Category Archives: 2006/05

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 8, If At First You Don’t Succeed

Alarming Tales #1
Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) by Joe Simon

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby, Joe and Jack’s own comic publishing company failed after just a short time. Another source of income for S&K was the comics they produced for Prize. But that company would also have difficulties and would cancel a number of titles. Kirby would turn to doing freelance work for DC and Atlas while Simon may have started do editorial work at Harvey.

We may not be certain whether Joe Simon was actually doing work at Harvey comics as an editor in 1957. But work by Bill Draut and John Prentice stopped appearing in the Harvey romance titles at about the same time as the Jack Kirby covers disappeared. Perhaps that is an indication that Joe stopped editing these titles. Whatever Joe’s job status was at this time, he still seems to be pitching comic proposals to Al Harvey, and at least some times succeeding. Alarming Tales would be a (Comic Code mild) horror/science fiction anthology. The first issue (September) would consists mostly of work done by Kirby. It could have been another all Kirby issue since Jack also supplied a cover, but Joe replaced it with one his own. It may sound like heresy but I think Joe was right. By removing the apparatus that covered the eyes, Joe’s man in a flying chair became scarier and thus more likely to induce a purchase. At some level Kirby must have thought this also because his splash page also shows the man in the flying chair without the goggles. It may not be obvious in the scan I provide, but Joe has used some sort of stipple paper to create the sky and has added zip tones on the car. Thus we see Joe using more modern materials to make comics, something that did not seem to interest Jack.

Alarming Tales #3
Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) reworked Jack Kirby?

Alarming Tales #3 has a cover by Kirby, or is it really? There exists original art for another version of this cover that also looks like it was done by Jack. It has the same old man, boy and men in a boat. But the settings that holds these figures is different, more swamp like. The figures appear to be so similar between the two versions that stats may have been used for the published version. So what should it be called; a Simon and Kirby or Kirby pencils and Simon settings? In any case when Joe and Jack were working in the same studio I doubt that this would have happened. Reworking decisions like those for the covers of issues #1 or #3 would have been made before inking.

AT #1 Fourth Dimension
Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Fourth Dimension Is A Many Splattered Thing” by Jack Kirby.

Unlike some previous S&K titles that Harvey printed, Al seems committed to Alarming Tales and issued this title bimonthly. Jack’s contributions to the title fill the first two issues, but diminished to a single story in the next two releases. What Kirby did for this title was consistently pretty good. Stories include a future world ruled by rats and dogs, a scientist who develops plant men and a robot who wants to be a man, among others. But perhaps most unusual is “The Fourth Dimension Is A Many Splattered Thing”. Although the opening and closing sequences were clearly drawn by Kirby, I am not so sure about the fourth dimension panels. Frankly judging by previous efforts by Jack (Strange Worlds Of Your Dreams) I would have expected something visually more exciting. The inking on the Kirby stories is consistently excellent. At places there are the areas flooded with ink that seem a bit more abstract then natural, inking reminiscent of but not quite as good as the Yellow Claw work. In other places spotting takes on less of an abstract quality similar to what was done in Challengers Of The Unknown. There are even places with the “picket fence” type of crosshatching that was a mainstay of the S&K shop style, only once again done with a finer brush. I think much of the spotting in the first issue and the single story in the #3, perhaps even the line work, was done by Jack. There probably is less Kirby spotting in the issue #2 and #4. Alarming Tales continued without Kirby’s help until issue #6 (November 1958).

BC #59 Take Off Mr. Zimmer
Black Cat Mystic #59 (September 1957) “Take Off Mr. Zimmer” by Jack Kirby

In the same month that Alarming Tales #1 was launched, the much delayed Black Cat Mystic #59 came out. There is an adventure with Mr. Zimmer and the two youngsters, but otherwise the idea of using Mr. Zimmer as the host for the comic seems to have been dropped. The rest of the contents to this issue are just the same sort of stories that were used in Alarming Tales and here also were all done by Jack. In fact the unused alternate cover version that Jack did for Alarming Tales #1 that I mention above, was actually originally meant for this issue of Black Cat Mystic. As with Alarming Tales, Harvey seems to have committed to releasing Black Cat Mystic on a bimonthly schedule. Issue #61 is another Kirby packed issue, but just like a ghost, Mr. Zimmer has now completely disappeared. Inking is similar to what was seen in Alarming Tales. With issue #58 done a year before, there is the distinct possibility that some or all of the stories were done earlier. There is no Kirby after issue #60 and #62 was the end of the Black Cat title as a horror/science fiction anthology.

BC #60 A Town Full of Babies
Black Cat Mystic #60 (November 1957) “A Town Full of Babies” by Jack Kirby

Race For The Moon #3
Race For The Moon #3 November 1958) by Jack Kirby

As mentioned in the last chapter, Russia launched its Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. Simon and Harvey’s response was pretty impressive. If you remember there is a 5 to 6 month difference between when a comic was started and the cover date of the final product. The earliest we could expect a response to Sputnik would be March 1957, and sure enough that is the cover date for Race For The Moon #1. Actually this issue probably would have come out later but Joe filled its contents with reprint material from older Harvey comics. Issue #2 would not come out until September but at least it was full of all new material by Kirby. Issue #3 followed promptly in November with more Kirby sci-fi. Included in this was the introduction story for The 3 Rocketeers, sort of a space version of the Challengers of the Unknown. But that month would be the last for both Alarming Tales and Race For The Moon.

RFTM #2 The Thing On Sputnik 4
Race For The Moon #2 (September 1958) “The Thing On Sputnik 4” by Jack Kirby

As I Simon and Kirby fan I find the material in Black Cat Mystic and Alarming Tales interesting reads. But how would a kid with only a few dimes feel about them? Frankly the contents of the two titles were the same. For that matter DC and Atlas offered not too dissimilar comics some with stories by Jack Kirby as well. I suspect that kid would just as likely spend his dimes elsewhere. I would have thought that Race For The Moon would have stood a better chance on the comic book racks. In any case, Joe had gotten Harvey to publish a number of titles, none of which became big hits. So by the end of 1958 Al Harvey probably was not too interested in trying again right away. If Joe had any other ideas he would most likely have to take them elsewhere. Unfortunately there were not a lot of other places to go.

Chapter 7, On His Own

Chapter 9, An Old Romance

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 7, On His Own

YC #2 Concentrate On Chaos
Yellow Claw #2 (December 1956) “Concentrate On Chaos” by Jack Kirby

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby started their own publishing company in August 1954 which unfortunately would fail after April 1955. The pair received some income from having Charlton published remaining issues from the now defunct Mainline comics. They also produced work for Western Tales published by Al Harvey. 1956 would find Jack doing pretty much the entire contents for the Prize romance titles as well as supplying some covers for Harvey comics. It appears that Joe was doing some editorial work for Harvey. The all Kirby romances would end in December 1956.

Things must have looked financially bleak for Jack towards the end of 1956. Mostly he was working on three bimonthly romance titles for Prize. If he was still receiving a share of the profits he may have realized that Prize was in trouble. Two of the romance titles would be cancelled after December. Kirby would turn to Atlas and DC for work as a freelance artist. The Jack Kirby Checklist has Battleground #14 (November 1956) as the first work for Atlas. In December Jack would do the entire contents for Yellow Claw #2 which he would also do for issues #3 (February) and #4 (April). Showcase #6 (February 1957) published by DC would introduce Challengers of the Unknown. This hero team would appear in four issues of Showcase before being launched in their own title. During the following months Jack would do other work for DC, mostly in their horror/science fiction titles. Actually Kirby would do work for both Atlas and DC at the same time, although as the year progressed Jack would work primarily for DC. This was probably due to the higher page rates at DC and problems Atlas was having.

YC #2 Temujai, The Golden Goliath
Yellow Claw #2 (December 1956) “Temujai, The Golden Goliath” by Jack Kirby

The Yellow Claw was the creation of Al Feldstein and was originally drawn by Joe Maneely. It was unusual in that the main protagonist was the villain, a Chinese mystic purportedly working for the Communists, but actually intending to rule the world himself. As a mystic the Yellow Claw has such powers as the ability to control mens’ minds, to observe from great distances and to fake a man’s death. In the first issue Maneely did a fine, if rather dry, job but the stories themselves are not all that exciting. All that would change when Jack Kirby took over in the second issue. This was years before the Marvel Method, but even so it is clear that the plotting of the stories is by Jack. We find a psychic committee that can alter reality, a giant robot masquerading as a oriental deity, a microscopic army, a space alien and more. Not only does Kirby pull out all stops for the plots, he produces some of his best pencils. But even more special is that fact that Jack would provide the inking in issues #2 and #3. What a fantastic inking job Jack did. Although he retains some of the features that he showed in the all Kirby romance comics from the previous year, some of the older shop style inking returns, now done with a finer brush.

These two Kirby issues are nothing short of masterpieces. The only flaws are comparatively dry covers by other artists and the Yellow Claw’s emblem that Jack inherited which looks too much like a chicken foot. Unfortunately for issue #4 all the inking was done by John Serevin who almost overpowers Jack’s pencils. How did these issues come about? It is hard to believe an artist so recently starting at Atlas, even Jack Kirby, would just be given free rein. More likely, having been offered to work on Yellow Claw, Jack quickly returned with a proposal that not only included art, but a script as well. Even though he was hired as a freelance artist, it is obvious that Jack wanted something more. If Yellow Claw did not work out, who knows some other proposal from Kirby might have? But alas it was not to be, a few months after the end of Yellow Claw, Atlas would not appear on the comic book racks for a short time in an event now referred to as the implosion. Atlas would start up again, but it would be a very different company with a much reduce line of comics. After that there was little chance that Jack could arrange a working relationship like he had in the Yellow Claw for Atlas again, at least not until many years in the future.

Showcase #6
Showcase #6 January 1957) by Jack Kirby (from Challengers Of The Unknown Archives)

Like so much of comic history, the details of the birth of the Challengers of the Unknown are not clear. Joe Simon has said that he and Kirby jointly created the Challengers. I have read the original introduction to the Challengers reprint volume written by Mark Evanier were he states that Kirby told him the same thing. Incidentally that statement on the creation of the Challengers is almost certainly the reason that Mark’s introduction was rejected by DC and replaced when the volume was printed. In a legal deposition, Jack Schiff stated that the Challengers was pitched to DC by both Joe and Jack. If that is true, could some of the early Challengers stories actually be Simon and Kirby productions? Some have even suggested that they were originally meant for Mainline Comics, had their company survived long enough.

One of the unusual things about the first two issues of Challengers (Showcase #6 and #7) is the presence of oddly shaped panels, including circular ones. This is a layout device that Simon and Kirby had used often earlier in their career, but was not one found in their Mainline comics. I rather doubt that the Challengers stories were worked up early, therefore I suspect that it was done after the Mainline failure. Joe Simon has said that it was their practice that when then made a proposal, that they have a body of work ready to go. So it is likely the initial stories were drawn up while Simon and Kirby were still collaborating. But it was done during that time when each worked from their individual homes. That collaboration was very different from what it was previously. But none of the other S&K productions of that period have similar panel layouts. So although I fully believe that the Challengers was a Simon and Kirby creation, the drawing and panel layout of the initial issues owed more to Kirby and less to Simon.

The inking is odd mixture of spotting techniques similar to that in the all Kirby Prize romances of the last year, combined with some more naturalistic touches. For example on the cover to Showcase #6 (see above) on the fence toward the right edge we find an abstract shadow arch typical of S&K shop inking. On the fence to the left however we find shadows that were clearly meant to be cast by three team members. I would not call the spotting truly naturalistic, but there was a movement away from spotting that was completely abstract to one that tried to retain the design effect but still give a natural explanation. Although some of the spotting looks to me like Kirby’s hand, there appear to be other inkers also involved. Marvin Stein and Roz Kirby have been suggested by some. In any case although the inking looks nice overall, it simply does not match up to the effort done in Yellow Claw or even earlier Simon and Kirby productions.

Green Arrow, Prisoners Of Dimension Zero
Adventure Comics #253 (October 1958) “Prisoners Of Dimension Zero” by Jack Kirby

Kirby would also take over the minor hero Green Arrow. Apparently Jack had some influence of the plots for Green Arrow because they would adopt a science fiction approach that seems pure Kirby. Here Jack also does the inking with, according to Mark Evanier, the help of his wife Roz. But the inking is rushed and way below the quality in the initial issues of the Challengers.

Generally as a freelance artist for DC and Atlas, Jack would be working from a script and would have no control over who would ink any pencils he submitted. Other then the examples I wrote above on, I really cannot say how much influence he had over the stories he drew. But I can say that Joe Simon played no part in any of this freelance work that Jack did. This is true even in the case of the Challengers of the Unknown. I do believe that Joe Simon joined Jack in pitching the Challengers to DC. I am sure that the two artists wanted an arrangement like the one with DC during the war. But DC now probably wanted full control and had little interests in sharing the profits. That left only the penciling, which would not pay much if shared by two. It is not the sort of arrangement that would interest Joe, so he left it to Jack alone.

Sky Masters 2-15
Sky Masters (2/15/59) by Jack Kirby

Life as a freelance artist was probably not ideal for Jack. But there were not many options open to him. Starting in 1957 he continued to provide some romance stories and covers for Prize (to be discussed in more detail in a future chapter), but there now was less of that work. Simon would continue to pitch new ideas to Harvey Comics (again to be discussed in a later chapter) but unless one of these projects became a blockbuster of a hit, Jack would really have to depend on his freelance work. On October 4, 1957 Russia surprised the world by launching the first satellite, Sputnik I. This spawned the space race and despite the fact that the Russians were ahead, America seemed confident that we could catch up. With the new interest in space came an idea for a newspaper syndication comic strip that ultimately became Sky Masters for Jack Kirby to pencil. The strip started in September 1958. The history of Sky Master is fascinating, but outside of our subject matter. But important to this discussion is the fact that legal actions about the Sky Master deal developed between Kirby and Jack Schiff, who unfortunately happened to be Kirby’s editor at DC. It was bad enough that Kirby lost the case in court, what was worse was the fact that he would no longer do any more freelance work for DC. The last DC work (Challengers of the Unknown #8) would be dated June 1959. The Sky Masters strip itself would end in February 1961. Unable or unwilling to get work from DC and therefore with even less options open to him, Kirby would depend more on Atlas for freelance work.

Chapter 6, A Friend’s Romance

Chapter 8, If At First You Don’t Succeed

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 6, A Friend’s Romance

Love Problems #38
Love Problems #38 (March 1956) by Jack Kirby

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby we saw Simon and Kirby start Mainline, their own publishing company. When unfortunately Mainline failed they turned to the poorly paying Charlton to publish the same titles for a couple of issues. Then Harvey Comics would release three issues of Western Tales that contain some new Simon and Kirby material. Work for Prize would now be limited to three bimonthly romance titles.

Starting in December 1955 Jack Kirby would pencil pretty much all of the contents for these Prize romances. Prior to that the Prize romance titles were being done by S&K studio freelance artists including the usual suspects Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice. When Kirby took over these titles, what happened to these artists? Well even though I describe these issues as all Kirby romances they did include 7 non-Kirby stories. But 7 stories is not much for an entire year. For Mort Meskin the December issue of Young Love (#68) was his last for Simon and Kirby productions. Judging from the GCD, Mort would return to DC working mostly in their horror genre. We have already seen that Bill Draut would give Kirby a hand in inking for at least some of the all Kirby issues. Draut would also, along with John Prentice, appear in Harvey romances.

TB #19 Heart and Soul
True Bride-To-Be #19 (August 1956) “Heart and Soul” by Bill Draut

Although Harvey specialized in comics for the very young, he also had five romance titles at this time. The interiors or these titles are very formalistic. Each would start with a contents or introduction page. The stories would all be relatively short. Most titles would consist of stories that are exactly 5 pages long and in addition there would be some single page features. A title may occasionally deviate by including a 7 page story. Unfortunately there seems to have been a house rule about not signing any of the work. This makes determining who the artists were difficult without reference to other publications. Fortunately work by Draut and Prentice are rather distinctive. In the end Harvey romances look very different from Simon and Kirby productions. Personally I enjoy S&K productions even when they do not include Kirby pencils. S&K productions have their own house style, but it still allows for a lot more variations between stories. Harvey romances seem to offer a much too uniform look.

TB #20 Homecoming
True Bride-To-Be #20 (October 1956) “Homecoming” by John Prentice

I have a word of caution to give about the following analysis. I have examined all the Harvey issues with Kirby covers but beyond that my access it spotty. I have augmented this using Heritage auction records but of course that can not be considered complete either. I should add that Heritage are often wrong in their attributions, a good portion of the art that they said was done by Draut or Prentice was done by other artists. Unfortunately the resulting data is still too incomplete for the earlier period but seems sufficient for the latter part of my story.

HSR #60 First Claim On Him
Hi-School Romance #60 (February 1956) “First Claim On Him” by Bob Powell

I was surprised to see that Bill Draut actually shows up at Harvey rather early in Love Problems and Advice #23 (September 1953). He is also in Hi-School Romance #33 (October 1954). But as I said, my early data is incomplete and I have no idea how often he appears. The next occurrence I know of is February 1956 after which he starts showing up commonly. My first record of John Prentice starts in January. I should add that not every issue has Bill or John and when they are present they only have one story each. Jack Kirby starts providing some covers and an occasion introduction page. Neither Draut nor Prentice did any covers although they did do some introduction pages. On the other hand Kirby did not do any stories. So far I have not detected any of the other former S&K freelance artists among these Harvey romances. Which is too bad because I am not overly fond of many of the artists in these titles. With one exception, Bob Powell has a long history of work for Harvey comics and his romance art here is just superb. The work that Draut and Prentice did for these Harvey romances seems consistently quite nice. I wish I could say the same thing about Kirby’s covers. They seem to range from the exceptionally beautiful to the rather dull.

True Bride-To-Be #17
True Bride-To-Be Romances #17 (April 1956) by Jack Kirby

Some people have expressed to me their doubts about whether some of these covers really were done by Jack. The composition used are rather static. But that is not surprising since dynamic action is not a requirement for romance covers, in fact it can be detrimental. Unfortunately that means some typical Kirby features cannot be relied on here for attribution, such as Jack’s exaggerated perspective. Kirby has his own nuances when handling figures but much of these can be lost depending on the inker and some of the inking for these covers is poor. My opinion is that the Jack Kirby Checklist is correct about most of the Harvey romance covers it attributes to Jack. I disagree with the Checklist only about Hi-School Romance #73 (March 1958), its a nice cover but the layout does not look correct for a Kirby and the nuances do not seem right either despite what looks like pretty good inking.

True Bride-To-Be #19
True Bride-To-Be Romances #19 (August 1956) by Jack Kirby

I believe that Jack penciled 18 romance covers for Harvey. These covers were done during the same time period as the all Kirby Prize romance comics (see last chapter). I believe that Jack did all the spot inking for those Prize romances. But inking for the Harvey covers does not look the same. Part of the difference is due to the fact that the S&K shop style of coarse crosshatching (like the “picket fence” or the rows of short dashes) is not used on any of the Harvey covers. This is not surprising since such heavy crosshatching would seem to conflict with the house style of the Harvey romances. Perhaps in compensation on some Harvey covers tonal areas are sometime achieved by the use of finer parallel brush strokes. Finer then the S&K shop inking, but coarser then what could be achieved with a pen. Both the Prize and Harvey covers are similar in having less spotting that results in lighter covers. Also in both cover groups, darker areas are sometimes achieved by flooding a larger area with ink. As part of sparer spotting, both Harvey and Prize covers have sleeves where the folding is concentrated at the junction with the chest and also in the elbow region. But on some of the Harvey covers the folding in the elbow region look very unnatural especially since some of the folds take unusual paths (see True Brides-To-Be #19 above). This convinces me that at least two artists did the spot inking on different Harvey covers. To complicate things even more, at least one of the covers (First Love #70 November 1956) appears to have had two artists doing the spotting. The first one did the spotting generally using fine parallel brush strokes. The second artist then touched up over these finely lined parts of the man’s hair and his sleeve with much coarser brush work.

The last Kirby cover for a Harvey romance occurred in December 1956, the same month that the all Kirby romances for Prize ends. The finish for work by Bill Draut and John Prentice for these Harvey romances seems to be May 1957. Here my references are more complete and I do not expect this date is too far off. The question remains what was the working arrangement here? Well the romances done during this period of about a year show no significant difference then those that preceded or followed. Whatever they were, they were not Simon and Kirby productions. I have a folder of work that Joe Simon did as an editor for Hi-School Romance Date Book #4 from 1963 (I do not think that this particular issue was ever published). I believe that Joe started doing such editorial work for Harvey in 1956 to help his financial situation after the failure of Mainline early in 1955. The various post-Mainline Simon and Kirby projects just did not provide enough money. As editor, not producer, Joe would continue to use the same artists and writers that Harvey had already had. Joe could however give some jobs to Bill Draut and John Prentice who lost work particularly when the all Kirby romances started. Jack was busy with those Prize romances, but not too busy that he could not provide Joe with some covers.

BC #58 Gismo
Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) “Gismo”, by Jack Kirby

But if Simon was doing editorial work for Al Harvey, he still was pitching new work. At least that is how I interpret Harvey’s Black Cat Mystic #58. All of the contents of this horror/science fiction anthology were penciled by Kirby. When I outlined for myself the The End Of Simon & Kirby, I was unsure what chapter I should put this comic. Truth be told, if I had to do it over again I would place Black Cat Mystic #58 after my discussion about the Western Tales issues in chapter 4. Although the cover date for #58 is rather late, the inking seems to bridge the gap between the more classical S&K shop style in the Western Tales and the new inking manner found in the all Kirby romances. One splash (see above) exhibits the shop manner of coarse crosshatching (“picket fence”) and the introduction page (see below) exhibits robust spotting. Other stories are inked more like the all Kirby romances with more limited spotting and flooding used in the larger dark areas. Another clue to the earlier date for the art is the original art for the introduction page is done on the thick illustration board typically used by the S&K studio, while all the Harvey romance covers by Kirby that I have seen were done on thinner Strathmore.

BC #58 introduction
Black Cat Mystic #58 (September 1956) introduction, original art by Jack Kirby

On the introduction page we meet Mr. Zimmer, a ghost who tells two youngsters stories and takes them on adventures. In fact that is the premise of the story “Read To Us, Mr. Zimmer”. The way Mr. Zimmer is presented makes it seem that this issue would be the start of a new series. But as before with Western Tales, Harvey seemed willing to publish Simon and Kirby concepts, but he just did not seem to have enough interest to get them out on a timely basis. The next issue of Black Cat Mystic would not be released until a year later (September 1957).

Chapter 5, The Return to Romance

Chapter 7, On His Own

A Tale Twice Told

I’m busy tonight working on the next chapter to The End of Simon & Kirby. But I thought I would point out a happy coincidence that occurred in two chapters. I’ll provide links but chances are both chapters are on this page, so it might be easier to just scroll down. In Chapter 2,I included an image of the cover to Young Love #55 done by John Prentice. It turns out that that cover is based on a story done by Jack Kirby in the same issue called “Love Wars”. I just happened to provide a scan of the splash page to Jack’s story in Chapter 5. I find such alternative versions interesting for the insight it provides into the artists. Mind you I am not saying that Jack’s splash gives an idea how he would have done the cover. When it came to the romance comics, Jack’s splash pages seem spicier then his covers.

This example of an artist doing a cover based on a Kirby story may be unique during the S&K collaboration, I’ll have to check. Also rare are examples of Kirby and another artist doing alternate takes of the same cover. I included scans of covers by Jack Kirby and Bill Draut in “Artists and Models“. I can think of only one other example from the S&K period.

There are however a number of examples of Jack doing the cover based on a story by another artist. I think it may be fun sometime to post a series of examples of these alternate interpretations.

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 5, The Return To Romance

YL #55 Love War
Young Love #55 (March 1954) “Love War” by Jack Kirby

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby we saw the launch of Fighting American for Prize followed shortly by the creation of Mainline, Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company. Although Simon and Kirby continued to produce romance comics for Prize, they stopped including work penciled by Jack. Mainline only lasted a short time before it failed.

YB #25 His Beautiful Visitor
Young Brides #25 (November 1955) “His Beautiful Visitor” by Jack Kirby

In October, the month after Charlton released the last of what had been Mainline comics, a story penciled by Jack Kirby appeared in Young Romance #79. The next romance (Young Brides #25 November) would have Jack doing three of the four stories. Oddly there was no Kirby in Young Love #68 (December). After this we have a run of romance comics that are almost completely done by Jack Kirby (YR #80 to #85, YL #69 to 73, and YB #26 to #30). Kirby would do all 16 covers, 58 of the 65 stories, and 373 out of 416 pages (excluding covers). The percentage of Kirby in this run would be even higher if we excluded Young Love #71 which only had a single Kirby story. Of the 7 stories done by other artists; 4 were done by Bill Draut (YR #81, YL #71 and two in #73), 1 by Ann Brewster (YL #71), 1 by Ted Galindo (YL #71) and 1 by an unidentified artist (YL #69). Never before in the history of Simon and Kirby do we see anything like this. The closest to it occurred was with the launch of Headline as crime genre. There Jack did all of the first four issues (Headline #23 to #26, March to September 1947).

YR #84 Poison Ivy
Young Romance #84 (October 1956) “Poison Ivy” by Jack Kirby

At the beginning of the post I included a splash page from YL #55 that Jack did just before he stopped doing Prize romances in order to concentrate on Fighting American and the Mainline comics. Compare this to a page from YB #25 (“His Beautiful Visitor” see above) from the time of Jack’s return to these romance titles. Despite the similar panel layout the two look different. The spot inking in the earlier page is in the typical S&K shop style. But in the later work there is less spotting, particularly in the figures, giving the page a lighter look. When parts of the figure do get more spotting, it often is done by flooding a larger area, see “Poison Ivy” from YR #84 above. Brush techniques that were standard to the S&K shop style (like the coarse crosshatch that reminds one of a picket fence, or the rows of unconnected short strokes) are encountered less frequently. When these brush methods are used they tend to be done in a finer style then previously. These differences in inking styles seem to be present right when Kirby returned to doing these romance titles, but they appear to become more obvious over time.

Young Love #71
Young Love #71 (June 1956) by Jack Kirby

The same observations about the change in inking style can be made about the covers. However more effort was usually done on the covers. The old shop style crosshatching appears more often on covers although done in a finer style. Great care was sometimes taken, the lines in YL #71 (above) were done so fine that they look like they were done using a pen but the original art (still in Joe Simon’s collection) show that it was actually done with a brush.

This may be a good place to interrupt with a short discussion about how inking was done in the Simon and Kirby studio. All uninked art by Kirby done during the S&K collaboration that I have seen show that Jack did tight pencils done entirely as lines. No indications for spotting are found and folds in the clothing are indicated by simple lines. The next step appeared to be the inking of the panel outlines, balloons and the lettering. Then the art is inked closely following the penciled lines without any spotting. Next the spotting is done to bring a sort of volume to the forms and provide tonal variations across the page. Thus ignoring the lettering, the art can be said to have three stages; penciling, lining, and spotting. In an interview Carmine Infantino, who worked in the S&K studio mostly in 1948, describes Jack doing the spot inking. Martin Thall once described visiting the studio where a number of individuals were busy doing an inking job. My own examination of original art leads me to believe that often more then one hand was involved in the spotting. Frankly when experts attribute the inking to Jack himself, Joe or some other artists I do not know what they mean. Are they referring to the outlining or the spotting? Are they saying that all the inking was done by that one person or just parts? I really have no clue as to what the inking attributions by the experts means, I sometimes wonder if they know themselves.

YR #81 A Match For Linda
Young Romance #81 (February 1956) “A Match For Linda” by Jack Kirby

To me it appears that the line inking done during the all Kirby run of romances was done by different individuals. I have little confidence that I can identify most. After all they are following Kirby’s tight pencils and this is not Marvel Comics in the Silver Age with Stan Lee urging inkers to add their personal touches. I am pretty sure Jack wanted the line inkers to be faithful to his pencils. Still there are subtleties to the pencils and different responses to those nuances by the line inkers. One of the line inkers in some of these stories appears to have been Bill Draut. Take a look above at the eyebrows in the female on the splash page to “A Match For Linda”. Notice the tendency to it be a little long and simple. Compare this to a page below from “He Had Only Me” by Draut. Of course not every eyebrow in the Kirby story has the Draut form, after all Bill is trying to keep to the pencils. But when there is deviation from the Kirby look, it seems to be in the direction that Bill Draut would normally do. I have not made a careful examination of all the stories, but I think Bill also had a hand in the line inking for “The Unhappy Housewife” (YB #30), “Torch Song” and “Bust Up” (both from YL #73), and “Lizzie’s Back In Town”, “Lady’s Choice” and “Resort Romeo” (all from YR #85).

YR #81 He Had Only Me
Young Romance #81 (February 1956) “He Had Only Me” by Bill Draut

Although I feel I can see hands other then Bill Draut’s working on the line inking for some of the stories, I believe only one artist was doing the spotting. Yes there is a lot of variation in how the spotting was done or even how much spotting was done at all. But when crosshatching was done it seems finer then previous S&K shop inking. There is a consistent attempt to divide panels into light and dark areas, with the light sections predominating.

Young Romance #83
Young Romance #83 (June 1956) by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

The Kirby Checklist does not include the cover for Young Romance #83. Although it is not one of his best efforts, I really believe that Jack did the foreground couple. However the pair in the movie screen does not look like his work, but appears to me to be done by Joe Simon. The movie screen was done using a special product that allows an artist to get grey tones by applying special chemicals. The grey tone is actually achieved by the means of fine lines. Apparently Jack never got into using these sort of materials. But starting here we will find Joe experimenting with new techniques from time to time.

The all Kirby Prize romances were done from December 1955 to December 1956. This effort raises a couple of questions. One is whether the Simon and Kirby collaboration in effect during this time? The answer I believe is yes there still was some sort of joint S&K effort. Joe joined Jack in working on the cover to Young Romance #83. Young Brides #30 depicts a couple with twin babies, Joe had twin girls. Finally Joe still has the original art for the cover of Young Love #71 in his collection. But although I believe Joe and Jack were still jointly working here, the inking done on these issues convinces me that the way this collaboration was handled was different. I suspect that the S&K studio had closed at this point and Joe and Jack were working at their respective homes. They had worked from their houses earlier in their joint careers, but at that time they lived close to one another. Now they lived further apart and this made the same type of working arrangement difficult. Gone were the days of passing art back and forth until both were satisfied. Other then the line inking, most of the work we see here is by Jack. If you want to see the sort of stuff like the Simon and Kirby of earlier years, these romances will probably disappoint you. If your interest is in Kirby’s vision alone, here for the first time in many years you will find a purer Kirby. The quality of the work varies greatly, and this is not just because of the use of various line inkers. Kirby’s spotting can be very minimal at some times, rushed and sloppy at others. However I do not want to leave a negative impression, when all things work well the results can be very nice.

The other question that comes to mind is why do all Kirby issues at all? One possibility is that some change was made in the deal between the artists and Prize so that the money Jack received was not based on just the profits but somehow also on the number of pages he penciled. Or perhaps the finances for S&K were so poor that they could not have enough to pay their freelance artists. Another possibility was that the whole effort was an attempt to boast the sales for these romance comics. If it was an attempt to help a financially ailing line of titles it does not look like it succeeded. Young Love and Young Brides would be cancelled after December 1956. Prize Comics Western was already ended the previous September, so Prize was now down to one monthly (Justice Traps the Guilty) and two bimonthly titles (Headline and Young Romance). This was really a low point for the Prize company. Since Simon and Kirby no longer had a hand in the crime titles, only Young Romance remained as a source of income from Prize. The last Western Tales for Harvey was July 1956 and work for Warfront was limited to a few covers. In the next chapter I will write about Harvey romances, but let me say here that things must have looked pretty grim for Simon and Kirby by the December 1956 cover date.

Chapter 4, A Friend Provides a Helping Hand

Chapter 6, A Friend’s Romance

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 4, A Friend Provides A Helping Hand

Western Tales #31
Western Tales #31 (October 1955) by Jack Kirby

Previously in the End of Simon and Kirby we saw the launch of S&K’s own publishing company Mainline at a time of peak anti-comic sentiments. Income from comics produced for Prize decreased due to title cancellations. Charlton, a company infamous for its poor rates, was used to publish a new title, Win A Prize. After Mainline abruptly failed Charlton would also publish left over work from that line.

It is hard to image Harvey Comics as the corruptors of youth. Come on how could reading Richie Rich lead a minor into a life of crime? But even a company that mainly published comics for the very, very young would face difficulties with an approaching Comic Code. Harvey also had his own version of the horror genre titled “Witches Tales”. He must have thought it might have problems with the code or perhaps it just was not selling too well. In any case the title switched to Witches Western Tales. I have no idea what the readers might have thought they were buying with that title. But the hope must have been that purchasers of the old title would at least try the new one. New to the contents would be reprints from Simon & Kirby’s Boys’ Ranch. Now part of this change may have been due to the Comic Code, but not all. The same month has another Harvey title, Thrills of Tomorrow, including Stuntman reprints. Could it be more then a coincident that this happened at a time of financial stress for Joe and Jack?

Pocket Comics #1
Pocket Comics #1 (August 1941) by Joe Simon

Al Harvey and Joe Simon had a long history, meeting at Fox Comics in the days before Captain America. When Harvey had the idea of publishing pocket sized comic books he asked Joe to join him. But Joe was going to receive a share of the profits for Captain America and thought that was a much better deal then investing in Al’s idea. But Simon did contribute the art for some of the first covers for Al’s comics. Joe always says he did those cover for free. Well the profit sharing from Captain America never amounted to much. Supposedly Goodman used a lot of extraneous business expenses so that the profits from Captain America would be low, at least as far as the books were concerned. Meanwhile Harvey’s pocket comics failed (they were too easy to steal) but he still ended up building an extremely successful comic publishing company. And Al did not forget Joe and the help he provided.

Witches Western Tales #30 and Thrills of Tomorrow #20 appeared with a April date and with the comic code stamp. But April was the same month that the last Mainline comics were released. As we saw before Joe and Jack turned to Charlton to publish the final issues of what had been Mainline. The last of these (Police Trap #6) was dated September. The only think left for S&K at Charlton was Charlie Chan and that would end with issue #9 (December 1955). There was also work for Prize. With Black Magic cancelled that left only the romances. Sure enough, Jack Kirby returns to doing pencils for romance in October. I want to save writing about Kirby’s return to Prize romances for my next chapter where I will go into it in detail. But I will say that when Jack stopped doing pencils for these romance titles they were published monthly, on his return they were bi-monthly. Things must have been financially difficult for the Simon and Kirby team.

Western Tales #32
Western Tales #32 (March 1956) by Joe Simon

When October came around Harvey dropped the witches from the title and it became just Western Tales. I don’t know for sure if Joe and Jack got any money for the reprints Harvey had used, but Western Tales #31 included new material. Although the comic would still have some Boys’ Ranch reprints, now it starred Davy Crockett. Issue #32 would not come out until March, but Davy was still the star. Surprisingly the cover was penciled by Joe Simon. It has been quite a few years since Joe penciled a cover. I could be more exact and say what that last cover was, but I know that a lot of experts and scholars do not agree with me that Joe did that earlier cover and so I want to leave that subject for a future post. There was an even longer delay for Western Tales #33 (July 1956) and now the star would be Jim Bowie.

WT #33 Magic Knife
Western Tales #33 (July 1956) “Magic Knife” by Jack Kirby

The art for these Western Tales is typical Simon and Kirby with Jack doing the penciling. These comics have standard S&K shop inking. Spotting was often more limited then much previous work but typical S&K “hay”(strong crosshatching) is present. More spotting was often done on the covers and splashes and the results provide a darker image. The art work in all three issues is very similar and very much like what was produced in the Mailine comics. We shall see in the next chapter that at the same as these Western Tales, inking in romance comics would start to look different. Because of this I believe that despite the delay between issues of Western Tales that they were all done relatively close to one another and not too long after the end of Mainline. Al Harvey was willing to give these comics a try, but his commitment remained in his kid humor comics like Richie Rich. As happened to the S&K team all too often, Western Tales ended up being cancelled after a very short run.

Warfront #28
Warfront #28 (January 1956) by Jack Kirby

But Simon and Kirby work would show up in Harvey comics other then Western Tales. I want to leave the subject of Harvey romances to yet another post (when I said I was going to do this topic in chapters, I never said how many I would need). Here I want to discuss some work for Warfront. S&K relationship with Warfront (and as we shall see later this is true also with the Harvey romances) was very different then what happened in Western Tales. Although Western Tales included some reprint material it otherwise looks like a typical Simon and Kirby production. But the contents to Warfront seem to be Harvey material, they do not look at all like S&K, only the covers do. The first S&K cover is on Warfront #28. The depicted aircraft roughly follows a panel from a story from Foxhole #2 (November 1954) called “Hot Box”. The original art for Warfront #28 still exists and it is done on thick illustration board. All the Simon and Kirby work I’ve seen had been done on such boards, even work done by freelancers. The only exception was some John Prentice material for Bullseye. All the Harvey work I have seen was done on much thinner bristol board. This along with the art style leads me to believe that the Warfront #28 cover is actually unused Foxhole #2 cover recycled for Harvey.

Warfront #29
Warfront #29 (July 1956) by Jack Kirby

Jack is the primary pencil to the cover for Warfront #29. But note the odd thing that the soldier is carrying on his back. Even though he is firing a rifle he looks like he is carrying a flame thrower. I believe that this cover has been modified, originally the soldier was torching the occupants of the tunnel. The change was done to either avoid or correct a problem with the Comic Code Authority. The style also makes me believe that this also could be unused art from Foxhole. The real test of this guess of mine would be if the original art ever shows up. If it is recycled Foxhole art I expect it will be on thick illustration board. If the use of a flame thrower was removed it would have been covered over with a paste up.

The Jack Kirby Checklist also assigns to Jack the covers for Warfront #30 (September 1957) and Warfront #34 (September 1958). Frankly because of their layouts I do not agree that they were done by Kirby. However we shall see in a later chapter that Joe and Jack were involved in other Harvey projects at the times in question. It really does not change the story I am telling if you accept covers #30 and #34 or not.

Chapter 3, Unlikely Port in the Storm

Chapter 5, The Return to Romance

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 3, Unlikely Port In The Storm

Bullseye #5
Bullseye #5 (April 1955) by Jack Kirby. It and Foxhole #4 were the last Mainline comics.

Previously in the end of Simon and Kirby I discussed the rise of anti-comic book sentiments and the ill timed launched of S&K’s Mainline comics. A number of publishers seemed to be having problems, including Prize for which Simon and Kirby produced some titles. In the end Mailine failed with the last comics dated April 1955.

Win A Prize #1
Win A Prize #1 (February 1955) by Jack Kirby

Two months before the last Mainline comic, Joe and Jack launched a new title Win A Prize published by Charlton. Charlton was notorious for their low page rates. There can be a couple of explanations for this choice of publisher. One explanation is that part of the idea behind Win A Prize was the giving away of prizes. The cover announces “500 free prizes, anyone can win”, and Joe Simon insists that they really did give away prizes. For a small company like Mainline this could be a problem. Not only the cost of the merchandise but the logistics of sending the prizes to the winners. But Charlton had a vertical company structure, they did everything from producing the comics, printing them and doing the distribution. They probably were the ideal outfit to handle this sort of thing. Well except for the problem of being cheap.

The second explanation for making a deal with Charlton to publish Win A Prize is that Joe and Jack might have already known that Mainline was in trouble. With decrease profits from the comics they produced for Prize, S&K may not have had enough cash to finance the launch of another title. The Mainline comics were distributed by Leader News and that company may already have seem like a poor choice. Charlton may not have paid much, but Simon and Kirby may have been desperate at this point.

Win A Prize was unique for Simon and Kirby. They had produced anthologies before but they were always genre specific. They did crime, horror and romance, but Win A Prize with just a general anthology. That sort of thing was common during the war, but I suspect it was unusual in the mid 50’s. Here is a rundown of the stories to show the sort of mix it was.

Win A Prize #1
“The Emissary” by Jack Kirby (science fiction)
“The Tragic Clown” (drama)
“That Giveaway Guy” by Jack Kirby (humor)
“Telltale Heart” (horror, adaptation of story by Edgar Allan Poe)
“War Diary” (war)

WP #1 That Giveaway Guy
Win A Prize #1, “That Giveaway Guy” by Jack Kirby

Win A Prize #2
“Bullet Ballad” by Bill Draut (western)
“Sir Cashby Of Moneyvault” by Jack Kirby (humor)
“Torpedoed” (war)
“The Handsome Brute” by Joe Albistur (science fiction)
“The Bull” (sports)

WP #2 Bullet Ballad
Win A Prize #2, Uncle Giveaway by Jack Kirby and “Bullet Ballad” by Bill Draut

They are all relative short stories, the longest is 7 pages. We have seen Bill Draut before, but also included is Joe Albistur. Joe was a relatively recent artist to work for S&K, he first appeared in Police Trap #1 (September 1954). He also did a number of romance stories taking up some of the slack left by Kirby then absent from the Prize romances. All the Win A Prize stories are really nice and I promise to highlight some of them in the future. Although I rather like Win A Prize, it did not last long, ending with issue #2 in April 1955, the same month that Mainline ended. The “hook” really wasn’t the contents, it was the prizes. With all the logistical problems these prizes brought I am sure Charlton wanted to see really good sales really quick. When they failed to materialize, the title was cancelled.

In Love #5
In Love #5 (May 1955) by Jack Kirby

In May 1955, one month after the last Mainline comics, In Love #5 would be published by Charlton. Charlton would soon print the rest of the former Mainline titles; Bullseye, Police Trap and Foxhole. But these former Mainline comics would only last a couple of issue each, the last (Police Trap #6) is dated September. But their termination may not have just been due to poor sales. I think the these Charlton issues were made using material already completed or in progress when Mainline abruptly ended. It would be better for S&K that they get low payment for this artwork from Charlton, then get nothing at all. In September Charlton would change the title of “In Love” to “I Love You”. I Love You #7 has a (rather weak) Kirby cover but the contents do not look like they were produced by Simon and Kirby. I think Charlton was just reusing the volume number, a not uncommon technique to save postal registration fees. Charlton probably assembled the contents and Simon and Kirby only supplied the cover. I Love You turned out to have a run of 115 issues for Charlton ending in December 1976.

I Love You #7
I Love You #7 (July 1955) by Jack Kirby

At the same time as Charlton was publishing the remnants of the Mainline comics, they also started to publish Charlie Chan. This was a title that Simon and Kirby originally produced for Prize. Under Prize Charlie Chan lasted 5 issues with the last one dated February 1949. In the original series Jack Kirby penciled all the covers but did not do any of the contents. In the first Charlton issue we again find Jack providing the cover but none of the contents. But I don’t believe that this cover is just unused material from the Prize run. First the inking style is more like the late shop style then what was used during the Prize version of Charlie Chan. Second, originally the Charlie Chan covers were static with the “number one son” getting ready to spring into action. On the Charlton cover the son is in the middle of jumping from one motorcycle to another. This sort of emphasis on action is more in tune with later Simon and Kirby covers. And lastly #6 cover includes Burmingham Brown. This stereotype sidekick did not appear on the Prize covers or contents but would appear on the cover to Charlie Chan #7 and #9. Although Kirby did not do any other pencils for the Charlton Charlie Chan, Simon and Kirby did produce those comics. Issue #7 has the stamp that announces “another Simon and Kirby smash hit” that was used on the late Mainline titles. Joe Simon still has color proofs to all the Charlton covers. Charlie Chan is unique for Simon and Kirby’s work with Charlton in that it lasted a full 4 issues ending in March 1956. Regardless of whether they started with unused Prize artwork, clearly S&K also produced some new material for Charlton.

Charlie Chan #6
Charlie Chan #6 (June 1955) by Jack Kirby

Charlie Chan #9
Charlie Chan #9 (December 1955) by unknown artist

Chapter 2, Problems in the Industry

Chapter 4, A Friend Provides a Helping Hand

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 2, Problems in the Industry

Previously in Chapter 1 I discussed the disasterous appearance of Bill Gaines before a Senate committee and the creation of the Comic Code Authority. Simon and Kirby launched their Mainline comics just prior to these events.

But what was the comic industry like at that time? Without sales figures we can only guess based on information gleaned from the comics themselves. But Joe and Jack’s arrangement with Prize meant that they received a share of the profits. They must have had some idea how things were going with Prize Comics at least.

Judging from events that shortly followed the launch of Mainline, things were not going well for Prize. For comics having a September 1954 cover date, Prize had 4 monthly (Justice Traps the Guilty, Young Romance, Young Love and Young Brides) and 5 bimonthly titles (Black Magic, Fighting American, Frankenstein, Headline and Prize Comic Western). When we arrive at a cover date of May 1955 Prize only has 1 monthly (Justice Traps the Guilty) and 5 bimonthly (Headline, Prize Comic Western, Young Romance, Young Love, and Young Brides). This is a substantial decline in production, one way to look at is is to consider a bimonthly as half a monthly. From that view point Prize went from 6.5 to 3.5 titles a month. For Simon and Kirby the affects were even more drastic. At this time S&K were producing Black Magic and the three romances, they stopped producing the crime comics for Prize some time ago. Using the same type of calculations, S&K went from 4 to 1.5 titles a month for Prize. Remember Joe and Jack received a share of the profits, this drop had to have an affect on their cash flow.

The timing of the changes by Prize could be interpreted as a reaction to S&K’s becoming competitors. That would not have been a wise business decision on the part of Prize, but sometimes emotions rule over logic. But that does not explain the cancellation of Frankenstein Comics since S&K had nothing to do with it. With the last Frankenstein having a cover date of October 1954, this was too early to have been due to the The Comic Code. Comic code stamps would not appear on comics until April or May of 1955. I believe the best explanation is that Prize comics had not be selling that well recently, possibly as a result of the rise in anti-comic sentiment.

When the Comic Code did come into affect, Prize did not seem to have much problems with it. Despite all the adverse publicity directed at Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty, the contents of the Prize crime comics really were not objectionable. I don’t find much of a change in these titles with the arrival of the Comic Code. Nor did the stamp seem much of a problem for the Prize romance titles.

With Prize seemingly having problems, what about other comic publishers? Bill Gaines got a lot of undesireable attention at the Senate committee hearings, and not only because he came to defend the comic industry. I think it would be fair to say that Gaines’ publishing company, EC, exemplfied many of the things Dr. Wertham and other critics complained about. I am really not knowledgeable enough about EC to say whether he was experiencing sales problems before the Senate hearings. But clearly Gaines was well aware of the problems his comic line would face with the Comic Code Authority. His first approach to this was to launch a series of new titles just as the Comic Code was coming into effect. These titles (Aces High, Extra, Impact, Incredible Science Fiction, MD, Psychoanalysis, and Valor) had titles that seemed designed to avoid issues with the Comic Code. And all of these new titles showed the Comic Code stamp for the May 1955 covers. But although these titles avoid Code problems, they still seem to have sales problems. All these titles would disappear after a relatively short run, the last has a January 1956 date. Another approach to the code that Gaines tried was to publish his material in a magazine size format, and avoid getting Comic Code approval at all. This allowed him to use new titles like Shock Illustrtated and Terror Illustrated, titles that would be rejected under the Comic Code. Unfortunately this approach also seemed to fail after just a couple of issues with the last having a May 1956 cover date. But there was one exception to the magazine size format failure, that was the juvenile humor comic Mad. Mad remained popular and after the failure of all the rest of Gaines’ comic line, it would become the only publication for EC.

Artist Ross Andru and Mike Esposito started their own comic publishing company, MikeRoss Publications, even earlier then Simon and Kirby’s Mainline. I do not know the specifics of either their company or their publications, but their company also failed during this period.

We have seen from Prize, EC and MikeRoss that there is reason to believe that this was a difficult time for comic publishers. Apparently this was true with Simon and Kirby’s Mainline. April 1955 was the date for the last Mainline publication. Other then one Foxhole cover rejected by the Comic Code Authority that had to be replaced, S&K did not seem to have much problems with the new code. Final issues of Mainline comics had the code’s stamp on the cover. But Simon and Kirby’s attempt at become comic publishers had failed.

Mainline’s problems may not have only been due to low sales. Mainline, MikeRoss and EC shared one thing, they all were using the same distrubuter, Leader News. Now Mainline and MikeRoss were probably a very small part of Leader’s distribution, but EC was not. EC sales problems affected Leader News, and it is likely that Leader’s difficulties got passed on to Mainline and MikeRoss in late payments. Leader News would become bankrupt in July 1956. It is just possible that had Joe and Jack used a different distributor Mainline may have lasted longer. But it was a difficult time for comic books, so who can say?

Frankly this has been a lengthy post without any images. So this seems a good place to examine Prize romances during the period from April 1954 and September 1955. During this interval the Prize romance comics had no Kirby art. April was the same month that the Fighting American started. Also, probably without Prize knowing about it, Simon and Kirby started preparing for the launch of Mainline. It seems typical for Jack to do most of his penciling for new titles. Jack continued to pencil some work for Black Magic but that title would be canceled after issue #33 (November 1955). But it would appear that S&K continued to produce the romance comics. They were listed as editors in the postal declaration in April issues for 1954 and 1955 of Young Love and Young Romance and the May issue of Young Brides. Another indication that S&K were still producing the romances is that Joe Simon still has in his collection proofs for some of the covers during this period.

A couple of other changes occurred to the Prize romance comics in about this period. One was that photo covers were discontinued. Most of the romance comics used a photographic cover starting in 1949. There was one exception, for the period from August 1950 to June 1951 all the Young Love and four of the Young Romance had art covers. But the last photographic cover would be used in March 1954 and this time they would not return. Recently I asked Joe Simon about the printing the photo covers and he said that they cost a little more then art covers but with the large print sizes of the comics it was not much of a differance.

Also starting in 1949 was the use of a label a “Simon and Kirby production” on the first page of the lead story. Once started this label would appear in all S&K productions except for three issues. That is until after September 1954, when the the label disappears on all comics. They would remain off until returning in Young Love #64 in April 1955. But they would not always appear and in December 1955 the the last S&K production label would be used in Young Romance #80. The absence of the label does not necessarily mean that S&K did not produce those comics. The label was also missing from Black Magic #33 but that issue includes art by Jack Kirby and was almost certainly produced by S&K.

Up to this point Kirby was the primary penciler for all the covers for S&K comics that did not use a photograph. So who did the these covers while Kirby was busy elsewhere? Well if you have been reading my posts it may not come to a surprise that most of these covers were done by the usual suspects Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice. In fact for me their continued presence is the most convincing evidence that Simon and Kirby were still producing these romance comics.

I have already included Young Brides #21 (March 1955) in a post I did on Bill Draut. Bill did 13 of the 39 covers in question. Below is another Draut cover.

Young Romance #70
Young Romance #70 (June 1954) by Bill Draut

My discussion on Mort Meskin included his cover to Young Love #66 (August 1955). Mort provided 8 of the 39 non-Kirby covers. Let me provide another example.

Young Brides #16
Young Brides #16 (June 1954) by Mort Meskin

John Prentice, the last of the usual suspects, did 15 of the romance covers. In my post on John I have already provided an image of the cover he did for Young Love #58 (June 1954). So here is another example of his fine work.

Young Love #55
Young Love #55 (March 1954) by John Prentice

Did anyone add up the numbers? If you did you would have noticed that the usual suspects did 36 of the 39 covers that Kirby did not do. I admit I am not sure who did one of these covers, but the other two covers were done by Ann Brewster. I have not classified Ann as one of the usual suspects because she only did work for S&K for two limited periods. But she was a fine talent at least for romance, which is the only work I have seen of hers. But there is something quite unique about the two covers the Brewster did. Both covers were made from enlarged and flipped stats made from the splash page of Ann’s stories. I know that the covers were made from the splash and not the other way around because Joe Simon still has the “original art” for the cover to Young Romance #79 (Octover 1955). Except for some very minor touch ups, the cover is entirely stats. This is the first time that S&K have done this sort of thing, but Joe Simon would use a similar technique in the future for Adventures of the Fly #1 and Blast-Off #1.

Young Romance #79
Young Romance #79 (October 1955) by Ann Brewster

Chapter 1, The Beginning of the End

Chapter 3, Unlikely Port in the Storm

Speed #20 (July 1942)

Speed #20 

I think this is Jack’s penciling because of his typical exagerated perspective. Yet another variation of Captain Freedom’s costume. Jack Kirby was famous for his frequent failures to get costumes right. But in the case of Captain Freedom I am not sure what the correct costume is, it keeps changing even in the stories. Captain Freedom is a true superhero, he has super strength and can fly (or perhaps he is just jumping great distances). But on all the Speed covers that Jack and Joe did they both protray Harvey’s patriotic hero more normal, sort of like they did Captain America.

The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 1, The Beginning of the End

I am going to blog on the ending of the Simon and Kirby collaboration. I would like to go into it in more detail then I can comfortably cover in one post. So I will be dividing it up into a number of chapters.

The May 29, 1947 issue of Saturday Review had an article by Dr. Frederick Wertham. Dr. Wertham had a very dim view of comic books and their influence on the young. I wonder how many comic book artists and publishers knew about the article or had any idea on how it would affect their livelihood? I suspect not many, I am sure it was far from thoughts of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. They were too busy becoming comic book producers by launching crime titles for Prize and more importantly creating a whole new genre, romance comics. Those must have been exciting days for the two, and with the deals they made, Joe and Jack shared the profits from the success of their products. Although the future must have looked bright to our intrepid pair, Dr. Wertham’s efforts started to generate anti-comic sentiments in various communities. It did not all come at once, but built over the years until when his book “Seduction of the Innocent” was published in 1954.

The pivotal date was April 22 and 23, 1954. That was when a Senate committee questioned Bill Gaines. Apparently Gaines appearance was not mandatory, other comic publishers declined to show up. But Bill went to defend the industry, unfortunately his appearance had a completely opposite effect. Gaines testimony was a disaster, public sentiment against comics rose to even greater heights. In a effort to circumvent possible legislation (and perhaps also to drive some competition out of the industry), some comic publishers got together to create the Comic Code Authority. The code was adopted on October 26, 1954. In theory use of the Comic Code was voluntary. But publishers knew that once the Comic Code stamp started appearing on covers, comics without it would not be accepted by many newsstands.

So what were Simon and Kirby doing at the time of the Senate committee hearings? Well comic cover dates were usually two months after the distribution date. Typically it took one month to do the artwork, a month for the printer and a month for the distributor. However even in monthly titles, art may start on an issue before the art for the previous issue was completed. This means an adjustment of 5 or 6 months. So we could expect comics started at about the time of the Senate hearings would have cover dates of about October. Well for some time S&K were producing Black Magic, Young Romance, Young Love, and Young Brides for the publisher Prize Comics. The first issue of Fighting American, also for Prize, came out with an April date. But even more important Bullseye #1 came out with an August cover date. Joe and Jack started this issue before the Bill Gaine’s appearance before the Senate committee. But had they noticed the anti-comic sentiment spearheaded by Dr. Wertham?

Bullseye #1 cover
Bullseye #1 (August 1954)

Bullseye #1 was more then the just the start of a new Simon and Kirby title, it was the start of Mainline Comics. Years back Joe and Jack had gone from being comic book artists to be being comic book producers. Now they were trying to make the transition to being comic book publishers. Bullseye was the first Mainline comic; Foxhole, In Love, and Police Trap would follow shortly. It was a big step but they would still be receiving income for the comics they produced for Prize. S&K probably tried to keep Prize unaware of their involvement in, let alone their ownership off, Mainline comics. Unlike their usual practice, early Mainline issues did not have any Simon and Kirby signature. Only the fourth issues would carry a stamp indicating it was “another Simon and Kirby smash hit”. Starting up Mainline must have taken a lot of time and effort. Kirby’s efforts largely went to work on the Mainline comics only. S&K still produced comics for Prize, but Jack’s pencils would only appear in Black Magic and Fighting American, they would not appear in the romance titles. For the Prize romances they depended on their stable of freelance artists to fill the void left by the absent Jack.

Bullseye #1 splash
Bullseye #1 splash (August 1954)

Simon and Kirby did not do many pure westerns, work of that type was limited to a few covers. Prior to Bullseye they had combined the western and kid gang genre to make Boys’ Ranch for Harvey. They even tried western and romance combo, although that turned out to be much more a romance then a western. Now with Bullseye Joe and Jack mixed the western and hero genre. The idea was not unique, perhaps the most famous example would be the Lone Ranger. But you can count of S&K to make an exciting comic out of it. As a baby, Bullseye is saved by his grandfather from an Indian massacre that takes lives of his parents. As he grows, the hero apparently is a natural genius with rifles and pistols as he surprises his grandfather with his accuracy. An encounter with the Indian Yellow Snake leaves Bullseye with the loss of his grandfather and with a target branded on his chest. Bullseye takes to the road playing the part of a peddler, even his horse has a disguise! Of course there is lots of action in the stories, but often humor as well. It is a shame that this title has never been collected together as a reprint volume.

In Love #2 by Bill Draut
In Love #2 (October 1954) by Bill Draut

As the originator of the romance comic genre, it comes as no surprise that Simon and Kirby would want to include a romance title in their Mainline comics line. But by 1954 there was an abundance of romance comics. So S&K decided that to make In Love unique it would include “novel length” story in each issue. The romances that Joe and Jack produced for Prize Comics often included stories of up to 13 pages long, longer then most of the competition. Now In Love would have stories up to 20 pages long and they would be divided into chapters. I have already described the story from In Love #1 “Bride Of The Star” in a post I did about The First Romance Comic. That story was penciled entirely by Jack. But Jack did only one chapter of “Marilyn’s Men” from In Love #2 the other two were done by Bill Draut. Jack returns to do the entire novelette for In Love #3 “Artist Loves Model”. That story is based on reworking of an unsuccessful syndication proposal. Issues from In Love #4 on do not have these extra-length stories. Whether that was because of S&K felt that the novelettes was not a successful idea, or because of other problems is not clear.

Foxhole #2
Foxhole #2 (December 1954)

With Foxhole Simon and Kirby entered into the war genre. This was new for them as the closest they had done before was the Boy Commandos which was more a kid gang title then a war one. Here Joe and Jack would add their own twist to make the title unique. The stories in Foxhole were written and illustrated by war veterans.

Police Trap #2
Police Trap #2 (September 1954)

Mainline comics would also include a crime comic, titled Police Trap. The special angle to this title was that all the stories would be centered on the police, not the criminal. This may have been a response to all the adverse attention that crime comics had received recently, including ones that S&K had launched (Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty). But it certainly resulted in stories that portrayed the police in a better light and the criminal in a worse one.

Mainline seemed to have a good lineup of titles. I would think that of all the Mainline titles, Bullseye would have the best chance to attract attention. It seems a perfect match for Kirby’s talents, allowing lots of action and humor. Although the western/hero combination may not have been unique, there does not seem to be much competition at that time. S&K have shown previously that they could do excellent crime stories. Here there was competition, but crime comics were receiving a lot of bad publicity. By centering the stories on the policemen, Police Trap could hope to escape some of this adverse attention. The other titles, In Love and Foxhole, were probably the weakest entries. Both had plenty of rival publications, in fact at this time there was an abundance of romance comics. Neither was sufficiently unique to be sure of attracting initial buyers. Still they were S&K productions and were done quite well. Given time they could develop a following.

Chapter 2, Problems in the Industry
Chapter 3, Unlikely Port in the Storm
Chapter 4, A Friend Provides a Helping Hand
Chapter 5, The Return to Romance
Chapter 6, A Friend’s Romance
Chapter 7, On His Own
Chapter 8, If At First You Don’t Succeed
Chapter 9, An Old Romance
Appendum 9, Mea Culpa
Chapter 10, A Fly in the Mix