Category Archives: 2006/08

Not Kirby, Young Love #9 “A Man In Her Room”

Young Love #9
Young Love #9 (May 1950) “A Man In Her Room” by Mort Meskin

The Jack Kirby Checklist lists “A Man In Her Room” (Young Love #9) as Kirby pencils and Simon inks. This is another story with a splash panel signed as Mort. In a way I am more surprised with attributing the inking to Joe then I am the pencils to Jack. The inking is done in a manner seen on all Meskin’s work of this period. It is not at all similar to the S&K shop style. Meskin also had his own unique drawing style and this shows up throughout the story.

I am not sure why one of the most common errors found in the Checklist appears to be attributing work to Kirby that was actually done by Mort Meskin. His style is very different from Kirby’s. Actually I am a little surprised that I do not find more of Kirby’s influence in Mort’s work at this time. After all both were working together in the small S&K studio.

Not Kirby, Young Love #8 “Which Is Your Dream Man”

Young Love #8
Young Love #8 (April 1950) “Which Is Your Dream Man” by Mort Meskin

The Jack Kirby Checklist lists “Which Is Your Dream Man” (Young Love #8) as Kirby pencils and Simon inks. This a one page work and it is not signed. But frankly it clearly has Mort Meskin as both penciler and inker. I just do not get a Kirby attribution at all.

There is always a mild cultural shock when reading old romance comics. But it is particularly striking in this short feature. “I like a man who shows me who’s boss” or “I like a possessive man”. Do you think these really represent the beliefs of the readers or those of the men who wrote, drew and produced the comic?

The Wide Angle Scream, Captain America #6

Captain America #6
Captain America #6 (September 1941) “Who Killed Doctor Vardoff”
Larger Image

I do not think Simon and Kirby invented the double page splash. I seem to remember an earlier example in a Kazar story in Marvel Mystery Comics and I make no claim that was the earliest either. Using the centerfold for such a purpose would seem natural for anyone aware of how a comic was made. Because of the vagaries that occur in the folding and stapling of a comic only in the centerfold could a publisher be sure to get a good double spread without registration problems. No I doubt that S&K were the first to do a double splash, but I do not think anyone else at that time did as many or as well.

S&K already had produced a number of comics before their first double splash. In those previous comics are really terrific examples of single page splashes. So it should be no surprise that their first attempt at a wide splash (Captain America #6) would be so successfully done. In it Joe and Jack integrate a scene as well as a caste of characters. The scene occupies only a relatively small portion of the splash, but it is in the center and so commands attention. We find Captain America and Bucky over the victim of a hanging. Although the victim is now on the ground, the noose is still around his neck and the rest of the rope goes up to the top of the splash and then the end drops back down. But the heads of the characters, even the deceased, are turned to our right where the masked hangman stands holding another noose in both hands. Oddly the shadow that he castes also holds a noose but in just one hand.

The noose’s rope that the hangman holds trails along the lower part of the splash visually connecting the various characters arrayed in a broad ‘U’ shape. Besides Bucky and Cap we find a scientist (the victim), a lab assistant, a mob moll (with her cigarette in her mouth as she speaks, a sure sign that she is not respectable), and a mysterious man (whose monocle and cigarette holder indicate that he is a nefarious foreigner). As the eye follows the rope to our left side in ascends until it is covered by a large question mark. But where the rope disappears is well placed because the eye follows the upper part of the question mark until the rope reappears and the victim is portrayed hanging.

Below the splash are a row of story panels. The splash was used to catch the browser’s eye, while the story panels would get him interested in the story. That way when the newsstand owner called “you buying or what? this ain’t no library” hopefully the reader would have become involved enough to purchase the comic. S&K extend the splash panel’s edges to enclose the story panels also. This attempt to integrate the splash and the story panels is the greatest weakness of this double page. In the future Simon and Kirby would use other means to overcome this defect.

The first double page splash already has some features that we will see in others. Often these wide splashes do not just provide a scene but something more complex. It is not just that this sort of thing takes advantage of the greater width, it actually could not be done effectively on a single page. What is presented in the splash is a well integrated “story”. However like some the Harvey covers that I have written about previously, there are logical inconsistencies in what is presented. The Hangman and his shadow holding the noose differently. The victim shown three times, once on the ground surrounded by Captain America and Bucky, also still hanging on the left side and finally as one of the characters describing himself. But like those Harvey covers I really do not consider these true defects. The splash is not meant to be a snap shot, instead variously timed events are represented together. Everything is well placed to provide a sort of condensed story, without the ending of course!

One Goofy Cover

Captain America #197
Captain America #197 (May 1976) by Jack Kirby (original art)

Jack Kirby did some goofy things from time to time. I always got a chuckle out of the cover for Captain America #197. Cap faces the viewer in a hail of bullets and exclaims “I’ve found an army of underground killers! .. and I’ve got to stop them alone!”. Well of course if he is alone, who is he yelling to? This was done in 1976 and Jack was artist, writer and editor. So you would expect that this was Jack’s doing.

Recently The Jack Kirby Museum has made available to members xeroxes of the pencils for some Captain America art done by Jack. If you are not a member maybe you should consider joining. I say this not really because of the chance to see some great Kirby pencils. Nor because the Kirby Museum hosts my blog. Those are good reasons I guess but I feel you should support the museum as they are one of the few organizations out there actively promoting the study of Jack Kirby. With member support they have done great things but with continuing support I am sure that is only the beginning.

Anyway because it is a member’s only viewing I cannot link to the pencil version of Cap #197 that they have. But I hope it is alright if I were to quote what Cap says on the pencils which is “This way for action!! I’ve found an underground army of desperate killers”. Not as punchy as the final version but not at all goofy.

All the blurbs on the cover are paste ups on the original art. The pencils had been completely inked, even in places that later were covered by the blurbs. Jack’s penciled word balloon was not inked and the space it had occupied was inked with the same wreck that is found along all the edges. I guess it is possible that Jack changed his mind in the last minute about what should be in the blurbs. But I really suspect that someone at Marvel decided to make changes even though Kirby was supposed to be editor. “This way for action” was removed from Cap’s speech and placed in an arrow and Cap’s exclamation was rewritten somewhat. Just one more example of the lack of respect by some at Marvel at that time for Jack’s efforts.

Even though I now feel that Cap’s speech was not Kirby’s fault, I have to admit I like it. It is good for comic art to be goofy at times.

Not Kirby, Young Love #6 “My Promise”

Young Love #6
Young Love #6 (1949) “My Promise” by unidentified artist

I was going to skip this particular work because frankly it is a bit of quibbling to say the Checklist is wrong. I will explain why I changed my mind later. The Checklist says that 1/2 page of this story is by Kirby. I suspect that this is their way of saying that the splash is by Jack. Well I think that there is little question that the figure of the man was done by Kirby. But the woman is a perfect match for how she is portrayed in the rest of the story. I am certain she was done by the story’s artists and not Jack. Nothing in the rest of the splash looks like Jack’s work to me either.

When the inking is examined we once again find that all the splash except for the man has the same style inking as the rest of the story. This style is not the Simon and Kirby shop style either, although in one area it tries to be. The S&K shop style frequently uses an abstract arch shadow. There is something like that between the man and the woman. But I have never seen the shop style turn the arc into an ‘S’ pattern like the artist did here. Further whereas the shop style makes effective use of the abstract arch shadow in the design, the ‘S’ shadow here seems poorly placed. When the inking of the man is examined it looks very different from the rest of the splash or the story. The spotting is done with much more assurance. The spot lines in the jacket sweep further and are effective in both depiction and design. The lines placed in the face and hand have nuances that the story artist just does not seem capable of. Some of the spotting in the hair was done with a broad brush, something not found in the rest of this work. Although the man is missing any of the rows of spots or the picket fence crosshatch often found in the S&K shop inking, it is otherwise a perfect match.

The artist draws rather large and poorly placed ears when viewed from behind. It may just be a quirk of the artist, but it was something the Jack Kirby also did during the war years. The rest of the face is not like what Jack did so my suspicion is that the artists was using old Simon and Kirby comics as an aid to drawing those parts he had problems depicting.

Two possible explanations for what happened here. One is that the story artist did a close swipe of a Kirby figure for the man in the splash. I do not like that explanation because of the inking which have subtleties that seem beyond the ability of the story artist. The other explanation, and the one I accept, is that Jack has stepped in here in his role as an art editor. The man plays a crucial part of the splash and I suspect the story artist did not do a good enough job on him. Kirby redid the figure but used restraint in the inking so as to blend in better. It is as an example of Kirby as art editor that made me reconsider posting on it.

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 1, Champ #22 Confirmed

Champ #22
Champ #22 (September 1942) by Joe Simon (signed Glaven)

When I last wrote about the cover to Champ #22 (Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 7, Glaven) all I had was a very low resolution scan from GCD. At that time I attributed it to Joe Simon because I suspected that the signature would be the same as on Speed #22 which was signed Glaven. Nelson Glaven was the alternate name for Ned Gibman, one of Joe Simon’s high school friends.

Well Terry O’Neill of Terry’s Comics was kind enough to send a scan of the cover. The resolution is too low for me to do my standard restoration so please excuse my use of an only slightly corrected cover. But the resolution is not too low to clearly show that the signature is in fact Glaven. So an attribution to Joe Simon is pretty certain.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 7, Glaven

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 8, Off to War

Not Kirby, Young Love #8 “Danger, Soft Shoulder”

Young Love #8
Young Love #8 (April 1950) “Danger, Soft Shoulder” by Mort Meskin

The Jack Kirby Checklist was originally published in 1998 but it was updated in issue #32 (July 2001) of The Jack Kirby Collector. The Checklist is a marvelous resource. Probably the only real problem I have with it is that is not clear how or who finally makes the attributions. But no matter how it is done disagreements are bound to happen. Nonetheless I plan to occasionally post what I consider errors in the Checklist. But I do not want to just list my corrections, I want to provide a scan example and some discussion.

My first subject will be the story “Danger, Soft Shoulder” from Young Love #8 (April 1950). Originally the listing was Kirby as penciler and Simon as inker. In the update Simon is removed as inker. I have to admit that I am unclear on the notation and do not understand the significance of “a(1)”. Does that mean Kirby did both pencil and inks? In any case to me both the penciling and inking for this story was actually done by Mort Meskin. Mort had a distinct style that seems to clearly show up in this work. But the real clincher is that the splash panel is signed “Mort”. I do not believe Mort would have done so if he was only the inker.

Laugh, Simon and Kirby meet Archie

When Jack Kirby and Joe Simon returned from military service they tried to produce their own comics (Stuntman and Boy Explorers) with Harvey as the publisher. Unfortunately with the end of the war came the end of paper rationing. Publishers went wild and there was a flood of comics. This comic book glut meant that new titles, including those by Simon and Kirby, did not stand a chance. Joe and Jacks venture pretty much failed before it ever got to compete. S&K then tried a number of genre that were new for them. This includes some that are not the sort of thing one would normally associate with Simon and Kirby. One of their efforts was for a title called My Date for Hillman. Despite the title this was not a romance comic but rather teenage humor. It was essentially a take off of the very successful Archie.

Laugh #24
Laugh #24 (September 1947) “Pipsy” by Jack Kirby

But Simon and Kirby would also take the same approach to Archie itself. In Laugh #24 (September 1947) included with stories of Archie, and Katy Keene there is piece called Pipsy. I really do not know much about Archie comics, but the Pipsy story has the feel of being an introduction of a new feature. If that is true then this was almost certainly a Simon and Kirby creation pitched to and given a tryout by Archie. It would be easy to miss that this work was penciled by Kirby. The drawing is more simplified and stylized while spot inking was minimal giving the page a light look. Once you get beyond style details and look at what and how things are depicted it becomes easy to recognize it as by Jack. The visual humor used is more like Jack’s then Joe’s. (At some point I will have to blog on of their different approaches to visual humor.)

Laugh #24
Laugh #24 (September 1947) “Pipsy” by Jack Kirby

The humor is not just visual. There is some of the sort of silliness one expects in funnies directed at teenagers. The student Pipsy has opened an office at the school where students bring their problems to him to solve. The coach asks Pipsy to find out why the whole team has developed sore knees. Adding that if he cannot find the answer Pipsy can no longer date the coach’s daughter Doreen. Pipsy eventually finds out that the teams problems are due to Rumba Dumba dance lessons given by Doreen. She in turn says that if Pipsy reports this to the coach she will never date him again. More unusual I think is the slap stick that S&K bring to the story. Kirby was the master of action and violence which was not at all out of place for superheroes and kid gang comics. But I cannot think of any place where Jack used this talent to a greater extent in his comedy. The team member’s response to Pipsy’s prying are funny but actually quite rough. This story is so attuned to Jack’s strengths that I am sure that if the script was not actually written by Simon and Kirby, it was produced under their direction.

Did Archie realize that Simon and Kirby’s rough humor in Pipsy did not fit well with the clean fun of the rest of the Archie comics? Or was it that Joe and Jack soon found success with crime and romance genre and felt no need to pursue such a limited feature as Pipsy? Whatever the reasons S&K would not return to do any more teenage humor stories for Archie. I do not know for sure, but I strongly suspect that Archie made no effort to produce further Pipsy adventures by themselves.

Kirby swipes from Simon

Black Cat #8
Black Cat #8 (November 1947) “The Madness of Dr. Altu” by Joe Simon

To swipe means to whip, to give a sweeping blow. But today it is more commonly used as a slang for to steal. In comics arts it means to copy a design or drawing, but still carries with it the connotation of theft. For many comic fans to show that a comic artist has swiped is paramount to saying that he is an inferior artist. With the artists Jack Kirby and Joe Simon the verdict in the past was generally Kirby = no swipe = good, while Simon = swipe = bad. I would like to think this attitude is changing. Tom Morehouse for instance has done some fine scholarly investigations that reveal the sources for some of Kirby swipes. Jack used this practice long after his period of collaboration with Simon. Actually Kirby’s collages can be considered a form of swiping.

Captain America #213
Captain America #213 (September 1977) “The Night Flyer” by Jack Kirby (original art)

Much has been said about Joe Simon swiping, including here in this blog. It is not surprising that one of Joe’s favorite sources is Jack Kirby. For example Joe used a close copy from Captain America #7 when he put together the cover for The Adventures of the Fly #2 (the cover is shown in Chapter 12 of The Art of Joe Simon). Here I would like to present an example of Kirby swiping from of all people, Joe Simon. Jack’s source was a set of panels that Joe did for a Vagabond Prince story “The Madness of Dr. Altu” in 1947. The use of three panels with close-ups of a face being hit by a fist also occurs in a Captain America story (“The Night Flyer”) by Jack Kirby done 30 years later. It is not a direct copy, Jack would not need any help on how to present such close ups, but it is a swipe nonetheless. I do not think it is a coincidence that in both cases it is the hero of the story receiving the punishment. However there are interesting differences also. In Joe’s story the hero, Prince Vagabond, is initially defeated by his opponent. A short time later there is a re-match which of course the hero wins. That is a plot device more frequently used today but was rather unusual at the time Joe did it. In Kirby’s example a blind and out of uniform Captain America is the receptor of the villain’s blows at the start, but Cap is victorious by the end of the page. Jack does this in an interesting formal device of using panels in a 3/2/1 vertical tier.

Donatello and Michelangelo
Saint John the Evangelist (1412-15) by Donatello and Moses (1513-1516) by Michelangelo

I use the term swipe because it is so entrenched in comic art discussions. But I have to admit I am rather uncomfortable with the word and it’s subtext of stealing. There is no similar expression in the fine arts. No one would speak of Michelangelo’s Moses being swiped from Donatello’s Saint John (By the way the Michelangelo and Donatello I am referring to are Italian Renaissance artists, not mutant ninja turtles). In the fine arts there is a better, richer, understanding on how artists really work. Art is not created from a vacuum by the artist acting alone like some deity. Instead artists (this includes comic artists) extract from previous art, from other art fields, and even from real life. The artist then combines these resources adding his own personal touch into a new piece of art. Recognizing that allows one to appreciate what individual artists bring to their own work and how art continually evolves.

Champ #23 (October 1942)

Champ #23
Champ #23 (October 1942) by Jack Kirby

The Liberty Lads in action one last time, at least as done by S&K. Some of the forced perspective, especially in the thrown Japanese soldier, have the distinct Kirby touch. So he is probably the primary penciler. A good compositional touch of contrasting the foreground with the background. The Japanese soldiers with their pistols and rifles do not stand a chance against the Liberty Lads with their tank and machine gun, not to mention their most powerful weapon of all, the American flag. The US tank has just demolished the Japanese vehicle so badly that it one can no longer make out what it was. Even the cloud of smoke raised by the tank and machine gun completely overpowers the puny gun smoke of the only Japanese soldier still fighting. The Japanese do not stand a chance against the might of the US. Of course this comic came out in August 1942 at a point where America was doing rather poorly against the military forces of Japan.