Category Archives: 2012/03

My Two Cents: The Auteur Theory of Comics

I recently posted on a review of Jack Kirby as Auteur by Barry Pearl. In the comments section of that post Arlen Schumer placed text “adapted from the visual presentation at the New York Comic Con panel, Saturday, October 15th, 2011”. I felt that Schumer’s text was much too important to leave in the relative obscurity of a comment section, so with his permission I have posted it below. I believe this is the first time I have ever had a guest posting in my blog.

I would like to add my two cents. Frankly when I first heard of the idea I already hated the term used. I rather dislike it when foreign words are wrapped around a simple concept. After all auteur is just the French word for author. However the term is relatively unimportant, at least compared to the underlying concept. I attended Schumer’s panel and found the presentation quite convincing. I do, however, have a couple of quibbles.

One has to do with the panel’s and text’s discussion of the legal issues between the Jack Kirby estate and Disney, Marvel’s recent owner. While the court battles concerning these issues might have been the instigation for the developing of the Auteur Theory of Comics, the legalities have no bearing on the theory and the theory has no bearing on the legal issues. As long as the work by Kirby is legally considered work for hire it does not matter if he is considered the author of the work, his estate cannot claim the copyrights.

The other quibble is not so much a disagreement with Schumer but rather an uncertainty on my part about how far the term author can be applied. While is seems eminently suitable for artists that work under the Marvel Method, should it be applied to artists who worked from a script? Such artists could be described as illustrators but I feel they have much more impact to the finished work than a typical book illustrator. However to me there still seems a great difference between artists who worked the Marvel Method and those who worked from scripts.

I believe ideas such as the Auteur Theory of Comics have great importance. We may not be able to correct past financial injustices, but we can correct failures to provide proper credits. While working with Stan Lee, the most credit Kirby (or Ditko) ever received beyond providing pencils was for supplying the plot. However artists who worked the Marvel Method did much more than plotting. While we normally think of authors as writers the definition includes creators. Therefore I think it is quite appropriate to describe Lee/Kirby (or Lee/Ditko, etc.) as the authors of the comics that they collaborated on.

“The Auteur Theory of Comics” by Arlen Schumer

Text adapted from the visual presentation at the New York Comic Con panel, Saturday, October 15th, 2011.

The recent court loss for the Jack Kirby estate in its battle with Disney, Marvel’s corporate owner, over copyright/ownership of the Marvel characters, revealed Stan Lee’s testimony as being the usual lynchpin in deciding the case in his, and Marvel’s, favor, that testimony essentially promulgating the same misconception that he, not Kirby, was the true author of the Marvel Universe by dint of his salaried role as editor and writer, and Kirby’s professional status as a work-for-hire employee. This misconception ignores the actual role Kirby played in the actual creation of those seminal comic books, as the auteur—author in French—of their stories. “Auteur” in the way Franco-cinemaphiles in the 1950s—first Francois Truffaut in the journal Cahiers du Cinema, and then American counterparts like The Village Voice’s film critic Andrew Harris—postulated their Auteur Theory of Film, that a film’s director, and not the screenwriter, as was previously thought, was a film’s true author.

So too can the Auteur Theory of Film be accurately applied to the “Marvel Method” of comic book authorship, innovated by Lee, who gave his artists (originally and primarily Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) anything from a typed synopsis of a story to a verbal springboard of an idea—the equivalent of the screenplay in film—and the artists drew out/plotted/staged/paced the story visually to fill the page count given, using two-dimensional versions of the same tools and devices a movie director uses to craft a film: casting, editing, lighting, sound, choreography—after which Lee would add the dialogue and captions to the artists’ work.

Stan’s interviews from the ‘60s, which stand in contrast, and somewhat of a contradiction, to his testimony in this case, were submitted in documents—eventually thrown out by the judge—during the testimony of Kirby experts John Morrow (publisher of The Jack Kirby Collector) and Mark Evanier (Kirby’s biographer); here’s an example:

“I would tell Jack the main idea that I wanted, and then we would talk about it, and we’d come up with something. I would give him the outline for the story. As we went on, and we had been working together for years, the outlines I gave him were skimpier and skimpier. I might say something like: ‘In this story let’s have Dr. Doom kidnap Sue Storm, and the Fantastic Four has to go out and rescue them. And in the end, Dr. Doom does this and that.’ And that might have been all I would tell him for a 20-page story. If the book was 20 pages long, I’d receive back 20 beautifully drawn pages in pencil which told a story. Jack would just put in all the details and everything. And then it was—I enjoyed that. It was like doing a crossword puzzle. I get the panels back, and I have to put in the dialogue and make it all tie together. So we worked well together that way for years.”

Ergo it was the artists who were the actual storytellers, not “just” the artists, with Lee, of Marvel Comics, like the directors of films have been considered the true authors of their films for over 50 years now, entitled to the benefits of credit and copyright protection of their films.
At the same time, this is not to deny Lee’s co-authorship and creatorship of Marvel Comics—he deserves exactly 50% of the credit, for his absolutely crucial contributions as editor/writer/art director/salesman and spokesman—but not a percent more or percent less. The sad fact of the matter is that Lee has successfully campaigned throughout his post-working relationships with Kirby and Ditko to create the perception—and therefore the “reality”—that he was the 100%, primary, sole creator of the Marvel Universe, relegating Kirby, specifically, to the historically demeaning role of the artist as merely a “pair of hands,” a “wrist” who robotically drew up Lee’s scripts, the only “theory”/process of comic book creation the judge was presented with.

(Comic creators like Will Eisner and Jim Steranko, who both write and draw their own work, are not germane to this discussion; they’re already 100% creators of their works. The Auteur Theory in both film and comics, as I’m applying it, pertains to those directors and comic artists who did/do not write their movies or comics, but collaborate with screenplay writers or comic writers; by dint of the act of directing a film, and drawing a comic book story, the director and the artist are the true authors/auteurs of their respective final product. The comic book works of writers like Alan Moore and Harvey Kurtzman are trickier to evaluate; for who is the auteur of Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen? Who is the auteur of Two Fisted Tales/Frontline/Mad? Because both Moore and Kurtzman functioned as much as art directors as writers—Moore verbally with his notorious panel descriptions and Kurtzman visually with his layouts—they’re legitimate exceptions. The overarching concept of the Auteur Theory of Comics is that it applies to any artist who does the visualizing of a comic book story, because the act of illustrating a comic book script—whether old-school full-script “DC style,” “Marvel style,” or whatever style—makes that artist a de facto auteur of the final “product” and therefore a de facto 50/50 co-creator of the work.)

The Marvel Method comic-creation working relationship of Lee & Kirby operated, in actuality, more like the Beatles’ Lennon & McCartney songwriting team; just as the early Lee/Kirby Fantastic Fours were closer to true 50/50 collaborations (see Lee’s 1960’s interview recollections and typed script/synopsis for FF #1), so too were Lennon/McCartney’s initial songs together. But as the years went on, Beatles songs became more often de facto solo projects, like McCartney’s “Yesterday,” or his “Hey Jude,” in which Lennon’s lyric, “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” is his sole contribution—essentially no different than Lee suggesting to Kirby in ’65 to have the FF fight a really big villain, and Kirby coming up with the entire Galactus/Silver Surfer trilogy (as in penciling the entire story out, and writing dialogue bits and notes in the margins). Since every Beatle song could never be perfectly quantified as to who did what, John and Paul decided early on to credit their Beatles songs to an across-the-board 50/50 split, “Lennon & McCartney,” making it easier to share in the real world of publishing credit and royalties. That’s how Lee should’ve worked with Kirby, who did the heavy lifting of actually “telling” the stories so that Lee could “write” multiple comics—the practical, economic imperative behind perhaps the greatest storytelling breakthrough in comic book history.

“That whole thing that he and Jack started was strictly for expediency because he didn’t have the scripts ready. That’s the reason. It was not done out of any stroke of genius, it was done out of expedience. Jack would call up and say, ‘Stan, I didn’t get the story yet, or the script” and Stan would say, “Ok, what I’m going to do is describe the first five or six pages in action for you, do them without words and when you send them in I’ll put the words in.’ That’s how it grew into the Marvel method of art first and script second. It was like sunlight had come into the room because this was a visual medium that had become a verbal medium for fifty ears, and suddenly it was the visual medium that it had intended to be in the first place. I think that the biggest thing Stan and Jack contributed to the industry was that. Visual first was a huge step forward; it was like a quantum leap.”
—John Romita

Yet despite this grand recollection, Stan always took full writer’s pay, while artists like Romita were never remunerated for their co-plotting and de facto writing. The most egregious example of this practice taken to an absurd degree is the famous Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1 (June ’68) opening sequence written and illustrated by Jim Steranko, whom Stan didn’t want to pay as a writer because, according to Steranko, “…there were no words on the pages”! This myopia of Lee speaks not only to the primacy of word over image in both the lay public’s and the average comic reader’s—and creator’s—minds, but to the misunderstanding of the entire process of visual storytelling in comics, where the artist has control over sound as well as lighting and staging of a writer’s words; If he feels a sequence in the story can best be told silently, as in film or television, he has that paint in his palette. Theoretically, if Stan himself had written that SHIELD story—even traditionally, in full-script, with the dialogue he would’ve preferred—the auteurship of that sequence would still be Steranko’s!

Because the artist in comics has always been the auteur of the comic book reading experience, due primarily to the primacy of the visuals themselves; or, as artist Gil Kane put it once: “The only thing that makes comics worth reading is the art.” And Gene Colan said: “Every story I ever drew was like being the director of a film.” These simple statements are part and parcel of the Auteur Theory of Comics, the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge: that in the verbal/visual medium known as comic books, the visual creation of a story is a de facto act of co-creation (and therefore morally and ethically entitled to all the legal benefits of co-creatorship).

Take the origin story, probably the most important component establishing the legal provenance of a comic character. Lee has always maintained, in court and out, that he created the character concepts first, and thus “created” them fully. But there was a little-known “character concept” bandied about for 15 years, called “Spiderman,” that didn’t become a copyrightable/trademarkable/successful character until artist Steve Ditko put pencil to paper and created the “Spider-Man” we know of, of stage, screen, comics, merchandise and de facto logo of Marvel, as the mouse ears are to Disney. As Ditko’s iconic Spider-Man “self-portrait” implies, a comic book “creation” isn’t fully “created” until an artist visualizes his own or a writer’s idea/synopsis/script. Which begs the question: was Stan Lee’s verbal origin story of Spider-Man more “important” in the overall/eventual success of the character than the greatest costume design in the history of comic book superheroes by Steve Ditko?

Are Gaines’ and Feldstein’s overwritten captions and word balloons to those classic EC Comics more “important” to their renown than the golden-age-of-illustration artwork that conformed to their prepared panels?

Are Bob Haney’s great 1968-69 Brave & Bold stories more “important” than the auteurism of Neal Adams’ artwork/storytelling, in which he changed all of Haney’s daytime scenes to night, just as a director of a film might alter the screenplay to more effectively work on the screen, not the printed page as the screenwriter wrote it?

Are Marv Wolman’s Tomb of Dracula concepts/writing/dialoguing more “important” to that ‘70s success story than the auteurist, atmospheric artwork/storytelling of Colan/Palmer?

When I was reading those Batman reprints from the ‘50s in those eighty-page annuals during the ‘60s, I was entertained by a raft of reprints, all uncredited, as was the DC policy then. So why did the stories illustrated by (we later found out) the great Dick Sprang stand out from the surrounding hackwork of Bob Kane ghosts? Because, despite working from complete scripts and tight editorial control (just like that of the Hollywood movie studios) Sprang’s confident, direct, exaggerated qualities that we came to love about Sprang made every story he illustrated a “Dick Sprang story,” no matter whether Edmond Hamilton or Bill Finger or whomever wrote them, because Sprang was the auteur of those Batman stories—just as the great film directors Hitchcock, Hawks and Ford, who worked from others’ screenplays within an extremely collaborative/edited/oft-censored medium, with producer control no better or worse than comic book artists had to deal with (and are still dealing with), were later declared auteurs of their films by the French film theorists.

Like film, comics are a synchronistic collaboration of words and pictures, ergo any form of a verbal script is only half of the art form known as the “comic book”—whether it’s as brief as Lee’s capsule directives to Kirby, or as extensively detailed as Alan Moore’s panel exegeses for Gibbons to follow in Watchmen.

To those who still damn Gibbons with faint praise for Watchmen’s success because, to one online poster, “a raccoon could have drawn that story and it would have been awesome,” Watchmen is, indeed, a 50/50 collaboration no matter how you parse Moore’s and Gibbons’ individual contributions, and good luck to you if you’re going to try—it’ll always be purely subjective. Moore’s Watchmen script is only worth what someone’s willing to pay to read it in its original form, just like screenplays to films are available to those who want to read them—but neither are complete artistic entities on their own. Moore himself would be the first one to admit that all of his comic book collaborations, with a who’s who of artistic greats like Eddie Campbell, Brian Bolland and Bill Sienkiewicz are equivalent in their contributions of words and pictures (hence Moore’s equitable sharing of both the legal and financials of each property). And to further diminish the line of “reasoning” that Gibbons’ “contribution” to Watchmen was somehow minimized by Moore’s gargantuan talent, imagine what a less-cerebral 2000 AD artist than Gibbons would’ve done with Moore’s Watchmen scripts—or what an average Marvel artist like Don Heck would have done with Lee’s “Have the FF fight a really big villain” idea, or what kind of costume artist Larry Lieber would’ve designed for Spider-Man!

There is a reason that Alan Moore gets more credit from the general public for Watchmen than Gibbons does; it’s why Stan also gets more credit than Jack. Literary criticism far outweighs visual/art criticism in terms of both column inches and overall impact and ubiquity, with far more literature courses taught in universities than art history. And because the graphic novel and serious criticism of comics as a visual/literary hybrid are still relatively recent—and even then, because most comics fans are not visually literate enough to actually discuss the artistic merits (and faults) of comic book art to the same degree that they discuss story/character, comics criticism pretty much follows the standard story/characters discussion, with a backhanded compliment of the “art chores” usually falling to the penultimate paragraph of most comics reviews. Combined with the fact that both the lay and comic audiences know far more about traditional “art”—painting and sculpture, and now computer graphics—than they know about how comic book art is actually produced, and you have the current situation, in which Stan Lee is thought of as both the writer/creator and the artist of Marvel Comics! Want proof? From a recent issue of Comic Shop News (#1259), by Cliff Biggers & Ward Batty in cooperation with

“Comics icon Stan Lee, creator of the Mighty Marvel Universe and characters such as Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and Iron Man…”

Think of this Auteur Theory of Comics being the testimony in defense of Kirby that could have/should have followed Lee’s entirely self-serving testimony, enlightening the court, the media covering the trial, comic book readers and the general public to truly understand, maybe for the first time, the role of the artist in the de facto co-creation of a comic book work, and to the truth of the Marvel Method in actual practice, asserting an artist of the magnitude of Jack “King” Kirby his morally and ethically rightful place as the auteur of the Marvel Comics Universe.

My Sixth Anniversary

With this month my blog has reached its sixth anniversary. That the previous year was eventful for me would be an gross understatement. The release of Joe Simon’s autobiography and the Captain America movie were key events. But on a more personal note was the publication of Titan’s “Simon and Kirby Library: Crime”. Joe and Jack’s work in that genre are among my favorites. While I have hopes that a second volume of Simon and Kirby crime might eventually see print it appears that my dream of working on my other favorite Simon and Kirby genre will not be fulfilled. Of course the most significant event of the past year was the passing of my friend, Joe Simon. Joe played a large roll in my life of the past decade or so and I miss him greatly. I realize that events arising from Joe’s passing has had a negative impact on my posting on this blog but I hope that has begun to change. There is so much more that I want to write about Simon and Kirby.

My Two Cents: Jack Kirby as Auteur

Barry Pearl has recently posted an article Jack Kirby Takes an Auteur Detour. Pearl is a fine comic book scholar which makes this particular post so surprising. Surprising because he gets so many things wrong. In the comments section to his post Barry says that

The first time I had heard the term “Auteur” applied to Jack Kirby was at the NY Comic Con in 2011 when there was a seminar on that subject.

Actually that was my first time as well. It was a great presentation by Arlen Schumer along with panelists Rand Hoppe, John Morrow, J. David Spurlock and Michael Bonestell. There is a summary of what would be presented here. It is too bad that Barry Pearl did not review this summary.

Perhaps he would not have stated that they were advocating Kirby as the actual and sole creator. No, Schumer and all the panelists that I can remember gave credit to Stan Lee as well. By no means was there a claim that Kirby did it all by himself.

Or perhaps then he would not have stated that the Jack Kirby as Auteur concept takes credit away from other creators. No it was explicitly stated that the term auteur could also be applied to Steve Ditko and any of the other artists who worked under the Marvel Method.

I could go on and on about the various inaccuracies in Pearl’s post. He has presented a straw man version of the theory of Jack Kirby as Auteur. He then uses this straw man to try to make the case that a movie director was not the proper analogy for what artist like Jack Kirby were doing. But with all the distortions about the auteur theory and what happens in movies it is small wonder that Pearl gets it all wrong and ends with:

In collaborative media, auteurs need not apply

But the idea of a film director as auteur is based on movies that are very much a collaborative effort.

I have a lot of respect for Barry so I wonder at what prompted such an inaccurate post. Perhaps Pearl’s post was not a response to Schumer’s theory but a distorted version of it by someone else. I no longer follow any Kirby list as they all seem to attract Kirby Cultists. It is not the extremes of their positions that bothers me so much as their lack of manners in their avocation (name calling and disrespect for alternate views). I can easily envision the use Kirby Cultists would make with a distorted version of Kirby as Auteur. But it would be unfortunate if Barry’s post was a response to a distorted version of the Auteur Theory because the true version is worthy of much thoughtful discussion.

Jack Kirby’s Trips to the Fourth Dimension

Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966) “This Man, This Monster” page 13, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Artie Simek, image from “Hands of Fire”

I am currently reading Charles Hatfield’s “Hands of Fire”. I am sure I will write something about the book in the near future but I thought I would discuss one of the many items Hatfield touches upon. Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966) has the story “This Man, This Monster” in which Mr. Fantastic, Richard Reed, visits the Negative Zone. I do not have the original comic but I use instead a plate from Hatfield’s book which looks to me like it was scanned from the actual comic book. Note panel 3 where Reed exclaims:


But who needs words when we have Jack Kirby to provide an illustration. Off course even Kirby found it difficult to translate four dimensions into just two. The task might be theoretically impossible but the scene that Jack provides is clearly unlike any the reader has ever seen. In the next panel anything remotely naturalistic is replaced with abstract colors.

Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966) “This Man, This Monster” page 14, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, letters by Artie Simek, image from “Hands of Fire”

As “otherworldly” as the images from page 13, on the next page Kirby presents ultimate in non-reality. Here on the figure of Mr. Fantastic is drawn while the rest is a collage. Kirby was not the first to use photographs from magazines and newspapers in a comic book. However previous uses were rather mundane shortcuts to creating an image and nothing like the innovative collages that Kirby created. The image Jack constructed for page 14 is particularly effective. Photographs gain an acceptance as “truth” that a drawing does not provide. Sure our logical minds know that photographs really are not necessarily true, particularly today with software like Photoshop. However our emotional reaction still accepts photographs as depicting truth. Kirby plays off the photographic “truth” against an scenery that is obviously unreal. That tension is something that a drawing could never quite create.

Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940) page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

Mr. Fantastic’s visit to the Negative Zone was not Kirby’s first depiction of the Fourth Dimension, not by a long shot. His earliest occurred in collaboration with Joe Simon in Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940). Blue Bolt enters the Fourth Dimension through a cylinder surrounded by the earliest example of Kirby Krackle (Evolution of Kirby Krackle). On entry the hero is presented with an “odd looking landscape” reminiscent of the effect found in Fantastic Four #51. Blue Bolt then finds he can see through objects and requires special goggles to see in three dimensions.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Fourth Dimension is a Many Splattered Thing”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Kirby would return to the Fourth Dimension theme in an appropriately titled story “The Fourth Dimension is a Many Splattered Thing”. This work was done in collaboration with Joe Simon but after the breakup of their studio. Here Jack’s attempt to draw the indescribable result in some of the most unique images from his career.

Kirby had a long career as a comic book artist. It is surprising how certain themes show up repeated at different points in his career. The Fourth Dimension and Kirby Krackle are just two examples of this phenomenon. If it was just one or two incidences like this it would be easy to write it off as of not great significance. But actually there are many more examples that can be found (and I am sure I will post others from time to time). This signifies to me that Kirby was much more than an illustrator to the stories that he worked on. This is not to denigrate individuals like Joe Simon or Stan Lee for their contributions were also important.

Fan Letter

Fan letters did not play a part in Simon and Kirby productions. That is not to say that fans did not write letters just that Simon and Kirby comic books did not include a letters section. I have never seen a fan letter to Simon and Kirby but obviously there were some because there does exist a letter that Joe wrote in response to one fan, Ronald. This letter was issued at a critical time. After the failure of Simon and Kirby’s work for Harvey (Stuntman and Boy Explorers Comics), Joe and Jack were forced to find whatever work they could. They ended up simultaneously working for two companies; Hillman (Clue, Real Clue, as well as some other titles) and Prize (Headline). This letter was written at the time that they stopped working for Hillman in order to devote themselves to Prize. Apparently the original fan letter was misplaced and only recovered Simon and Kirby were vacating Hillman.

American Boys’ Comics Inc. was one of the names used by Prize Comics; Crestwood Publications and Feature Publications were two others. The name American Boys’ Comics was used mostly during mid-forties but its use seems to have been discontinued not too long after Joe’s letter. However there was no change of address to accompany the name change.

Ronald must have been very pleased to receive this reply to his fan letter from Joe as he kept very good care of it. The paper has yellowed but the preservation is otherwise very good except for the remains of tape on the four corners. Ronald probably had taped into a scrapbook.

A Joe Simon Video

Helping the Simon family has put my work on the next Titan addition to the Simon and Kirby library behind schedule. When there just does not seem enough time life seems to have a way of just making matters even more difficult. Most of my writing for this blog is done during my lunch hour at work but recently I have had to put extra time on my job as well. I hope things will settle down to a more reasonable pace in the near future which will allow me to return to my more regular posting.

In the mean time above is a video of Joe Simon taken by Desert Wind Comics. Joe did signings for Desert Winds. I believe this video was made about a year before his passing.

Weird Mysteries

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959), art by George Tuska

This post is not about some strange puzzle of comic book history but rather about a magazine of the name Weird Mysteries. The publisher was Pastime Publications but so far I have not been able to identify any other title that publisher ever released. The indicia provides the publisher’s address which was in Holyoke Massachusetts. Holyoke was the home of a number of printers so the address was likely a convenience probably for a new publisher or one who wanted to hide their association with the title. Today the contents would seem quite tame but at that time there had been public protest about comic books and the Comic Book Authority had been formed a few years before to effectively censor comic book content from material not judged suitable for young readers. The contents of Weird Mysteries #1 would never had been accepted by Comic Book Authority but magazines did not fall under its jurisdiction. But a publisher of a magazine like Weird Mysteries might want to hide from any public scrutiny.

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) Introduction, art by Carl Burgos

The introduction presents Morgue’n the magazine’s “monster of ceremoanies”. It is a fitting opening to a magazine of horror stories frequently with sarcastic content. The attribution of this piece is from the GCD. Actually that is the source for all the credits that I provide in this post. My usually policy with the GCD is trust but verify. While I can verify some of the attributions there are others that I am not familiar enough to do so.

Justice Traps the Guilty #1 (October 1947), pencils by Jack Kirby

The introduction art for Weird Mysteries #1 clearly was swiped from the cover for Justice Traps the Guilty #1 (October 1947). I do not believe that this was a random choice. With the exception of one signed piece of art (discussed below) no credits were provided in Weird Mysteries #1 and to my knowledge nobody has previously suggested who put the magazine together. I believe it was Joe Simon. This is not at all a firm conclusion as it is based on circumstantial evidence. One piece of this circumstantial evidence is the swiping from the cover of JTTG #1. Such swiping was very common for Simon particularly at this period. All the artists that have been credited to work in WM #1 worked for Joe during this period.

Some other circumstantial evidence will be discussed below. To my mind the most significant support of Joe’s involvement is that he had possessed the flats for the entire contents of Weird Mysteries #1. Flats are proofs of the black art just as they would be printed (that is four pages to a sheet). Joe kept quite a number of flats but the majority of them were for comics that he had involvement of one kind or another. For instance he had flats for some of the Harvey comics that included Simon and Kirby material such as Stuntman and Boy Explorers. Joe even had the flats for the first issue of Captain America (now there is an untapped treasure). He also had flats for comics that he was the editor as, for instance, Race for the Moon. There are a some flats where I have found no evidence of Joe’s involvement (so far) but they are a small minority.

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “The Ragman”, art by George Tuska

Besides the cover art, George Tuska provided some interior stories for Weird Mysteries #1 as well. Tuska is, for me, the easiest artist to spot in this magazine. One of his most outstanding features of his comic book art style is the jutting jaws that he often provides to men which is very obvious in the scan I provide from “The Ragman”. If I am right that Weird Mysteries was Joe’s project than this would seem to be the first time that Tuska worked for Simon. George shortly help Joe with superhero work for Archie Comics (see Double Life of Private Strong, the Final Issue).

Note the use of typesetting in place of hand lettering. Typesetting was used throughout the magazine. While I do not remember anything that Joe produced before this made use of typesetting, it became standard for the magazine Sick that Joe would begin to produce in the not too distant future (the first issue of Sick was cover dated August 1960).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “From Fear to Eternity”, art by Angelo Torres

I really not that familiar with Angelo Torres’ work. This is largely due to the fact that I have not yet studied the long running Sick magazine where Torres is said to have done some work. But pieces like “From Fear to Eternity” seems a good match to art that I have seen attributed to Torres.

This might be a good time to mention the production of the original art. Line art in the magazine was inked in the typical method for comic books, that is through the use of pen or brush. The grey tones however were produced in a manner not normally found in comic books of the day. I am sure I will think of it later, but presently the name escapes for the special art boards used (the name was supplied by Mark Evanier in the comments, it is Craftint). When a special chemical was painted on the board grey tones emerged. These tones were not like water colors but rather consisted of small dots suitable for printing. This provided a cost and time saving method for producing the art. Again while Joe had not previously used this technique it was typical for the magazine Sick. Although we can not be certain, but the technique used to produce the art probably was the same as used for Sick. That is all the text and captions would be produced by typesetting and applied to the art board. The artist would in turn ink in the art and provide the gray tones after which it was camera ready.

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “A Good Daughter”, art by Joe Orlando

At this time Joe was also putting together art for Prize romance comics. One of the artist that he employed was Joe Orlando (see the Art of Romance, Chapter 37).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “A Shriek in the Night”, art by Carl Burgos

Another piece that can be attributed to Carl Burgos. Carl met Joe quite early in their careers when Joe was just starting working in comic books and Carl already had his big hit, the Human Torch. Simon was Timely’s first editor but Burgos at least initially worked through the shop Funnies Inc. As far as I been able to determine Burgos did no work for Simon (with or without Kirby) until Race for the Moon #3 (November 1958) where he contributed two single page pieces (both titled “Report from Space”). Carl would also help Joe with layouts for the Adventures of the Fly (Burgos does the Fly).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “Twin Bads”, art by Paul Reinman

“Twin Bads” is the only piece in Weird Mysteries signed by the artist. Paul was working for Joe at this time mostly for romances comics (see Art of Romance, Chapter 36, Chapter 37 and Chapter 38) but he also did at least one story for the re-launched Black Magic (“The Night of August 9th”, BM #42, July 1960).

Weird Mysteries #1 (March 1959) “Sick Greeting Cards”, art by unidentified artist

I do not know the artist, but the two page work “Sick Greeting Cards” is another piece of circumstantial evidence linking Weird Mysteries #1 to Simon. A little over a year later Simon would create a new Mad clone that he would call Sick (The End of Simon and Kirby, Chapter 10). Sick was filled with a sarcastic humor that in places appeared in Weird Mysteries #1, as for example “Sick Greeting Cards”.

So while I can provide no proof there is a bit of circumstantial evidence that Joe Simon was the editor of Weird Mysteries #1. If that is true than this horror magazine would be a sort of prototype for Sick. The indicia for Weird Mysteries #1 indicates it was supposed to be a bi-monthly title but there was no further issues. Two months is much too short a time for financial returns on the sale of the magazine so its cancellation much have been for other reasons.