Category Archives: 2009/10

Jack Kirby as a Letterer

Creator credits were pretty much never supplied before the silver age of comics. Therefore we have no good idea who the letterers actually were for a long period of comic book history. In the case of Simon and Kirby we are more fortunate because they have told us who some of the letterers were. It is only a guess but I would not be surprised if over 95% of the lettering on works created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon up to the breakup of their collaboration can be attributed to just four artists. Actually the overwhelming percentage of it was done by just Howard Ferguson and Ben Oda. However early in their careers both Jack and Joe generally lettered the works that they drew themselves. This was not surprising because typically there was no division of labor in the earliest years of comic books and artists were expected to supply fully inked and lettered art.

For this post I will be writing about the lettering by Jack Kirby. Jack’s earliest work was not in comic books but work intended for publication in newspapers. I suspect much of this was lettered by Jack himself but I am not completely sure. For instance “The Romance of Money” (link 1) was printed as a bank give-a-way in 1937. There are some suggestions that this was Kirby’s writing but it is hard to be sure because some of his more distinctive traits from a few years later are not found.

Kirby also did some lettering in the work that he did for the Iger and Eisner studio. At this point Kirby’s lettering is very much the same as in the examples that I will provide below from a latter period. An example of Kirby lettering from that period can be found in a previous post (see A Brief Pause).

Kirby also did the lettering for the syndication strip Lightin’ and the Lone Rider. Actual I am not sure if this strip was every published in a newspaper but Greg Theakston includes some proofs in his Complete Jack Kirby 1917 – 1940. The Lone Rider strip was included in Famous Funnies however the lettering was redone by some other artist for all the early issues (Famous Funnies #62 to #65, August to December 1939, see Chapter 1 of Early Jack Kirby). Jack’s original lettering was retained for Famous Funnies #72 to #76 (July to November 1940, see Chapter 3 of Early Jack Kirby).

The Blue Beetle (February 1940), letters by Jack Kirby

The earliest samples of Kirby’s own lettering that I will supply come from the Blue Beetle syndication strip that Jack did for Fox Comics in 1940. Others who have previously written about detecting Kirby’s lettering have placed much emphasis on his distinctive ‘U’ with its ends curved inwards in a “horseshoe” shape. Kirby’s ‘U’ is very helpful for detecting Kirby’s lettering but I have also found his ‘G’ helpful as well. Observe the small vertical stoke that drops from the lower end of the letter. The vertical stroke does not always dip below the rest of the letter but even so its straight form can often be detected. Some letters by Kirby are not so distinctive from those used by other letterers but still are useful in cases where the ‘U’ and ‘G’ are not so helpful. In particular are ‘J’ without a cross stroke at the top, ‘M’ with slopping sides, and a ‘Y’ with a diagonal lower portion. Despite the vertical characteristic of Kirby’s alphabet he nonetheless executes his exclamation point at an extreme angle. Not infrequently Kirby fails to connect the strokes that form letters and I provide examples of such a failing for ‘K’ and ‘P’ and the bottom.

For an example of Kirby lettering for the Blue Beetle please see Chapter 2 of Early Jack Kirby.

Prize Comics #8 (January 1941), letters by Jack Kirby

I provide above letters from a somewhat later period taken from the Black Owl story published in Prize Comics #8. It can be seen that little has changed in Kirby’s lettering. In fact most of the differences that can be seen between the two examples I provide are actually not due to some evolution of Kirby style but rather to the wide range of variation that occurred in the lettering of a single story. For example I show from Prize Comics #8 two versions of the letter ‘S’. I also provide two further examples of letters (‘B’ and ‘R’) where Kirby fails to connect the strokes.

Captain America #2
Captain America #2 (April 1941) “Hurricane”, letters by Jack Kirby

My final set of letters by Kirby come from a story that probably was the last published one he ever lettered, “Hurricane” from Captain America #2. Also published in April was “The Underground Empire” from Daring Mystery #7 but that story was probably reworked material originally done earlier for the never published Red Raven Comics #2. Again there is little changed to be observed in Kirby’s lettering. Perhaps the most significant is that Jack now provides a more vertical form to his exclamation points.

Captain America was a big success and Jack Kirby would from then on concentrate on the art and would no longer letter his stories. The period that Kirby did lettering was relatively short and I provide below all the comics that I believe he lettered. However care must be used in some of the cases because Jack’s was not the only hand involved. But I will go into that in more detail later.

Captain America (Timely (Marvel))
     1    Mar  1941   10p "Murder, Ltd."
     1    Mar  1941    6p "Stories From The Dark Ages"
     2    Apr  1941   10p "Hurricane"

Crash (Tem Publishing)
   a 1    May  1940    5p "The Solar Legion"
   a 2    June 1940    5p "The Solar Legion"
   a 3    July 1940    5p "The Solar Legion"

Daring Mystery (Timely (Marvel))
     7    Apr  1941    8p "The Underground Empire"

Famous Funnies (Eastern Color)
     72   July 1940    2p "Lightnin' and The Lone Rider"- (Kirby lettering page 2)
   a 73   Aug  1940    2p "Lightnin' and The Lone Rider"
   a 75   Oct  1940    2p "Lightnin' and The Lone Rider"
   a 76   Nov  1940    2p "Lightnin' and The Lone Rider"

Jumbo (Fiction House Magazines)
   a 1    Sept 1938    4p "The Count of Monte Cristo"
     1    Sept 1938    4p "Wilton of the West"- (Kirby letters page 4)
   a 2    Oct  1938    4p "The Count of Monte Cristo"
   a 2    Oct  1938    4p "The Diary of Dr. Hayward"- (Kirby lettering page 3)
   a 2    Oct  1938    4p "Wilton of the West"- (Kirby letters pages 3 & 4)
   a 3    Nov  1938    4p "The Diary of Dr. Hayward"
   a 3    Nov  1938    4p "Wilton of the West"

Marvel Mystery (Timely)
     13   Nov  1940    8p "The Vision"
     14   Dec  1940    7p "The Vision"
     15   Jan  1941    7p "The Vision"

Mystery Men (Fox)
   a 10   May  1940    3p "Wing Turner"

Prize (Prize)
     8    Jan  1941    6p "Black Owl"
     8    Jan  1941    6p "Ted O'Neill"

Red Raven (Timely (Marvel))
     1    Aug  1940    8p "Mercury In The 20th Century"
   s 1    Aug  1940    7p "Comet Pierce"

Romance of Money (Natamsha Publishing)
          **** 1937   24p ""- (bank give-away)

Science (Fox)
   a 4    May  1940    8p "Cosmic Carson

Wow (Fawcett)
     1    Spr  1941    7p "Mr. Scarlet"

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8, The Gang’s All Here

(February 1953 – April 1953, Black Magic #21 – #23)

Just like in the romance titles from this same period, Kirby toke a commanding lead in the amount of art provided for Black Magic (24 pages). Second place fell to Al Eadeh(?) (17 pages), followed by Bill Draut (12 pages) Bob McCarty(?) (10 pages). Mort Meskin, John Prentice, George Roussos and Bill Walton all provided a single story each. There are three short works for which I have not been able to determine the artist. The romance art from this period was almost entirely done by Kirby, Draut, Meskin and Prentice with a single piece by Eadeh. It is interesting therefore that during this period McCarty, Walton and Roussos only provided work in the horror genre title.

Black Magic #21
Black Magic #21 (February 1953) “The Feathered Serpent”, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby was not only the most prolific Black Magic artist during this period he also did all of the most important work; all the covers and featured stories. No full page splashes but still some rather nice art. I like most of the artists who worked on Black Magic but in all honesty no one other than on Kirby was capable of making a truly interesting monster. This is not as much of a defect for the title as it might seem because few stories had monsters or demon antagonists. Black Magic was more oriented toward the supernatural and not true horror.

Black Magic #23
Black Magic #23 (April 1953) “Those Who Are About To Die” page 2, art by Jack Kirby

Part of Kirby’s reputation is that he really was not very good at drawing beautiful women. I have to admit I find little variation in the females that he depicted later in his career. I am not sure if Kirby was always to blame for this or if much of it was the result of “corrections” performed by some of his inkers. However during the period he worked with Joe Simon, Jack penciled quite a variety of women. The wife of the painter in “Those Who Are about to Die” is one of my favorites. Both devoted and intellectual she fits perfectly into the part she plays in the story. As far as I am concerned she is just one of the many different beautiful women Kirby drew.

Black Magic #22
Black Magic #22 (March 1953) “Barbados Burial Vault”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut did more than his fair share of good splashes but perhaps his best from this period is the one from “Barbados Burial Vault”. It really does not demonstrate his talent as a penciller; the figures are all rather small and the simple architecture dominates the scene. It is Bill’s willingness to abandon his typical draftsmanship to achieve a mod is what makes this work so appealing to me. The impact is provided by the contrast of the small procession carrying the casket from the bright light of day into the dim burial vault.

Black Magic #22
Black Magic #22 (March 1953) “Horrible Herman”, art by John Prentice

Perhaps the best story from this period was Prentice’s “Horrible Herman”. John spent most of his time when work for Simon and Kirby with doing romance stories but I feel he had a real talent for horror. Not that this was true horror but rather more of a suspense concerning a boy with great powers. No one could stop Herman, or could they?

Black Magic #23
Black Magic #23 (April 1953) “Land of the Dead”, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin drew some great splashes in Black Magic but perhaps none of them were more unusual than the one for “Land of the Dead”. It is not that his drawing itself was so technically superior, if anything it was a little bit below his usual work. However Mort has managed to invest this splash with a sense of other-worldliness. No speech balloons but none are required to explain the confrontation of a woman and two eerie figures that block her from a tombstone bearing the words “Here Lies Loves”. The bizarre cloud formations complete the effect imparted to the splash.

This story would have been more appropriate for the by now defunct Strange World of Your Dreams title. Not only would it have been appropriate, this story was almost certainly originally meant for the unpublished fifth issue of that title that would have been published just a few months before. A repeating feature in SWYD was “Send Us Your Dreams” with a pipe smoking Richard Temple doing the dream analysis. The same character is found in “Land of the Dead” except his name has been changed to Bart Roberts. That this was in fact just a substitution can be seen in how that name was just pasted over the older version in the caption of the first story panel (note how the name in is not aligned with the rest of the caption).

Black Magic #21
Black Magic #21 (February 1953) “Warning Voice”, art by Bob McCarty(?)

Many of the Black Magic stories from this period are rather short. “Warning Voice” is only three pages. Perhaps that is why such a small splash panel was used. The panel is hardly wider than the first story panel and at a glance could be mistaken as the first story panel. While I can see the logic behind such a small splash panel I do not feel it was a good approach due to the confusion it causes.

Note the large eyes particularly in the close-up panel. This remains the chief reason that I am not yet comfortable with the Bob McCarty attribution that I have been following.

Black Magic #21
Black Magic #21 (February 1953) “The Mind Reader”, art by George Roussos

There is only a single two page story by George Roussos. Observe the Meskin influence that can be seen in the man in the last two panels. I do believe this is an influence and not an indication of actual involvement by Meskin.

Black Magic #22
Black Magic #22 (March 1953) “Stanwick’s Theory”, art by Bill Walton

I admit than generally I am not overly fond of Bill Walton’s art. He was a competent artist but he only occasionally produces something that really grabs my attention. The splash for “Stanwick’s Theory” is a pleasant exception. In fact I really, really like this splash. The use of a tall narrow panel and extreme close-up and cropping are very effective. Even the cigarette and its smoke play an important part in the composition. This splash is not only unique for Walton it is also rather unusual for Simon and Kirby productions.

Black Magic #23
Black Magic #23 (April 1953) “Evil Spirit”, art by Al Eadeh(?)

Al Eadeh(?) really made good use of the script for “Evil Spirit”. The image of a beautiful woman using her long hair to strangle a man is certainly memorable. So memorable that years later Jack Kirby would re-use the concept for Medusa a villain (who later becomes a heroine) in the Fantastic Four comic book.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7, Kirby Returns

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9, The Party’s Over

Big Apple Con Vs New York Comic Con

I been attended Big Apple Con over a number of years. It was reasonably priced and attracted a number of useful comic dealers. It used to be held in the basement of St. Paul where it always was overcrowded. It since has changed venues but somehow the show never seemed to gain in actual space. In April Wizard bought the convention and last weekend was their first show. Now Big Apple Con was held on a pier and there seemed plenty of room. I wish I could say I was pleased.

My problem was not how the show was run but in the price of admission. Where once the single day fee was $7 it now has jumped to an outrageous $40. I was unsure what day I would attend so I could not order my ticket ahead but that would only have saved me $5. I thought the ticket would cost $35 but there turned out to be a $5 handling fee. Frankly I feel such practices border on the dishonest; ticket prices should include all cost up front.

I decided to try the show anyway to see if it was worth the extra money. Unfortunately it was not. As far as I could tell it was largely the same comic dealers that I used to see for one fifth the price.

My biggest surprise from the show was finding out that Wizard had scheduled a Big Apple Con on the same weekend as the next New York Comic Con (October 8 – 10, 2010). So we are now faced with a smack down between the two conventions. Big Apple Con at $40 for a single day and the NY Comic Con at $30. No contest, why pay more for much, much less? I predict Wizard is in for a big surprise.

Art of Romance, Chapter 22, He’s the Man

(February 1953 – April 1953: Young Romance #54 – #56, Young Love #42 – #44, Young Brides #4)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 - 1954
Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1954 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

I must admit we have entered the period of Simon and Kirby’s romance production that I find the least interesting. This is somewhat unfair because most of the artists used were doing good work. Part of the problem is that while the art was still fine it was largely done by artists we have seen for a number of years. Another contributing factor was that Simon and Kirby were having greater difficulties in coming up with new plots. There are still some stories that are real gems, but they just were not as frequent as previously. I had considered devoting longer periods of time for each chapter but I feel that by keeping on the current three month pace allows me to present more examples of work by artists that are much too overlooked today.

I have remarked in the last couple of chapters of The Art of Romance and The Little Shop of Horrors that Jack Kirby had become more productive after a long period where S&K comics depended more on other artists. While Kirby had become more prominent he still had not returned to the really dominant status he had in earlier years. That is until this period where Jack provides 62 pages of art. This is well above the second place artist who was John Prentice with 46 pages. Third place was taken by Bill Draut (38 pages) and fourth by Mort Meskin (31 pages). These four artists provide almost all the art for this period with Al Eadeh(?) drawing a single story, an unidentified artist contributing two stories and another artist, probably a studio assistant, doing three single page features. Completely absent are two artist that were pretty common presence in previous chapters; George Roussos and Bob McCarty(?).

Young Love #43
Young Love #43 (March 1953) “Teen-Aged Widow”, art by Jack Kirby

Kirby is not only back in terms of quantity of art, much of it consists of rather nice material. Four of the seven featured stories were done by Jack and one of them, “Teen-Aged Widow”, even returns to a longer length (12 pages) that had previously been typical for Kirby. The splash page for “Teen-Aged Widow” is rather nice. It is a great example of a confessional splash, what young reader of the day could have resisted such a story. Tears do not play so important a part in Simon and Kirby romances as they did in comics produced by others during the silver age. But those tears are very appropriate here. Note how the small sculpture piece in the foreground repeats the protagonists reclining posture. One odd thing is the small size of the books in the foreground. I doubt that this was meant to be taken literally but was just a consequence of the limited space available.

Young Love #43
Young Love #43 (March 1953) “Girl Friday”, art by John Prentice

The work by John Prentice during this period is an exception to my lack of great enthusiasm for this period of S&K romance. This is probably due the relatively late arrival of Prentice into the Simon and Kirby production having started just two years previously. Even Meskin has been around longer (three years) while Kirby and Draut have been around since the beginning (six years ago). While Meskin has only been around one more year then Prentice he produced a lot of more work. John was generally not the most productive of the studio artists which is all the more reason to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of work he did during the period covered in this chapter.

The splash for “Girl Friday” is another of those by Prentice that eliminates the normal panel borders. Perhaps my fondness for this effect has caused me to include in my posts enough examples to mislead my readers into thinking this was Prentice’s typical approach. Actually borderless splash panels were pretty uncommon for Prentice however he did use this format more often than other studio artists.

Young Brides #4
Young Brides #4 (April 1953) “Here Cries the Bride”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut’s romance art has not changed very much over the years. Joe Simon has remarked to me a number of times how reliable Draut was, a true professional. Bill graphically told his story in a clear manner with enough variations in viewpoints to keep the reader’s interest. Probably none of the studio artists other than Kirby made as effective use of background details in his splashes. These details probably do not mean much aesthetically but are quite important in capturing part of the story in the splash. While Draut’s style did not evolve much during the period he worked for Simon and Kirby it would undergo large changes afterwards. Although Draut’s art became more acceptable to silver age publishers unfortunately in my opinion the changes to his style were detrimental to his art.

Young Brides #4
Young Brides #4 (April 1953) “Under 21”, art by Mort Meskin

I feel that the work Mort Meskin did during this period was on a whole not as good as his earlier efforts. That is not to say there were not an exceptions and “Under 21” was certainly one of those. What a great splash, perhaps Meskin’s best effort for a feature story. The wistful pose of the young lady wonderfully captures the mode of the story. The scandal suggested censored newspaper clipping was sure to attract the reader. Meskin’s placing the protagonist on a small town front porch is unexpected but rather effective. The quality of Meskin’s inking had recently been rather sporadic but here the pen and brush are fully under Mort’s competent command. Fortunately none of Meskin’s work for this chapter was inked by George Roussos. I have to admit that I find the inking by Roussos of pencils done by Meskin or Kirby to have been at best unfortunate and at worst disasters.

Young Love #44
Young Love #44 (April 1953) “What’s Mine Is Yours”, art by Al Eadeh?

I do not have much to say about the single story questionably attributed to Al Eadeh but I did want to include another example of his work.

Young Romance #55
Young Romance #55 (March 1953) “Heartless”, art by unidentified artist

Two stories (“Heartless” and “The Other Woman”) by an unidentified artist occur in the same Young Romance issue. He is certainly not among my favorites but he is competent artist nonetheless.

Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)

Some Lettering by Howard Ferguson

I must admit that I have not done enough carefully studies of the lettering done on Simon and Kirby productions. I always realized the importance of the lettering, both aesthetically and historically, but there always seemed other investigations that attracted my attentions. I have decided that I will no longer postpone examining this subject. I am not going to make a serial post because my investigations will not be following the timeline. But I will group these posts under a Topic on the sidebar.

In this pursuit I like to assemble images of the letters from a single story. Of course there is always a certain amount of variation in the letters but I try to select somewhat typical examples. For these samples I only select letters from captions and balloons that are not bold or oversized.

Letters Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl”, letters by Howard Ferguson

Initially like many early artists both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby did their own lettering. When the duo was working in the Timely bullpen their work began to be lettered by Howard Ferguson. Joe is the first to admit that his own lettering was rather amateurish while he considers Howard was one of the best letters ever. I provide about some examples of his lettering from an early Black Owl story. Note the rather short vertical strokes at the bottoms of the letters ‘P’ and ‘R’. I have selected an ‘S’ that shows a lower ending that is shorter horizontally than the upper one. Actually this is a rather variable feature ranging all the way to an equal length for both the upper and lower arms. However the short lower arm for the ‘S’ can usually be easily found while the reversed almost never occurs. There are two rather distinctive letters. One of them is the ‘J’ with its rather long and flat hook. Unfortunately ‘J’ is not a common letter but when it is used it provides an easy means of spotting Ferguson’s work during this early period. A more common letter that is very useful for identifying Ferguson’s work is the ‘C’. Note the short vertical stroke that descends from the top arm of the ‘C’.

Letters Stuntman #1
Stuntman #1 (April 1946) “Killer in the Bigtop”, letters by Howard Ferguson

I am going to make a rather long time leap and provide some lettering from late in Ferguson’s career. Despite the years that separate the Black Owl story from this Stuntman work, the ‘C’ is still has that very distinctive short stroke. The ‘J’ is very much unchanged. Examples of ‘S’ with a shorter lower arm can still be found but they are not nearly as common as before. There have been some changes as for example in the ‘G’. The overall shape is the same with the horizontal stroke place rather high in the letter. But note how in the Prize #7 the horizontal line for the ‘G’ extends to the right from the lower arm while in Stuntman #1 it appears to be made from the same stroke and does not extend to the right. The ‘?’ has also been altered having a lower arm that hooks much more to the right giving the main body a look almost like a ‘2’.

Letters Green Hornet #39
Green Hornet #34, originally published as Stuntman #3 (October 1946) “Rest Camp for Criminals”, letters by Howard Ferguson

I would very much like to determine when Ferguson passed away and was no longer lettering for Simon and Kirby. Unfortunately his most distinctive earlier trait, the ‘C’ with a short vertical stroke, pretty much disappears. Occasionally a ‘C’ will have just a hint of this feature and I provide an example of one at the bottom of the samples. The ‘J’ is still distinctive but like I said it is not a common letter. The ‘P’ and ‘R’ still have short lover vertical strokes but not quite as extreme as in Prize #7. Oddly Howard has gone back to the earlier version of the ‘G’ with that small horizontal stroke to the right.

Letters Headline #24
Headline #24 (May 1947) “Trapping New England’s Chain Murderer”, letters by Howard Ferguson?

I am going to close with samples from a crime story from seven months later. There are a number of changes to be found. The ‘J’ is still distinctive but no longer has a horizontal stroke at the top. The ‘G’ reverts once again to the Stuntman form without the short horizontal stroke to the right. However the horizontal stroke no longer sits so high in the letter. The lower vertical strokes for ‘P’ and ‘R’ are not quite so short as before. The apostrophe now has a slant where previously it was always vertical. There are two big surprises. Previously the ‘M’ had been very consistent with a slant to the two outer arms and the inner junction reaching as low as the base for the two outer arms. Now the outer arms of ‘M’ are vertical and the inner junction does not always descend to the base of the letter. The other surprise is found in the letter ‘Y’. Again this letter had bee very consistent in all the earlier works having the lower portion formed by a continuation of the stroke for the right arm giving it a slant. In Headline #24 the lower portion of the ‘Y’ descends vertically.

In conclusion, while there was some variation in Ferguson’s lettering over the years for the most part it seems pretty consistent. That is except toward the end. Frankly I do not know what to make of the changes found in the lettering of “Trapping New England’s Chain Murderer”. Although I have not assembled letter examples, there are other late stories that exhibit variations. All of this work is typically credited to Ferguson but I have to say I have my doubts. However I require further studies of these works before I reject the Ferguson attributions altogether.

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7, Kirby Returns

(November 1952 – January 1953, Black Magic #18 – #20)

It looks like once again I have slipped up. I meant to mention, at the appropriate time, Simon and Kirby’s new title Strange World of Your Dreams. Well the time should have been during the last chapter (Chapter 6) because the first issue of SWYD has the cover date of August 1952. I have previously debated with myself whether to include SWYD in this serial post. While SWYD shares some characteristics with the horror genre and with Black Magic in particular, the title is in other ways quite unique. In the end I had decided not to include it because I have posted on it previously (Strange World of Your Dream, strange indeed and Featured Cover, Strange World of Your Dreams #2). However those posts did not include a discussion of the work by the participating artists so I have added a checklist (Stange World of Your Dreams Checklist) which can also be found in the sidebar. It was a short-lived title which with the last issue cover dated January 1953, the month that this chapter ends with. Black Magic was successful but that does not mean that every title that Simon and Kirby came up with would be as well.

In some earlier chapters of Little Shop of Horrors I have commented on the relatively decreased roll that Jack Kirby’s played in Black Magic. However in my last chapter I remarked on his greater contribution having taken the position of the second most prolific artist. In the period covered here Jack takes the first place with 25 pages. This is really not quite as significant as it might sound because Bob McCarty(?) takes second place with only 2 less page then Jack. However the two have a substantial lead over George Roussos (14 pages). All other artists provided only minor contributions. Surprising that includes the normally prolific Mort Meskin.

Black Magic #18
Black Magic #18 (November 1952) “Nasty Little Man”, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s contribution to Black Magic during this period has not only increased in amount of art but also played a more prominent part; Kirby did the first, or featured, story for all three issues. One of the stories, “Nasty Little Man”, is in my opinion one of the best pieces Kirby did for Black Magic. The splash is another example of how Jack could make a masterpiece out of virtually nothing. All we are presented with is a standing man that is smoking a pipe. His large head clues us to the fact that he is the little man mentioned in the title. And what a nasty man the story shows that he is. A warning to never underestimate someone based on height.

Black Magic #20
Black Magic #20 (January 1953) “The Strangest Stories Ever Told”, art by Jack Kirby

While I often highlight Kirby’s more substantial contributions it is important to realize that Jack drew rather minor works as well. Sometimes despite their short length these could be masterpieces. However occasionally these short pieces could be all too easily overlooked as was certainly the case for “The Strangest Stories Ever Told”. This work is not included in the Jack Kirby Checklist and in all honesty I had previously failed to recognize it as well. For me the most obvious clue as to the correct attribution is found in the final panel and particularly in the woman. I feel that once the rest of the panels are examined more carefully they reveal Kirby’s hand as well.

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Black Magic #20 (January 1953) “Pied Piper of Flame”, art by Bob McCarty(?)

As I mentioned earlier Bob McCarty(?) plays an important part in these issues of Black Magic. I guess I find that a little surprising since the large eyes that he provides his characters of both sexes give them a rather soulful look that seems a little out of place in the horror genre. That aside, McCarty was certainly good at graphically telling the stories.

Black Magic #18
Black Magic #18 (November 1952) “Detour, Lorelei on Highway 52”, art by Bob McCarty(?) and Jack Kirby

Bob McCarty(?) may have been talented but his work was, like that of many of the studio artists, subjected to the inclusion of parts by Jack Kirby. In his perhaps unofficial roll as art editor Jack was sometimes called to touch up another artist’s work. Parts drawn by Kirby occur so often in the splash that the possibility remains that this is not so much a touching up as a preplanned activity. In “Detour, Lorelei on Highway 52” we can see Kirby’s distinctive hand in both the penciling and inking. The entire female figure was done by Kirby and his blunt inking brush can also be seen in some of the nearby road side. However all the foreground elements were inked with a finer brush presumably by McCarty. I am uncertain who did the inking of the background steep hill.

Black Magic #20
Black Magic #20 (January 1953) “Hatchet Man” page 4, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut only did a single Black Magic story during this period. Actually it might easily be overlooked because much of the story is drawn from a more distant viewpoint. This is unusual because Draut is generally very good and using more varied viewing distance to keep the story visually interesting. Further the splash panel is one of his poorer efforts so I have decided to deviate from the normal splash page example and show a story page instead. Bill’s hand is particularly easy to spot in the fifth panel.

Black Magic #19
Black Magic #19 (December 1952) “Return from the Grave”, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin also only provides a single story and it is also not one of his better efforts. I believe most of the fault lies in the inking. While there are some effective spotting in parts most of the inking lacks Mort’s typical control and seems a bit crude. I have not been able to come to a conclusion of whether Meskin himself did the inking or some other artist like George Roussos.

Black Magic #20
Black Magic #20 (January 1953) “Crash Report”, art by John Prentice

The most pleasant surprise is the return of John Prentice. While Prentice plays an important part in the romance titles he is much less frequently used in Black Magic. I feel John does a great job in his horror genre stories but I suspect that his romance work was so appreciated by Simon and Kirby that they preferred to assign him romance pieces.

Black Magic #19
Black Magic #19 (December 1952) “This’ll Kill You”, art by George Roussos

George Roussos provides some work where some of the people have a Meskin look to them. While it is possible that Mort actually had a hand in this art, I am presently interpreting it as Meskin influencing George rather then actually working on the art. This opinion is largely based on some Meskin art that was inked by Roussos without George being so heavy handed as to make it difficult to recognize Mort’s pencils.

Black Magic #18
Black Magic #18 (November 1952) “A Deadly Dream”, art by J. G.

Two very short works (one and two pages) resemble the work of a still unidentified artist that signed a piece as J. G. (BM #9, February 1952, “The Man In The Judge’s Chair”). The splash for “A Deadly Dream” includes some picket fence crosshatching and some abstract arch shadow (see Inking Glossary) that are part of the Studio Style inking. Such techniques are not found elsewhere in the story and so they indicate someone, probably either Simon or Kirby, touching up the splash.

Black Magic #19
Black Magic #19 (December 1952) “Dead Man’s Isle”, art by Bill Walton

Bill Walton also provides a single story during this period. I feel there is no reason to write in more detail about this piece but I do think it helps to provide examples of all the more important artists that work for Simon and Kirby.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 1 (#1 – 3), Expanding Their Fields
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 2 (#4 – 6), Up and Running
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 3 (#7 – 8), The Same Old Gang
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4 (#9 – 11), Another Hit
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5 (#12 – 14), New Faces
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6 (#15 – 17), Mix Bag

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8 (#21 – 23), The Gang’s All Here
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9 (#24 – 26), The Party’s Ovetr
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10 (#27 – 29), A Special Visitor
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 11 (#30 – 33), The End