Category Archives: 2007/02

Foxhole #1, Joe Albistur, John Prentice and Bill Draut

Other then the cover, there is no Kirby art in Foxhole #1. Actually Jack’s output seems to have decreased during the time that Simon and Kirby launched Mainline, their own publishing company. Joe Simon has generally been considered the businessman in their partnership. However I believe the best explanation for Kirby’s decreased page count during this period is that he was also involved in the business end of running Mainline.

Foxhole #1
Foxhole Comics #1 (October 1954) “Brain Wash” page 1 by Joe Albistur

An American soldier becomes a prisoner of war in Korea. His resistance to the Korean efforts to convert him to their political system leads to various sorts of punishment as an example for the rest of the prisoners. Later after the truce is declared, the soldier meets the Korean who inflicted the punishment. And yes I am being a bit vague in order to avoid spoiling the story in case you ever have a chance to read it. This, like most stories in Foxhole, was unsigned and credit boxes did not appear until issue #3. I believe the artist was Joe Albistur (and here). Currently I suspect that Joe was actually Joaquin and was from Argentina. Now this might seem to violate the basic premise that the stories were told by veterans. Apparently this meant either the writer or the artist had served. Jack Oleck was a writer commonly used by S&K and Oleck had performed his military service during WWII

Joe Albistur only worked for S&K during this period when the Mainline/Charlton titles were being done. He shows up in those titles and in the Prize romances and seems to have taken up the slack from Jack Kirby whose artistic contributions were at a low during this period.

Foxhole #1
Foxhole Comics #1 (October 1954) “Eight Ball Hero” page 4 by John Prentice

“Eight Ball Hero” is a story of a soldier about to get a medal. While waiting for the presentation event, an army newspaper reporter asks around about the hero. It seems that everyone he talks to expresses surprise. In their opinion the only thing the hero was good for was griping about the army. As the reporter asks around he gets the story of what the soldier did to deserve the medal. No question about it the soldier was a hero. However his motivation was not what would be expected of a hero.

John Prentice is one of a trio that I refer to as the usual suspects. I gave them that name because they played such a prominent part in Simon and Kirby productions. Most of what John did for S&K was romance work so it is nice to seem him in a action story. Not that I have not seen it before. I previously posted about his contribution to Bullseye. Although Nick Caputo has pointed out there seems to be some Kirby involvement. I particularly suspect Jack may have been involved in doing layouts for Prentice’s Bullseye work. Another example of Prentice doing action was the cover for Young Love #55. In this case I do not believe John was working from Kirby layouts. The actions scenes for “Eight Ball Hero” do not seem as well done as those by say Bill Draut. Although on a whole Prentice does an excellent job of telling the story. John has a real smooth realistic style and he really captures the hero’s attitude. John was already in the service at the start of the war. He stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by Japan.

Foxhole #1
Foxhole Comics #1 (October 1954) “Fruit Salad” page 1 by Bill Draut

When starting to read “Fruit Salad” one might get the idea that the story would have been better placed in Young Romance. This might especially seem appropriate because the artist is Bill Draut who did so much romance work for S&K. The story is about an American air force man who picks up two English ladies and takes them for a night spent with a friend. The story is told by one of the ladies who becomes unhappy when she becomes paired up with the friend. She finds the one they first met as courageous and fun while she judges her partner for the evening as rather morose. Like I said it sure sounds like a romance. But then an air raid reveals the true nature of the relationship between the two air force men and the lady’s opinion about the one she was paired with is changed. This is a great example of why I find the Foxhole so interesting. It is a war story told not during a battle but while on R&R. It is about the affects of the war on those who serve and what courage really means.

Foxhole #1
Foxhole Comics #1 (October 1954) “Casualty” page 1 by Bill Walton

One other story from Foxhole #1 is “Casualty” by Bill Walton. The story is about a navy man who whines all the time and on the day covered by the story is convinced that something dreadful will happen to him. His ship is attacked and in the ensuing battle the group the seaman belongs to gets hit. But rescue comes and we later learn the fate of our man. I have to say this is not one of my favorite stories from Foxhole. The art by Bill is okay but he is not one of the better artists from the title. The story tries to provide interest and a surprise ending but does not really deliver. I do not want to make it sound that “Casualty” is bad, it just not as good as most stories from Foxhole. But even in this story you can tell an attempt has been made not to provide a run of the mill war story.

“Casualty” is the only story in Foxhole that was signed by the artist. It was signed as “Bill Walton, USNR”.

Coming Attractions

I have been very busy scanning and restoring Foxhole comics. So you next week you can expect something on that sadly neglected Simon and Kirby title. Unfortunately I failed to find time to do the scans I need to complete my Early Jack Kirby serial post so that will be delayed for a couple of weeks. But next week I also hope to post on an Astonishing Jack Kirby story. Also a curious Joe Simon and Jim Steranko connection, not historically significant but one I did not see coming.

This entering posts only on the weekend seems to be working well for me. In fact I may be doing about the same amount of blogging, I just post what I have done at one time. The only drawback is that recent posts may actually get scrolled to the next blog page. This seems to have happened to my Foxhole #1 post, so be sure you do not miss it.

Ben Oda

Ben Oda
Ben Oda

There are a lot of comic book blogs and I do not have much spare time. So I probably have visited only a small fraction of them. I have taken a clue from Google and check out blogs and web pages that link to me. I figure I might find something interesting from someone who has found something in my blog. Well one such link was from Brian Hayes’ The Hayfamzone Blog. While going though his archives I came across his post The Great Ben Oda.

Well it is just great to see someone write about Ben Oda. As Brian says, Ben Oda worked many years for Simon and Kirby. There is not much more I can add to that but I thought I would share a couple of photographs. The one above shows Ben in his car. Ben was a hard worker but judging from his car I would say he did quite nicely. Joe Simon once told me how proud Ben was about his car. The photograph below shows Nishi Oda (Ben’s wife), Harriet Simon (Joe’s wife) and Ben. Joe once told me that Nishi also did lettering.

Nishi Oda, Harriet Simon and Ben Oda
Nishi Oda, Harriet Simon and Ben Oda

Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, and the Kirby Connection

Usagi Yojimbo #100
Panel from Usagi Yojimbo #100

I have found that many Kirby fans do not read current comic books. It is an attitude that I frankly neither understand nor share. Granted the days are long gone when you could pick up any Marvel comic and be pretty sure of a good read. When I was young my brother and I would buy Marvel’s entire superhero line and Sgt. Fury. Today I suspect anyone on a allowance would not be able to afford to do the same thing. Heck even though adult readers might be able to afford to buy the entire Marvel line would they really want to?

Nonetheless there are still good comics being made (some of them even by Marvel). Often you have to go out of the standard superhero genre. One of my favorites is Usagi Yojimbo written and drawn by Stan Sakai. One might think a comic about a samurai rabbit is as far from Kirby as one could get. One might think that but one would be wrong. Every so often Stan does a pose that reminds me of Jack. I think Jack would approve. I have read comments by Jack that artist can learn things from his work but that they should express them in their own style.

Recently the Usagi Yojimbo #100 issue came out. Not a bad run for an artist especially when you consider that this is the hundredth Dark Horse issue. Usagi had a pretty good history before Dark Horse, they say totally it amounts to 160 issues. Stan and Dark Horse decided to celebrate the event anyway and put together a special celebration. This particular issue is the type of comic only a fan would enjoy, but if you are a fan it is a lot of fun. I particularly got a kick out of a panel that I show at the start of this post. Was this a sort of composite portrait of the standard Kirby fan drawn as a rabbit? I purposely left out the credits with the image. This panel is from a few pages drawn by Scott Shaw! and written by Mark Evanier. Yes that Evanier, former Kirby assistant and renown comic scholar. Stan Sakai (lettering) and Mark Evanier (writing) have a long history together with Sergio Aragones (art) working on a comic called Groo. I guess comics must be a small world since you do not need six degrees to connect Stan Sakai to Jack Kirby. You just need Mark Evanier.

Simon and Kirby’s Office, LOL

Comic Book Creators, Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby from “Comic Book Creators, Jack Kirby” by Sue Hamilton

I finally got my copy of Sue Hamilton’s “Comic Book Creators, Jack Kirby”. The delay was my fault I had both taken my time in ordering it and tied the order with another book that had not been released yet. Anyway I previously posted on this book. It was written for young adults but I knew it had some nice photos in it so I wanted a copy. I have not read it yet but I did notice one inaccuracy. This comes after a description of Jack meeting Joe at Fox Comics and asking Joe for freelance work to supplement his income from Fox:

Together Jacob and Joe rented a one-room office. They began working nights and weekends on such comics as The Blue Beetle”.

Well both Jack and Joe did work on the Blue Beetle but not at the freelance office. The Blue Beetle belonged to Fox Comics. At Fox Jack was drawing the syndication strip while Joe was editor and cover artist for the comic book version. Yes it is a small detail but it shows that the book was not written by someone not familiar with comic book history.

Still the book has some very nice photographs of a younger Jack and actually that was why I bought it. While looking through them I stopped at the one I show above and had to laugh. The caption was:

Jack Kirby proofing comic book covers in his office in 1949.

The reason I found this funny was that recently I had scan a photograph of Joe Simon at a desk (see below). Joe commented that they never had their own office and he had used Teddy Epstein’s office for the photo. Teddy was one of the owners of Prize Comics. So without a doubt Jack had done the same thing. I cannot blame Hamilton for this small mistake. After all I would have made the same error had not Joe not made his comment. Because seeing is believing we mistakenly judge photographs as objective evidence. As shown by these photos, and especially today with Photoshop, care most always be taken when using a photograph.

The two photographs were taken at either different locations or different times. The two photos have dissimilar desk arrangements and the items being examined are not the same. Jack is looking at some cover proofs. I cannot made out two of them but ones I can read are Young Love and Young Romance. The YL one is issue #5 (October 1949). The YR is a bit of a mystery as I have not been able to identify the issue. I wonder if it ever actually got published? Joe is looking at Headline, Young Romance and Justice Traps the Guilty comic books. Two of these I cannot make out but the YR is issue #2 (November 1947).

Joe Simon
Joe Simon

Featured Cover, Boys’ Ranch #2

Boys' Ranch #2
Boys’ Ranch #2 (December 1950) by Jack Kirby

I have to admit that Boys’ Ranch along with Fighting American get short shift here in the Simon and Kirby blog. This is not because I feel that they are inferior work, quite the contrary. Much of what appears in this blog are the result of scanning and restoration work that I have been doing. I want to restore all the Simon and Kirby work. In all honestly it will be a long time, if ever, for such an effort to be completed. Boys’ Ranch and Fighting American have already been reprinted by Marvel, therefore they are low on my list of scanning to be done. I do have a particular love for Simon and Kirby covers and I take particular care in cover restorations. So you can expect that from time to time I will post on Boys’ Ranch and Fighting American covers.

Actually the covers from Boys’ Ranch are special in that all are really great covers. This is pretty unusual for Simon and Kirby productions. Well I guess you can say that all the Stuntman and Boy Explorers covers are all really fine but those were really short lived titles. Fighting American, Foxhole, Bulls Eye, Police Trap and In Love had great covers but the final covers just were not the same quality as the initial ones. The reason for the short comings of the final covers for these titles is that they were done when the Simon and Kirby studio was going through difficult times and would shortly disband. Because it was produced in the middle of the Simon and Kirby collaboration, Boys’ Ranch did not suffer from that problem.

The cover for Boys’ Ranch #2 puts special emphasis on Dandy and Clay Duncan but Angel and Wabash play their part as well. As first glance it might appear that we are looking at one moment in time, sort of like an illustration of a snap-shot. That however cannot be farther from the truth. The text in the balloons indicate that our heroes have been waiting to catch some cattle rustlers. Dandy has announced the arrival of the rustlers and is in the middle of rising up to fire his rifle. Clay has already begun firing. I am not quite sure about Angel. He appears to be rising up like Dandy but on the other hand is that smoke coming out of his right pistol? Wabash sits as if he is still waiting with no sign that he is even aware that their quarry has arrived. Although Clay may be in the midst of firing the first shot their prey has already returned fire with the bullet ricocheting off the rocks at Dandy and Clay’s feet.

Boys’ Ranch was published by Harvey and Joe Simon has said that S&K did not do the coloring for the comics they produced. Well whoever the colorist was he did a particularly nice job here. I especially like the use of graduated tones and highlights on Dandy and Clay Duncan. The red background grades to yellow near the horizon. This gives the impression of an approaching dawn and that our gang has been waiting all night. The colorist has shown in the left foreground that he is quite capable of effectively coloring rock formations. However he has wisely chosen to color the background rocks a neutral grey so that all our heroes stand out. Jack Kirby drew a great cover and the colorist made it even better.

Featured Cover, Foxhole Comics #1

Foxhole #1
Foxhole Comics #1 (October 1954) by Jack Kirby

I guess you can expect that some of my posts in the near future will be based on Foxhole. I am currently restoring the contents of this Mainline and then Charlton title. As I do so I am reminded just how great these comics are. Like I said in a recent comment, I believe that Foxhole is a sadly neglected Simon and Kirby masterpiece. The original comics have become rather pricey and the Super Comics reprints are not that easy to find. It would seem that Foxhole really deserves to be collected together in a reprint volume. Their only drawback is that there is not a lot of Kirby art in them, although what is there is quite good. However the other artists that work for S&K are at their best.

The premise behind Foxhole was that the stories were told by men who had actually served during a war. This does not mean that the stories were realistic, this was the ’50s after all. What you do get are features that are not your typical war stories. You might think when starting to read a story that it was something more appropriate for Black Magic or Young Romance. Then the story will take an unexpected turn and you realize that it really does belong in Foxhole. Most stories are rather short, usually five to seven pages long. But despite their brevity the stories still do not seem rushed. Kirby drew one story that had only two pages and it was still great.

The Foxhole covers were all done by Jack Kirby (but these were not used for the Super Comic reprints). Well that is except for Foxhole #7 which frankly does not seem to have anything to do with Simon and Kirby as none of the included artists worked for them. As I have previously discussed, I find these Foxhole covers just incredible pieces of comic book art, some of Jack’s best work. That is except for the Foxhole #6 which is one of those rare examples of a boring Jack Kirby cover.

The cover for Foxhole #1 is not quite like the other Kirby masterpieces Foxhole #2, #3, #4, or #5. This is largely because it has been shown, by I believe Tom Morehouse, to be a swipe from a painting. But you can understand why S&K choose this painting to copy from, it certainly is a striking image. The wounded soldier writing a letter on a beach with medics aiding a casualty in the background along with some other warriors lying face down beyond the need of any medical attention. It is fortunate that the Comic Code had not yet begun, because I am sure this cover would not have passed their censure. Despite the adverse publicity some of their comics received after the publication of “The Seduction of the Innocents”, Simon and Kirby generally did not have problems with the Comic Code. But there was one the original cover for Foxhole #4 featuring a dead soldier hanging upside down from a tree that the Comic Code rejected and was never published.

Foxhole #1
Foxhole #1 (October 1954) “A Day at the Beach” by unknown artist

I have not had the time to find the original article showing the source that this cover was swiped from (I do so need an index for the Jack Kirby Collector). It would be interesting to see if that source somehow provided the theme “A Day at the Beach”. That was the title used for the story that the cover was based on. Or was it the story that was based on the cover? In any case the story was drawn by another artist. I am not sure who the artist was but I wish S&K had picked someone better. It is not that the artist was bad it is just that most of the artists used in this title were so much better and the story really deserves a superior artist.

It has often been said that Kirby did layouts for the artists that worked for the S&K shop. I do not completely deny this as a possibility. On the other hand I do think it is necessary to make comparisons between a particular piece and contemporary work drawn by Kirby. Had Jack done a layout you would expect to see similar visual techniques used in telling the story. An artist might swipe a particular figure or even a panel from Kirby, but any similarity to Jack’s work that stretches over a number of panels is more likely to be due to the use of layouts. I have been making these comparisons as I restore the Foxhole comics and so far I have found nothing that suggests that Foxhole stories were done by artists working from Kirby layouts. This is most obvious in the action scenes such as the one I show above. I will return to this topic in my next Foxhole post where I will provide further examples including some drawn by Jack.

“A Day at the Beach” is a well written script based on the premise of a soldier writing to his mother. The irony of how the soldier describes to her what he is doing compared to what is actually occurring is nicely done. He is trying to convince her that he is safe but we know that he is anything but that. At the end of this story we see our hero marching off with his company in the direction pointed to by a road sign for Anzio. It is interesting that the writer of this story felt that such a simple reference would be sufficient for the readers. Even though those readers would have been too young to remember the actual events, I am sure the writer was correct to believe they would know about Anzio. Now after Korea, Vietnam and two Gulf wars I am not confident that many would recognize the name. I am ashamed to admit that although the name Anzio was familiar to me, I had to look up on the Internet to find out what it was about. Anzio was a controversial campaign by the Allies in Italy during World War II. Casualties were very high and not much ground was take. However the Germans were forced to divert much of their resources from the other Italian front and thus Anzio did help to bring an earlier end to the Italian campaign.