Category Archives: 2006/10

Happy Birthday Joe!

Star Spangled #48
Star Spangled #48 (September 1945)

Best wishes to Joe Simon on his birthday. Joe is still doing well although he has had a cold that he has not been able to shake for a number of weeks. Even so Joe is still very active. As we saw from his ad proposal Joe has some ongoing projects.

Joe Simon
by Joe Simon
Enlarged view

In honor of this day I post images of Joe’s first published comic art. This was done for his high school newspaper the name of which I unfortunately forget. I cannot say I fully understand the humor, perhaps you had to be going to his school to appreciate it.

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 6, Amazing Man #10

Amazing Man #10
Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) Ranch Dude by Joe Simon

In his book, “The Comic Book Makers”, Joe describes being assigned his first comic book work. It was a seven page western. When Joe first started in the industry he worked on a variety of genre; science fiction, super heroes, crime and jungles stories. But this story in Amazing Man #10 is the only western I am aware of. Ranch Dude is an interesting example of Simon’s early work. I actually think it was one of his best efforts from that period. It has some features that distinguish it from other work by Joe. In Ranch Dude Joe adheres to a strict grid layout to the panels. For all other stories the panel sizes vary so that the gutters trace irregular paths. Also in Amazing Man Simon numbers the pages very simply, while in other stories the page numbers are enclosed, usually in a circle. Finally Ranch Dude is the only work I have seen where Joe makes the “splash” as a single panel no larger then the other panels.

Although cover dated as March, could Ranch Dude have been Simon’s first comic book work? But if it was why would it been kept as inventory for several months? The first published comic book work for Joe have a January cover date (the covers for Keen Detective #17 and Silver Streak #2 and the story “The Tree Men of Uranus”). Ranch Dude is six pages long, not the seven that Joe recalls in his book. But hey the book was written 50 years later, perhaps the page difference is just a memory lapse. My feeling right now is Ranch Dude is likely to be the first comic book work done by Joe Simon. It may be the “first comic book work” but as I said above it was not the “first published comic book work”. Tomorrow I will present the “first published comic work”. With all these subtle but careful phrasing I am beginning to feel like a lawyer!

I showed Ranch Dude to Joe and asked what he thought. He said that the presentation seemed simpler to him then for example the Trojak story in Daring Mystery #2 that came out a month earlier. But unfortunately Joe just could not remember his first work well enough to say if this was that story. In fact Joe said he never saw the published version of that work. He added the comment “who knew”? From previous conversations I took that to mean who knew that comics would last, that Joe would stay in that business or that over 60 years later people would care? However Joe did remember that the villain of the story, Bull Sendach” was named after his roommate in Syracuse Murray Sendach.

Amazing Man #10
Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) Ranch Dude by Joe Simon

If this was Joe’s first comic book art then he adopted his working method right from the start. Compare the shooting man from panel 5 of page 4 with the one on the cover to Keen Detective #17. I cannot say what the source was but this repeated use of the same image show Joe was swiping from someplace. Also add some robes and the man falling on the right of the same panel becomes the Arab shot in Keen Detective #17. Previously I mentioned that Joe seemed to have picked up from Jack the theme of a hero slugging a foe so hard that he sends him flying. I recently showed that Simon used this device prior to meeting Jack. Here is an example at least two months before meeting Kirby, perhaps even four months.

Amazing Man #10
Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) The Iron Skull by Carl Burgos

I really cannot say what were some of Joe’s influences. He shared the Amazing Man Comics #10 with Carl Burgos. Carl did a really great story but I really do not think Simon picked up anything from Carl.

Amazing Man #10
Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) The Amazing Man by Bill Everett

Bill Everett was also in Amazing Man #10 doing both the cover and the feature story. I have to say that at least for these particular works I am not that impressed by Bill. The story by Burgos is better and I like Joe’s first covers much more then the Amazing Man #10 cover. However in the Amazing Man story Bill sometimes draws the eyes and eyebrows in a single angular form similar to the way Joe did. In his book Joe describes having to learn the simpler drawing methods necessary in comics. Perhaps he was given some comics with Bill Everett material in them as examples. Joe says he is not sure whether he met Everett.

Art by Joe Simon, Joe Simon as a Newspaper Staff Artist

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Before Kirby

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 5, Harvey Hits #12

Harvey Hits #12
Harvey Hits #12 (August 1958) by Joe Simon

The S&K publishing attempt, Mainline Comics, had failed. The last titles from this company were published by Charlton but that ended in September 1955 (cover date). Further Simon and Kirby productions would follow but without much success. By 1957 Jack Kirby was doing freelance work for DC (Challengers of the Unknown) and Atlas (Yellow Claw). Still further attempts to reboot S&K followed but no financial jackpots. Although there is some evidence that Joe did some solo editorial work for Harvey, unlike Jack he did not seem to do any art. Perhaps Harvey Hits #12 (August 1958) is Joe’s first standard comic book art since the breakup. I use the term standard because there was an advertisement comic Joe produced earlier. I have also seen a proof marked Harvey Hits #1 but I do not know if it was actually published.

Perhaps it is an unfair comparison because Joe had a larger area to work with, but I feel Joe did a much better job on the Phantom and characters then the artist who did the story inside. The story probably was a reprint of the syndication strips. Joe has combined two different scenes, the fight and the appearance of the four armed lady. This rather odd throw that the Phantom uses comes from the story, but Simon makes it a lot more interesting. He even has the dwarf jump in like some sort of tag team wrestling match.

I rather like the cover that Joe has come up with here. Joe does not have Jack Kirby’s talent (who did?) but he still can do a great job. But it is hard to believe that anyone would mistake this for a Kirby piece. However that is exactly what the Overstreet guide does. Using that as an authority, dealers continually sell this comic because of the Kirby attribution. What do you think, willful ignorance?

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 4, Daring Adventure #16

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 7, The Spirit #12

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 4, Daring Adventure #16

Daring Adventure #16
Daring Adventure #16 (1964) by Joe Simon

Another cover that Joe Simon did for the reprint title Daring Adventure. Joe describes selling former Mainline titles to Isreal Waldman in his book “The Comic Book Makers”. From his description you would think that Super Comics would do rather cheap productions. Actually the comics I have seen were well done. Some of the interior stories are by great artists and in full color. But the covers are not reprints but original art produced for the various titles. Despite the fact that Joe did a number of these covers I do not think he did any covers for titles that included the Mainline features Joe sold to Waldman.

DA #16 shows Dynamic Man attaching an officer (general?) being tied up and threatened by little green men. A fire is present so I suspect the general will also be tortured. This is all being done within sight of some tents and a plane. The flags indicate that this is a US base, but where are the soldiers to protect this unfortunately officer? But no matter, the Dynamic Man jumps in to save the day. A literal interpretation of this enactment would indicate that Dynamic Man is leaping past his adversaries. But as we have seen before, for example in the cover for Target #10 (November 1940), that Simon would position the hero more to improve his prominence then to provide accurate portrayal. Judging from the interior story, Joe has made some mistakes on Dynamic Man’s costume. The gloves are wrong and the boots have the Captain America type of folding over at their tops. But the most glaring discrepancy is due to the colorist, not Joe. Joe provides the proper shorts for Dynamic Man but the colorist has painted the legs blue not flesh color.

This is not a bad cover, just not as interesting as DA #12 or DA #15. I have not seen the covers for DA #13 and #14 but coming between known Simon covers one might suspect that Joe did them also. I had previously felt that Joe also did DA #11 and DA #17 covers. But having restored DA #12, #15 and #16 I am not so sure. I will post on DA #11 and #17 later when I had a chance to think about them some more.

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 2, Daring Adventures #12

Art by Joe Simon, Appendix 5, Harvey Hits #12

The Art of Joe Simon, Appendix 3, Daring Mystery Comics #3

Daring Mystery #3
Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) Trojak by Joe Simon

Joe Simon created the Trojak feature in Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) under the alias of Gregory Sykes. He continued to work on Trojak in Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) but this time signing with his real name. Many of Joe’s mannerisms show up in this story, in particular his method of combining eyebrow and eye as a single angular form. There are differences between issues #2 and #3, particularly in the natives. The natives in DM #2 were clearly swiped, they are similar to some aliens from Silver Streak #2 (January 1940). It is not clear if the natives in DM #3 are swipes or not. As shown in my series The Art of Joe Simon (and certainly well known by many comic historians), swiping was a common technique used by Joe. So although I cannot point out any obvious examples in this story, that does not mean swipes were not used. Joe may just have done a better job integrating them into the story. I do believe we can confidently say that the large tiger head of the splash was copied from somewhere. Still Joe did a marvelous job on it and it is another example of Joe’s fondness for oversize figures and floating heads.

Daring Mystery #3
Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) Trojak by Joe Simon

Compared to DM #2 Joe seems to be advancing in his story telling ability. DM #3 actually contains two stories; Trojak’s efforts against a giant prehistoric beast and his fight against a Nazi army. Previously I discussed the hero slugging a villain on the cover of Champion #8 (June 1940). At that time I attributed this to the influence of Jack Kirby. It seemed a reasonable conclusion since Joe had just met Jack and Kirby became famous for this sort of slugfest. However it seems that conclusion was not correct. Take a look at panel 2 from the page above. Here Joe provides another example of a hero’s hitting with such force that the foe ends up flying. Since DM #3 has an April cover date while the Simon Fox covers start with May, it is unlikely that Joe and Jack have met. I will be providing an even earlier example in a future post.

I have to admit that every time I look at DM #3 I wonder if was correct to conclude that Joe was not responsible for Daring Mystery #4 (May 1940). But when I compare them side by side I always end up convinced that despite some similarities DM #3 and #4 were not done by the same artist. In general I have no problems distinguishing Joe’s penciling for this period. But I worry that Joe’s use of swipes may sometimes end up hiding his involvement. Previously I did not attribute the covers of Champ #22 (September 1942) or Speed #22 (September 1942) to Simon. I felt that they did not match the style of other Joe Simon covers of the period. The Gaven signature (another Simon alias) proved me wrong. Joe’s heavy reliance on swipes for these Harvey covers (particularly for Champ #22) does seem to make it difficult to find Simon traits. So I am concerned that something similar might be happening with DM #4. I plan to make a study of these early works for features other then artistic style to see if they might help to resolve this issue.

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 2, Footnote

Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 3, Working for the Fox

Not Kirby, Adventure #98

Adventure #98
Adventure #98 (October 1945) by Gil Kane?

Recently Tom Morehouse disagreed with my posting that the cover for KO Komics #1 was not done by Kirby. In his comment Tom also added:

Another example of an unfinished Kirby cover left behind and completed by another is Adventure Comics #98. There Kirby drew the “caveman” (who looks a lot like Brooklyn of the BC) and large animal heads but the rest of the cover was done by another (Gil Kane perhaps?).

Adventure #98
Adventure #98 (October 1945) by Gil Kane?

The Jack Kirby Checklist also attributes the caveman to Jack, but does not mention the animal heads. It is hard to say much about these animal heads, at least with any conviction. Jack was even less accurate with his anatomy of animals then he was with people. Still his animals seem to have a real presence. These heads just do not seem to capture that sort of Kirby “life”. But I suppose I would be willing to accept Jack as the artist for the animals if I could agree with attribution of the caveman. I have little doubt that the origin of the running figure was Jack. I just think it was swiped from Kirby and not some unfinished piece by him. The figure looks like it was originally pretty complete. Then why did the inker (who based on other work appears to be the same artist as the penciler) ignore Jacks penciling to provide the botched version of the left hand. Look at the caveman’s ear, it is normal in overall size but has a very fat edge. That type of fat ear is typical of this artist. On the other hand Kirby would not draw fat ears but when viewed from behind like this figure would make excessively large ears (see cover to Adventure #88 below). But even if you are willing place the blame for these faults on a bad inker that would not explain the lower right arm. Here once again we find an artist that has broken the form in a way that Kirby never seemed to do. These sort of errors are more easily explained as a less talented artist doing a swipe from a Kirby figure.

Adventure #88
Adventure #88 (October 1943) by Jack Kirby

I believe Tom is correct in suggesting Gil Kane’s involvement. Normally I would find it hard to accept that such a poor artist (who also did work on other Adventure covers and Sandman stories) was the same as the incredibly talented Gil Kane. But I have heard it said a number of times that Gil started as a rather bad artist and at one point decided to improve himself with rather spectacular results. I have also read interviews where Gil said that he originally worked for S&K and later did some of their features while they were off in the military. So I suspect this really was done by Gil.

Whatever the history of this piece, the finished cover is truly bizarre. What were the bad guys doing hanging onto the animal heads? Why was the caveman wearing a hat? Even more, why was does he seem to take the center stage as the hero, while Sandman and Sandy cower in the lower corner? I usual do not like a cover that does not “tell” a clear story. But this one is such a collection of weird combinations that it has become the comic book equivalent of surrealism. I may not understand what is happening but it still captures my interest. In its goofiness it has become a masterpiece.

Not Kirby, KO #1, Round Three

Star Spangled #7
Star Spangled #7 (April 1942)

Scholar Stan Taylor has added his own comment on the cover to KO Komics #1

I was always under the impression that the KO Komics cover was a swipe from a panel from Star Spangled #7, page 11. The lower left panel. I thought the swiper just redrew the right arm straight.

Unless two pieces of comic art are nearly identical or share some unusual feature, it can sometimes be difficult to be sure if we are dealing with a swipe or not. I provide an image of the panel in question to let the readers decide for themselves. Just scroll down to yesterday’s post to see the KO #1 and the SS #50 images.

Whether or not SS #7 was the original to KO #1 and SS #50, it does provide a good example of how Jack Kirby would handle some features. The first thing to note is the differences of how the figure’s left leg attaches to the hip. My interpretation of Jack’s rendition is that the upper thigh is brought only slightly forward but it is also brought out to the side. This provides a good pose to show the Guardian as crouching away from the light beam. But crouching is not correct for the slugging Guardian for SS #50 and KO #1. Perhaps because of this both show the left thigh brought much more forward and not to the side to provide a pivot for the swing. To me it looks like they made the attachment between hip and leg much too high, particularly in KO #1.

As Tom Morehouse pointed that in SS #50, or the original model sheet if it existed, the lower legs are cut off. When the KO #1 artist drew the legs he broke the form in a way Kirby would never do. This is particularly true with the figure’s left leg. Kirby’s example arcs from the knee to what I interpret as the start of the foot with the ankle just providing a minor deviation on one side. In KO #1 we find a similar arcing leg that suddenly deviates to the opposite direction (the ankle?), then reversing again for a short distance before meeting the foot. The right leg actually shows the same thing just not as exaggerated. But notice that Kirby does not show all of the feet. Could the KO #1 artist misidentified the feet as the ankles and then added feet to that? Actually this might be evidence to support Stan’s impression.

Not Kirby, KO #1 Returns

KO Komics #1
KO #1 (October 1945)

I previously expressed my belief that despite what the Kirby Checklist says the KO #1 cover was not done by Jack. Well Tom Morehouse added a comment to that post giving an opposing view. Tom is a fine Kirby scholar and made some interesting observations.

I have to strongly disagree with you on this one. If you remove the lower legs (knees down) the punch trail, helmet wings and cape what you have is a Kirby rendition of the Guardian from Star Spangled which has been altered in the inking process by a less than adept artist. What this, in all likelihood was originally, is an incomplete cover or model sheet sketch left behind when S & K went to serve in the military. The exact same illo of the Guardian figure, drawn by another artist, can be found in Star Spangled #50 published at around the same time (with a correct punch trail coming from over the shoulder and down as opposed to across). K.O. #1 was produced by Jason Comic Art (JCA), the same shop which would later produce the JC Penney giveaway 48 Famous Americans. It is a stand alone cover as there is no such character in the interior stories In addition to what’s been added, a close examination of the figure’s left hand shows erasure (of the Guardian’s shield). Both Jim Vadaboncouer and I have noted this and although the evidence is circumstantial I think dismissing this as not by Kirby is incorrect although who the other artist is will remain a mystery. It might have been someone working at DC who, knowing S & K were returning soon, took it, “finished” it and sold it to JCA but the original figure was drawn by Jack just never finished. Another example of an unfinished Kirby cover left behind and completed by another is Adventure Comics #98. There Kirby drew the “caveman” (who looks a lot like Brooklyn of the BC) and large animal heads but the rest of the cover was done by another (Gil Kane perhaps?).

Star Spangled #50
Star Spangled #50 (November 1945) panel from page 11 by unidentified artist

Above I provide an image of the panel Tom referred to. There can be no doubt that there is some kind of history connecting these two works. It cannot be a simple swiping one from the other because both comics were published within a month of one another. Yes there is something funny about the hero’s left hand, although I am not so sure that the erasing of the shield would explain it. In fact the KO #1 artist draws the left arm so close to the leg that it is hard to believe that there was room for a shield. That alone makes KO #1 look more like a swipe then an original drawing done by Jack. However the Guardian wore a peculiar helmet and one depicted in KO #1 is a good match once you take away the wings. I have no doubt that Tom is right that KO #1 is based on a drawing of the Guardian. That being the case the connection between SS #50 and KO #1 must be in DC. There are possibilities other then a model sheet that might explain the relationship between these two images. However even if the model sheet theory is accepted that by no means proves Kirby’s involvement. By this time Jack had been in the military for about 2 years and other artists had been involved in working on the Newsboy Legion. A model sheet or cover proposal could easily have been made by an artist other then Jack.

Tom believes that the original model sheet was not completed below the knees. That would explain away my original statement that the legs were clearly not done by Jack. But it would not explain the problems with the upper part of the figure. As I said in my original post, this sort of straight arm swing looks wrong for Kirby. Jack excelled at representation of a slugging hero and used it often, but I can think of no Kirby example like that of KO #1. There are problems with the drawing for the upper part of the figure as well, although they are not as severe as the legs. The hero on KO #1 was given a hunchback. The upper arm is unnaturally short and the lower edge cuts in as it approaches the elbow in a way that breaks the form. The lower arm is excessively long and appears to have a extra joint. Perhaps this is just the artist attempt at doing the gloves but it just looks unnatural. Jack’s anatomy was not accurate and his proportions were often off but he would never make these mistakes in the form. Also examine the fingers on the figures right fist. There is a dramatic decrease in size along the row as the artist attempts, but fails, to depict a natural hand. A famous Kirby mannerism is to draw square fists so he would not have done such a relatively small pinkie. The artist for the SS #50 story is not anywhere near as good as Kirby but even he avoids these errors. These are not just inking errors but display the same lack of understanding that the artist showed on the legs. I am sure the entire figure was drawn by the same artist and that artist was not Jack Kirby. The KO #1 artist swiped from some source that ultimately came from DC, but the straight arm swing convinces me that even the source of the swipe was not Jack.

Providing a connection of KO #1 to the Guardian from the Newsboy Legion does not automatically give a connection to Kirby. The attribution must still rest on the KO #1 art itself. I find that evidence more than sufficient to state that it was not done by Jack Kirby.

In his comment Tom’s also mentions the cover to Adventure #98. I had planned to eventually post on that cover, but this gives me a reason to do it sooner rather then later. So stay tuned!

Wonderworld Ad Proposal

Wonderworld Ad Proposal

I find traces of Joe Simon’s unique humor throughout the Simon and Kirby productions. But it was only when Joe began to produce the magazine Sick that his humor was let free. As you can see from this new advertisement Joe’s brand of comedy has not left him.

The photo is based on one in Joe’s collection. I have previously posted on the comic book artist Ken Riley. Actually a better description for Riley would be an illustrator and sometimes comic book artist. In illustration at the time, an artist would first make a proposal to a client and only if it is accepted produce the actual illustration. So Ken would have his friends act out the pose he wanted and then take a photograph to present to his perspective client. Obviously it was not necessary to get the scene perfectly, I am sure the woman in the final piece was not have Harriet’s expression.

Although you cannot tell if from this photo, the building in the background is a rather unusual one, it had no roof. Harriet Simon loved to sun bath so Joe had it built to provide her with some privacy. The cot you can see inside was the only piece of furniture.

Along with some others, I have been helping Joe with some book proposals. I do not think it would be proper for me to go into details about the project. Besides I believe it is almost like movie deals, you only know a proposal is really going to be done when it has actually been published. I have no idea where Joe got the 1000 figure. When I made a book of the Simon and Kirby covers I believed that including the covers Joe did before meeting Jack there were 386 covers. My opinions on some of these covers has changed but I have also added some Simon covers so the tally is now even slightly larger. If you add covers and stories there maybe a total of about 1200 pieces. But Simon and Kirby was a production studio and if you include work by other artists for that studio a figure about 3400 would be more appropriate. Counting pages of art, instead of just covers and stories, and the count goes over 17,000. If you add in the work Joe produced for Sick the number climbs much higher. I have not inventoried the Sick stuff so I cannot even hazard a guess.