Category Archives: 2006/12

Featured Cover, Boys’ Ranch #4

Boys' Ranch #4
Boys’ Ranch (April 1951) by Jack Kirby

I lament so often about the fact that various Simon and Kirby productions have not been reprinted that is nice to be able to write about Boys’ Ranch. Although there are other comics I sure wish would be available again, if I had to pick a single S&K title as most worthy of the reprint honor it would be Boys’ Ranch. Fortunately Marvel already has published it in a nice volume. It is out of print but shows up often on eBay and at comic conventions. It has not gotten too pricey and deserves to be in the library of any Kirby fan. Not all Simon and Kirby productions were actually drawn by Jack as the studio used a number of talented artists. However a lot of Boys’ Ranch truly was penciled by Kirby, although not as much as claimed by many authorities. We can blame the failure of Stuntman and Boy Explorers on the comic glut. The downfall of the Mainline titles can be laid at the anti-comic sentiments among many adults at that time. For Boys’ Ranch we have no similar explanations and we must accept the fact that they just did not sell well enough. That reflects on the times not, in my opinion, the product.

Boys’ Ranch followed the general practice of S&K productions in having Jack Kirby pencil all the covers for the title. As far as I am concerned not a single cover for the title is anything short of a masterpiece. I am not sure how I would manage to pick my favorite, but one of my Featured Cover Contests participants did and he choose issue #4. With a main cast of three boys and an adult it is not an easy achievement to give them all prominence on a cover. But then add some soldiers and Indians to the mix and it might be an insurmountable task for many artists. But Jack was not a typical comic book artist and he overcomes these challenges with such ease as to make the viewer unaware how hard it really is. What exciting action Jack has provided. Although only four Indians are actually presented we are made aware of the fierce struggle that is occurring. One soldier is on his back, obviously seriously wounded, while another continues fighting but is unable to stand. A third soldier in the background has entered hand to hand combat with an Indian foe and appears about to loose. This is all in midst of a cloud of smoke from all the shooting. It all brings to mind Custer’s last battle. Actually in the cover for issue #4 one boy, Dandy, does get special treatment. He appears prominently on the left while the other three form a triangle on the right. Dandy stands pausing from his firing to blow the bugle. This is the reason for his prominence because it is a reference to the story title “The Bugle Blows as Bloody Knife”. Our heroes are defiant but will they face an end similar to Custer? Of course originally you were meant to buy the comic to find out. I will give a subtle hint, the Boys’ Ranch title ran for two more issues.

What is R. Crumb and his publisher thinking?

national crumb
The National Crumb (August 1975)

Let me introduce my post with something that the Simons have released:


R. Crumb’s autobiography, authored by Mr. Crumb and Peter Poplaski, includes the unauthorized use of the cover of a Simon Studio publication from 1975 entitled The National Crumb.

“The National Crumb had nothing to do with R. Crumb,” Joe Simon states.”The publication was produced by my studio and edited by Jim Simon. The team of cover and design artists is prominently displayed on the contents page of The National Crumb but conveniently ignored more than 30 years later and attributed to Mr. Crumb.”

“The cover art of The National Crumb is not by Mr. Crumb and it has no resemblance to Mr. Crumb’s work,” Simon adds. “I do not understand why he is taking credit for it.”

The full page reproduction of The National Crumb in Mr. Crumb’s biography offers no authorship notice, implying it is the work of R. Crumb. The work in also listed in Mr. Crumb’s art index as Crumb’s creation, clearly but falsely indicating the art is by R. Crumb.

Joe Simon–co-creator of the iconic superhero Captain America–and head of the Joe Simon Studio has produced many properties over his long career, ranging from comic books to advertising to political campaign materials to covers for publications such as The New York Times Sunday magazines to the United States Olympics. Satire/parody properties from the Joe Simon Studio include the long-running SICK MAGAZINE, SOMETHING ELSE MAGAZINE, the afore-mentioned THE NATIONAL CRUMB, TEEN-MAN, THE CHRONICLES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINK, HECTOR PROTECTOR, and various paperbacks, annuals, and licensing products going back more than 65 years.

Simon properties have been licensed by major entertainment companies, including Time-Warner/DC Comics, DreamWorks, Batfilms, Marvel Entertainment, Archie Comics, Harvey Famous Worldwide, Hearst Entertainment, and HarperCollins Publishers.

“We are required to constantly keep watch over plagiarism and unauthorized use of our intellectual properties,” notes Jim Simon, who also oversees licensing.

The Simons have retained the law firm of Tedd Kessler, P.C., to protect their rights. The Simons comment that it would be a sad event if two members of The Comic Book Hall of Fame, Joe Simon and R. Crumb, who currently share space in a national museum exhibit, face each other in a court of law.

I have got to say I find this whole thing absolutely bizarre. R. Crumb is a significant and talented artist and I can understand someone trying to copy his style. But the cover to The National Crumb is nothing like that style. Normally when writing about misattributions I try to analyze the work itself, or at least provide examples to support my position. But in this case it just seems so unnecessary.

A new book on Captain America for young adults

The Creation of Captain America

There is a new book out called “The Creation of Captain America” by Thomas Forget. This book is intended for young adults. Hard covered (I think they call it library bound), relatively thin (48 pages including glossary, bibliography and index) with excellent printing. It outlines the creation of Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The cover for Captain America Comics #1 is illustrated but I have to admit I prefer my own restoration. Joe Simon commented on the appearance of Cap #1 was “that cover sure got a lot of traction”. This book provides the history of the Captain America comics story lines from the early days until today. It combines this with some discussion of some social influence on Cap stories, such as the effect of the Vietnam War or Richard Nixon.

Joe Simon had not heard about this book so I brought him a copy. He did have some criticisms. For instance he did not like the use of colored background fields skewed at an angle with the page. He also objected to the use of the word “flopped” when the book talks about some of the early unsuccessful comic book creations. It was not the reporting of these failures that bother Joe, he just felt “flopped” was not a word that he would expect a writer to use. There was one paragraph that Joe particularly liked:

After working with Eisner and Iger, Kurtzberg next worked at Fox Features Syndicate, owned by Victor Fox. While Kurtzberg was working there, a man named Joe Simon came to fill the position of artist and editor. With Simon’s arrival, Captain America’s “parents” were finally joined together.

Joe also commented about the Kirby drawing on the cover feeling that it was a not a good idea to show the back of Cap’s shield. I do not think Joe was really being critical of Jack Kirby’s work. Every time I have heard Joe talk about Jack it was with great admiration of his enormous talent. But when it comes to things like covers Joe always seems to have his own view about how they should be designed. Joe did not dwell on these criticisms, instead he was rather pleased with the book and thought it was a good job.

There was one comment in the book that I asked Joe about. When comparing Joe’s background with Jack’s:

Simon, however, was raised in a middle-class environment.

I have seen similar remarks in other articles and books. Some have even said Joe had gone to college. So I asked Joe if he would describe his early family as middle-class? Joe said absolutely not, in fact during much of his early life their family did not have their own home, living with various relatives instead. Joe said his father (whose name was Harry) was a tailor who did freelanced and sometimes worked as a cutter in factories. His mother’s was a button hole maker by trade. Some considered his father as a troublemaker since he often helped in union organization. On one occasion Harry Simon and Harry’s brother started a factory that made jackets. It was short lived as the brother ran off with the money. Joe said that he never knew the full story but felt there was more to it because his uncle was back in a few months and there was no hard feelings between the two former partners. Once Joe had told me the story that he was a boy scout but his family was too poor to buy the uniform. Instead Harry Simon made one for his son. Joe never went to college, after high school Joe get a job at a newspaper to help support his family. There was one important difference between the Simon’s background compared to that of Kirby. Joe’s parents had immigrated from England and therefore had no problems adjusting to their new homeland’s language. Joe said that it was Jack Kirby that initiated this idea of Joe’s supposedly more affluent early history.

Let me take a momentary diversion to announce a stealth contest. I will not be repeating this announcement. I have a single copy of “The Creation of Captain America” signed by Joe Simon. Anyone interested can email me at hmendryk at yahoo dot com. You know the drill replace the at and dot with the appropriate symbols. In a week I will pick the winner at random.

This book was published by Rosen Publications and is costs $29.95. It is one of six titles for a series called “Action Heroes”. Here are all the titles and links to Amazon:
Captain America
The Fantastic Four
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man

However the web page for Rosen Publications indicates that the Hulk and X-Men books have not been published yet. I have not seen the other titles but the art on the covers to Fantastic Four and the Hulk look like they were done by Jack Kirby. There is no doubt that the Cap book cover is Kirby art.

I find it interesting that these six titles all belong to Marvel. Also that this series is about comic book creations while ABDO Daughters published a similar series on comic book creators. Both series are for younger readers. I do not think this is a coincidence, I am sure Marvel somehow orchestrated this. I do not know about you but when I go to comic book stores or conventions I do not see many youngsters. Although the big money is in the superhero movies and merchandise they spawn, how long can you make those movies if you do not have a comic reading public? Marvel could have published these books themselves but their distribution would be the wrong places. A much better way to reach a young, and more importantly a new, audience is to use publishers that already specialize in that market.

Featured Cover, Foxhole #5

Foxhole #5
Foxhole #5 (April 1954) by Jack Kirby

This was another cover selected by someone in the recent Featured Cover Contest as their favorite Simon and Kirby cover. I have previously commented on the general excellence of Mainline’s Foxhole covers. I noted that these covers particularly showed exceptional coloring and suggested that Simon or Kirby may have been more directly involved in producing the color guides. Foxhole #5 was published by Charlton but shares these characteristics. Although I describe it as a water coloring effect, Foxhole #5 looks like it was actually done by airbrush. Now if the color separation from the color guide was done by a photographic technique, this would suggest that perhaps Joe might have been responsible since he was adept at using the airbrush while Jack was not. However for comic books color separation was usually done by hand by someone at the printers. So the use of airbrush for the coloring of Foxhole #5 was likely not to have been done by Joe.

Foxhole was the only real war genre that Simon and Kirby had produced. I exclude Boy Commandos because that is really more of a kid gang comic. It is regrettable that Mainline had failed as Foxhole along with Bullseye were really exceptional comics. That is not to disparage In Love or Police Trap, but S&K had done a lot of crime and romance work so the loss of those two titles is not as significant. Regrettably the original Foxhole and Bullseye comics are pricey so it is unfortunate that they have not received the sort of reprinting that Boys’ Ranch and Fighting American had. Super Comics did do reprints of both in the 60’s but without the original covers. Some of these are still be found at reasonable prices and are well worth it even if there are not a lot stories actually drawn by Jack Kirby.

Warfront #28 original art
Warfront #28 (January 1956) original art

Although S&K did not produce any war comics other then Foxhole, they were involved in covers for some of Harvey’s Warfront. I have posted on two of these covers (#28 and #29) in a chapter of The End of Simon and Kirby. Some believe that Warfront #30 and #34 were also drawn by Jack Kirby, but I am inclined to disagree. I have seen the original art for #30 and #34 and, like the cover art done by Kirby for Harvey romances, the art was done on Bristol board. This board is rather thin, unlike the thicker Illustration board that were previously used for Simon and Kirby productions. Interestingly the original art for Warfront #28 was also done on Illustration board. Further the art and especially the inking style is much closer to Foxhole and other Mainline comics. Particularly look how the lower leg and both forearms are spotted by large puddles of black that leave just small un-inked areas. Finally the #28 cover depicts a scene from a story called “Hot Box” published in Foxhole #2. Because of this I believe that the art for the cover of Warfront #28 was an originally unused one meant for Foxhole #2.

The red lines on the original art were used to indicate limits to a colored area. The red lines were not supposed to show up as line art on the black plate, but somehow this was ignored when the cover was actually published. The positions of the two right planes and one bullet shell were shifted on the published cover. The brown stain is from rubber cement which suggests that the art once had something pasted in that position.