Category Archives: 2008/12

A Brief Pause

The deadline for a Simon and Kirby project I am working on is approaching. It is a deadline I fully intend to meet. Unfortunately that means I really do not have time for much of a post this week, but I will return next week to more typical postings. However I did not want to leave my visitors without anything to look at…

“The Diary of Dr. Hayward” by Jack Kirby

This is one of the works that Kirby did for the Eisner and Iger studio. I believe it appeared in Jumbo Comics #3 (November 1938) but my scan is from a sales print. The existence of such sales prints indicates that despite Will Eisner later comments, the main objective of the studio he formed with Jerry Iger was to market new syndication strips. Their appearance in titles such as Jumbo Comics was just a means of generating income in the mean time. The Eisner and Iger studio did later provide art specifically created for comic book, most famously for Marvel Mystery #1 Wonder Comics #1.

This particular strip is unusual for Kirby. In most of the work that Jack did for Eisner and Iger the backgrounds were uninked white or used a simple grey tone dot screen. In this case Kirby uses a variety of background inking. It would seem that he is experimenting on the effects of the different techniques. Most of these inking methods would not become part of Kirby’s inking style in the years to come.

Jumbo Comics Addendum, Kirby Or Not?

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938)

Stan Taylor mentioned this gag cartoon that he believed was by Jack Kirby. I have to admit I do not share his opinion, but I thought I would include an image so everyone can see it. Identifying early work by Jack Kirby can be particularly troublesome and opinions can be expected to differ.

Jumbo Comics

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) Jumbo, the mascot

Will Eisner and Jerry Iger teamed up in 1936 or 1937 to become one of the first studios to provide complete comic book packages to publishers. Previously comic books were largely reprint compilations of newspaper syndication strips. Years later Will Eisner said that he believed there would not be enough syndications material available to meet the rising demand for comic books and so there would be a market for new material created specifically for comic books. That may have been true but one of Eisner and Iger’s packages Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) published by Fiction House was actually composed of syndication strips. I have no idea on how many of the strips from Jumbo Comics #1 had previously appeared in newspapers but at least some of them had been printed in the British magazine Wags. Others may have truly been new creations but in a format showed that they were meant for syndication strips.

Jumbo Comics certainly lived up to its name as it was printed in what is called tabloid size (10.5 by 14.25 inches). Except for the cover, no color was used. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of color, the paper used came in two tones; one the normal “white” and the other dyed a pinkish color. (I have removed the page color from all images presented in this post.) All pages followed the same format. There would be a title panel that would normally occupy the entire top of the page although sometimes a single story panel might be included. Below would be three or four rows of panels with three panels per row (occasionally two panels would be combined to form a longer one). While there would be three or four pages provided for each title, all pages would have the same format including the title.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Hawks of the Sea” by Will Eisner

Will Eisner was very conscious about the small size of his operation. While Eisner was involved in many aspects in the making of the strips found in Jumbo Comics but, his name appears on none of them. However, in the title “Hawks of the Sea” is credited to Willis Rensie; Rensie is Eisner spell backwards. This is years before his famous work on the Spirit, but here Eisner is already an accomplished comic artist. Note Eisner’s dramatic use of sifting perspective. As we will see, a number of the artists appearing in Jumbo Comics who would later achieve great fame but none of them supplied art at that time with quite the quality as found in “Hawks of the Sea”.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Bobby” by Jerry Iger

“Bobby” is credited to S. M. Iger, but surely that must be an alias for Jerry Iger. Iger was supposed to have been the salesman of the Eisner & Iger partnership, but here he shows how talented artist he was as well. Or it would if we can be sure that this piece was actually done by Jerry. In an interview (The Jack Kirby Collector #16) Eisner said that Iger was not a good artist but he could letter. Was this sour grapes about a former partner or realistic evaluation? I have no way of knowing. It all depends on whether “Bobby” was really done by Iger.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Peter Pupp” by Bob Kane

Bob Kane was a high school friend of Will Eisner, so his presence in Jumbo Comics is not surprising. Batman did not debut until May 1939 so Kane almost certainly did not yet have his studio of ghost artists that he became famous for in later years. I have always found the earliest Batman art, presumably done by Kane, as stiff and rather unappealing. Because of that “Peter Pupp” is quite a surprise. Granted it is of the funny animal and not the hero genre but it shows a suppleness totally absent from Batman. Mickey Mouse would seem to be an obvious inspiration for this strip. I particularly find amusing how the villain’s minion sports Mickey Mouse ears.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby has said that his first published comic book work be for Wild Boy Magazine, although I do not believe anyone has been able to confirm that. The earliest work that can be confirmed is probably “The Count of Monte Cristo” which appeared in the British magazine Wags in March 1938. These Kirby strips were used again in Jumbo Comics #1. The name Jack Kirby was one he adopted later while his birth name was Jacob Kurtzberg but in this strip he signed his name as Jack Curtiss. By any name this was a far cry from the work Jack would do in just a few years. Even though Kirby’s art would progress much further, his art in Jumbo Comics shows that he already was a very gifted artist, better then most of his peers.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” by Jack Kirby

Jack also drew “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” this time under the name Curt Davis. While “The Count of Monte Cristo” was based on the book by Alenandre Dumas, the Dr. Hayward strip was all new writing. It is hard to be sure, but the plot seems to be similar to those Jack would write later and so I credit the scripting here to Kirby as well. Without the classic trappings of “The Count of Montet Cristo”, Jack seems quite comfortable both in art and script with the more science fiction story of Dr. Hayward. A handsome hero, a mad scientist and body switching it all provides a setting for a morality tale about good versus evil.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Wilton of the West” by Jack Kirby

It would seem two strips were not enough for the already prolific Kirby as he did a western as well but this time without signing it. It is here that we can see that while Kirby had a way to go before he reached his full potential, he already had developed his predilection for slugfests. The smashing blow depicted in panel 6 is done in a manner far from his signature style but it still embodies Kirby’s enthusiasm. He may not have mastered his use of exaggerated perspective but look how Jack has in panel 7 the hero bend at the torso while thrusting his face forward so that no neck is seen. It is the beginnings of a pose that would become Jack’s trademark.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” by Mort Meskin

Of all the strips present in Jumbo Comics, the most enduring was “Sheena Queen of the Jungle”. It would eventually dominate the long running Jumbo Comic (1938 to 1953) as well as achieving its own title. Sheena even became a television show (1955) and a movie (1984). The title block credits Sheena to W. Morgan Thomas but this was just one of the pseudonyms adopted by Will Eisner to hide the small size of his studio staff. For the Sheena strips in the Jumbo Comics the artist was Mort Meskin as can be seen by the signature in the final panel. This is the earliest published work by Meskin that I am aware of. While not as polished as Will Eisner or Jack Kirby, Mort’s art already has an energy to it. Look how he composes the figures of the armed natives in panel 6 all on the left side of the panel and on the right in panel 8. Over and over in these strips you can see Meskin’s concerns about how to graphically tell a story. It may be the start of his professional career, but Mort already had his own unique vision.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer

It is hard to recognize some of the artists appearing in Jumbo Comics when you are only familiar with their later work. This is especially true with the first strip of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer. What makes this particular strip so unlike some familiar work by Briefer is mainly the detailed pen work so different from the simpler and more fluid inking found much later in Briefer’s Frankenstein. One thing to note is that while the other artists reviewed in this post had adopted a very grid-like panel layout, Dick’s use of caption boxes and panels breaks from that familiar rigid pattern.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer

The fine inking was abandoned immediately after the first strip and the results make it much easier to recognize Briefer’s participation. I choose to use the fifth strip but in terms of technique it does not differ from the second. But what a great page! While Dick is no longer using the same captions he still deviates from a grid panel layout. Note how the fifth panel was extended vertically down into and how the last panel really is two panels in the same boarder separated by a caption.

There are other strips in Jumbo Comics #1 done by talented artists that are unsigned. Considering the pretenses Eisner maintained of a larger shop there is a good possibility that they some were made by Eisner himself deceptively adopting another style. Or perhaps assigning the finishing or inking to a different artist. I am sure Eisner provided direction to all the artists working for him but I am just as certain that did not include laying out the art. Each of the artists reviewed here had their own unique manner of graphically telling the story which would not have been true if they were working from layouts. It is amazing to see so much talent, albeit in its earliest flowering, in one comic book. Jack Kirby would be also included in Jumbo Comics #2 and #3 for his work on “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” and “Wilton of the West”. Mort Meskin would work on “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” even longer (at least until issue #5). Bob Kane and Dick Briefer would also make further appearances. Eventually Jumbo Comics would abandon its oversize format and adopt a more standard comic book content but for a while it was a most unusual comic book.

The Wide Angle Scream, What Was Old Is New Again

Sometime after the demise of Mainline, Simon and Kirby’s attempt at becoming publishers, Joe and Jack’s partnership broke up. Jack returned to being a freelance artist but whenever Joe had some comic to produce Jack would always give a hand, at least for the initial issues. In 1959 Archie Comics asked Joe Simon to produce a couple of superhero comic titles for them. For one of the new titles Joe decided to resurrect an old proposal. Years before Simon along with the artist C. C. Beck and the writer Jack Oleck had created Silver Spider. Oleck wrote some scripts and Beck drew the origin story and it was proposed to Harvey Comics but was then rejected. Joe retrieved the original art and at least one script (which he still has) from Harvey but decided, probably because of the previous rejection, the hero should be changed from the Silver Spider into the Fly. Simon asked his former partner, Jack Kirby, to draw the art for the first issue using the C. C. Beck art as the basis for the origin story. (What happened to the C. C. Beck art is a tale that I will not repeat here, suffice it to say that through no fault of Jack’s the Beck art was never returned to Joe. All Simon has now are large photocopies of the original art. You can see some images of the Silver Spider in Chapter 10 of The End of Simon and Kirby) Kirby was also apt to turn to old ideas and so he based the Fly’s costume on an unused Simon and Kirby creation, the Night Fighter. (It is not pertinent to the theme of this post, but this was not the end of the recycling of the Silver Spider as years later it played a part in the creation of Marvel’s Spider-Man.)

Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Come Into My Parlor”, art by Jack Kirby
Enlarged view

The centerfold of the first issue of The Adventures of the Fly featured a double page splash with the declaration:


This is of course where I have derived the name for this serial post about the Simon and Kirby wide splashes. Since Joe and Jack have been using double page spreads since Captain America #6 (September 1941), this issue of the Fly was hardly the first time for the use of this dramatic opening for a story. But in 1959 comic book readers were young and unlikely to know about the earlier comics.

The Fly splash pages are divided into two sections, the splash proper and the start of the story. At the top and bottom of the splash are two parabolic shaped borders making the image wider at the sides then in the center. The background buildings on the two sides of the splash tilt in different directions. All of this was to give the feeling of a wide angle presentation. But this was all just suggestive as a true wide angle lens would not distort the scene in these manners.

The two adversaries face off from opposites sides of the splash. The Fly seems quite at home on the Spider Spry’s web while it is the criminal cohorts of the Spider that seem to be most encumbered. The scale of the figures makes no literal sense. No realistic perspective would cause the rest of the criminals to be so much smaller then either the Fly or the Spider. The size difference is not due to any problem Kirby had with rendering perspective; he was the master of the illusion of space. Rather Jack has reverted to a pre-Renaissance technique, actually common to a great number of art cultures, were size indicates importance.

Not Jack’s best splash but still superior then most artists of the day could have produced. Some have said this was inked by Kirby but I cannot see Jack’s hand in any of the inking of these Archie comics. I doubt Joe Simon did the inking on the splash either.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Overlay of the figure of the Fly from the cover (red) and the splash (black)

The cover for the first issue of the Fly is basically the same scene as this splash with the composition altered for the vertically oriented space. As I have shown previously, the cover is based on the splash and not the other way around. (See The Fly, A Case Study of Swiping, for further details.) First a stat was made of the splash and then cutup and reorganized for the cover. Then someone, most likely Simon, touched up some of the inking. It was all well done because cover is every bit as good a designed as the splash.

“Tales of the Implosion” Available Again

I understand that reprints of Thomas Lammers’ “Tales of the Implosion, A History of the 1957 Atlas Implosion” are available once again. This work originally appeared in Alter Ego #49 (June 2005) but Tom expanded on it and added tables for his self published reprint. This is the best investigation available of the Atlas Implosion, the upheaval that forced the company that was to become Marvel Comics to cancel numerous titles and restrict their output. In relationship to the theme of this blog, this period is important in what it reveals about Jack Kirby’s return to being a freelance artist after the break-up of the Simon and Kirby studio. I frequently reference it and consider “Tales of the Implosion” one of the finest, most scholarly pieces of comic book history. It has my highest recommendation and at $12 is a steal. To order email Tom Lammers at

Joe Simon, Art Director

I have previously discussed Joe Simon’s work as an art director for Timely’s detective magazines. In this post I will therefore be going over familiar ground, but I cannot resist including in my blog some further example that Tom Morehouse has kindly provided. While in my previous post I was largely about the art, this one will chiefly be concerned with layouts that do not use art.

National Detective Cases vol. 1 no. 1 (March 1941)

Joe Simon (since he is listed as the art director, I attribute the layouts to Joe) surrounds the table of contents with a collage. Note how some of the figures encroach across the content’s border. This is of course the converse of having figures extend beyond the panel boarder that Simon and Kirby made such effective use in Captain America at this time. I have seen something similar in the table of contents in a later competitor detective magazines; one wonders whether it already was a common technique in such magazines when this issue of National Detective Cases came out or whether Joe introduced this device and others followed? In any case I particularly like the way the policeman on the left seems to be peering around the content edge.

Amazing Detective Cases vol. 1 no. 3 (February 1941)

Above is another content page with a collage background. Nothing crosses the edges of the content proper but Joe gives it all a very 3-D effect by placing the contents at an angle and providing a trompe l’oeil curled top edge.

Complete Detective Cases vol. 3 no. 1 (January 1941) “I Squealed on the Red Light Boss”

But it is the opening pages of the stories that Simon provides his most interesting efforts. Pages like those in the image above can obviously be compared to the double page splashes that Simon and Kirby would in a few months do in Captain America (#6, #7, #8, #9 or #10). In some ways there are valid correspondences between the Timely detective layouts and the Captain America double page spreads. Both have designs that include a number of elements in innovative manners. For instance, both share the use of design elements such as circular fields. However the similarity between the magazine and comic spreads is not complete. The magazine layout uses some design techniques that I do not believe were ever used by Simon and Kirby in their comic book work. One of these, the placing of the start of the text at the top and almost in the center, can be explained. The equivalent in a wide splash would be putting the initial story panels in a similar location but that would not be good design because it would result in a confusing layout. This problem does not exist in the magazine layout because by its nature the text is easily distinguishable from the imagery of the rest of the layout. Another design feature for the magazine that I do not believe S&K every used in comics is the diagonally position title. In this case there was no reason why this design technique could not have been incorporated into comic books but I cannot remember any comics where Joe and Jack every used it.

National Detective Cases vol. 1 no. 1 (March 1941) “Sex Marauder and the Parked-Car Lovers”

Above is another layout with a layout with emphasis on the diagonal and the text starting at the top of the second page.

Amazing Detective Cases vol. 1 no. 3 (February 1941)

Of course layouts did sometimes include art so I will close this post with one of Jack Kirby’s best efforts for the Timely detective magazines. In “The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino” Carmine describes Kirby’s advice on how to draw a man hitting a woman:

No, try it like this: Do the scene but don’t show the people; just put the shadow on the wall. Let the reader’s imagination fill in the details.

“Love Bed Alibi” shows Jack using a shadow for somewhat different reasons. It is not so much an attempt to mitigate a violent scene as to force the viewer to go to the background shadows in order to make sense of the foreground action. It is as good a crime drawing as any Jack would do years later for Headline or Justice Traps the Guilty. The only detrimental aspect is the photo of the “bundling” bed placed on the bottom of the layout. While it is an interesting digression a more appropriate photograph should have been used.