Category Archives: 2007/12

Fletcher Hanks, Forgotten Genius?

I will be right up front about it, this post is about a comic book artist who has at best a tenuous connection to the subject matter of this blog, which is Simon and Kirby. There is a link to Simon and Kirby because some of the Fletcher’s work was published by Fox Comics from December 1939 to March 1941, which overlaps the period when Joe Simon was Fox’s editor (May to July 1940). As I am sure the reader will see, there really is little to suggest that there was any influence in either direction between Fletcher Hanks and Joe Simon or Jack Kirby.

Unless my readers have seen the recent book “I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!” edited by Paul Karasik, I suspect they will be wondering who the heck is Fletcher Hanks? That certainly was my reaction when I first saw Karasik’s book. As mentioned above, Hanks worked during the early years of the comic book industry, and he did so only on backup stories for smaller publishers. None of the features he created and worked on every achieved anything close to prominence. That explains the forgotten from the title for this post, but the genius part? Well Paul Karasik has described Hanks as “utter, utter genius”, a “visionary genius” and “one of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th century”. High praise indeed, but is it justified?

Fantastic #6
Fantastic Comics #6 (May 1940) The Super Wizard Stardust page 2, by Fletcher Hanks

At a glance, Fletcher’s work might be overlooked as just another of the numerous artists who plied their trade during the earlier part of the golden age of comic. Like many of these artists, Hanks drawing is crude with minimal background detailing. This is a misleading impression, a more careful examination reveals with startling and haunting imagery. A giant spider attaching an elephant, the human race rocketing into space as earth’s gravity has been disabled, a superheroine’s beautiful face transforming into one with hideous skull like features. Again and again Hanks shows a vision that is startling and unique. Some of his other forgotten peers have their moments, but none of them as consistent as Fletcher Hanks.

Fantastic #7
Fantastic Comics #7 (June 1940) The Super Wizard Stardust page 2, by Fletcher Hanks

Even the stories Hanks presents are different form others of the period. The standard hero plot could be summarized as bad guys start executing some diabolical plot, the good guy arrives to save the day and the hero leaves the defeated bad guys for the authorities to handle. Fletcher’s plot summary would be: the hero detects the bad guys plotting, the bad guys unleashed plans have devastating results until the hero arrives to save the day and personally submit the bad guys to some unusual punishment. Hanks’ plotting is therefore refreshingly different, but unfortunately his repetitious use dulls its effectiveness. Fletcher rigid adherence to this plot line sometimes becomes perplexingly illogical. In the Stardust feature the hero resides on a distant star so while his unique monitoring allows him detect the nefarious plots as they are being planned he must still travel great distances to reach earth. This explains why the evil plans are initiated before Stardust can arrive to set things right. Another of his features was Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle. She also seems able to detect the plans of evil doers, yet despite her great powers and more local presence never seems to stop those plans before they begin. Hanks’ commitment to his standard plot seems so steadfast that he is unable to avoid such illogical story lines. The only way Fletcher seems to be able to break out of his standard plot is when certain elements are simply not appropriate for his hero. One story in the book is about a lumberjack, for such a more human hero there can be no possibility of using special devices to overhear the villain’s planning, it would not be appropriate for the hero to use fantastic powers to overcome the enemy, nor should an unusual retribution play a part, and so Hanks’ lumberman story becomes the more standard hero plot.

Fantastic #8
Fantastic Comics #8 (July 1940) The Super Wizard Stardust page 2, by Fletcher Hanks

The features that constitute most of Fletcher Hanks’ oeuvre are the Stardust and Fantomah stories that were mentioned above. These heroes have such great powers that the defeat of the enemy is never in question. This was a problem with Superman as well, and once people see these superheroes can do, one wonders why any bad guy would even consider risking crossing their path. Stardust and Fantomah are so powerful that they are not really human but demigods instead. With such a godlike nature it is small wonder that they deal out punishment themselves. And what punishment, it would seem that Fletcher spent as much time devising the punishment as he did on the crime itself. The punishment becomes one of the most rewarding aspects of Hanks’ story telling.

There is much that I have praised about Fletcher Hanks in what I have written above, so do I consider him a genius? Not at all, not even close. I reserve my greatest praise for those who wield their art to provide things that amaze me and yet always seem to remain in control of their talent. For instance, Jack Kirby’s art seems fueled with a wild creative force that drives him to excellence. But no matter how close to the surface that wild urge comes, I always feel it is Jack in control of his creative force and not the other way around. This is not the case for Fletcher Hanks. Although some aspects of his art are very imaginative, for other things, such as his plotting, Hanks seems unable to break out of the most obvious constraints. Some of the impact his most startling illustrations is derived from the repeated use of certain elements. The minimalist artists have shown that such repetition can be visually very powerful. But such repetition also reminds me of the work of Charles Crumb, Robert’s brother. Charles’ work is disturbing, when viewed it is quickly apparent that it is the work of a disturbed mind. Charles Crumb’s use of repeating elements seem more the result of a compelling obsession rather then something that he had any control over. I find a similar effect, although to a lesser extent, in Fletcher Hanks’ art as well. Paul Karasik’s research has provided the clue to help with the explanation, Fletcher Hanks was an abusive alcoholic. I once knew a man with what I judge to have been a similar personality. The man’s abuse was never directed at me, almost certainly because my father was one of the few individuals he feared. The man I am recalling was not an artist but he had an amazing mind. When he was not in a mean mode he was a fascinating person to talk to. Some of his concepts were quite brilliant although perhaps not always true. Like Hanks, certain of his thinking seemed trapped in ways that I think were clear to others but I am sure he never truly understood. He could no more escape them then he could the alcohol that lead to so much misery for the people around him. Would I have made the association between Fletcher Hanks’ alcoholism and his art if Karasik had not revealed it? I do not know, but now that the link has been made I cannot banish it.

There is one aspect of Karasik’s comments about Hanks that really bothers me. Karasik puts much emphasis on the fact that Hanks’ did all the work himself; the writing, drawing, inking and lettering. He is critical of the “assembly line” method he ascribes to most of comic book work where these different jobs were executed by different individuals. This concept that all the truly great artists are those who create the work by themselves can be found in the fine arts as well, but it is by no means a universal opinion. Although I recognize the importance an artist own hand may bring to a work of art, I am unwilling to limit my esteem to such art. To do so would mean rejecting things such as Japanese wood block prints or even Renaissance painting. What bothers me is not so much as the difference of opinion about this subject between Karasik and myself, as much as how it demonstrates Karasik’s ignorance of comic book history. The fact is during the time Hanks worked on comics it was not at all unusual for the creator to perform all creative aspects. At the start of the boom that followed the release of Superman with Action Comics #1, it was the norm for an artist to write, draw, ink and letters a story himself. The earliest work by Jack Kirby or Joe Simon was done this way as well. The only difference for Fletcher was that he was not working in comics afterwards when the single writer/artist became the exception not the rule.

I may not consider Fetcher Hanks a genius, but I agree with Karasik that his work should not be enjoyed as some sort of campy entertainment. It is powerful stuff and quite worthy of being read. Karasik has done a great service in raising Fletcher Hanks from forgotten obscurity, I fully recommend “I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets”. At $20 it is a steal, the original comics are so rare that I doubt you could find a single one of them, no matter how beat up, at that price. The contents are not at all cheap. The stories are nicely restored scans from original comics using a technique to clean them up that is similar (if not identical) to the one I use. The results are printed on flat paper and are absolutely gorgeous. I think they are better done then the “Terry and the Pirates” reprint that I recently positively commented on. I have long felt that this was the way to reprint old comic material. I wonder if Marvel and DC will ever wake up abandon their method of bleaching and recoloring.

There is a special bonus found in this book, Paul Karasik provides an afterword about Fletcher Hanks. Not your ordinary afterword, but a graphic story instead about Karasik’s research of Fletcher Hanks and what he learns. It is a well written and drawn short story that is almost worth the price of the book by itself. Karasik has admitted to not being very productive but this afterword indicates that is not due to a lack of talent. I intend to try to locate some of his earlier efforts and hope he exerts himself more as a graphic storyteller in the future.

The Milton Caniff Connection

In 1934 Captain Joseph Patterson offered Milton Caniff the opportunity to create an adventure strip for syndication. Milton had been on salary working for Associated Press, now he would have a share in the profits his strip would generate. But the strip would not truly be his, as was customary at the time Caniff’s creation would actually be owned by Patterson’s syndicate. The strip was named Terry and the Pirates and it became very popular. Milton had free reign, Patterson respected Caniff’s capability and never exercised any editorial control of the comic strip. That is until Milt introduced the Japanese into his story. Caniff wanted Terry and the Pirates to be realistic. Since the story was located in China, after their invasion of that country it made sense for the Japanese to be a part of the story. Captain Patterson however was an isolationist and he ordered Milton to keep the Japanese out of Terry and the Pirates. Since Patterson’s syndicate was the true owner of Terry, Milton had no choice but to submit to this demand. Patterson’s isolationism, like that of many other Americans, would change a very short time later when Japan attached Pearl Harbor. Caniff no longer faced opposition and the real war would enter Terry and the Pirates.

Editorial interference was not the only problem Caniff faced due to his contractual arrangement for Terry and the Pirates. Milton had phlebitis, a condition where at any time a blood clot might form in his leg and then travel to another part of his body resulting in death. With care this might never happen but it was a possibility that could neither be eliminated nor predicted. There was little chance that Patterson would ever remove Caniff as the artist for Terry and the Pirates, but if Milt died all money from the strip would stop, leaving his wife without any source of income.

Terry and the Pirates was a very successful strip, in no small part due to Caniff’s injection of the real world into the story. Polls indicated Terry’s popularity, but they showed that the strip was not the most popular one. However the polls did not tell the full story and there is little doubt that Milton Caniff was the most followed cartoonist during the war years. This was due not only to Terry and the Pirates but also because of Male Call, a strip that Caniff produced for the armed service newspapers. Male Call was a bit too risque for family newspapers but was recognized as a great morale boaster for the men in our military forces.

After the war Caniff was approached by Marshall Field III who asked what sort of deal would entice him to leave Terry and the Pirates and create a new strip? Milton was very happy with his present financial status but questions of editorial control and security for his wife were still concerns. Caniff’s reply to Marshall’s question was simple, Milt wanted complete ownership of the strip. This was an unheard of demand, but Field did not hesitate to accept it. A deal was quickly reached that would be very rewarding for Caniff. Unfortunately Caniff still had nearly two years to go on his contract with Patterson. While that contract was in effect anything Caniff drew could be considered the property of Patterson. This left Field in the unusual position of trying to get newspapers to sign on without anything to show, not even the subject or name of the new strip. Based solely on Milton Caniff’s reputation, Field’s sales force managed to sign up 144 newspapers. All of this brought a lot of media attention and public interest as to what Caniff’s new strip would be like.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had special reason to be reminded of Milton Caniff. Shortly after the war Simon and Kirby had produced some new comics (Stuntman and Boy Explorers) for Harvey comics. These new titles suffered a quick death due to the glut of comics that were released once wartime paper restrictions had been lifted. With so much to choose from newsstands would provide rack space only for those titles with good recognition, new comics were out of luck. Harvey felt he had the answer to that problem, create a new title using a popular syndication strip. Not only did this provide instant recognition, only the cover art needed be made and the strips rearranged to fit the comic book format. This had been a successful approach for Harvey in the past with Joe Palooka and he now tried it with Terry and the Pirates. Joe and Jack would surely be aware of this not only because they were good friends with Al Harvey, but also because one of their Boy Explorers stories (“The Isle Where Women Rule”) would appear in the initial issues of Terry and the Pirates.

Caniff’s Steve Canyon premier in the weekly papers starting on January 13, 1947. Milt’s opened with an unusual gambit, the title character never makes an appearance throughout the entire week. The most we get to see of him is a portrait photograph that is handled by some of the story characters. The week’s story shows the representative of a wealthy and beautiful businesswoman attempting to meet Steve Canyon to hire him for an unspecified job. Canyon finally makes an appearance in the following Sunday strip, but for the first half of it we do not get to see his face. For Sunday we find Steve walking to his office. Upon arrival he is informed about the representative’s visit. Steve telephones him and effectively declines the job. Only an artist assured of his audience and his own talent would introduce a strip with such a slow buildup. But Caniff is the consummate strip artist and the introduction is anything but boring. It builds on the audience’s anticipation while providing an introduction to all the principals of the first story arc. The reader also learns that Canyon has an air transport business that is not very financially successful. The existing business acumen seems to be provided by his young secretary, a beautiful south Pacific woman.

Airboy Comics vol. 4 num. 5
Airboy Comics v4 #5 (June 1947) “The Flying Fool”, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby would debut a new feature in Hillman Publication’s June issue of Airboy Comics called the Flying Fool. The introduction begins with the arrival of some shady Chinese characters to the office of a flight service. They tell the beautiful Chinese secretary that they are seeking her boss for a business proposition. That boss, Link Thorne, arrives to find that the proposition is that a rival, Riot O’Hara, wants to take over Thorne’s business. A fight ensues and although he is out numbered, Link Thorne is the winner. Furious Link decides to pay Riot O’Hara an unannounced visit only to discover that she is a beautiful woman. The parallels of this story to Caniff’s Steve Canyon are pretty apparent. Both feature a talented pilot with an independent streak who has a small and not very successful air transport business. Both heroes’ independence nature leads them to reject a proposal from beautiful but ruthless businesswomen. Even the stories have a similar beginning where the businesswomens’ representatives arrive at the air transport offices but do not initially find the owners. There are differences, while Steve Canyon’s office is in an American city Link’s is in China. But that difference is not that significant because Caniff’s previous strip also took place in China. More important is the initial confrontation, while Steve Canyon verbally duels with the businesswoman’s representative over the phone, Link Thorne’s reaction is a typical Kirby slugfest. Also Simon and Kirby use the secretary to provide a taste of comedy into the story. Caniff was not blind to the usefulness of a sidekick to provide a comic element, he had such a character in Terry and the Pirates and would introduce one later in Steve Canyon.

The timing of the creation of the Flying Fool is of special interest. Comic cover titles are generally marked two months later then the actual release date, which would mean that the Flying Fool appeared on the newsstands in April. But the actual creation normally starts three to four months earlier; a month for the distribution, a month for printing, leaving one or two months for the art. Since Milton Caniff’s new strip was kept so secret and the Flying Fool story is so clearly derived from Steve Canyon, the S&K story could not have been started before mid January. This would only have left Joe and Jack a week or two to produce the art. It is a short story and Kirby was famous for his speed, however you cannot tell that it was a rush job from the final product. It is as beautiful an example of a Simon and Kirby production as any from that period.

Terry and the Pirates
Terry and the Pirates (left panel from April 17, 1936, right panel from December 20, 1936) art by Milton Caniff (both from “The Complete Terry and the Pirates” by IDW Publishing)

Most of Jack Kirby’s inking was done using a brush. This is not particularly unusual as working with a brush was common for comic inkers. It had not always been so, before comic books there were comic strips and initially they were inked largely with a pen. A brush might be used to flood an area with black, but in that case the black was used as a color. The use of a brush for chiaroscuro effects was first introduced in January 1936 by Noel Sickles in his syndication strip Scorchy Smith. Sickles shared his studio with Milton Caniff who quickly recognized the significance of brush work in both adding realism and saving time. Caniff began to adopt the use of a brush in Terry and the Pirates in March. Terry and the Pirates was much more popular then Scorchy Smith and so most comic artists picked up the brush technique from observing Caniff’s work. Caniff’s influence on Kirby is clear from the similarity of the Flying Fool to Steve Canyon, this surely includes art techniques as well. That right panel sure looks like the shoulder blot that Kirby used so often.

The basics of what I have written here were previously covered by Greg Theakston in his Complete Jack Kirby. However I have been able to add detail to that account because of the recent publication of two books. One is “Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff” by Robert C. Harvey published by Fantagraphics Books. This is a thorough and lengthy book full of information and insight. I am still in the process of reading it but nonetheless I can heartedly recommend it. The other is the first volume of “The Complete Terry and the Pirates, 1934 – 1936” by IDW Publishing. This is a beautiful volume with excellent reproductions. In fact for me it has become the highest standard for comic reproduction. The colored Sunday strips are nicely cleaned up scans. For reasons that I do not understand, most publishers recolor the work when they reprint it. I find the end result very flat, if not down right ugly. The only happy exception to this is the Spirit Archives where Will Eisner carefully specified the paper and color saturation levels. In the case of Terry and the Pirates this is not just a question of aesthetics, Milton Caniff did the color guides himself. His syndication recognized how important his coloring was and had one engraver whose sole responsibility was the Terry Sunday strips. Recoloring this work would have been a sin that IDW wisely avoided.

Swiping off of Kirby

Young Romance #8
Young Romance #8 (November 1948) “Love Can Strike So Suddenly”, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s take on romance always seemed to have more of an emphasis on action then most other comic book artists. The above sequence from an early Young Romance is a great example of this. The dramatic plunge of the airplane after hitting an air pocket literally lands a seemingly indifferent lady onto the lap of a reluctant man. The analogy of the airplane’s occupants fall and their falling in love is presented by both the images and accompanying text. It took chance to supply the action needed to overcome the barriers each had placed before their true feelings. This sequence may have played a small part in the overall story but it was pivotal. It was also the quintessence of Kirby’s vision of romance.

In Love #2
In Love #2 (October 1954) “Marilyn’s Men” page 14 panels 5 and 6, art by Bill Draut

In Love #2
In Love #2 (October 1954) “Marilyn’s Men” page 15 panel 1, art by Bill Draut

Kirby’s predilection for action in romance stories stayed with him. Although most of the story “Marilyn’s Men” from In Love #2 was drawn by Bill Draut, I believe that much of the plotting and at least some of the scripting came from Jack. Therefore I feel that the occurrence of essentially the same three panels from Young Romance #8 was not Draut trying to pull something over on his bosses, instead Bill was just following Simon and Kirby’s direction. The premise was similar between the two stories, both involved a plane flight where the relationship between the man and woman changes during the trip. There are significant differences between the two stories as well. In YR it is an accident that breaks down the resistance of both parties, whereas with In Love the pilot’s maneuver is purposeful, showing that it was only Marilyn’s reluctance to love that had to be overcome.

Draut’s swipe is not a close copy of Kirby’s art. Most of the deviation in the art can be attributed to differences in the two stories. Unlike most of the female characters in S&K romances, Marilyn had relatively short hair. Undoubtedly this was visual shorthand for her success as a businesswoman. Unfortunately Marilyn’s shorter hair could not provide the same affect to the first panel where she first is lifted out of her seat. Draut does what he can but Kirby’s heroine had more hair to add drama with. In Kirby’s story the heroine is seated behind the pilot while Marilyn is on his side. Jack therefore can show more of the lady as she goes from her seat to the pilot’s lap. Draut must provide a more foreshortened view and even rotated the pilot in relation to the cabin so that in the end the visual logic of the first scene breaks down. In the second panel Draut has everything under control. In fact here Draut improves on Kirby’s composition by having Marilyn ending up gazing into the pilot’s face, while Kirby left her looking to the side. There is one logical peculiarity in Draut’s presentation. In the first panel Marilyn’s left arm is already on the pilot’s shoulder while his hat is just beginning to come off his head. Yet in the second panel Marilyn’s left hand holds the hat down. How did that transition happen? Jack provides the answer by using the pilot’s headset to constrain the hat’s travel. The final panel, the dramatic view of the kiss, is very similar between the two versions, but by no means identical. The pilot’s face is typical Draut and not a close copy of Kirby’s version. Bill has also added some shadows of the window frames to add even more drama to the scene. While Kirby has good control over the unusual perspective, in Draut’s rendition where is Marilyn’s nose? It does not seem possible to trace its position without violating the man’s facial structure.

In Love #2
In Love #2 (October 1954) art by Bill Draut

Jack was a master at visual storytelling so it comes as no surprise that the dramatic kiss occupies the last panel of his page. In “Marilyn’s Men” the kiss has been placed on the first panel of the page following the other two scenes. This greatly diminishes the impact of the story line. This may not have been Draut’s fault, the layout of the page suggests that the kiss panel was placed there afterwards. Perhaps editing was required to reduce the page count. That it was known then what the proper layout for this sequence was is shown in the cover where not only is the kiss the last panel, but it has also been enlarged.

The three panel sequence from Young Romance #8 hardly stands out as the most memorable panels from Kirby’s early romance work. Even so someone remembered and then used them as a reference for a comic done almost six years later.

Not Kirby, My Date #4

My Date #2
My Date #2 (September 1947) art by Jack Kirby

My Date was a short-lived comic that Simon and Kirby produced for Hillman Publications in 1947. Perhaps mislead by the comics title, some today hold the belief that My Date was the first romance comic book. As I discussed in a post on this topic (The First Romance Comic) it is not a romance comic at all but rather Simon and Kirby’s take on teenage humor modeled on the popular Archie comics. For his contributions to the title Jack Kirby drew in a more cartoonish manner appropriate for the humor content. Jack’s altered penciling was not very drastic, it remains quite easy to identify his work. For instance, Kirby trademarks such as his exaggerated perspective can be found in the covers and stories that Jack provided.

My Date #4
My Date #4 (January 1948) art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

All four My Date covers have traditionally been attributed to Jack Kirby, as for example by the Jack Kirby Checklist. I have long felt, and I am not alone in this, that the cover for My Date #4 was done by someone else. Gone are Jack’s exaggerated perspective, replaced by a relatively shallow depth of field viewed straight on. The drawing for My Date #4 is cartoonier then in the previous My Date covers. House-Date Harry looks rather different on issue #4 then on the covers for #2 and #3, or from their story art as well. The same is true for Swifty who also shows up on My Date #1 and #2 covers.

Young Romance #3
Young Romance #3 (January 1948) “Love or a Career” page 5 panel 5 and page 7 panel 4, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Readers of my last post on the inking of Mort Meskin may have spotted the long close and narrow brush marks that are used on the My Date #4 cover to indicate the folds of the clothing. Not all of Meskin inking traits that I previously described are found, but I am nonetheless certain that Mort was the inker. This a bit surprising because at this time Meskin was still producing work mainly for DC and his first signed work for S&K studio would not appear for months later. Young Romance #3 has the same cover date as My Date #4 and in it is the story “Love or a Career”. Unfortunately this story is unsigned but Meskin’s inking is once again quite apparent. I will explain my full attribution of this art below when I discuss the first signed works. The art for “Love or a Career” is the closest match to the MD #4 cover that I have been able to find. Consideration has to be given for the more cartoony style used for the teenage humor comic, but see how close the female character is in the two panels I have selected from YR #3 compared to Sunny of MD #4, similarly shaped face, arching eyebrows, eyes and lips.

Justice Traps the Guilty #4
Justice Traps the Guilty #4 (May 1948) “Guilty Boys” page 1 panel 3 and page 5 panel 7, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Some months later art very similar to YR #3 appears in “Guilty Boys” from Justice Traps the Guilty #4. This is another unsigned piece with Meskin apparently doing the inking. This crime story was appropriately rendered more realistically then My Date #4 but similarities still show up. Note the comparable button noses of the boys to Swifty and to a lesser extent House-Date Harry on MD #4. The two boys on the right in the page 1 panel has a smiling cheek line similar to that of House-Date Harry.

Young Romance #6
Young Romance #6 (July 1948) “The Inferior Male” page 7 panel 3 and page 8 panel 4, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (signed)

Going forward two months provides two stories that bear the dual signatures of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. The usual assumption is that the first signature designates the penciler and the second the inker. But I know nothing about how the Robinson and Meskin team worked so this may not be a safe assumption. Still it does look like Meskin’s inking while at least some of the figure drawing and compositions do not appear to be his. I have posted about “The Inferior Male” twice before (here and here). The correspondence between the art in YR #6 and that in YR #3 and JTTG #4 is close enough that the same artists were probably responsible for all. As seen in the above panels the female still looks like a more realistically drawn version of Sunny from the MD #4 cover.

Justice Traps the Guilty #5
Justice Traps the Guilty #5 (July 1948)”Murder Special Delivery” page 3 panel 3 and page 4 panel 1, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (signed)

Issue #5 of Justice Traps the Guilty also has the Robinson and Meskin signature. As might be expected there is great similarities with the YR #6 that came out in the same month. But this comparison is not perfect. In JTTG #5 the female leads start to take on the more stylized look that is typical of most of Meskin’s work for S&K. But the females have not adopted the more triangular face as done later by Mort so there still is a slight resemblance to Sunny from the MD #4 cover.

Real West Romances #5
Real West Romances #5 (December 1949) “Tenderfoot In Love” page 2 panel 4 and page 8 panel 7 art by Mort Meskin (signed)

Mort Meskin would not show up again in S&K productions for over a year. By cover date of December 1949 things had clearly changed for Mort, the work would only be signed by him with no indication of any Robinson involvement. Meskin was no longer providing art for DC and this marks the start of a productive and consistent relationship with Simon and Kirby. In Real West Romances #5 the woman is drawn actually less stylized then found in the Robinson and Meskin’s piece in JTTG #5. Although not typical of Mort’s later work, the female in RWM #5 is not a very good match for that on My Date #4 either. This is largely due to the introduction of cheek bones that makes the face depart from the more simple geometry found on MD #4. Other similarities can still be found between the RWM #5 and MD #4, as for instance the old man’s eyebrows and smiling cheek line in the right panel as compared to House-Date Harry on MD #4.

Young Romance #16
Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “His Engagement Ring” page 1 splash, art by Mort Meskin (signed)

Meskin also appears during the same month in Young Romance #16. Once again Mort’s woman are not as stylized as they soon would be. but gone are the cheek bones that Mort provided woman in RWR #5. A resemblance to Sunny of MD #4 can still be seen, especially in the lady on the right of the above splash panel.

It may be a little surprising that a S&K production would have a cover drawn by an artist other then Jack Kirby. The only other non-Kirby covers were also done by Meskin along with Bill Draut, John Prentice and Ann Brewster. Those were all Prize romance covers with cover dates of 1954 and 1955, a period when Jack and Joe were busy with Mainline, their self owned publishing company. The reason Simon and Kirby made an exception for My Date #4 is most likely the same. A few months previously Simon and Kirby had launched Young Romance with Prize comics. As typical for them, most of the initial art for Young Romance was drawn by Jack. They had more recently lauched Justice Traps the Guilty. Not only was this all a lot of work for Kirby, it also was work for which S&K would have a share in the profits. Their deal with Hillman was not as good and so My Date #4 would be the last comic Simon and Kirby produced for that publisher with the exception of a single Western cover (Western Fighters #1, April 1948).