems a very minor and rare transgression.

Daring Mystery #1 reprint
Daring Mystery #1 (2008) “The Fantastic Thriller of the Walking Corpses” page 8, art by Joe Simon as reprinted by Marvel

That is not to say I am completely happy about the restoration job. Marvel’s reprints are all recolored. With modern presses and the fine resolution screening they use, recolored golden age comics have a distinct tendency to look very flat. While I am unhappy about this effect I have come to accept it provided that the recoloring remains faithful to the original. That had seemed to be Marvel’s most recent policy but it was not maintained in this volume. Some of the original subtle and not so subtle coloring was blatantly ignored. For instance as in panels 4 and 6 smoke the originally white with light blue touches became flooded with that blue. Even the giant villains clothing was turned to green color flesh in panels 2 and 3 while in panel 4 flesh became red shirt. All this suggests color accuracy was sacrificed for speed.

As a student of Simon and Kirby it was Joe Simon’s contributions to Daring Mystery that I am most interested in. There are a lot of others stories and artists contained in this reprint. Frankly I am surprised that Marvel decided to reprint Daring Mystery at all, none of these features survived more then a few issues. The characters never became hits and none of them played any part of the modern Marvel universe. That is until recently when Marvel resurrected some as part of a mini-series call The Twelve, which includes Joe Simon’s Fiery Mask among others. In a way the absence of big stars is actually part of the charm of this reprint volume. It is just filled with odd-ball heroes and quirky stories. It even includes a story by Fletcher Hanks although identified in the volume as Harry Fletcher, apparently one of his pseudonyms.

The volume has an introduction written by Ronin Ro, the author of the Jack Kirby biography “Tales to Astonish”. I am not sure why Ronin was chosen to introduce the book since Jack Kirby is nowhere in evidence. Still Mr. Ro is a talented writer and his essay shows he “gets” what gives this book its charm. Unfortunately Ronin Ro has made a mess of the history of the original Daring Mystery. It is no more accurate to describe Joe Simon as a writer then any of the other pioneer comic book artists; Joe’s stint in the newspaper industry was as a staff artist not a writer. Nor was Simon an editor for Timely when these issues of Daring Mystery were produced, that would come later. All Joe’s work in this reprint volume was originally was done for Funnies Inc. which supplied art to Timely in the days before Goodman started his own artist bullpen and all are from before he met Jack Kirby.

Second Anniversary and the Red Raven Contest

Red Raven #1
Red Raven Comics #1 (August 1940)

In a few weeks this Simon and Kirby Blog will be reach its second anniversary, my first post was on March 17, 2006. When I started blogging I really had no idea how long I would keep at it. Actually I still do not know but I have somehow managed to post once a week (on Friday or Saturday). Other bloggers post more often, that does not bother me and I hope that my readers do not mind either. Each blog entry has some research behind it, perhaps not as thorough as it would be if I were publishing something but more then I would do for casual comments on the places like the Kirby List. Even without the blog I would be doing that research, but writing about it allows me to organize my thoughts in a way otherwise not possible. It is surprising how difficult it can be to describe what can seem so obvious, let alone when things are not obvious at all. The effort is worth it because it brings with it a new level of understanding. This blog also provides feedback, perhaps not often as I would like, but the comments that are left are invariably quite thoughtful and informative. I offer a special thanks to what I like to think as my loyal opposition. Perhaps they do not always disagree with me but they always have interesting points to make. Rest assured even when our opinions do differ I respect and value the time they take. Besides I have been known to make mistakes and to change my opinion. Readers should not accept anything I say in my blog as unchangeable gospel.

In recognition of my second anniversary I am going to have a contest. It has been a while since I had a contest and this time I have a real special prize. The winner will receive a color copy of The Red Raven Comics #1. This is a slim hardcover volume with restorations of the cover and all interior art. Red Raven #1 is an early effort by Joe Simon as art editor for Timely and has some nice work by Jack Kirby. Some of the stories are a bit odd, but that is to be expected from the golden age of comics. I wish I could offer it to all my readers but I am sure Marvel would slap me done hard if they found out. Maybe someday Marvel will get around to reprinting it themselves.

Anyone can enter, not just people from the US. To enter the contest all you have to do is email me at hmendryk at yahoo dot com (you know the drill, replace “at” and “dot” with the appropriate characters). Include in the title the phrase “Red Raven Contest”. In the text of the email include your address. Please note I do not keep this information nor do I pass it on to anyone else. One entry per person. I will pick the winner at random on March 15. Good luck.

A Special Request for Joe Simon’s Birthday

Sigh, I guess I was too naive. I had hoped that people would honor my request to keep this on this blog. But it got posted on Byrne Robotics forum. It is no longer there but the damage has been done. I hope Joe does not get too many crazies sending him email. Anyway I felt I had to remove Joe’s email address before any more harm was done. Anyone still wishing to send Joe birthday greatings can email me athmendryk at yahoo dot com and I will provide it privately.

It seems a list called Imvan has also ignored my request to keep this on this blog. I have no idea what that group is about but obviously they have little respect. I guess I am going to have to file this as one of my worse ideas.

I visit Joe every two or three weeks and he seems in excellent health. His birthday is approaching so I have a special request to make to the readers of the Simon and Kirby Blog. Actually it is a two part request.

  1. I would like to keep this request and Joe’s email address here, and not have it posted to any other group, blog or list.
  2. I would like my readers to send happy birthday greetings to Joe sometime between now and his birthday (October 11). Say what you like but I am sure Joe would appreciate a kind word about what his work has meant to you. His email is:

Surely my readers are also fan’s of the work done by Simon and Kirby. We no longer have the opportunity to tell Jack what he meant to us, but it is not too late for Joe.

Continue With Kirby Imitating Other Artists?

The preview stories from the content pages of some Harvey romances had puzzled me for some time. Not that I gave them a lot of thought but they just looked funny to me. When eventually I did take a good look at First Love #69 and realized that it was Kirby imitating Draut things finally started to make sense. I have already posted on three of them but there are more. I did a quick look at some others and I believe there maybe six more Kirby “ghosting” other artists. It does get a bit complicated because there are some other content previews that look like it is Joe Simon doing the imitations. Also some that from a brief viewing are a little hard to be sure.

But just because I find these interesting does not mean that anyone else does. I fully admit that these are not great works of art. So what I would like to know is whether any of my readers think I should continue with these Kirby “ghosting”… posts?