Tag Archives: benulis

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10, A Special Visitor

(November 1953 – March 1954, Black Magic #27 – #29)

In the previous chapter Black Magic went on a bimonthly schedule (with issue #25, July 1953). The three issues I am covering in this chapter fall onto the same period as chapters 25 and 26 of The Art of Romance (but not chapter 27). Just like what was seen in the romance titles, Black Magic story format switched to using either splash-less stories or splashes that were actually part of the story.

Jack Kirby is the most prolific artist during this period; providing a total of 24 pages (including the covers). The second place is taken by a new comer, Steve Ditko (17 pages). The third place was taken by Bob McCarty (15 pages) with Al Eadeh and Bill Benulis (each doing a single 5 pages story). There are also some single page and one double page feature done by an unidentified artist, probably a studio assistant.

Ditko’s appearance in the Simon and Kirby studio was particularly timely because he was on hand to help with the inking of Captain 3D (December 1953). But Steve’s presence in Simon and Kirby productions was short lived as these three issues are the only ones from this run that he worked on. Most of the artists employed by Simon and Kirby were given assignments in all the genre but Ditko was one of the exceptions as he did not do any of the much more abundant romance work. I do not know who made the decision to limit Ditko to the Black Magic title but it was probably a good one. Frankly the only romance work that I have seen by Ditko suggests that romance simply was not his forte.

One of the surprising aspects of issues cover in this chapter concerns the artists that do not appear. Bill Draut was a prolific artist for the romance titles but did not provide a single piece for Black Magic at this time. Mort Meskin complete absence is a little less surprising since he during the early part of this period he did not appear that much in the romance titles. However that changed during the later part of this period and so I would normally expect something by him to show up here. John Prentice also did no Black Magic work despite providing a lot of romance art. However Prentice appears to be an exception to the studio artists in that he always seemed to do much more romance work than horror. This biased use of Prentice is highlighted by the contrast provided by Bob McCarty. Prentice and McCarty were both doing a similar amount of romance art but only McCarty made an appearance in Black Magic.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Alive after Five Thousand Years”, art by Jack Kirby

As discussed in the introduction, Black Magic stories had become either splash-less or with a splash that was actually part of the story. Here Kirby has technically adhered to the second format since the next panel clearly is an advance of what is presented in the splash. However by eliminating the use of any speech balloons, the splash became more like a traditional splash. This technique was simple but rather effective that I wonder why it was not used more often.

Lately I have not been discussing the inking of Kirby’s stories because other projects that I am involved in simply do not leave me the time to adequately research inking attributions. But when I reviewed this story my initial reactions was the splash was inked by Kirby himself. However on further reflection I thought the spotting to be overly methodical. Kirby’s own inking usually has a very spontaneous nature of an artist with a clear mental image of what he is trying to create and complete mastery of the tools (in this case the inking brush) to create it.

Black Magic #27
Black Magic #27 (November 1953) “The Merry Ghosts of Campbell Castle”, art by Jack Kirby

The inking of Kirby’s pencils during the Simon and Kirby period was like a production line with different artists. Nonetheless a particular inker could impart such an effect on the art that in effect he can be called the primary inker. The best of these inkers were, in my opinion, Jack himself, Joe Simon and Mort Meskin. There were other artists who gave the inking their own unique look but frankly they were not just nearly as good. The inking of “The Merry Ghosts of Campbell Castle” is one that shows a distinct hand; only in this case a very talented one. Brush techniques characteristic of what I call the Studio Inking were used but they do not appear to be done in quite the same manner as Kirby, Simon or Meskin might have used. The picket fence crosshatching on the curtain in the splash for example does not seem to have the spontaneity of Kirby, the roughness of Simon or the tight control of Meskin. There is other brush work that seems rather unique such as the inking on the stonework in the splash. I have not made a detailed comparison but it is possible that this is the same inker that worked on “Alive after Five Thousand Years”. In any case he was a talented inker; I just wish I had some idea who he might have been.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Buried Alive”, art by Steve Ditko

The work Steve Ditko did for the Simon and Kirby was from the very start of his career. There are a few earlier pieces he did for other publishers but not many. Even so it is not hard to see his distinct hand in part of these pieces. Perhaps less so with the first page of “Buried Alive” but that page does show Steve already had a strong sense of how to graphically tell a story. The shifting view points are all very effective. Still there are aspects of his art that can be considered primitive compared to what Ditko would do in the future.

Should the first panel be called a splash? Frankly the distinction between a splash-less story and a story splash is pretty arbitrary in some cases. What is important is that the story starts right away without a tradition splash that served as a preview of the story.

Black Magic #27
Black Magic #27 (November 1953) “Don’t Call on the Dead”, art by Bob McCarty

I have remarked how similar the art of Bob McCarty and John Prentice had become in the Art of Romance serial posts. Oddly this similarity does not extend to the work McCarty did for Black Magic. It is as if McCarty is purposely adjusting his style to the genre he is working on; something he had not done in the past. Do not misunderstand me the work in the Prize romance titles and Black Magic were clearly done by the same artist but for the love titles McCarty more strongly emulates Alex Raymond (and therefore more closely resembles Prentice) and for Black Magic retains more aspects of his earlier art.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Miss Fancher’s Living Death”, art by Al Eadeh

Al Eadeh’s art appears in Black Magic later then he does in the romance titles. The last romance work by Eadeh was in Young Romance #65 (January 1954) but Al appears in Black Magic #29 (March). I will return to this question in the next chapter of the Little Shop of Horrors.

Black Magic #28
Black Magic #28 (January 1954) “Screaming Doll”, art by Bill Benulis

Ben Benulis seems to have made a very brief stop at the Simon and Kirby studio. He only did three pieces (at least during this period) and they all appeared in January 1954. His romance work was the most interesting but “Screaming Doll” is still a nice piece of work.

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 7 (#18 – 20), Kirby Returns
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

Art of Romance, Chapter 25, More New Faces

(November 1953 – January 1954: Young Romance #63 – #65, Young Love #51 – #53, Young Brides #9 – #11)

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

There have been no significant changes in the romance comics from that reported in the previous two chapters. One variation, or rather the lack thereof, is that almost all the stories are exactly 6 pages long. The only exceptions are some two or single page features, two stories by Jack Kirby (7 and 8 pages long) and one by Al Eadeh (4 pages). Previously the title Young Brides had become a monthly publication and so this chapter covers 9 comics. The line up of contributing artists is Jack Kirby (63 pages), Bill Draut (36 pages), John Prentice (36 pages, Mort Meskin (18 pages), Bob McCarty and an unidentified artist (13 pages each), Mort Laurence and Bill Benulis (12 pages each), Al Eadeh (10 pages), a single story by another unidentified artist (6 pages) and 6 single page features but a probably studio assistant. As can be seen in the list there are some new names among the studio artists.

Young Romance #64
Young Romance #64 (December 1953) “The Heartbreaker”, art by Jack Kirby

There were no full page splashes but Jack Kirby’s art is still first rate, even compared to his work from other periods. With the reduced size splashes Kirby favored an angular format. Such a panel shape would have been a challenged for most artist but Jack makes good use of it. Observe how the main action of the splash for “The Heartbreaker” occurs in the lower corner making it visually fit in with the second panel. Kirby then uses the helmets of the soldiers ascending a boarding ramp to provide a diagonal from the lower left to the upper right. The second panel hardly seems to intrude at all.

Young Romance #63
Young Romance #63 (November 1953) “A Matter of Pride” page 3, art by Jack Kirby

While I usually provide examples of the splash pages, it is important to remember that Kirby was primarily a story teller. Once again during this period Jack’s graphical story-telling is first rate. I particularly like the way Kirby drew older men. The craggy face of white haired man in this story perfectly matches his rustic life.

Young Brides #10
Young Brides #10 (November 1953) “The Stranger in His Heart”, art by Bill Draut

Most romance stories are about, not surprisingly, young love. However stories with other themes would occasionally appear in Simon and Kirby romance titles. “The Stranger in His Heart” is about the entry of the orphaned son of a combat buddy into the life of his young wife. It is the sort of story that Bill Draut is particularly good out, being second only to Jack Kirby among the studio artists.

Young Romance #64
Young Romance #64 (December 1953) “The Doctor is in Love” page 2, art by John Prentice

One of the formats that John Prentice would use during the period involved the use of tall narrow panels. This type of panel layout had previously been used by artists like Leonard Starr, Mort Meskin and Ross Andru; however at this time Prentice seemed to be the only studio artist that would sometimes use such narrow panels.

Young Love #52
Young Love #52 (December 1953) “Loving Sister”, art by Mort Meskin

As I have remarked in the previous couple of chapters, Mort Meskin contributed much less than what would be expected towards Simon and Kirby productions. For a few years Mort had been working almost exclusively for Joe and Jack. However in recent months his work had been appearing in other publishers’ comic books. But it would appear that Meskin’s combined output was much lower then previously. Whatever the reason behind this change, it must have been financially tough times for Meskin.

Young Love #51
Young Love #51 (November 1953) “The Will to Love” page 2, art by Al Eadeh

Al Eadeh had not been a major contributor to S&K productions but he had been a regular one for some about a year and a half. Eadeh was not the greatest of the studio artist but he showed some improvements over time. His earlier work for Joe and Jack were rather stiff but in his more recent work he does quite well in graphically telling a story. I love this page of the interaction of the good hearted nurse and a gold-digger. Sure it is a little over the top, but that is what comics are for!

Young Romance #63
Young Romance #63 (November 1953) “The Two Mrs. McGillicudys”, art by unidentified artist

“The Two Mrs. McGillicudys” and “Summer Replacement” are two stories by the same unidentified artist I mentioned in the last chapter. I am quite fond of this mystery artist and I am sure he must have been doing romance art for some other publisher prior to doing this work. In some ways the above page is a good example of the format he liked to start his stories with. The first story panel covers an area a little more then two regular story panels. This makes it not much of a splash although more of one then some other studio artists, such as John Prentice, used. The artist also includes a head in the title box. Only one other artist, Jack Kirby, would include such head shots in the title caption. But in this case the artist increased the size of the head and provided speech balloon. Thus he as effectively turned the title into a second splash. It is almost a confessional splash since the woman is introducing the story, but it differs from the classic S&K confessional splash in that the title is not part of the speech balloon. True Confessional splashes no longer appeared in Simon and Kirby romances and nobody else did anything like this.

Young Love #51
Young Love #51 (November 1953) “Speed”, art by Bob McCarty

During the review I conducted in preparation for this chapter I found two stories by Bob McCarty that in my database I had previously to another artist. I will discuss this more below. The splash for “Speed” is probably the most typical splash in all the issues covered in this post. The title is not separated into its own box, the splash takes up the full width of the page and vertically it is much greater then the row of story panels. It splash art still adheres to the latest formula of actually being part of the story but otherwise it is a perfectly typical splash.

Young Love #53
Young Love #53 (January 1954) “Sweet Talking Man” page 5, art by Bob McCarty

Both of the stories that I am now attributing to McCarty I had previously entered into my database as by John Prentice. My original entries into my database were made as I obtained the comics and depending on when that was would dictate how accurate I was likely to be. That is one of the reasons that I find the reviews that I am now conducting so useful. I find it interesting that the work Bob McCarty resembles the art of John Prentice more now then he did previously or would later. This might be due to influence; not so much Prentice influencing McCarty’s art as much as both of them being influenced by the great syndicate artist Alex Raymond as particularly seen in his Rip Kirby strip. Another possibility is that McCarty and Prentice knew one another and that Prentice may have helped in some on these particular stories.

I purposely choose page 5 from “Sweet Talking Man” because it most clearly shows McCarty’s hand. The doctor in the final panel as eyes that art larger then Prentice would use but typical for McCarty. The woman also lacks Prentice’s more sophisticated beauty. The fact that I have now found three stories by McCarty that I have previously missed makes me suspect that perhaps more will be uncovered as I continue my reviews.

Young Love #52
Young Love #52 (December 1953) “Worthless”, art by Mort Lawrence

New to the Simon and Kirby productions, but certainly not new to the comic industry, is Mort Lawrence. The GCD� only lists a single romance work by Lawrence (Love Diary #2, October 1949). I suspect that is just due to the general bias against love comics by most comic book collectors. That said, judging by the work he did for S&K Lawrence really was not that great at the romance genre. But check out the older man in the splash. A similarly downtrodden gentleman appears in the splash of Lawrence’s “Love Me, or Else” (YR #65, January 1953) as well.

Young Love #53
Young Love #53 (January 1954) “You’ll Be Sorry”, art by Bill Benulis

Another new artist to start working for Simon and Kirby was Bill Benulis. Benulis was new to comics and his art has a more modern approach. I like some of his techniques but he gives his woman a scratchy look which is very unfortunate thing to do in romance comics. Benulis entry into comics was ill timed and he seems to have been a victim of the crash that would affect the comic industry in a few years.

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)