Category Archives: 2010/04

Art of Romance, Chapter 29, Trouble Begins

(December 1954 – June 1955: Young Romance #75 – #77, Young Love #63 – #65, Young Brides #20 – #22, In Love #3 – #5)

Number of Romance titles 1947 - 1958
Number of Romance titles 1947 – 1958 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

Comic book publishers were in trouble. One indication of this is the number of romance titles had reached a low point. This had happened a couple times before but previously there was a recovery, however not this time. While the number of romance titles will plateau for a while the number of romance comic publishers would continue to decline (The Real Reason for the Decline of Comics).

Simon and Kirby might not have noticed the trouble in the industry before but they could hardly miss it now. Young Romance and Young Love, two of the titles that Joe and Jack produced for Prize, had been monthlies for many years but with the December issues became bimonthlies. Something very odd happened with the February releases, there were none. Both Young Romance and Young Love should have come out that month but would only reappear in April (their next schedule date). In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe remarks on some problems that developed when the owners of Prize noticed that Simon and Kirby had recycled old art. Perhaps this is the explanation for the lost February. (So far I have not identified this reused art but this is not surprising considering the thousands of pages of romance art that Simon and Kirby produced. But there was Fighting American story from this time period that was based on an old Manhunter story (Fighting American, Jumping the Shark). In his book Joe mentions a November 1954 meeting that came about due to this problem. Add a couple of months (because comic cover dates are advanced) and that would be January very near the lost February.

Joe and Jack were also publishing their own comics but there were no lost months for their In Love. However In Love #4 (March 1955) would be the last issue Simon and Kirby would publish themselves. Their distributor, Leader News, was particularly hit by a public backlash against comics. With the failure of Leader News, Simon and Kirby would turn to Charlton to publish their titles. Charlton was notorious for their low pay scale so I suspect that whatever deal they made with Joe and Jack was not that great.

In this serial post I like to provide the line up of the artists based on their productivity. During the period covered in this chapter that would be Bill Draut (61 pages), Jo Albistur (31 pages), Bob McCarty (26 pages), Ann Brewster (25 pages), Jack Kirby (19 pages), John Prentice (11 pages), Ross Andru (12 pages), Leonard Starr (4 pages), Art Gates (3 pages) and Mort Meskin (2 pages). I will comment on most of these artists below. However this list is very incomplete as there are a number of artists that I have not been able to identify. While the individual contributions of these unidentified artists were not great, combined they provided 107 pages of art.

Young Brides #20
Young Brides #20 (December 1954) “Sinner by Night”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut was not only the most productive romance artists during this period he was the most important one in other ways as well. Bill did 8 of the 9 lead stories for the Prize titles. He also provided 6 covers for Prize and 1 for In Love. All these covers appear to be created by Bill specifically for the cover and were not recycled art from a story splash as recently was often the case.

Young Love #63
Young Love #63 (December 1954) “Another Love”, art by Bill Draut

Draut was a real work horse of the Simon and Kirby studio. While not as prolific as Jack Kirby or Mort Meskin, it seems Simon and Kirby could always count on Bill to provide great art. But there is something very unusual about “Another Love”. It starts out in a typical Draut manner but the following pages look different. The characters all look like they were drawn by Draut but the way the story is graphically told does not look like his.

Young Love #63
Young Love #63 (December 1954) “Another Love” page 6, pencils by unidentified artist

The last page of “Another Love” provides the answer. Panels 4 to 6 do not look like Draut’s pencil at all. It would appear that this story was drawn, or at least laid out, by another artist. Draut’s inking through most of the story helps hide this fact but either he did not ink the last page or did so with less deviation from the original pencils. Some experts have claimed that Simon and Kirby provided Draut with layouts, at least on occasion. However I have found no evidence to support that claim. This is the first example that I have seen of Draut working on art provided by another artist, although in this case it is not Kirby. Bill Draut was not a naturally prolific artist and I suspect that his recent workload caused him to turn to another artist for help. “Another Love” is the only story from this period that this seemed to be the case; all others look like Draut’s work alone.

Young Brides #22
Young Brides #22 (May 1955), art by Mort Meskin

In terms of numbers Mort Meskin’s contribution to this period was pretty meager two pages. Meskin’s period of work for Simon and Kirby is drawing to an end as he increasingly depends on working for DC. It is clear, however, that Simon and Kirby still valued Meskin’s contribution as both pages were covers.

Young Brides #20
Young Brides #20 (December 1954) “My Heart’s Torment”, art by John Prentice

John Prentice’s contribution was rather meager during this period (11 pages and no covers). Prentice was normally an active presence in Simon and Kirby’s romance comics and his contribution during the period covered by the last chapter was significant. I have no explanation for his relative absence now. “My Heart’s Torment is a rather nice story and although it may not be obvious at a glance the splash panel is actually part of the story. This format was very commonly used by all artists about a year earlier but almost completely abandoned since. Prentice seems to be the last artist who would sometime use this technique.

Young Brides #21
Young Brides #21 (March 1955) “Bad Impression”, art by Bob McCarty

In the past I have often confused Bob McCarty’s work from this period with that by John Prentice. McCarty style is much easier to distinguish in both earlier and later periods but for a while his style look liked Prentice’s. I suspect that this was due to both artists being influenced by Alex Raymond’s Rip Kirby syndication strip. The easiest way to distinguish the two is that McCarty’s men have larger eyes and faces that are not quite so long. While Bob was absent from the previous period his productivity exceeds Prentice during the current one (26 pages).

Young Love #65
Young Love #65 (June 1955) “The Wild One”, art by Jo Albistur

Jo Albistur was a recent contributor to the Simon and Kirby productions. Jo was from Argentina and would only work for Joe and Jack for about a year. He did some other comic book work but not a lot. Ger Apeldoorn has sent me scans of a cartoon that Albistur did for Humorama. I do not include it her because they are stylistically far removed from his comic book work and I prefer to keep my blog at a GP level and the Humorama pieces are decidedly rated R. While only a relatively newcomer, Albistur provided a substantial amount of art for this period (31 pages). While Albistur is not very well known he is one of my favorite romance artists.

Young Romance #77
Young Romance #77 (June 1955) “The Hangout”, art by Ann Brewster

Ann Brewster was another recent but much used artists. Some years ago she had done a little work for Simon and Kirby (Art of Romance, Chapter 9). Ann is another of my favorites and Simon and Kirby were obviously impressed by her as well. In fact she was one of the small group of artists who provided cover art for the Prize romance comics while Kirby was busy taking care of business (the other cover artists were Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, John Prentice and Bob McCarty). However Brewster’s covers art was not originally created for that purpose but rather derived from the splash from her story art. Simon and Kirby had converted splash art into covers before. It is the sort of thing Joe Simon would do in the future so I suspect he rather than Jack was behind these efforts.

Young Romance #75
Young Romance #75 (December 1954) “Too Wise to fall in Love”, art by Art Gates

Art Gates has returned to providing only single page pieces and not many of them either (3 pages). But such single page works seemed to have been a specialty of Gates. Art could provide either cartoons or more realistic art but there seemed no place for his gag cartoons in the Simon and Kirby romance comics.

Young Romance #75
Young Romance #75 (December 1954) “Too Plain for Love”, pencils by Ross Andru

There are two stories (12 pages) by Ross Andru during this period. As I mentioned in the last chapter, these stories by Andru were almost certainly obtained from left over work when Mikeross publishing failed (the publishing company owned by Mike Esposito and Andru Ross). “Too Plain for Love” was converted into a Nancy Hale story but it is not clear if there were any modifications beyond the title added to the top of the splash page. The story is very unusual in have the captions written in a cursive script.

Young Love #63
Young Love #63 (December 1954) “College Romeo”, art by unidentified artist and Ross Andru

The lady in the splash in “College Romeo” also appears to be drawn by Ross Andru. The rest of the art, however, was clearly done by another, less talented, artist. I suspect this is another worked picked up from the failed Mikeross publishing. The panel layout for the splash page is the same as that used by the stories that were completely done by Andru but this is not too significant because this was a commonly used formula.

Young Love #63
Young Love #63 (December 1954) “Lovely Liar”, art by unidentified artist

As I mentioned at the start of this post, there were quite a few artists working for Simon and Kirby during this period that I have not been able to identify. I will not be discussing them all but I thought I would provide a few examples.

Young Romance #75
Young Romance #75 (December 1954) “Personal “Secretary”, art by unidentified artist

The artist for “Personal Secretary” might have been the same one who did the previous example, “Lovely Liar”.

Young Romance #75
Young Romance #75 (December 1954) “Light of Love”, art by unidentified artist

The woman in the splash panel of “Light of Love” was done in a style somewhat like that of Ross Andru. I am not, however, convinced that Andru actually worked on this piece and it maybe nothing more then the actual penciler being influenced by Andru. Note the panel layout common to this page and the two previous examples. While a vertical splash panel is not that unusual in Simon and Kirby productions, that combined with tall narrow story panels is. Nor is this format found in any of the stories drawn by Ross Andru. I am sure that these pieces were picked up from a failed comic book title but perhaps from a publisher other than Mikeross.

Young Brides #20
Young Brides #20 (December 1954) “My Darkest Hour”, art by unidentified artist

Parts of “My Darkest Hour” remind me of the work of Bob Powell but not enough to convince me he actually drew the piece. I remember it has been said that he employed artists to help with his work load. Perhaps this is a case of a studio hand producing a Powell imitation. Note the rather nice touch of placing the story title in the theater marquee.

In Love #5
In Love #5 (May 1955) “New Flame”, art by unidentified artist

Artists new to Simon and Kirby romance productions were not limited to the Prize titles but appeared in their own In Love as well. The first three issues of In Love included a very long story that left room only for a single backup story and some single page pieces. However use of a long story was dropped with In Love #4. This allowed for a greater number of artists to appear. Some of the artists such as Bill Draut, Bob McCarty and Art Gates appeared in the Prize titles as well. One artist, Leonard Starr, had worked for Simon and Kirby in the past but only infrequently in recent times. And yes there are artists that I have not yet identified.

Each publisher tended to have his own house style. While “New Flame” is not too different from the typical Simon and Kirby story it reminds me much more of work that appeared in the Harvey romance comics. In fact the use of lower case letters in captions was typical of one of the letters employed by Harvey. The use by Simon and Kirby of art that originally was meant for Harvey occurred previously (Art of Romance, Chapter 13) but that was during the romance glut. During the glut Harvey cancelled some romance titles and put other on hold. Therefore it seems reasonable that Harvey might have wanted to unload some of his art. But while Harvey probably suffered decreased sales during this period, I do not believe he cancelled any titles. So was this really Harvey art? And if so, how did Simon and Kirby get a hold of it?

In Love #3
In Love #3 (January 1955) “Search for Inspiration” (original art), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

I have previously written on Jack Kirby’s contribution to In Love #3 (In Love #3 and Artist Loves Model). While Kirby’s piece for In Love #3 was a long one most of it was recycled art from a failed syndication attempt. This relative absence of Kirby from even his and Joe’s Mainline comics suggests that Jack was more involved in business matters then he previously had been.

In Love #5
In Love #5 (May 1955), art by Jack Kirby

As mentioned earlier, Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company, Mainline, failed due to financial difficulties that the distributor Leader News encountered during a public backlash at comic books. Joe and Jack made a deal with Charlton comic to publish the Mainline titles including In Love. The fifth issue was the first Charlton published one and it featured a beautiful Kirby drawn and inked cover. The original art still exists but has the title Exciting Romances. Apparently Simon and Kirby were using it as portfolio piece to show perspective publishers.

If nothing else it makes a nice end to a chapter for a period with very little Kirby art.

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)

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

The reader might think that my big event for last weekend was the Eisner nomination for “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. As great and unexpected as that was it was far from the most significant event. No, my big event was completing the final pages for “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”.

Doing the art restoration for that book was an arduous and lengthy process. It began about a year ago at a time when Titan had not yet made a decision about the contents of the book. Normally I would not want to begin such a project without a clearly defined plan but I was assured that no matter what the book would include Fighting American. It turned out there was good reason for the indecision. Originally the superheroes were to be done in two volumes but Titan had found a way to publish it as a single book but at a cost that will be a lot less than the two separate volumes.

While the prospect of 480 pages of Simon and Kirby should warm the heart of any fan, I must admit it left mine filled with trepidation. How could I come up with a schedule for so much work with such a wide range of restoration challenges? Well I just did the best I could. It turned out that for about a half a year I was able to meet my schedule. Then unfortunately I encountered some restoration problems that seriously threw me out of the schedule. I eventually figured out techniques that allowed me to handle similar problems in a much faster manner but I was never able to recover the slipped time. So in the end my restoration went much beyond the original plan. I am happy to say that Titan believes it can recover from my lateness and still get “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” out with the same release date which is late summer or early fall (Amazon is still listing it as October 12). I am also told that Titan hopes to have advanced copies available for those lucky enough to attend this year’s San Diego show.

And what a book “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” will be! The size will be about 7 1/2 by 11 inches. This is the same size as Marvel’s old Visionary line of books which should be able to reproduce the art in its original dimensions. And while my restoration took longer than any of us would have liked this had no impact whatsoever on the quality of the results. In fact I am certain that the reader will find it superior to the work in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. When I worked on BoSK the Captain America story was about the last thing I did. It was done using original flats (proofs of the line art) that Joe Simon had kept all these years. I was so please with the results that I resolved to make use of that technique whenever I could. It means extra work but the results are worth it.

As for the contents it will be all the superheroes that either Jack Kirby or Joe Simon drew that are not owned by either Marvel or DC. Specifically that means:

  • The Black Owl
  • Stuntman
  • Vagabond Prince
  • Captain 3-D
  • Fighting American
  • The Shield (Private Strong)
  • The Fly

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

The Black Owl was among Simon and Kirby’s earliest superhero work. Only Marvel Boy and the Vision for Timely predate the Black Owl, and even then only be a few months. Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl shows the beginnings of some of their trademarks that made Captain America such a success. (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl)

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

I have not written solely about Stuntman for some time, but only because I posted on it early in my blog (Stuntman). What can I say, Stuntman is filled with great art, action and humor. Of course Titan’s upcoming book will have all the published Stuntman stories but as a special treat it will also include the previously unpublished “Jungle Lord”; this thanks to the help of John Morrow (of The Jack Kirby Collector fame). The sudden cancellation of Stuntman left “Jungle Lord” without the finishing spotting but all the lettering and the outline inking were completed. As an additional bonus, two of the Stuntman stories were restored from original flats from the Simon collection. While every effort was made to restore all the scans to the best possible quality you simply cannot beat line art from flats or original art.

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Many fans have underestimated Joe Simon’s talents as a penciler. Hopefully “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” will enlighten them. All three Vagabond Prince tales will be included one of which (“Trapped on Wax”) has never been published in its entirety. “Trapped on Wax” was restored from the original art and the other two stories from original flats. Harvey Comic’s of Vagabond Prince were exceedingly poor (even for Harvey) so Titan’s versions will be really special. (Vagabond Prince, Trapped on Wax, The Madness of Doctor Altu, and Death-Trap De Luxe)

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Not surprisingly, Captain 3-D #1 has never been reprinted. Originally it posed a problem for Titan as well. What would they do, offer the book with 3D glasses? The solution I offered was to drop the 3D effect and restore it to the line art. After all Jack Kirby’s perspective was so effective it did not need the 3D gimmick. I have also colored the material in a manner consistent with methods used in other Simon and Kirby productions. Captain 3-D was inked by an array of artists including the Steve Ditko at the start of his career. Now readers will be able to judge for themselves who inked what; you can get my take on this subject in my post Captain 3D.

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Titan’s book will contain all the original Fighting American stories, not just those with art by Simon and Kirby. It will include Simon’s cover for Harvey Fighting American #2 and the George Tuska drawn “The Mad Inker” neither of which have been published before. “The Mad Inker” is missing the splash page but this does not seem to affect the story which is otherwise complete. Marvel reprinted Fighting American in 1989 but a good portion of it was what Marvel now terms reconstructed art. In “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” you will get nothing but pure Simon and Kirby.

Simon and Kirby Superheroes

Most of Private Strong and all of the Fly stories were restored from original art. I even got permission from Titan to re-master “Come into My Parlor” which appeared in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”. Not that the restoration in BoSK was that bad but the restoration from original art is just so much more special.

There is an introduction by Neil Gaiman. I do not think that for anyone who has read Gaiman’s Sandman series would be surprised that he is a big Simon and Kirby fan. I have to say the fact that Gaiman was going to do the introduction for this book impressed my niece more than anything else concerning the projects I have worked on. There are also a couple of short essays by Jim Simon. I have not read Jim’s contribution but judging by the introduction Jim wrote for Marvel’s Boys’ Ranch reprint I am looking forward to what he has to say.

Future volumes of Titan’s Simon and Kirby library will include great material. But I do not think any of them will so thoroughly cover Simon and Kirby’s collaboration. “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” spans from some of their earliest work together until nearly their last (only the retro Sandman for DC was a latter collaboration).

It has been implied on the Internet that some of my recent posts have used restorations from “Simon and Kirby Superheroes”. That simply is not true. However, all the images I have used in this entry are from Titan’s upcoming book. Unfortunately the low resolution of images used for the Internet does not give them justice. The reader will have to buy the book to get the full impact. You will not regret it.

Questions on Some Inking in Adventures of the Fly

I have recently posted on the initial issues of the Adventures of the Fly (here and here). There are still unidentified artists that penciled those issues (and more in the two Fly issues that followed). Identifying inkers is an even bigger challenged particularly because I am not that familiar with the brushwork of most of the possible inkers. However I recently noticed some inking in the Adventures of the Fly that was very familiar.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Sneak Attack” page 2 (part), pencils by Jack Kirby

When I last wrote about “Sneak Attack” I attributed the pencils to Joe Simon. Well that was not the complete attribution. The bottom of the second page was an advertisement for the other Archie superhero comic, Double Life of Private Strong. The only art the ad contains is a standing figure of Private Strong changing into the Shield. It seems clear that the art was drawn by Jack Kirby. It is odd that the story and ad were done by different artists. I have studied the original art from Joe Simon’s collection and I can assure the reader that no cut and paste was performed to accomplish this.

The inking for the ad was really nicely done but unfortunately the details of which are obscured by rather poor printing. It is hard to see but the inner sides of both thighs were inked using picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary). The good news is that in the upcoming Simon and Kirby Superheroes volume from Titan “Sneak Attack” and the other stories I will be discussing here will be restored from the original art. Similarly robust picket fence brushwork was one of the characteristics of what I refer to as the Studio Style inking used during the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Not only did both Joe and Jack use this technique at that time but Mort Meskin did as well. I think, however, we can dismiss Meskin as the possible inker for the ad because he was no longer working with either Kirby or Simon and the inking here is a bit more spontaneous than was normal for Mort.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Marco’s Eyes” splash (part), pencils by Jack Kirby

The spotting of the large figure of the Fly in the double page splash for “Marco’s Eyes is more finely worked than typical for either Simon or Kirby although either of them was certainly capable of it. Actually it is more finely worked than the inking found in any of the Fly art. So far I have not identified any brushwork in the figure that helps in determining an inking attribution.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “Marco’s Eyes” page 4, pencils by Jack Kirby

The story art for “Marco’s Eyes” shows an important characteristic that was typical of Studio style inking, what I refer to as shoulder blots (Inking Glossary). It is prominently shown in panels 2, 3 and 5 from page 4 but occurs elsewhere in the story as well. Numerous inkers have provided their shoulders with shadows but shoulder blots are distinct in that they occur on both shoulders regardless of how a shadow would expect to be cast. So far I have only seen Joe Simon and Jack Kirby make use of shoulder blots in their inking.

Adventures of the Fly #2
Adventures of the Fly #2 (September 1959) “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby

There are no shoulder blots in “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” unless the shadow in panel 4 from page 2 is counted as one (but I am not inclined to do so). There are, however, a number of examples of course picket fence crosshatching. The first panel from page 2 shows a scallop pattern to the shadow on the boy’s arm. This scallop inking frequently showed up in Kirby’s inking. But the inking of the eyes and eyebrows of the boy look very much like the work of Simon.

Adventures of the Fly #1
Adventures of the Fly #1 (August 1959) “Come Into My Parlor” story panels 3 and 4 from the double page splash, pencils by Jack Kirby

The double page splash and accompanying story panels of “Come Into My Parlor” also contains what looks like Studio style inking. Particularly note the spotting of the sailor from story panels 3 and 4. Observe the two cloth folds on the man’s shoulder in panel 4. These cloth folds show no indication of the tip of the brush which is a technique that was typical of Kirby’s inking. I am less convinced about the inking of the rest of the story. It should be kept in mind that it was common during the Simon and Kirby collaboration for Kirby to be involved with the spotting of the splash and leave the rest of the story to other inkers.

Studio style inking techniques are not limited to the four stories that I have discussed here. But their occurrence elsewhere in the first two issues of Adventures of the Fly seems limited to what looks like touch-ups of the work by other inkers. Such touch-up were almost certainly the work of Simon since Kirby was then a freelancer working from his house.

I only become confident about inking attributions after I have “lived” with them for some time. However it is my policy to present my current views in this blog even if they are likely to be subject to change. At this time I believe “The Master of Junk-Ri-La” was inked by Joe Simon. I am also fairly certain that Jack Kirby inked the splash pages of “Come Into My Parlor”. I am less confident about the inking attributions for the ad from “Sneak Attack” or “Marco’s Eyes”. I currently am crediting Kirby for that inking but I am bother about the frequent appearance of the tip of the brush in the inking which previously was not typical for Kirby although it was for Simon.

Mort Meskin’s “Kirby” Faces

Young Love #10
Young Love #10 (June 1950) “My Backwoods Love” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

There is a great web site devoted to Mort Meskin. Among its many attractions is a biography that includes a picture of Mort working on a romance page. I have often wondered what story the page was from but until recently I never could place it. A few weeks ago I spotting it while looking at “My Backwoods Love” (Young Love #10, June 1950). Actually I should have noticed it earlier since I included the splash in one of posts (The Art of Romance, Chapter 11, After the Glut). But Meskin did 1033 pages of romance art for Simon and Kirby so a single page is easily overlooked. Comic books dates are a guide to when a title should be removed from a newspaper stand and so are a couple months advanced from the actual release date. Also time must be allotted for printing and distribution. Generally the cover date must be adjusted by 5 or 6 months to arrive at the calendar date for when the art was done. This would place the photograph as being done around January 1950. All indications are that Simon and Kirby did not keep much of an inventory so that date is probably accurate to within a couple of months.

Simon and Kirby studio (probably from 1951 or 1952) Left to right: Joe Genalo, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Jimmy Infantino and Ben Oda. Caricatures (probably drawn by Joe Simon) of Marvin Stein and Jimmy Infantino.

It may not be obvious, but Meskin biography photograph of Mort has been staged. You can tell because he is holding a pencil despite the fact that the entire page has already been drawn and all but the final panel inked. I have seen other photos from this period taken of the Simon and Kirby studio and they are less candid than they try to appear. I show above one of my favorite pictures where obviously no attempt was made to portray this as a candid scene. They might have been hard working artists but you got to think they all enjoyed a laugh from time to time.

The Meskin website biography states that the rugged man in the upper right panel was drawn by Jack Kirby. I have often wondered whether this was correct. Certainly this character type appears in Meskin’s art very rarely. I can think of only one other example. However it should also be said that not many of the stories Mort worked on at that time would call for such a character either. Meskin actually worked in the Simon and Kirby studio (almost all artists working for Joe and Jack did not) so Jack was certainly available to provide a little penciling. But is that what actually happened? While the features of the man in “My Backwoods Love” are unusual for Meskin remove some of the abundant hair and the facial characteristics do not deviate that much from Mort’s typical man; perhaps only a bit heftier.

The rest of the page is typical Meskin. Nor is Kirby providing layouts as has so often been claimed. The panel layout includes a lot of vertical captions that Meskin preferred at that time but which Kirby did not. It seems unlikely that Jack would switch his preferences when creating layouts for another artist to use.

Young Romance #58
Young Romance #58 (June 1953) “Too Good For Me” page 4, art by Mort Meskin

The other story with a “Kirby” face that I mentioned is “Too Good for Me”. A comparison between the two stories suggests two commonalities. They both have a lot of hair and are close-ups. Beards and mustaches were not commonly depicted by Mort and such fully grown examples are even rarer still. Turning to the close-up nature of these drawing it can be said that Meskin would often modify his inking of features by providing more lines. This had the affect of transforming his generally simply eyebrows into more complicated and interesting ones. This change in eyebrows makes the work look more like Kirby’s since Jack was famous for his extravagant and expressive eyebrows. But while in close-ups Meskin’s depictions of eyebrows become more complicated they really are not done in the same manner as Kirby’s.

In “Too Good for Me” Meskin makes frequent use of tall narrow panels such as can be seen on the bottom of page 4. This was a common panel layout technique used by Mort during this period. Such tall narrow panels, however, were not often used by Jack Kirby during the same period. So once again I believe we can dismiss any claim that Kirby supplied layouts for “Too Good for Me”.

I cannot completely reject the possibility of Kirby providing a helping hand in the drawing of these particular faces. Nor would I deny the possibility of a Kirby influence on Meskin; after all they were both working in the same studio and early work by Mort was influenced by Jack (Early Mort Meskin). However I do believe that these “Kirby” faces were most likely drawn by Meskin without any direct assistance from Jack.