Category Archives: 2006/12

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 4, Enter Joe Simon

Blue Bolt #3
Blue Bolt #3 (August 1940) page 1

Jack Kirby met Joe Simon when the latter became art editor for Fox Comics. I find it interesting that Jack started doing actual comic book work (as opposed to syndication strips) at the same time as Joe’s first cover for Fox (May 1940). Perhaps it is just coincidence or perhaps Joe gave Jack some Fox features and may even had help Jack get work outside Fox (Crash Comics, see previous chapter). In any case it is clear that Joe quickly recognized Jack’s talent. Previously Joe had submitted a feature called Blue Bolt to Funnies Incorporated, a shop run by Lloyd Jaquet. Initially it was not used but later became the basis for a new comic title. Blue Bolt #1 came out with a cover date of June 1940. Joe did all the art for the first Blue Bolt story since it actually was done prior to his starting work at Fox. But for new issues of the comic, Joe got Jack to give him a hand. The feature in issues #2 and #3 are signed by just Joe Simon. However the art was done by both Joe and Jack, working on different pages. Jacks contribution for these issues was rather limited. For BB #2 Jack did pages 1 (except for the splash), 2, 4 and 5 while Joe did the rest of the 10 page story. For BB #3 Jack would do pages 1, 2 and 7. He may also have done page 5 but I am not sure of that.

Blue Bolt #5
Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940) page 1

By issue #4 Jack was doing all the penciling as he would do for all the remaining issues. With issue #5 for the first time we find credits as “Joe Simon and Jack Kirby”. It is only fair that Joe’s name comes first, after all he created the feature. Although Joe and Jack were now working together, I think it would be a mistake to consider them at this stage as equals. Simon was art editor at Fox and after that would have the same title at Timely. People were starting to recognize Kirby’s talent but Jack had yet to have a hit. In any case once established, Simon and Kirby would be the credit order for the rest of their time together.

Blue Bolt #7
Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

One surprising thing about the Blue Bolt title was how few of the covers were done by Joe or Jack. Joe alone did the cover for Blue Bolt #3. The cover for BB #7 was a joint Simon and Kirby effort. The figure of the Blue Bolt was clearly done by Jack. But the flying ships and the earth do not look like Kirby’s work. Similar blimp-like ships (without the wings) can be found on Simon’s pages from Blue Bolt #2. So I believe Joe is responsible for the background art on this cover.

Blue Bolt #10
Blue Bolt #10 (March 1941)

Blue Bolt was a monthly so it provides excellant examples of Kirby’s art as it rapidly improves. It is fortunate that issues #2 to #10 have been reprinted by Verotik Publishing. The book is out of print but can be found on eBay from time to time at a resonable price. Early in the series Kirby’s fight scenes were as awkward as it was in the Blue Beetle syndication. But by Blue Bolt #10 Jack was providing exciting action. The last Simon and Kirby Blue Bolt, issue #10, came out in March, the same month as the first Captain America. But S&K could not have known about how successful Captain America would be when then stopped working on Blue Bolt. Rather I suspect that Joe and Jack were just getting better page rates at that time. Since Blue Bolt was still being handled by Funnies Inc. that shop would get their cut, leaving a lower page rate for S&K.

Champion Comics #9
Champion #9 (July 1940)

While at Fox Jack and Joe also collaborated on some covers for Champion Comics. Joe had previously done the cover for Champion #8. The cover for Champion #9 along with Blue Bolt #2 were the first Simon and Kirby joint efforts (cover dated August 1940). Champion #9 was also Jack’s first comic book cover. It was a good start, Jack’s depiction was already rather unique for the time. Still you can still see some of Joe Simon’s touch in the face of the hero. With the cover for Champion #10 we get all Kirby. Lots of action and exaggerated perspective.

Champion Comics #10
Champion #10 (August 1940)

Green Hornet #9 (October 1942)

Green Hornet #9
Green Hornet #9 (October 1942)

When I started this Simon and Kirby blog one of the first subjects I posted about were the Harvey covers done by Jack and Joe. These comics are rare and generally in poor condition and so these covers are not often seen. But they are some of my favorite covers. I have not forgotten to finish up that series of post, but I do not have access to two of them (Speed #22 and Green Hornet #8) and two others are technically very challenging to restore (Speed #23 and Green Hornet #9). Well I finally have restored GH #9 and I am sure the reader will agree it was worth the effort.

Green Hornet #9 is another of my favorite Harvey covers (along with Champ #19 and #20). Jack Kirby’s touch is all over this one. In it he uses the mirror to great effect. The crook is so started by seeing the Green Hornet in the mirror and has turned so quickly to confront him that his cigar and its reflection still hang in the air. Although the crook is reaching for his gun, the Green Hornet already has the drop on him. However the mirror reveals to us that yet another gun carrying foe is climbing into the room be hind them. This device of a gun carrying foe, or sometimes the hero, sneaking in through a window or door was used by S&K a number of times while working for National. But the thing is, if we can see the crook in the mirror should not the heroes?

Well the cover says “Read the story behind the cover”. This was one of the clever ideas that some of these early Harvey covers used. The text story, required to insure a low cost delivery by the U.S. Post Office, was based on the cover, or perhaps it was the other way around. From the story we learn that the crook by the dresser is the Jackal and the gun carrying foe is Dapper Dan. The key passage reads:

Just as he was gloating over piles of money in his drawers, he heard stealthy steps creep toward him. Instinctively he reached for his automatic and glanced at the mirror. It was the Green Hornet!

“Keep jour hands from that roscoe!” the Green Hornet ordered.

The Jackal scowled and obeyed. But when he looked at the mirror again, his spirits rose. Hefting an automatic, Dapper Dan was coming through the fire escape window.

Dapper Dan was just as visible to the Green Hornet and Kato as he was to the Jackal. Almost unperceived, Kato moved sidewise, and as Dapper Dan set a foot into the apartment, Kato turned around. Then Dapper Dan found himself sailing through the air toward the wall, which he struck hard with his head. He fell on the floor without a groan.

It was jiu-jitsu carried to perfection.

Green Hornet #9
Green Hornet #9 original art

The original art for this cover still exists and it was up for auction by Heritage a few years ago. It reveals there was more to the art that was either covered up by stats (of the “film strip” and the title) or painted out with white-out. The now missing parts are interesting but frankly superfluous. Whoever made the decision to remove them was absolutely correct. The finished cover is much more focused.

Some experts and scholars also attribute part or all of the Green Hornet #10 to Kirby. I presume this is because of the use of a criminal clown similar to that by Jack for Green Hornet #7. But to me this more like swiping. Although it is conceivable that Kirby might return to the idea of a killer clown, I doubt he would have used for GH #10 a costume so similar to that from GH #7. Further the folding of the clown’s costume has a flair unlike how Jack would handle it. The killer clown also shows up for the cover of Speed #21. That cover looks like it was done primarily by Joe Simon and it would not be surprising to find Joe using the same costume. But I do not see Joe’s hand in the art for GH #10. The car, the Green Hornet figure and the overall composition do not remind me of either Jack or Joe. I therefore do not accept Green Hornet as by either Simon or Kirby.

Alex Toth on Mort Meskin

Today I read an article by Alex Toth called “Homage to Mort Meskin: Maestro” that had been published in Robin Snyder’s History of the Comics (April 1992, v. 3, n. 4). Toth provided some interesting observations about Meskin’s talent. I think he was pretty much describing Mort’s work from the 40’s.

What I found most interesting was Alex’s description of the working method that he saw Mort use in the mid 40’s. Mort would use a soft pencil and a lot of smudging to produce an overall gray tone to the entire sheet of paper. Then Mort would use a kneaded eraser to remove gray to produce first the panel borders, then solid white shapes inside the panels including captions and work balloons as well as the figures. Only when he had completely blocked out the entire page did he proceed to use a pencil to provide the details.

This is a very different approach then what Joe Simon describes in his and Jim Simon’s book “The Comic Book Makers”. When Mort first came to work for Simon and Kirby he was unable to produce any pages of art. He was seemingly paralyzed by the blank page. Joe’s solution was to have someone each day put some scribbles of the page. Apparently it was not important what was initially placed on the paper, it was enough to free up Mort’s creative juices.

After the Simon and Kirby shop closed Mort did some work for DC. Presumable the unorthodox working procedure that Simon described changed. I cannot imagine DC editors would care enough to provide Mort with marked up pages.

The closing of Toth’s article about Meskin:

His meaning and intellect were not given the editorial, environmental or fiscal appreciation due him, and so, as in so many other cases in our curious profession, he was distressed enough with it until his only solace was to leave it- and so he did. The loss was ours…

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 3, Moonlighting

Crash Comics #1
Crash Comics #1 (May 1940) The Solar Legion page 3

At the same time Jack Kirby drew his first comic book feature for Fox Comics he also created The Solar Legion for TEM Publishing. Jack did not sign this work, most likely he did not want to draw Victor Fox’s attention to his moonlighting. Work for The Solar Legion is a good match for what Jack did on Cosmic Carson, a good story, lots of action (particularly using spaceships), and good artwork. Kirby continues to use larger and irregularly sized panels. There seems to be a lot more emphasis on long distance views, often in exaggerated perspective, then Jack would use in his later years. The inking is the also the same, the spotting was mostly done to define form and does not play much part in the overall design.

Crash Comics #2
Crash Comics #2 (June 1940) The Solar Legion page 4

One thing Jack was able to do for the first time in The Solar Legion was to draw various monsters. Besides the giant worm in the image above, there was also giant serpent like creature.

Crash Comics #5
Crash Comics #5 (September 1940) The Solar Legion page 4 by unidentified artist

Jack would create Solar Legion stories for the first three issues. Although some sources attribute to Kirby the feature in Crash #4 and #5 this appears to be incorrect. You can see in the image above from issue #5 that the artist tried to imitate Kirby, however with very limited success.

Famous Funnies #74
Famous Funnies #74 (September 1940) Lightin’ and the Lone Rider

July finds the return of Lightin’ and the Lone Ride to Famous Funnies. You may remember that previous installments were, like all the other features in the comic, reprints of syndicate strips. Jack had completed one story line but the second one was neither finished or published. Now when Jack Kirby returns to the Lone Rider he starts an all new story. But this new installment is very different from the previous one. The most obvious is that the story made of three rows of panels. When the story is read it clearly was not made for syndication publication. The plot paces not one strip at a time, but rather one page at a time. This story was clearly made for publication in the comic book. The artwork is much more advance from the first appearance of Lightin’ and the Lone Rider. The Blue Beetle strip art is closest to this later Lone Rider. Particularly in the inking and the use large areas of blacks as part of the design or for depicting a character in silhouette. However the depiction of action it clearly more advance then in the Blue Beetle. This all suggests that the art was started while Jack was still at Fox Comics but not long before he left.

Famous Funnies #76
Famous Funnies #76 (November 1940) Lightin’ and the Lone Rider

Kirby introduces into the Lone Rider story a character type that he would return to, in one form or another, thoughout his career, a small bodied man with a big head. As in the Blue Beetle, Jack has orchestrated an interesting story that he never finished. Jack leaves us completely unclear where he was going, let alone how he would end it.

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 2, Working for Fox

Blue Beetle (2/12/40)
The Blue Beetle (February 12, 1940)
Enlarged image

As some point Jack Kirby began working for Victor Fox, owner of Fox Comics. At Fox Kirby helped to bring to syndication a strip based on one of his comic book features, the Blue Beetle. Normally syndications strips are produced about a week before actual publication. However for a new strip a number of the daily strips would be made ahead of time so that they could be shown to perspective newspaper clients. So while the Blue Beetle strip debuted on January 8, 1940, Jack must have started working for Fox sometime well before that. Jack also did some actual comic book work for Fox that was cover dated as May. Unlike syndication strips, comic book production starts 5 to 6 months before the cover date. This means that Jack must have started at Fox at least by November or December 1939.

Blue Beetle (2/16/40)
The Blue Beetle (February 16, 1940)
Enlarged image

The Blue Beetle was the last syndication work that Jack did, that is until after the war. By this time he had make great progress in both his writing and his art. Jack keeps the story going well so that each daily strip is interesting and advances the storyline. No longer are there any awkward breaks in the pace like we saw in Lightning and the Lone Rider. The changes to his art were even more impressive, both in his ability to give cast members unique characterizations and in how Jack would compose each panel. However Jack’s handling of action was still rather awkward. Kirby did not stay at Fox Comics long enough to complete the story arc but what is there is fascinating reading. Unfortunately if you want to read the entire strip you cannot use “The Comic Strip Jack Kirby” by Greg Theakston that I mentioned in the last chapter. Although the book claims to have “the complete Blue Beetle” in fact one strip (February 23) is absent as it was replaced with a repeat of January 24. If you really want read the entire strip you have to get the CD version of “The Complete Jack Kirby Volume One 1917-1941” also by Theakston.

Mystery Men #10
Mystery Men #10 (May 1940) Wing Turner, page 3

As I mentioned above, Jack also did some comic book work for Fox which were cover dated May. These two Fox features and one for TEM Publications (covered in my next chapter) were Kirby’s first real comic book work. He must have found in liberating after the years of syndication work. Jack experimented with various sized and shaped panels. The panel layouts could become so complicated that at times he needed to add arrows to direct the reading sequence. One feature Jack worked on was Wing Turner. This was signed as Floyd Kelly, but Jack was not using this as an alias. Wing Turner had part of Mystery Men Comics throughout its run. Floyd Kelly was an alias, but it was one for the original artist for this feature. All subsequent artists who worked on this feature, including Jack, were in effect ghosting. Jack’s contribution to Wing Turner is only three pages long. Like a syndication artist, Jack does an interesting story with a great setup for the next month’s installment. But Jack did not return to this feature and another artist continued it, rather poorly. However the issue following that the artist drops the original story line completely.

Science #4
Science #4 (May 1940) Cosmic Carson, page 1

Jack also ghosted as Michael Griffith on Cosmic Carson. I have not seen the earlier installments of this feature, but I be willing to bet they were not as exciting as what Kirby presents. You can tell Jack loves his science fiction. He provides us with a beautiful space pirate, thought controlled “mekkanos”, and an evil giant Martian.

Science #4
Science #4 (May 1940) Cosmic Carson, page 6

Compared to the short Wing Turner, the eight pages for Cosmic Carson must have seemed a lot. But then again Jack preferred to use larger panels, 4 pages have only three panels on them. Jack did the inking for both of these Fox features. With the larger panels, compared to his previous syndication work, Jack was able to use more form spotting on his figures. But we do not find the effective use of large dark areas that Jack used in the Blue Beetle strips.

Besides Jack’s comic book debut, cover date May was also significant in that it marked the appearance of Joe Simon as a cover artist. This was not a coincidence. Previously Fox Comics were produced by the Eisner-Iger shop. But this business relation soured and Victor Fox started his own artist bullpen. Joe Simon was hired as editor and Jack got his chance to do comic book features. After May Kirby would do other comic book work, but not for Fox. This is rather odd as Jack’s work was well above that done be other Fox artists of this time period. When the Simon and Kirby collaboration began the work they produced was not for Fox Comics, I suspect Fox paid too poorly. But that is not a complete explanation because the S&K team up began in July. So what happened for June?

Both Greg Theakston (The Complete Jack Kirby, 1940-1941) and the Jack Kirby Checklist attribute the inking of the Space Smith feature for Fantastic Comics #10 (September 1940) to Jack. Frankly this attribution is rather astonishing to me. The inking in Fantastic #10 is so poor compared to Jack’s work at that time that it is hard to believe he could have been responsible. The splash page for Space Smith is a clear swipe from Kirby’s Cosmic Carson from Science #4 that I show above. To me it is obvious that the artist for Space Smith tried to swipe Kirby’s inking technique as well.

Early Jack Kirby, Chapter 1, Lighting and the Lone Rider

I have previously done a serial post on The Art of Joe Simon. It would be great to produce an outline of Jack Kirby’s art and how it evolved over the years. However the sheer volume of Kirby material makes such an approach impracticable. Although probably not completely accurate, my database shows that between 1942 and 1957 (that is from the start of working for DC until the time Jack started doing freelance work without Joe) Kirby did 5593 pages of art compared to 184 by Simon. To avoid the problem of an over abundance of work I will instead do some serial posts each focusing on particular periods, this one will be on Jack’s early years. As when discussing Joe Simon’s early work, I am faced with limited access to the publications, they are both rare and expensive. But hopefully I can provide enough to give a general idea of Jack’s early work.

Jack Kirby became a staff artist for Lincoln Features Syndicate in 1936 and stayed there until 1939. Most of his strips can be described as comic humor (for example Socko the Seadog, a take-off of Popeye). Jack also did a lot of “real facts” art (for instance Your Health Comes First). Unfortunately I do not have access to any of this work. Those truly interested in this very early work can find it in the recently published “The Comic Strip Jack Kirby” by Greg Theakston. However some of Jack’s syndication work included some strips with more action and, even better, some of these got reprinted in comics. One, Lighting and the Lone Rider was a daily that appeared in January and much of February 1939. This material was reprinted in Famous Funnies #62 to #65 (September to December 1939). Jack used a number of alias during these early years, here he signed them as Lance Kirby.

Famous Funnies #61
Famous Funnies #61 (August 1939) advertisement

Prior to running the strips, Famous Funnies #61 ran a number of advertisements announcing the appearance of the Lone Rider in their next issue. One ad is particularly important in that it took up a full page. Prior to teaming up with Joe Simon, Jack never did any comic book covers. This full page ad is the only thing we have to compare with some of Joe’s early covers. Like a cover this ad was meant to attract readers, although in this case to the purchase of next month’s issue. One would expect great effort to make this ad interesting and exciting as possible. Instead we find a rather lack-luster piece of comic art. Joe’s earliest covers were much more interesting. As we will see below when we examine his story art, it is not a question of Jack’s lacking artistic skill. One possible explanation is that all his previous work on syndication strips just did not prepare him for the challenges of a single larger piece of comic art. Another suggestion is that already at this early stage of his career, Kirby had developed a preference of story telling over cover art.

Famous Funnies #62
Famous Funnies #62 (September 1939)

Daily syndication strips require a different story telling pattern then that found in comic books. Whereas a comic book advances the story page by page generally 9 panels to a page, daily strips must tell the story a strip at a time with usually 4 panels. Further a comic book story is meant to be read in one sitting. A daily strip is read one strip at a time over a period of weeks or months. A strip artist must be careful to keep each day’s installment interesting or risk loosing his audience. Jack uses his first strip to just introduce his characters. Frankly I am not sure this was necessary or even a good idea. It probably would have been better to just get the story going and let the cast show up as required. But most peculiar is that there are two characters, Pepito and Texas, that do not appear in the story that follows.

Famous Funnies #65
Famous Funnies #65 (December 1939)

After the first strip, Jack does a good job of telling his story. To be honest the plot itself a bit unrealistic, but if the readers wanted realism they would not be reading a comic strip! The Lone rider uses his side-kick Diego to lure the old sheriff safely out of the way. Meanwhile he goes off to single-handedly capture Hutch Kruger and his gang. But he does so disguised as the old sheriff so everyone is convinced that the sheriff is the hero. All great stuff but then Jack does something very odd. He has the Lone Rider explain the whole plot to the sheriff. This means that for days at a time the reader is presented with what he already knows. For a daily syndication strip this would be a big mistake. The funny thing is the parts of the story that are flaws for a daily strip just do not have the same effect when you read the entire story at one time. Jack was already beginning to think of stories in a bigger way then a daily strip could adequately handle. As for his writing, even at this early date you can already see Jack’s writing style emerge. Take the last panel with the sheriff question and the Lone Rider’s reply:

But, but why did you do all this?

Sheriff Fletcher, my actions are only answerable to myself!

Jack would use this sort of laconic and enigmatic response throughout his career.

Famous Funnies #64
Famous Funnies #64 (November 1939)

This is not fully developed Kirby art. Fight scenes in particular lack the classic Kirby touch. But even with the small panel size and poor printing quality of Famous Funnies you can see Jack’s talent begin to shine through. Look at the beat-up Hutch in panel 2 of the third strip above, what a miniature masterpiece.

If you remember I said that Kirby introduced two characters, Texas and Pepito, that did not appear in the story. Well The Comic Strip Jack Kirby includes some Lone Rider strips that were never published. In it we find Texas, so in the beginning Jack was already setting things up for next story line. There is also a young boy that Texas calls “little Pete”. At first I thought that Jack had changed his mind about using Pepito so that he changed the character from Diego’s son to that of a rich man. But on reflection it occurred to me that Jack might have been setting up a Prince and the Pauper sort of switch between Peter and Pepito. Unfortunately Jack did not proceed far enough with the story for us to ever know. Although Jack never completed his second story line he did return to do some more work on Lighting and the Lone Rider. But there is a reason I want to discuss that work in another chapter.

Simon and Kirby Meet the Shield

I am doing a guest blog posting tonight at Comics Should Be Good called Simon and Kirby Meet the Shield. Check it out.

Featured Cover, The Sandman #1

The Sandman #1
The Sandman #1 (Winter 1974) by Jack Kirby

This is my last post about Simon and Kirby covers selected as their favorite by participants of my recent contest. I saved this particular one for last because it was, at least for me, the most unexpected. When I think about the Simon and Kirby collaboration I think about the period from when they first teamed up in 1940 until the work they did for the Adventures of the Fly in 1959. There were some S&K work published later like Blast Off and Harvey’s Fighting American. However this was not new truly new work but earlier work that just had not been published before. From 1960 on Joe and Jack had gone their separate ways, that is until Sandman #1 in 1974.

In 1970 Kirby, dissatisfied with his treatment by Marvel, had signed up to work for DC. Here he started to create his New Gods opus. But Jack wanted more then just to draw these comics. He desired to initiate new titles and then hand them over to other artists. What Jack wanted was to produce these comics. In effect to return to the type of business arrangement he had during his collaboration with Joe Simon, but to do this by himself. However Jack was not successful in this endeavor. He never managed to pass the drawing chore to anyone else and worse yet some of his titles were cancelled. Jack continued to work for DC but the arrangement was not the same. Although he still was more then just another artist, he started to receive direction from DC’s Carmine Infantino. It must have been a bitter disappointment for Jack. Even more so when Joe Simon started to also work for DC in an arrangement very much like the one Jack had failed to development. Joe was more then just an editor, he was producing his comics for DC.

With both Joe and Jack now working for DC, it must have been an obvious idea to Carmine to have them team up once again. After all Simon and Kirby had a number of great successes in the past, why not see if they could re-create their old magic? Of course with Jack living in California and Joe in New York, there was no question of the same type of collaboration that they had previously. I have been told that there is a cover proposal for the Sandman drawn by Jerry Grandenetti. If that is true it would suggest that originally Sandman was Joe Simon’s idea as Jerry was one of the artists doing work for Joe. (I have seen another Sandman cover reported to be by Joe Simon, but that is clearly a misattribution because it is not in Joe’s style.) The credits for the comic give Joe as the scripter and Jack as editor and drawer. You can see that the cover for Sandman #1 has a job number, SK-2. The same job number was used on the first page. Well the SK obviously stands for Simon and Kirby. But if that is true why the ‘2’? Does that suggest there was a previous piece of artwork given the job number SK-1?

The Sandman #1
The Sandman #1, unpublished cover by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

There is another version of this cover that was actually inked by Joe Simon. Joe has said that this the original cover that was rejected by DC because of all the “hay” (crosshatching). That may very well be true, but I also wonder if perhaps Jack was unhappy with some of the liberties that Joe took. For instance Jack’s square finger tips were rounded off in Joe’s inking?

With the type of distribution at the time it is hard to be absolutely sure how well comic books really sold. But it appeared, at least to Carmine, that The Sandman had been a big success. However issue #2 had a cover date of April 1975. This suggest that the original was planned as a one shot but that with its success more were published. However succeeding Sandman issues were not Simon and Kirby collaborations. After a brief revival for one issue, the Simon and Kirby team had again ended and would not produce any further comics.

Featured Cover, Adventures of the Fly #1

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (April 1954) by Jack Kirby

One of my contestents in my recent contest picked The Adventures of the Fly #1 as their favorite Simon and Kirby cover. I have previously written about Adventures of the Fly in Chapter 10 of The End of Simon and Kirby. There my main conclusion was that the Fly comics were not true Simon and Kirby productions. Joe seemed the main driving force in constructing these comics and he made use of other artists besides Jack. Having said this I hasten to add that Jack seemed to be primarily responsible for the final appearance of the Fly. The costume is very different from the Silver Spider by C. C. Beck whose story was the basis for the creation of the Fly. Rather the Fly seems largely based on Night Fighter, an unused creation that was probably originally considered for S&K’s publishing company Mainline. Although the origin story for the Fly was largely based on Beck’s penciled version that Joe provided Jack, the other stories Jack did seem to be his own. Included in one was a double page splash. The original art for this wide splash is still in Joe’s personal collection. It a beautiful piece of work with no signs of any cut and paste. That being the case along with the fact that the splash has one extra figure, the cover must somehow be based on the splash.

Joe Simon and Fly splash
Photo of Joe Simon with splash page at Big Apple Con (4/3/04)

As far as I know the original art for the cover no longer exists. This is unfortunate because it might provide hints what method was used to transfer the art from the splash and rearrange it for the cover. As pointed out by Kirby scholar Stan Taylor the Fly comics contain a number of swipes from figures originally drawn by Kirby. Some of the original art for these still exist and clearly they were not done by using stats or any similar photocopying device. However when the line art for the Fly on the cover is compared to the splash page much of the inking, including some rather fine spotting, is the same. There does not appear to be any inking present on the splash that is absent on the cover. On the other hand the cover Fly has some spotting that does not appear on the splash. In particular the outlines have been made thicker on the cover. A lot of the lines for the web and the background do not actually touch the figure. I present a close-up of the cover line art (red) over the splash. The alignment and size adjustment are not perfect but it should give you the idea. From all this I have little doubt that Jack did the splash page, it was inked (not by Kirby), then Joe had some stats made, assembled the cover, and finally retouched and expanded the inking. Joe had previously used stats to help create covers, but for the Fly #1 cover it was a much more intricate procedure.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Part of the splash overlaid with the cover line art (in red)

Featured Cover, Bullseye #5

Bullseye #5
Bullseye #5 (April 1955)

This is another selection made by a participant of my recent Featured Cover Contest as their favorite Simon and Kirby cover. I had provided an image of it before in my serial post The End of Simon and Kirby but it is such a great cover that it warrants repeating. When discussing Boys’ Ranch #4 (see my previous post) I said that all the covers for that title were so good that I would be hard pressed to pick my favorite. Well S&K did a good job on the Bullseye covers but there is no doubt in my mind that issue #5 is the best.

In the origin story we learn that Bullseye got his name not just because of his skill with weapons but because of a target pattern that an Indian foe had branded onto his chest. All but one cover (#6) featured this target pattern prominently as part of the design of the cover. But for issue #5 S&K took it even further by turning the pattern into an Indian theme, as if it was some sort of flattened decorated teepee. Then added to this was one of the dramatic hand-to-hand combats that Jack had ever drawn. Clearly this unique cover is one of Simon and Kirby’s greatest masterpieces.

Boys’ Ranch and the Fighting American were probably the most obvious Simon and Kirby titles to reprint. But beyond a doubt Bullseye is a title that deserves the same honor. An interesting hero, great stories and lots of Kirby. Unfortunately it has not received the treatment that Marvel gave the other mentioned titles. But hey, I have not given up hope that some publisher will recognize what a classic Bullseye was.