Category Archives: 2008/10

It’s A Crime, Chapter 9, Not The Same

(Justice Traps the Guilty #9 – #12, Headline #35 – #38)

This chapter will cover the Prize crime comics from the period March through November 1949. Both Justice Traps the Guilty and Headline were bimonthly titles. The other nominally crime title, Charlie Chan, had been discontinued after February. Simon and Kirby were also producing Young Romance at the start of this period as a bimonthly but switching to a monthly in September. The first Young Love was released just prior to this period in February and would be a bimonthly throughout the time covered by this chapter. The western romance titles came out during this period; Real West Romance in April and Western Love in July. They were both bimonthlies. Thus at the start of this period Simon and Kirby were producing 4 titles and by the end 6 titles. Most of the titles were bimonthlies and I find it more significant to count bimonthlies as half a title. Using that counting technique at the start S&K were producing 2 titles and by the end 3.5 titles.

Justice Traps the Guilty #9 (April 1949) “This Way to The Gallows”, art by Jack Kirby

As is generally the case when discussing Simon and Kirby productions, Jack was the primary artist during the time covered by this chapter. This is however a little misleading as Kirby only supplied 5 stories with 38 pages out of a total of 43 stories with 325 pages. While not quite at Kirby’s level, other artists supplied significant amount of work. John Serevin did 5 stories and 32 pages; Vic Donahue had 4 stories and 30 pages and Warren Broderick may have done 4 stories with 31 pages.

A trend that started earlier was continued; Jack’s splashes for the crime titles no longer seemed to have the impact that they did with the earlier issues. Part of this due to all of the splashes now being half pages splashes, but part was the result of the art itself. This may not have just been a declining interest on Kirby’s part; it is possible that he was toning down the violence because of the criticism that crime comics were receiving at this time. Whatever the reason, if you want to see great Kirby splashes from this period you have to look at the romance titles where Jack was turning out some of his best splashes.

Headline #37
Headline #37 (September 1949) That is Jack Kirby in the cover photograph. An uncropped version of the photograph shows that the policeman was actually Joe Simon.

Jack also supplied 4 of the 8 covers, and the covers that Kirby did were all excellent. Starting with Justice Traps the Guilty #11 (August) and Headline #37 (September) the crime titles began to use photographs for their covers. A similar change over occurred for the romance titles; Young Romance with issue #13 (September); Young Love seemed to start it all with issue #2 (April). The western romance titles (Western Love and Real West Romance) were both introduced with photographic covers. Simon and Kirby’s involvement in the crime photographic covers is shown by the presence of Jack himself in one of them.

Headline #37 (September 1949) “The Accusing Match””, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s declining contributions to the crime titles is even greater then the numbers indicate. That is because this chapter covers a transition in these titles. While Jack contributed to Headline #35 to #37 and JTTG #9 to #11, he would provide no work for Headline #38 or JTTG #12. “The Accusing Match” would be the last Kirby crime story released until Simon and Kirby published Police Trap. A drop in Bill Draut’s contribution to the crime genre comics was noted in previous chapters. Bill’s last crime story, and the only for this chapter’s time period, would be “Willie the Actor” from JTTG #9 (April). Draut’s drop in from the crime genre was not a reflection about his art in general because he still played a leading roll in the standard romance titles as well showing up often in the western romance comics all of which were produced by Simon and Kirby. Other artists who worked for the Simon and Kirby studio also stopped appearing about this time in Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. I will touch on this subject as I review some of these artists and at the end of this post draw my conclusions.

Headline #37 (September 1949) “Death of a Menace”, art by Vic Donahue

Vic Donahue’s provided 4 stories and 30 pages which is a surprisingly high number relative to Jack Kirby. He is one of the Simon and Kirby studio artists that would disappear from the crime titles. The last work that I know of appeared in JTTG #12 (October). Donahue appears in Simon and Kirby production often enough during this period that I consider him among the second tier of studio artists (along with John Severin, Leonard Starr, Bruno Premiani?, Jo Albistur and Ann Brewster).

Donahue art during this period is consistent with what I have presented before. Traces of the Studio style inking are found sporadically in Vic’s art. Note the abstract shadow arc in the splash panel, the drop string on the back of the car seat in story panel 1 and the picket fence crosshatching in the second panel (see the Inking Glossary for explanations of the term I use to describe inking techniques). I am increasingly becoming convinced that in Vic Donahue’s case, the presence of Studio style is due to Joe or Jack coming in afterwards as an art editor and strengthening Donahue’s work.

Headline #37 (September 1949) “The Artistic Swindler”, art by Bruno Premiani?

Bruno Premiani first appeared in a Simon and Kirby production in August (“Two-Timer”, Young Love #4). The story “The Artistic Swindler” that appeared in the following month was Premiani’s only crime genre art for Simon and Kirby. Bruno only worked for Joe and Jack until December 1950 but during that time he was an important contributor. Although he would not appear in another crime genre, he would be used for all other Simon and Kirby productions.

Perhaps I should explain (for those readers who have not read my previous explanation) why I provide Bruno Premiani attributions with a question mark. The Simon and Kirby stories whose art I attribute to Premiani are all quite similar and easily recognized. The problem is none of them were signed. Crediting of this work to Premiani is based on the credits found in the trade back “Real Love”. Unfortunately that publication does not explain the reason for the attribution. Bruno Premiani is also credited with work at DC but that work looks very different then the art for Simon and Kirby. While none of this means the S&K studio artists could not have been Bruno Premiani, neither is there good evidence to support that attribution. Until I find some way out of this conundrum, I will continue to indicate by uncertainty by adding a question mark to the Premiani attribution.

Headline #37 (September 1949) “One-Man Posse”, art by John Severin and John Belfi

Another prominent artist during this period was John Severin who contributed 5 stories with 32 pages of art. He would, however, appear in all four Headline comics covered by this chapter as well as JTTG #11 (August). He would also show up in JTTG #14 (February 1950). Severin’s appearance in the Simon and Kirby comics seems somewhat sporadic, but unlike some of the other S&K studio artists, his contributions to the Prize crime comics seems to continue after this period. I am unclear exactly when it started, but Severin was an important artist for Prize Comics Western. As far as I can tell, outside of producing a couple of covers, Simon and Kirby had little to do with that title.

Justice Traps the Guilty #10 (June 1949) “Counterfeit”, art by John Belfi

Many of John Severin’s art at this time were signed. The signature often included the inker and that was almost always John Belfi. I gather Belfi was primarily an inker and “Counterfeit” from JTTG #10 is the sole example of pencils by John Belfi for a Simon and Kirby production. Because his pencil work is not very often seen I thought I would include an image. Frankly John Belfi is not one of the better artists that worked for Simon and Kirby.

Headline #36 (July 1949) “Shoe-Box Annie”, art by Warren Broderick

Warren Broderick was one of the lesser artists of the Simon and Kirby studio. Yet he did a surprising 4 stories and 31 pages for the crime comics covered in this chapter. His last crime story seems to be “Hijackers” in JTTG #11 (August). However he normally does not sign his work and I have only fairly recently identified him. I have made an examination of some of the following Prize crime comics and so far failed to detect him. However he seems to have only rarely was used for the Simon and Kirby romance comics. So he is not a good example of the transition that seems to be occurring in the crime titles.

Justice Traps the Guilty #10 (June 1949) “Death Played Second Fiddle”, art by Manny Stallman

Manny Stallman work for the Simon and Kirby studio has an interesting aspect. I have previously presented examples by Stallman (It’s A Crime, Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 and remarked at the time that they seemed to be done in two different styles neither one of which was a good match for what Stallman did at Atlas a few years later. Yet a third style is evident with “Death Played Second Fiddle”. This style seems particularly crude compared to the art that I previously shown.

Headline #35 (May 1949) “The Golf Links Murder”, art by Manny Stallman

If the presence of three styles by Manny Stallman was not bad enough, “The Golf Links Murder” is done in yet another style. This one is done in a manner that does look similar to Stallman’s Atlas work. Note in particular the almond shaped eyes. Similar eyes can be found in older work as well (The Captain Aero Connections) I believe the existence of four distinct styles over such a very short period of time is good evidence that Manny Stallman was providing work to Simon and Kirby most of which was actually drawn by ghost artists.

Justice Traps the Guilty #11 (August 1949) “Amateur Hypnotist”, art by Dick Briefer

Dick Briefer makes a surprise appearance in this chapter. Well it was a surprise to me. Briefer is mostly known for his work on Frankenstein but we previously saw him supply work for some Charlie Chan issues. Now to the work that he did for Simon and Kirby can be added “Dutch Joe Cretzer’s Other Business” (Headline #36, July), “Amateur Hypnotist” (JTTG #11, August) and “The Nightmare Murder Mystery” (JTTG #12, October). All of the work that he did for Simon and Kirby was unsigned and these three examples are more realistic then what he did in Charlie Chan. But enough of his stylistic tendencies are present to leave little doubt that he was the artist. In the example page shown above note the triangular head give to the man in the splash, the shallow depth to the face of the man on the left of the first story panel, and the small head of the man with the blue suit in the same panel. Dick Briefer’s appearance in these Prize crime comics and work done at the same time for other publishers was undoubtedly due to the cancellation of Frankenstein after issue #17 in February 1949. Frankenstein Comics would resume, with Dick Briefer, in March 1952.

Justice Traps the Guilty #10 (June 1949) “Confidence Man”, art by Bernie Krigstein

The story “Confidence Man” was signed B. B. Krig in the splash. I must admit that I did not realize who it really was until I went searching to the Internet for Krig. I quickly found that B. B. Krig was actually Bernie Krigstein. In fact I had missed an earlier unsigned work by Krigstein (“First Great Detective”, JTTG #8, January 1949). These are the only two works by Bernie for Simon and Kirby. I do not know if part of the reason for that was the transition in the Prize crime comics that happened at this time. Krigstein had a great style for crime stories, but I doubt that it would have been very effective for the romance genre. Whatever the reasons for his short stay at the Simon and Kirby studio, it was certainly a shame he was not around longer as he went on to do some great art for some other publishers and especially for EC.

When the Simon and Kirby’s Young Romance first came out it primarily used Jack Kirby and Bill Draut as artists. After that initial period, the artists used for the romance comics would largely be the same ones used for the Prize crime genre as well. The core artists for Simon and Kirby around the time covered by this chapter were Jack Kirby, Bill Draut, Vic Donahue, Leonard Starr and John Severin. I would include Manny Stallman, but as I mentioned above he appears to be using ghost artists and thus sorting out the unsigned work is problematical. Bruno Premiani? was an important S&K studio artist who started working for Joe and Jack just at this time. Mort Meskin was an even more important studio artist who started just after the period covered by this chapter (December). Kirby’s last crime story was for September, Draut’s was April, and Donahue last was October. Starr never did much crime and his only work in that genre appeared in February. Severin does not follow the same history; he would do a crime story in November 1949 and again in February 1950. Severin would later become an important contributor to Prize Comics Western. Bruno Premiani started working for Simon and Kirby during this time period; he would only do a single crime story (September) but would provide a lot of work for the romance titles for the following year. Mort Meskin would arrive shortly after the period covered in this chapter. While initially Mort would only work on the romance titles before long he would provide occasional stories for Headline and JTTG and would do so for the rest of stay with Simon and Kirby. So to summarize there were 4 artists (Kirby, Draut, Donahue and Premiani) who stopped providing crime stories during this period and 2 (Severin and Meskin) who continued to work on the crime titles.

However it was not just a question of the important S&K studio artists there were also a number of minor, mostly unidentified, artists as well. These minor artists were used in the romance titles but only in limited amounts. In the crime they became more commonly used especially after the S&K studio artists were no longer providing art. They are particularly abundant in the crime titles during the period covered by this chapter where the artist for 13 out of the 46 stories have not been identified. Two other stories have signatures (Dick Rockwell on one and Nicholson and Belfi on the other) but otherwise similar to the unidentified artists as being lesser talents. If Nicholson and Rockwell are included, these artists account for 103 pages of art out of 325 total.

In the first story of Real West Romances #3 (August 1949) there is a label with the declaration: “Produced by Simon and Kirby”. This label would then appear on the first story of nearly every Young Romance, Young Love, Young Brides, Black Magic and Strange World of Your Dreams until near the end of 1954. Some have mistaken it for a claim that Joe and Jack drew that story, but it really meant that Simon and Kirby put together the entire comic. The “Produced by Simon and Kirby” label never appeared in any issue of Headline of Justice Traps the Guilty.

The interpretation that I draw from all of this is that at about this time the Prize comics would begin being made “on the cheap”. That is that the pay rate given to artists working for these titles was lowered. The new pay rate could no longer attract the better artists. Artists like Bill Draut, Bruno Premiani, Vic Donahue and Jack Kirby had work they could do for the Prize romance comics where the pay rate had not changed and Jack had a share of the profits. As for Mort Meskin, he was so prolific that to pick up extra money beyond what he could get from the S&K studio he would accept the lower page rate for the crime titles. Perhaps the same was true for John Severin. Lowering the costs of producing a title was a strategy that Prize would repeat in the future.

But if the Prize crime comics were now being cheaply made, were Simon and Kirby still producing them? That is a question that is harder to provide a satisfactory answer. The lack of the “Produced by Simon and Kirby” label might suggest they were not producing the crime comics. But when the use of photographic covers was dropped for the crime titles, Jack Kirby provided cover art for 7 issues over the period from September 1950 to February 1951. My tentative conclusion is that in 1949 Prize directed Simon and Kirby to produce a cheaper version of the crime titles. By October or so they had achieved that end but continued to be involved in the production of the titles. Because Headline and JTTG were now inferior comics, Joe and Jack purposely left out the “Produced by Simon and Kirby” label. This was the state of affairs until early 1951 after which Simon and Kirby’s involvement in the Prize crime comics completely ended.

Chapter 1, Promoting Crime
Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title
Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves
Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real
Chapter 5, Making a Commitment
Chapter 6, Forgotten Artists
Chapter 7, A Studio With Many Artists
Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective

Chapter 10, The Master and His Protege
Chapter 11, The New Team

Mort Meskin before Joining Simon and Kirby

Golden Lad #1 (July 1945) “The Heart of Gold”, art by Mort Meskin

Last week I provided some examples of early work by Mort Meskin. Now I would like to do the same for the period from after the war until Mort began working for Simon and Kirby. Actually I am being a little inaccurate by describing this period as post war. The war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945 and in Japan on August 15. The first issue of Golden Lad was cover dated July 1945. Because cover dates were usually advanced a couple of months from the actually released date, this issue probably hit the stands in May. Therefore the war was still ongoing when the art was created (which probably started in February). During most of the war Mort Meskin was doing work solely for National Comics. Mort would continue to provide work to DC while doing Golden Lad for Spark Publications.

Maybe it is just a question of luck as to which issues are available to me, but it seems to me that there was a decline over time in the quality of Meskin’s art for DC. However that decline only affected his DC work. While the Golden Lad character may not have been that great of a creation, the art Mort provided was first rate. The splash is particularly nice. Golden Lad rises dramatically from a cauldron of molten gold. The fire provides the only light for the scene giving the surrounded conquistadors with expressive shadows. But with their modern weaponry, they are not truly conquistadors. The heart of gold that provides Golden Lad with his powers was created during the time of the destruction of the Aztecs but Golden Lad fights modern criminals. The splash is a graphic amalgamation of the two concepts.

Golden Lad #2 (November 1945) “The Haven for All” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

I really cannot get very enthusiastic about Golden Lad himself. Like Superman, he is just too powerful to provide interesting stories. However Meskin did a good job on graphically depicting the story. The first panel shows the use of multiple images that Mort devised in Johnny Quick for indicating super fast action. The showing the unrolling of the sail might have seem the most obvious choice for panel 5 but Meskin’s depiction of the crowd’s reaction was probably more effective.

More Fun Comics #107 (January 1946) “Vacation with Double Pay”, art by Mort Meskin

As I said before, Mort’s art for the later DC work is not as impressive as his earlier stuff. This Johnny Quick splash is probably the best of the few I have available from his later DC work. Even here I do not find the approaching alligators truly threatening. What are they going to do, gum the fisherman to death? Some of this decline in quality maybe due to the inkers being used but perhaps Meskin was loosing interest after so many years. That he did such great art for Golden Lad shows that he had not lost his talent.

Real Fact Comics #10 (October 1947) “How a Movie Serial Is Made”, art by Mort Meskin

Meskin could do great work for DC as well, if it supplied enough of a new challenge. This scan of “How a Movie Serial Is Made” was provided by Ger Apeldoorn (Those Fabuleous Fifties). It certainly is an oddball feature. Meskin provides examples of how serial movies were created using his own character, the Vigilante. I particularly like the splash. While I am not old enough for movie serials, I do remember weekend matinees where there was a very similar response from the exclusively young audience.

Mort did other work during this period besides what he did for DC and Spark. This was the time that he did a couple pieces for Prize Comics (but this was not for Simon and Kirby). I will not be discussing the Prize stories here as I covered them recently in other posts (Treasure #10 and Treasure #12).

Atoman #2 (April 1946) “The Vanishing Vandals”, art by Jerry Robinson
Larger Image

Mort Meskin would later team up with Jerry Robinson. It would therefore be informative to provide examples of Jerry’s work. Much of what Robinson did previously was on Batman working for Bob Kane. This makes it difficult to come to a clear understanding as to what Robinson’s personal style really was. The one example I can supply was for Atoman, a title from Spark Publications, the same publisher that did Golden Lad. Here Jerry does an ingenious double page splash. The best location for a double page splash was the centerfold. Place one anywhere else and the two pages would have to be printed on separate sheets of paper. With the primitive printing of comics of those days there was little likelihood that the registration would work out properly in the finished comic book. Robinson’s wide splash is at the front of the comic but he avoids the registration problem by purposely including a gutter in the design that would separate the two image halves. He has not simply bisected the image; if you were to bring the two pages together they would not line up properly.

Atoman #2 (April 1946) “The Vanishing Vandals” page 3, art by Jerry Robinson

Here is an example of a story page from Atoman. But note the man in panel 5. He has to my eyes a distinctively Meskin look to him. There are a few other similar Meskin-like portrayals in the story as well. Was Mort giving Jerry a hand? Or was Robinson being influenced by Meskin and adopting some of his style? I do not have an answer but it is something to keep in mind when we examine joint efforts by Robinson and Meskin.

Western Comics #4 (July 1948) “The Four Notches of Hate”, art by Mort Meskin

In 1948 Meskin work for DC would be ending. Did Mort’s emotional problems have something to do with his end at DC? Or was it conflicts from working at National that provoked his emotional problems? The above splash from Western Comics #4 was among these final efforts. I am not sure how, but the Vigilante has somehow made the transition from a costume hero in the modern age to being a western genre hero.

Black Terror #23 (June 1948) “The Eye of the Lady Serpent”, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Robinson and Meskin were only teamed up for a relatively short time, a little over a year. I may not be clear as to exactly what each of the two artists contributed to the joint efforts, but whatever it was it certainly was very successful. I find the art as exciting as Mort’s early work for DC.

Black Terror #23 (June 1948) “The Eye of the Lady Serpent” page 5, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

It was not just the splashes that Robinson and Meskin did so well, the story art is also first rate. Note the inking on this page as particularly seen in the last panel. The long sweeping parallel lines would later play an important part of Meskin’s inking style. Even more interesting is the presence of picket fence crosshatching (see the Inking Glossary for explanations of the terms I use to describe spotting techniques). Similar inking can be found for a piece that Jerry and Mort did for Simon and Kirby (Young Romance #5, May 1948). The inking looks like it was done by Meskin, but did he pick up the picket fence technique from Simon and Kirby or is there an earlier Robinson and Meskin example that I have not seen yet?

Black Terror #23 (June 1948) “Danger in the Air”, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Another great splash by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. I might not have anything to say about it but how could I resist including it in this post?

I previously used a story page from this work to show the style Mort had adopted for depicting punches.

Fighting Yank #29 (August 1949) “Fireworks on the Fourth”, art by Mort Meskin

There may have been a relatively brief period between after the breakup of the Robinson and Meskin team where Mort was doing work by himself again but he had not yet started to work for Simon and Kirby. Fighting Yank #29 is signed by Meskin alone and Robinson does not appear anywhere in the comic. Mort’s first solo work for Simon and Kirby were cover dated December 1949 (Real West Romance #5 and Young Romance #16). Joe Simon has reported in The Comic Book Makers that initially Mort had an artist block. That Meskin was doing some solo work before joining Simon and Kirby may indicate that the artist block did not start until he actually began working for Joe and Jack. Perhaps intimidating presence of Jack Kirby had something to do with Mort’s artistic difficulties.

The “Fireworks on the Fourth” is inked in an interesting spotting technique. The blacks are grouped in a blocky fashion that to my eyes seems to flatten the image while providing it with interesting patterns. This is not the result of a bad printing; other stories by Meskin in the same issue are not inked in this manner.

Fighting Yank #29 (August 1949) “Fireworks on the Fourth” page 7, art by Mort Meskin

The effects of this unusual inking can be best be seen in the story itself. While it is possible that this inking was done by another artist, I believe it was Mort’s own work. He would use a similar style of inking for a period later for some Simon and Kirby productions.

In a few months Mort Meskin would begin working for Simon and Kirby. Mort would become an important and prolific artist for Simon and Kirby productions. He did not, however, work exclusively for Joe and Jack. Meskin would also provide work for other Prize comics and occasionally other publishers as well.

Early Mort Meskin

While my main interest in Mort Meskin concerns the art that he did for the Simon and Kirby studio, he also did some great work both before and after that. I thought a brief examination of his earlier efforts might prove interesting. Unfortunately I can only provide a very unbalanced outline of Mort’s initial career as I have a very limited access to the comics that he appeared in. But even a flawed outline of Meskin’s early art can be useful especially since Mort Meskin has been overlooked by most of today’s comic book fans and little of his work has been reprinted.

Pep Comics #11 (January 1941) “Press Guardian”, art by Mort Meskin

The earliest work by Meskin that I can provide comes from Pep Comics #11 (January 1941). Meskin had already been working at comic books for a couple of years so this is by no means among his earliest efforts. It is a very different Meskin found here as there are no signs of the typical traits that can be found throughout most of Mort’s career; traits such as the very distinctive grin he often provided to male characters. The vertical splash layout for the Press Guardian is one that Meskin would later use particularly when working with Jerry Robinson. However Mort’s handling of the story panels makes this layout distinctive from his later uses of the vertical splash. Here Meskin uses three story panels instead of the more typical two. In fact they could more properly be called three rows as there are two panels in the second row and the undivided rows now have wider panels. This arrangement gives most of the room on the page to the story panels but Mort puts what space is available for the splash to good use.

Pep Comics #11 (January 1941) “Press Guardian” page 4, art by Mort Meskin

It is in the story art that the difference between the very early Mort Meskin and his later efforts is most apparent. Almost the entire story is shown from distant view points where either the entire figures are shown or at least the upper half of the figures. Examples such as panel 6 from page 4 where the view gets close enough to provide facial details are the rare exceptions. True close-ups are nonexistent. The “cinematic” approach that would be so important to Meskin’s later art it not to be found in these earlier stories. Within his more limited control of view point, Meskin could still graphically tell a good story. While his figures may, at times, be a little stiff, Meskin included some nice action sequences.

Pep Comics #11 (January 1941) “Midshipman”, art by Mort Meskin

The Press Guardian story was signed simply as Mort. There can be no question that this was indeed Meskin because that name was signed to the “Midshipman” feature from the same issue. While the layout for the splash page is different, otherwise the art style is the same. I wish I had more of this very early Mort Meskin to show; it would be interesting to see how and when his more typical style developed.

Action Comics #42 (November 1941) “The Vigilante”, art by Mort Meskin

It was just ten months later from Pep Comics #11 when Mort Meskin’s first work for DC appeared. While his work in Pep #11 showed promise, Meskin’s Vigilante for Action Comics #42 was promised fulfilled. The splash was signed, but a signature really is not required to identify this work. Meskin’s unique hand can be seen all over the story. But those readers only familiar with his work for Simon and Kirby or his later efforts for DC horror comics might find this early Meskin surprising. It is full of action and exciting artwork. While the DC Archive volumes have included all the Superman stories from these early issues of Action Comics, few of the Vigilante stories have ever been reprinted. This is certainly not a reflection of artistic value as Meskin’s Vigilante work is greatly superior to anything else being published by DC at the time. Well that is excepting the work that Simon and Kirby were doing for DC and that has not received the archive treatment either.

While the Vigilante’s dress might suggest that it was a western, they were contemporary stories (at least initially) and the western garb is the Vigilante’s costume. The Vigilante has no special powers; just an uncanny skill with his pistol and his rope. Initially the Vigilante worked alone, but he soon picked up a sidekick, Stuff the Chinatown Kid.

What happened to Mort between Pep #11 and Action #42 to cause such a dramatic change in his art? I really do not have enough of his early art to say, but I would like to submit a hypothesis. It is nothing more then a guess that would need more investigation before it could even be called a theory. I wonder if the change that Meskin underwent was a response to the release of Simon and Kirby’s Captain America? The timing is right since Captain America Comics #1 came out in March 1941. Mort’s Vigilante art uses figures extending past the panel borders, circular panels, exaggerated perspective, and dynamic slugfests all of which were favorite devices of Simon and Kirby found in Captain America. If there is any truth to this hypothesis, Meskin was not copying Kirby’s art but would instead put his own interpretations of all those techniques.

Action Comics #43 (December 1941) “The Vigilante”, art by Mort Meskin

Meskin’s Vigilante splashes could be quite intricate. Here we find the Vigilante lassoing two criminals while simultaneously shooting at the image of his current nemesis, the Shade. A vanquished foe lies at his feet while shadows on the wall behind him reveal two other gun carrying opponents. There is a lot going on but Mort’s presentation is perfectly clear.

Action Comics #50 (July 1942) “The Man Who Came Back”, art by Mort Meskin

The motorcycle is a clear reminder that the Vigilante is not a western, but instead belongs in the hero genre. Here part of a man’s face is clipped off by the panel’s border. This is a very effective technique Meskin would use often but it is not typically used by Simon and Kirby so Mort probably picked it up elsewhere.

Action Comics #50 (July 1942) “The Man Who Came Back” page 6, art by Mort Meskin

This is a good example of a story page in that it shows many of traits of Mort Meskin during this period. The most obvious feature is Mort’s great handling of the action. While he may, or may not have, drawn inspiration from Kirby’s slugfest, Mort’s handling of the fight scene is very different from Jack’s. Another technique that stands out is his use of circular panels. Again this could have been derived from Simon and Kirby but Meskin’s circular panels are very different. While Simon and Kirby’s circular panels would typically expand as far as the space allowed leaving isolated corner pieces, Meskin’s circular panels are usually smaller and fully embedded in the rectangular panel. There are also several examples of faces cropped by the edge of the panels (panel 4 and most noticeably the last panel). Mort makes effective use of this device. In fact the use of shifting view points and viewing distance, the cinematic effects, play an important part of Mort’s comic book art from this period on.

Action Comics #56 (January 1943) “Melody of Menace”, art by Mort Meskin and George Roussos

I really do not know enough about Mort’s early DC work to say whether he was doing his own inking or not. It certainly was not inked in the manner typically used in Mort’s Simon and Kirby work. Some of his later DC work has dual signatures which indicate that in at least these cases another artist did the inking. Perhaps the most commonly used and most talented of these inkers was George Roussos. It is obvious from work that Roussos later did for Simon and Kirby that his own art was very much influenced by Meskin.

More Fun Comics #85 (November 1942) “The Jest of Jason Biltwell”, art by Mort Meskin and Cliff Young

The Vigilante was not the only regular feature that Mort Meskin did for DC comics. He also drew Johnny Quick which appeared in Adventure and More Fun Comics. Much has been made of the fact that Meskin was the first to provide multiple images to indicate fast action. Previously only speed lines were provided to suggest rapid movements. While I would not want to diminish this technical innovation by Mort, his manipulation of view points and viewing distance were much more significant. For “The Jest of Jason Biltwell” Meskin was inked by Cliff Young.

Adventure Comics #81 (December 1942) “Starman’s Lucky Star”, art by Mort Meskin and George “Inky” Roussos

Mort Meskin would also occasionally pencil other stories. For example Mort drew a couple of Starman stories for Adventure Comics. I had previously provided an image from the Starman splash from Adventures #82 and now I provide an image from Adventure #81 above.

My original plan was to write about Mort Meskin’s pre-Simon and Kirby work in a single post. Since I do not have enough examples to provide a more thorough examination of Meskin’s early art, one post should have been sufficient. However I must admit I was seduced by Meskin’s DC splashes and could not resist including a number of examples. I do prefer his graphic story telling for Simon and Kirby productions but Mort did not use full page splashes during that period. The closest that Mort came to these early splashes where some covers he did for Young Brides and Young Love in 1954 and 1955. Those covers are really nice and some are pure masterpieces of comic book art, but the earlier splashes provide a side of Meskin that I have seen no place else. So I extend my coverage and conclude it next week with a brief survey of Mort Meskin’s work that he did after the war. I will also be providing a few examples by Jerry Robinson as well.

Happy Birthday Joe!

Today is Joe Simon’s birthday, he is now 95 years old. My original plans were to get a picture of Joe on his birthday and post it late today. However when I talked to Joe he remarked that he had told his family he wanted nothing special to happen on his birthday; no party or unexpected visitors. So I decided that taking a picture during my visit might not be a good idea. So in substitution here is Joe with one of his creations taken at the New York Comic Con in 2005.

French Fly

Strange #6

The French company, Organic Comix, has released a translated reprint of “Come into My Parlor” which was first published in Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959). This reprint was originally meant to be released earlier under a license agreement with Archie Comics. The only problem was Archie Comics did not have the copyrights for the Fly, those belong to Joe Simon. I am not sure why such a mistake had been made since Michael Silberkleit, then chairman and publisher of Archie Comics, had previously signed an agreement acknowledging Joe’s copyright renewal of the Fly. Whatever the reasons for the error, it was straightened out and Joe gave permission for the publication of Strange #6 with some minor alterations to indicate his ownership. There even was a friendly meeting between Silberkleit and Simon during the New York Comic Con. Unfortunately Silberkleit passed away recently (August 8, 2008).

The format for Strange #6 is rather unusual; it was published as a single folded sheet. The comic unfolds nicely to allow reading of the Fly story, but when completely unfolded the backside reveals a large poster of a Kirby female costumed character. Frankly I am not familiar with this presumed superhero. I suspect it was one of the proposals Jack made late in his life. I would include an image, but the poster is much too large to be scanned.

The Most Poorly Reworked Story in the History of Comics

Harvey comics had a long history of reprinting stories. According to Joe Simon, any comic that included previously published material was supposed to be labeled as such but that Harvey generally ignored that restriction. At the time comic book readers typically lasted on a few years before giving up comics. Use older material and it was unlikely that many would notice. However when the Comic Code arrived, Harvey Comics had a problem. There was nothing in the code against reprints, but the Code was stringent enough that older stories were unlikely to pass unless edited. I have previously provided an example of such editing (Rewrite!) although at the time I did not fully understand why it was done. I have not found a copy of it yet, I am sure the story that I had posted about, Gangster’s Girl, was originally published before the Comic Code.

The editing used to produce “Remember, I’m Your Girl” from “Gangster’s Girl” was relatively seamless. Despite the extensive editing involved, nothing obvious in the final story betrayed its reworked status. The handwriting was found on the margins of the original art looks like Joe Simon’s and so it likely Joe retrofitted “Remember, I’m Your Girl” for post-Comic Code publication. I have recently come across another example of editing done to reprint an older story for Comic Code approval. But in this case the final result was anything but seamless.

“I Went Too Far” from Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) was not that unusual for Harvey Comics. Harvey romances at that time were a little bit more risque then those produced Simon and Kirby for Prize Comics. By today’s standards they were still pretty tame stuff. Even then a youngster could see similar “adult” themes in the movies. When the Comic Code was introduced (the stamp started to appear on comics with cover dates about February 1955) what was suitable for a comic book reader underwent severe limitations. So when Harvey decided to reprint “I Went Too Far” changes had to be made. That changes had to be made is not at all surprising, but how they were made certainly was. The final results must have been the most poorly reworked story in the history of comics. If not I shudder to think what the worst one looked like.

Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) splash

Hi-School Romance #43 (September 1955) splash

The problem faced by “I Went Too Far” under the Comic Code started with its title and theme. The whole suggestion underlying going too far was strictly taboo. Not that “I Went Too Far” truly went too far. There was nothing truly explicit presented but the protagonist Jennie was involved with men whose ulterior motives clearly extended beyond just aiding her career. Removing traces of the theme throughout the story would require significant editing, but the changing of “Gangster’s Girl” into “Remember, I’m Your Girl” showed it could be done. To start with a new title had to be used and “Broadway Lights” was a good beginning. However the caption that accompanied the title and the script in the speech balloons of the splash would never get Comic Code approval. Right away it can be seen why “Broadway Lights” would be such a disaster. Rather then come up with some new, more innocuous text, the editor simply discarded all the offending writings. That was bad enough but when combined a decision to keep the original color plates it would only highlight that something had been done. Areas could be removed from the color plates, but colors could not added. So the top of the splash page became emptied of all color.

Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) page 4, panels 4 and 5

Hi-School Romance #43 (September 1955) page 4, panels 4 and 5

Just about any pre-Code romance story had art that needed to be changed in order to get approval. For instance any prominent display of the female figure, even when clothed, had to be adjusted. Normally this was done by judicious application of ink to shadow the offending art. This was also done in “Broadway Lights” and was the most successful of the editing changes done on that story. The Comic Code would never approve of Jennie showing her leg during an audition in “I Went Too Far”, so the leg was just shadowed in panel 4 above. Yes it left her in an inexplicable pose, but only the more observant reader would have noticed. Similar, relatively minor, additions of ink can be found throughout “Broadway Lights”.

But changes to the art were not all that needed to be done in panel 4 as the manager request for Jennie to show he leg had to be removed. Also the description of Mr. Tindal’s importance in panel 5 was obviously considered too explicit. These panels highlight another shortcoming of the editing done. It was bad enough that a shorter text was to be substituted for the manager’s speech in panel 4; no effort was made to center it in the balloon. The editing to the speech balloon in panel 5 required just the removal of previous text, but since no attempt was made to center the remaining speech the balloon looks ridiculously spacious.

Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) page 3, panels 1 and 2

Hi-School Romance #43 (September 1955) page 3, panels 1 and 2

As bad as the examples were of poorly edited speech balloons that I provided above, take a gander at panel 2 from page 3. Could the editor have made it any clearer to the original readers that they were getting damaged goods? In panel one Jennie’s remark was completely eliminated but the color plates left behind a trace of the original balloon like some sort of ghost. The primary reason of all this editing was the need to remove any reference to the agent offering Jennie a check for a train ticket! The editor felt that it would be okay under the Comic Code to offer a business card but not any money! Unfortunately in all likelihood the editor was probably right. Note also the editor felt that agent’s running his fingers through Jennie’s hair was also objectionable and so his fingers get the shadow inking treatment.

Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) page 6, panels 1 and 2

Hi-School Romance #43 (September 1955) page 6, panels 1 and 2

Most of the art changes made were done with covering over areas with black. One exception was the first panel of the last page. The original version showed Jennie’s man, Roy Tindal, packing a suitcase. This was probably the most explicit indication of the extent of the relationship between Jennnie and Roy. It was probably too subtle for most of the story’s readers to understand, but not subtle enough for the Comic Code. The suitcase was redrawn as a set of drawers or a filing cabinet. It is hard to be sure which, but that was enough. Since the color plates were not altered, this art modification left an inexplicable red patch on the side of the bureau.

Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) page 4, panels 1 to 3

Hi-School Romance #43 (September 1955) page 4, panels 1 to 3

In order to remove the “went too far” theme anything remotely suggesting the trading of sexual favors by Jennie in order to advance her career had to be eliminated. Actually there was little to suggest that in the original “I Went Too Far” but there were two stolen kisses. Jennie’s reaction to the first showed it clearly was unwelcome but that did not matter it still had to go. A little shadow to a kiss scene would not hide the kiss, so more drastic measures had to be done. The logical approach would have been to have some artist provide a new panel, but obviously little in the way of artist’s fees were going to be added to the costs of updating “Broadway Lights” to the Comic Code. Instead the editor toke a copy of the line art from panel 2 enlarged it slightly and used it to replace the kiss in the first panel. Naturally the color for panel 1 was no longer appropriate so all color was removed. The results are glaringly unnatural.

Hi-School Romance #19 (February 1953) page 5, panels 3 to 5

Hi-School Romance #43 (September 1955) page 5, panel 3 to 4

While inking in a little shadow would not hide a kiss, inking in a lot would. Completely filling in the panel was the editor’s solution for the other stolen kiss. This drastic solution for modifying art was used in another panel as well. I do not know what I find most egregious; duplicating art or completely removing it.

I have by no means pointed out all the changes made to this story in order to get it approved by the Comic Code Authority. Every single page had multiple examples of glaring obvious changes of very heavy handed editing. I am sure even the most unsophisticated original comic book owner must have known that they were reading reworked material. That reader must have been confused by the ending because while Jennie’s former small town boyfriend comes to the rescue, the scenes where he punches out Roy Tindle and the one where the cops lead Tindle away have been inked out. While in the original ending Jennie’s attempt to renew her relationship with her rescuer fails as he reveals he is to be married the next day, for the rework version the relationship is repaired. Frankly the “I Went Too Far” version really did not go too far. Nothing was explicit or beyond what might been seen in the movies of that day. None of Jennie’s actions were at all glamorized. The story was a true morality tale with Jennie’s ill made choices resulting in her loosing everything she previously had while gaining her preciously little. The Comic Code “Broadway Lights” version completely looses the moral message because despite some of her errors Jennie looses nothing of significance.

Ironically the Simon & Kirby studio regular, Bill Draut, was the artist for both the more kindly editing of “Gangster’s Girl” to “Remember, I’m Your Girl” and well as the horrendous job of transforming “I Went Too Far” into “Broadway Lights”. In neither case would the reprinting of the stories have been of any concern of Draut as he almost certainly did not get any reprint fees. Joe Simon once remarked to me that Harvey had used the left over material from Stuntman and Boy Explorers without any permission from Simon and Kirby. As Joe put it, in the comic book business even a friend would take advantage you.

Some Examples of Early Work by Leonard Starr

Red Circle #3 (March 1945), art by Leonard Starr

Leonard Starr began his career in 1942 and 1943 doing background art while attending Pratt Art Institute. Afterwards his worked for a variety of comics including Red Circle published by Rural Home Publishing. Red Circle #3 was released in 1945, just four years before Starr’s appearance in Simon and Kirby productions (April 1949). What a difference a few years can make. While I can detect some familiar features in Starr’s earlier art, I doubt I would have identified any of it if the signatures had been absent.

A fight scene dominates the cover for Red Circle #3. A brave man wins with his bare hands against a knife carrying opponent. An exciting cover that is excellently drawn. However in my opinion, a good cover should tell a story. Part of the story is here. The man on the wrong end of the fist had, as indicated by his hat, a maritime profession. This is fitting as the mooring ropes and rats show the locale to be some seedy port. But what is the cause of the conflict? Is it the woman who looks on? She shows an interest but no fear, so a heroic rescue is unlikely. So what does it all means? The art is well done but the story is confusing. Unfortunately the cover has nothing to do with the contents of the comic, so we will find no answer to the question.

Red Circle #3 (March 1945) “Secret Assignment”, art by Leonard Starr and Frank Bolle

Starr and Bolle provide a better job for the splash of “Secret Assignment”. Anthony Cobat literally casts his shadow over the globe; he is an agent in a fight against international crime. With a briefcase under his arm, a nondescript overcoat and his face shadowed, the image of Cobat is derived from Hollywood; the use of “intrigue” in the title is superfluous.

Red Circle #3 (March 1945) “Secret Assignment” page 5, art by Leonard Starr and Frank Bolle

Starr and Bolle also did a great job in the story. Their playing off of fore and backgrounds is well done. For example, the man in the stripped green jacket in the foreground is pointed out as an agent by one of the two men in the background in panel 3. In Panel 4 the foreground is dominated by a pair of gloved hands. These hands could have mistakenly been attributed to some woman except just enough of a sleeve is left to show the same green with stripes. Of course the caption also identifies the owner of the gloves and indicates that there was purpose behind the simple act of putting on gloves. My only complaint to offer about this page can probably be laid at the writer and it is an all too common error. There was really no reason to add the caption “ANOTHER AGENT RAISES HIS GUN” to panel 5, the picture was sufficient and would have been more effective without the caption. Panels without captions or word balloons were rare exceptions during the golden age of comics.

“Secret Assignment” was jointly signed by Leonard Starr and Frank Bolle. Bolle is an artist just a little older then Starr. Like Starr, Bolle’s career has included both comic book and syndication strip work. Since his name follows Leonard’s, Frank may have been the inker. But we have seen that such an interpretation maybe over simplistic for some teams such as Robinson and Meskin, or, for that matter, Simon and Kirby.

For work that Starr did for Simon and Kirby, he showed a preference for a page layout with one or two rows consisting of three, vertically extended, panels. That type of page layout is not found in “Secret Assignment”. However a related layout can be found; one where a panel row is unequally divided into three panels one of which assumes a narrow shape. The effective use of this narrow panel may have made it a forerunner of the vertically extended panels found in Starr’s Simon and Kirby work.

Red Circle #4 (April 1945), art by Leonard Starr

Another nicely drawn cover by Starr with, once again, a confusing story. The woman being carried away seems limp so very likely she has fainted. It is an abduction perhaps from the men in the background who are unable to pursue. A jump over some gorge might be indicated but the vultures flying below suggest a cliff instead. Was the horse magical or was there an unseen but safe landing? Who can tell? Of all the art the woman’s face is the closest to the style Starr would use later for Simon and Kirby.

It would be great to be able to show an image for the story Starr provided inside of Red Circle #4 but I am unable to do so. The interior of my copy is filled with Dorothy Lamour stories. If that was not bad enough, the first one does not even have the splash page. None of this matches what the contents of this issue should be. It looks like a Frankenstein; a combination of the Red Circle #4 cover with an old Dorothy Lamour contents. There is no sign of trimming so I believe this was done years ago. I have heard of publishers who repackaged material for resale, but this seems like an egregious example of that practice. According to the GCD, Fox Comics published a couple of issues of a Dorothy Lamour comic in 1950, but the story titles that GCD provides do not match those in my comic.

The Captain Aero Connections

There was no true connection between the team of Simon and Kirby and Captain Aero Comics. Captain Aero was just one of a number of wartime publications (lasting from December 1941 until August 1946). Holyoke is usually said to be the publisher for this comic but the indicia from later issues list Continental Magazines. This may be nothing more then the use of an alternative name, a common practice at the time, but irregularities in the issue numbering (there are no issues #18, 19 or 20) suggests that the title may have truly had a change in publishers. The connection referred to in the title concerns some of the artists whose work appeared both in Captain Aero as well as in various Simon and Kirby productions. There is nothing particularly surprising about this as both were small outfits getting work from an assortment of comic book artists. I am sure that careful examinations of other smaller publications would reveal artists that had also worked for Simon and Kirby. Because Captain Aero comes from an earlier period it nicely shows how extensive these artists’ style had evolved. Had these works been unsigned, I doubt that I would have identified any of the artists.

Captain Aero #7 (July 1942) “Devil Dogs Commandos”, art by Louis Golden?

The first artist from Captain Aero with a Simon and Kirby connection has been somewhat of an enigma. His two known S&K works were signed on the last page but the signature has been difficult to decipher. The handwriting of the signature found on the splash panel of “Devil Dogs Commandos” is the same but a little clearer. The initial is either an ‘L’ or a ‘T’ or an amalgamation of both. The first letter of the last name looks like a ‘G’ so my current reading of the name is L. or T. Golden. There is an artist named Louis Golden listed at Atlas Tales as having contributed to Mystic #10. The Who’s Who of American Comics cites Golden as having worked for Holyoke in 1942-43 on Blue Beetle, Enchanted Woods and Monkey Fencer. Captain Aero #7 has not been indexed yet in the GCD but one of the few works that the CGD lists for Louis Golden is from Veri Best Sure Fire Comics #1 listed as a reprint form an unspecified Captain Aero issue. The title in Sure Fire #1 (“Commandos of the Devil Dogs”) is just a slight rewording from the title found in Captain Aero #7 as to leave little doubt that they are the same story. While I have not seen any of the work these various Internet sites attribute to Louis Golden this information is favorable enough that I am now tentatively identifying him as the artist in question. Golden did not do much work for Simon and Kirby but it is still nice to be able to provide a name for that work.

Fortunately the signature is very distinctive because the artist’s style here is so different from his work for Simon and Kirby (Justice Traps the Guilty #7 and Charlie Chan #1). There is no sign of the massive, square faces that is such a distinctive feature in his later work. While I admire the art he did for S&K, I find this Captain Aero piece to be rather crude.

Captain Aero #9 (November 1942) “The Red Cross”, art by Charles Nicholas & Sol Brodsky

Charles Nicholas has been credited with being the creator of the Blue Beetle, but which Charles Nicholas is this one found in Captain Aero? Is this the artist otherwise known as Charles Wotjkowski who worked for Simon and Kirby after the war? I am not positive but the style suggests it is. Actually the work for Captain Aero (two stories and one cover all of the Red Cross feature) seems more professional then his S&K crime story (Headline #31). Perhaps that is due to the inking by Sol Brodsky, a talented artist in his own right who did the pencils for another piece in Captain Aero.

Captain Aero v. 4 n. 3 (#17) (October 1944) “First Jap Killer”, art by Manny Stallman

Will the real Manny Stallman please stand up? Well that was how I felt after examining three distinct styles from stories of the late ’40s and ’50s all of which were signed as Manny Stallman (Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 of It’s A Crime, and Atlas Tales). The Captain Aero pieces signed by Stallman could be considered a fourth style. However, in this case that is not particularly surprising because a common theme of this post is how much the work of these artists changed over the years.

Captain Aero #21 (December 1944) “Next Door to Death” page 2, art by Manny Stallman

In his art for Captain Aero, Manny drew eyes with an almond shape; little indication of the tear ducts and the upper and lower eyelids having curves that are almost mirror images. Despite a separation of over 10 years, similar eyes are found in the work that Stallman did for Atlas in the ’50s. In contrast, Almond shaped eyes are not found in any of the work done for Simon and Kirby. Further investigations will need to be made, but I am beginning to suspect that ghost artists were used for all the work that Stallman submitted to Simon and Kirby.

Captain Aero #21 (December 1944) “Red Cross” page 2, art by John Giunta

John Giunta appears in the same issues of Captain Aero as Manny Stallman. The team of Giunta and Stallman signed also two works for Simon and Kirby (Chapter 9 of The Art of Romance, and Chapter 7 of It’s A Crime). Mark Evanier’s in his obituary for Manny Stallman states that Stallman and Giunta teamed up on a number of occasions. Even though there are no jointly signed works in Captain Aero, their mutual presence does suggest the connection between the two artists extended at least back into 1944. John did a couple of Mighty Mite stories for Captain Aero but that feature called for a cartoon style that makes it difficult to compare with his Simon and Kirby art. Such comparisons are not easy even with his “Red Cross” story, however the eyebrows are rendered in a rather distinctive manner that has some correspondence to those drawn in Giunta’s S&K work.

Captain Aero #23 (August 1945) “Blimp Blitz”, art by Al Hollingsworth

The African American comic artist, Alvin C. Hollingsworth, only worked for Simon and Kirby for a short time (It’s A Crime Chapter 6 and Chapter 7) but left a lasting impression on Joe Simon who remembers him to this day. It is not the talented Hollingsworth that we saw in the art produced for Joe and Jack, but a much more primitive, earlier version. Still, it is nice work.

Captain Aero #25 (February 1946) “The Wail of the Whaler” page 4, art by George Gregg

George Gregg’s Captain Aero work is cruder then what he did for Simon and Kirby (Chapter 5, Chapter 7, and Chapter 9 of The Art of Romance) but, at least on this page, more fun. I just love the multiple images of the fist in the first panel, which certainly is not how Jack Kirby would portray a slug fest! The art on a whole is more unrefined then the admittedly still not very sophisticated form of his Simon and Kirby work. Frankly, I prefer this more primitive but energetic version of George Gregg.

Captain Aero #26 (August 1946) “Adventure in the Air”, art by George Gregg

Did George Gregg undergo a prodigious advancement since the last issue? The Gregg’s art in Captain Aero #26 is much more realistic then issue #25. Actually the art may have been done months apart since about six months separate the two issues. Captain Aero #26, however, was the final issue so there is a good possibility that its publication was delayed and that the art was actually done much earlier. Whatever the reason, “Adventure in the Air” sports a more realistic style.

Captain Aero #23 (August 1945) “Interceptor Command”, art by Carmine Infantino

We have seen Carmine Infantino’s work not only for Simon and Kirby’s Charlie Chan (It’s A Crime, Chapter 8) but earlier for Hillman’s comics. Simon and Kirby were just freelance artists for Hillman and not producing the comics, so Carmine was not working for Joe and Jack at that time. Infantino was about 20 years old when he did “Interceptor Command”. That may seem young but Carmine first published work was done when he was about 16 years old and still in high school. The splash shown above looks like the work of a mature artist; nicely composed with solid inking. I like it better then what Carmine did for Hillman a couple of years later and inked by Bernard Sachs. However the splash is misleading as the story art is much sketchier.

Captain Aero #26 (August 1946) “The Sinister Surgery Incident”, art by Carmine Infantino

A better idea of Infantino’s story art can be seen in the bottom panels of the splash for “The Sinister Surgery Incident”. While it has its interesting points, the art is somewhat sketchy. More then the art itself, I am impressed with the amount of progress that it indicates Infantino made over the years. Once again I suspect that a good study of the evolution of Carmine Infantino’s art over his life would be highly rewarding. Unfortunately it is a study that requires much more then my current resources and so it is a study I do not think I could ever attempt.

I plan to return to my ongoing serial posts, The Art of Romance and It’s A Crime, in a few weeks. But it was never my intention for those serial posts to monopolize the Simon and Kirby blog. Still it has been rewarding, at least for me, to concentrate on them (I only wish I had started It’s A Crime earlier and kept the two serials synchronized). In the mean time I want to explore a little of the earlier work by Simon and Kirby studio artists. Having here touched on examples of various studio artists found in Captain Aero, next week I plan to have a short post on a few earlier works by Leonard Starr and the week after that a longer one on early Mort Meskin with a little Jerry Robinson thrown in.