Howard Ferguson had a long, if not continuous, association with Simon and Kirby. Including the work from the 50’s that I questionably credit to Ferguson, Howard did 4068 pages of lettering for Joe and Jack. If Avon and Stanley Morse is included, I would credit 4551 pages of lettering to Ferguson. But my search for Ferguson lettering outside of Simon and Kirby is very incomplete and I am certain he did more lettering than what I have counted here.
It is clear that Howard Ferguson was Simon and Kirby’s preferred letterer, especially if he was indeed the letterer from 1954 on. When Ferguson lettered for Joe and Jack, he would letter more pages than other individual lettering for them. But oddly for the three transitions made by Simon and Kirby to a new publisher (DC, Harvey after the war, and Prize and Hillman) only once was Ferguson the initial letterer (Harvey). Ferguson was not even used for the Prize and Hillman work until possibly many years later.
Ben Oda also had a long association with Simon and Kirby. But there is a problem in determining how much lettering Ben did for Joe and Jack. Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty both started as Simon and Kirby productions but were later taken over by other editors. But exactly when that occurred is not clear. My judgement is that the last Simon and Kirby issues of Headline was September 1949 and for Justice Traps the Guilty June 1949. Using those dates I find that Oda lettered 8293 pages for Simon and Kirby. The total lettering by Ben for Simon and Kirby plus the other Prize editors was 13088 pages. The GCD has a lot of work credited to Oda besides those I have been reporting on here. I did try to verify a small number of them and was not satisfied that it was truly lettering by Oda. However Ben Oda had a long and productive career after leaving Prize Comics so I am sure that they 13088 I have credited to Oda is only a fraction of his total output.
Superman #327 (September 1978) “The Sandstorm That Swallowed Metropolis” by Ben Oda
As I have said, I have not tried to followed Ben Oda’s career outside of Simon and Kirby and Prize. But I have created a letter set for a comic that Oda lettered for DC in 1978. This is over two decades since Oda’s last work for Prize but his lettering has not changed too much. Oda’s question mark no longer takes the form of a ‘Z’ but rather more like a ‘2’. The lower portion of ‘J’ still has on a whole a gentle curve but is now has a more acute angular connection to the vertical shaft. More importantly Oda now adds a topping serif to his ‘J’. Here Ben was using simple drop caps in his captions, something he only did a couple of times early in his work for Simon and Kirby.
Someone has created an OdaBalloon font. I will not provide a link here because that sort of thing is apt to change. But if you are interested in it you can Google it and you will certainly find places to download it from. I have no idea on what part of Oda’s career this font is based on but overall it is a good match to the letter set that I provided from Superman #327 from 1978. In particular note the similarities in ‘J’ and the question mark. Oddly OdaBalloon has a small serif attached to the top of ‘C’. That is something I have never seen Oda do but it was characteristic of Howard Ferguson early in his career. Even more surprising is the small serif added to the top of ‘S’. I have not seen this done by either Oda or Ferguson. But as I said, I have not investigated Oda’s post 50’s career so it is possible that Oda may have picked these extra serifs at some time.
Although I had once wanted to investigate Ben Oda lettering I gave up the idea when I stopped contributing to the Simon and Kirby Blog. Along came Covid-19 and sheltering in place and I decided to give it a try. But my investigations ended up going beyond just Ben Oda. This study was based on the examination of 20,730 pages of lettering. Actually more because that does not include pages I examined and decided were not by the letterers I was studying. To be fair, even under isolation I did not have the time to examine every page with the same degree of care. But I did generate over 100 letter sets, more than actually appear in this serial post. The shear volume insures that mistakes were certainly made. Further I did not have access to all the comics that I once had so there some areas with unanswered questions. Despite such limitations, I feel it best to put my opinions out there. Other students of this topic may be able to point out my mistakes or present contrary opinions. Such is the nature of research.
1955 was a tough time for comics in general. Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company, Mainline, failed with the last comics cover dated April 1955. The remaining issues of Mainline, the work for which was probably already completed, would be published by Charlton (well known for their low payment). The amount of work Joe and Jack did for Prize Comics would also see cutbacks. The only titles that Simon and Kirby did for Prize would by Young Romance, Young Love and Young Brides. But Young Brides and Young Love would both be cancelled (respectively November and December 1956). It was also in November 1956 that Jack Kirby would be doing work first for Marvel and later DC. It is not clear exactly when, but sometime during this time line the Simon and Kirby bullpen was disbanded. Simon and Kirby would continue to be listed as the editors for Young Romance until 1960 when Joe would be declared the sole editor. Various work would be done by Joe and Jack for Harvey and later Archie Comics but none of that successful enough to reestablish the Simon and Kirby studio. However their later collaboration was done, it was not like the earlier team work.
Prize Comics Western #118 (July 1956) “Liberty Belle” by Ben Oda
Previous to 1956 lettering for Simon and Kirby was done by both Ben Oda and Howard Ferguson (?). But Young Love #68 (cover dated December 1955) would be the last Simon and Kirby comic with lettering by Ben. That was not, however, the last lettering Oda would do for Prize Comics. Oda would continue to do lettering for those Prize titles with other editors; Headline, Justice Traps the Guilty, Prize Comics Western and later All For Love. He would do so until cover date October 1957. We can only speculate why Oda stopped working for Simon and Kirby but a falling out of some kind seems likely. Prize cancelled Headline and Prize Comics Western with September 1956 being the last issues. So perhaps there just not enough work from Prize to make it worth Oda’s efforts.
I no longer have access to any of the comics with Oda lettering from this period so I have provided some examples taken from the Digital Comic Museum. This is not much of a problem because Ben Oda’s lettering has not undergone much of a change from when we examined him in the last chapter.
Young Romance #83 (June 1956) “Dancing Doll” by Howard Ferguson?
Howard Ferguson(?) continued to do lettering for Simon and Kirby but never end up lettering any of the Prize titles with other editors. Ferguson would even letter Simon and Kirby work that was published by Harvey. The last published lettering by Howard Ferguson(?) would be in Alarming Tales #4 (March 1958). However even if I am correct in crediting Ferguson (or at least the letterer I have questionably refer to him) Harvey Comics has been repeated shown to publish inventoried work long after it was actually created. Excluding cancelled titles, Simon and Kirby ran for Prize a much more tight operation without keeping work as inventory. The last work I credit to Ferguson appeared in Young Romance #90 (cover dated October 1957).
Young Romance #83 (June 1956) “Only You” by Howard Ferguson?
Starting in comics cover dated June 1956, Ferguson(?) would start to provide simple drop caps to his captions. This would become a regular feature until much later. Other than the drop caps, the lettering is identical to those without drop caps so I am confident that both were done by the same letterer.
Young Romance #90 (October 1957) “Girl In the Middle” by Howard Ferguson?
I just wanted to close my discussion of Howard Ferguson(?) with an example of the last work for Prize that I credit to him. As can be see above, not much has changed.
Young Romance #86 (March 1957) “His Heart Was Blind” by Toobie
Ferguson(?) was the go to guy for Simon and Kirby during the time discussed in this chapter. But even before Ferguson’s disappearance, Joe and Jack would turn to one I nick-named Toobie. Toobie letters rather like Ben Oda, even with a ‘Z’ shape question mark and ‘J’ without a topping serif. However Toobie’s ‘J’ has a more strongly curved lower portion. There are serifs on first person singular ‘I’ except when used in a contraction.
Young Love #71 (June 1956) “Love Me Or Leave Me” by Bill Draut
Bill Draut would return to lettering his own art one last time in “Love Me Or Leave Me”. Despite the fact that the last time we saw Bill lettering was in 1947, not much has changed. The ‘J’ still has Draut’s characteristic hock and the question mark still has the shape of a ‘2’. Not much later Bill would stop doing work for Simon and Kirby (in Young Love #73 December 1956) as well as the other Prize titles that were under other editors (in Justice Traps the Guilty #84 December 1956).
With both Ferguson(?) and Oda no longer appearing in the Prize work produced by Simon and Kirby, Joe and Jack would turn to a number of different letters. Each would appear to letter for a relatively short time and then disappear never to return. I saw little to be gained by analyzing each of them particularly since I would never be able to provide a real name to any of them. But I was curious about those who lettered art that Jack Kirby drew. Did they letter other artists besides Jack? Did their lettering appear in any of the art Jack did early in his return to Marvel and DC?
The answer to the first question (did they letter other artists besides Jack) would indicate how they were assigned. If they only lettered Kirby, than Jack was probably responsible for giving them the work. If they lettered other artists, than whoever was assigning the work for Young Romance was responsible (which probably was Joe). The short answer is all the Kirby letterers would also letter other artists.
The second question (did their lettering appear in any of the art Jack did early in his return to Marvel and DC) had the potential to answer a bigger question. There has been some speculation that some of work early in Kirby’s return to Marvel or DC was actually done by Simon and Kirby in some cases originally meant for Harvey. Actually in the case of Challengers of the Unknown it is more than just speculation as both Joe and Jack have said that was the case. Any early Marvel or DC work by Jack with any of these letterers would strongly indicate that art would supplied to Marvel or DC in largely completed form and therefore almost certainly Simon and Kirby creations. Unfortunately the short answer to this question is no. However while this does not offer evidence that the pieces in questions were Simon and Kirby creations it does not prove the reverse, that they were not done by Simon and Kirby. Just that any Simon and Kirby products delivered to Marvel or DC were not in a completed form.
I fear there will not be much interest in this serial post to as it has been up to this point, but I suspect there will be very less interest in my investigation into these particular unknown letterers. For any of those readers who have managed to make this far, but lack a desire to pursue a study of these marginal individuals, feel free to stop reading this chapter here. You may want to return to read my final chapter which mercifully will be short.
Young Romance #91 (December 1957) “The Waiting Game” by Slim
Slim’s lettering is narrower than most of the letterers we previously looked at, this is most obvious in his ‘O’ which is higher than wide. His ‘J’ has a small serif and the lower portion is short but strongly curved. The question mark is pretty much how I was taught, a curved portion like a reversed ‘C’ and a straight lower stroke. Shadow and geometric drop caps are used in captions.
Young Romance #95 (August 1958) “Listening To Love” by Albert
Albert’s lettering is a bit variable but tends to be a bit wide. This is particularly noticeable in ‘O’ and ‘Q’. ‘J’ lacks a topping serif and has a distinctive hock. Perhaps the most unique letter is Albert’s ‘G’ which can be quite angular. Question marks have a ‘S’ shape but with the lower curve much smaller than the upper one.
Young Romance #97 (December 1958) “Hearts and Flowers” by Steve
Steve has a more professional look to his lettering. The serif on the top of ‘J’ distinguishes him from Oda and the lower portion tends to be slightly more curved than either Oda or Ferguson. The horizontal bar of ‘G’ extends slightly to the right to form a small serif. Perhaps most important is the ‘S’ shape to the question mark with the upper and lower portions more, but not completely, equal.
Young Romance #99 (April 1959) “Man Wanted” by Doug
Doug has a wide ‘D’ and ‘P’, but a generally circular ‘O’. The ‘J’ lacks a topping serif, a wide lower portion that ends in a well developed up turn. The question mark has a shape sort of like a ‘2’ but with the lower horizontal bar short and so close the the upper curve that it is easily missed. Captions can have simple drop caps.
Young Romance #103 (December 1959) “The Man For Me” by Phillip
Finally we come to Phillip. Actually Phillip is quite like Oda with the obvious exception of his question mark which is not at all like a ‘Z’. Most ‘J’ lack a serif but Phillip is not consistent and some times adds one. The horizontal stroke of ‘G’ forms a small serif to the right.
Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, the Man” by Howard Ferguson?
Simon and Kirby would launch their own publishing company, Mainline, with Bullseye #1 cover dated August 1954. It is around this time that Ben Oda starts to loose his monopoly on lettering. Chief among the new letterers is one with a style remarkably similar to Oda’s but also similar to Howard Ferguson. I might have credit Oda for the Bullseye lettering if not for some of the work that followed. I certainly would have credited Bullseye and what follows to Ferguson if it include the more advance drop caps or banner captions. Simple drop caps are found in the Bullseye story pages but they are only slightly larger than the rest of the lettering and easily overlooked. There was one work signed by Ferguson where he did not use drop caps or banner captions (Romantic Love #1 September 1949) but such none ornamented lettering was unusual for Howard. In the end I have decided to questionably credit these works to Ferguson.
Bullseye lettering includes exclamation points that are slightly angular. I have not seen Ferguson do this before and he would drop it in the future work for Simon and Kirby. ‘C’ shows a very small downturn reminiscent of the serif Ferguson used to supply. But this trait is not consistently shown in Bullseye and would disappear in the future. The question mark is quite similar to that done by Oda but just not quite so angular. The most distinctive trait would be the serif added to the top of ‘J’. Ferguson would consistently supply that serif, Oda would be just as consistent in not using the serif.
Young Romance #73 (September 1954) “Girl from the Old Country” by Ben Oda
As I previously said, Ferguson and Oda lettering are very similar. But note the more angular question mark, very like a ‘Z’ and ‘J’ without a serif.
Initially Oda would remain the dominant letterer. For August until December of 1954 Oda would letter 588 pages to Ferguson 111 pages. But in 1955 Ferguson would dominate with 778 pages of lettering to Oda’s 655.
Young Romance #74 (November 1954) “A Holiday For Love” by Marty
In the last chapter I wrote about Marty doing the lettering for an unidentified artist working largely on the “Good Manners” filler. April 1954 would be the last month that particular artist would be found in a Simon and Kirby production. April was also the first month that work by Art Gates would start appearing. While most of the work that Gates did for Joe and Jack were fillers, he also do one longer piece for Young Romance and three longer stories for Foxhole. All this work by Gates would be lettered by Marty and Marty would not letter any other artist other than the one who did “Good Manners”. All together there are 48 features lettered by Marty and no reason why Simon and Kirby would assigned all those features to be lettered by that one letterer. It seems to be the most satisfactory explanation was that this work was purchased by Simon and Kirby from an agent, who may or may not have been the letterer.
Marty’s lettering on a whole has not changed much from what we examined in the previous chapter. The biggest change is he has abandon the vertical lower arm to ‘Y’ to go for one that is an extension of the upper right stroke. ‘M’ normally now has sloping outer arms but occasionally Marty would drop back to the vertical ones he used earlier. Balloons are now usually standard lettering while captions are in italics. The use of drop caps has continued but they are now usually elaborate or outline drop caps.
Young Romance #75 (December 1954) “Personal Secretary” by Mikeross
Seven romance features appeared in the Prize romance titles; three penciled by Ross Andru and one by Pete Morisi. I had previously discussed how this was work sold to Simon and Kirby when Ross Andru and Mike Esposito’s self owned publishing company failed (Art of Romance, Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists). All the art was lettered by the same letterer who I have nick-named Mikeross. This does not suggest that either Andru or Esposito did the lettering, just that their company employed the same individual for all of it.
Mikeross uses angular exclamation points and ‘S’ shape for question marks. ‘J’ as a serif on the top and a well curved bottom. The lettering tends to be horizontally narrower. Simple drop caps would be used.
In Love #4 (March 1955) “Wolf Bait” by Howard Ferguson?
Ferguson’s(?) question mark developed more of a downward slant to the upper and lower arms making them more distinguishable from those done by Oda. Of course Howard’s ‘J’ continue to have a serif on the top. Captions are generally done in italics while balloons remain standard lettering. Oddly the first person singular lacks serifs when used in a contraction.
Justice Traps the Guilty #75 (June 1955) “Tragic Circle” by Ben Oda
Oda lettering remains very similar to Ferguson but the upper and lower arm of his question marks remain horizontal or with a little upward tilt. Standard lettering is used in captions.
Simon and Kirby studio 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.
September 1947 saw the launch of a new comic book produced by Simon and Kirby for Prize, Young Romance. From this point on until they launched Mainline Comics, Simon and Kirby would concentrate their efforts on producing comics for Prize. Work for Hillman would continue but in lesser numbers until finally being finished with My Date #4 (cover dated January 1948). More importantly for the topic of this post, Ben Oda would become the chief letterer for Simon and Kirby productions. And there were a lot of comic features to letter. For the period covered in this chapter (September 1947 to July 1954) and excluding titles that Simon and Kirby or their studio artists had no hand in there were 1757 features to be lettered for a total of 11,281 pages. While my calling this period an Oda monopoly is not literally true, Ben would letter at least 10,718 of these pages which is 95% of them. (Actually more because I no longer have access to a few Black Magic issues).
Which brings me to the question on how I am confident that Ben Oda lettered these pages given that lettering credits were never supplied in them. Fortunately there is a studio photo graph taken from this period (see above). In it we find all the people who worked in the bullpen with the exception of Marvin Stein who was probably the photographer. Among them is Ben Oda. The photograph is not dated but the art that Mort Meskin is working on can be identified as “His Dancing Teacher” which would end up with an October 1951 cover date. As Oda is the only letterer in the photograph we can be pretty certain he would do the lettering for that feature. Using “His Dancing Teacher” as a base, I then worked both forward and backwards to establish what was lettered by Oda and how that lettering changed over time.
Justice Traps the Guilty #4 (May 1948) “Queen of the Speed-Ball Mob” by Ben Oda
The last example I provided of Ben Oda lettering was cover dated May 1947. In truth not much has changed. The horizontal stroke for ‘G’ barely goes to the right of the curved portion, if at all. The ‘J’ still has no serif on its top and the lower portion is wide with only a slight curve. The biggest change, and even there it is not much, is in the question mark where the bottom portion extends backward a little more to form almost a ‘2’ shape but with the upper region a little more angular. Standard lettering for both captions and balloons with italics limited to bold lettering. As a rule Oda does not use drop caps in his captions but there were some exceptions in Young Romance #1 (“Misguided Heart” “Summer Song”).
Young Romance #10 (March 1949) “Mama’s Boy” by Ben Oda
Almost a year later, the lettering largely has remained the same. The ‘U’ often shows a small serif by extending the right vertical arm just slightly below the bottom curve. I am convinced even in the earlier lettering by Oda he wrote ‘U’ as two strokes; a left one with a vertical bar curving into bottom section and a second vertical bar on right. However previously Oda was careful to end the right bar where it met the curve portion so that no serif was formed. Now Ben entered a period where he often provided a small serif on his ‘U’. Another slight change is to the letter ‘D’ where the lower portion curves up more than the upper portion curves down. However experience has shown me that this is not unusual for letterers besides Oda. So it must be used with caution and never used by itself to identify Oda. The most significant change is in the question mark which as progress from an almost ‘2’ shape to become more angular to approach more of a ‘Z’ with the lower bar sloping down. But Oda is not a machine and this description is for the mean of the examples. Some still look like the shape seen a year ago and some with a form that will be found later.
Young Romance #19 (March 1950) “That Kind of Girl” by Ben Oda
Yet another year later Oda’s serif on the bottom of the right vertical bar on the ‘U’ has become even more obvious. The difference in slopes of the lower and upper curved portions for ‘D’ have become more extreme so that the rightmost portion is higher up. Most significantly the question mark has become more like a ‘Z’ with very angular transitions and an almost horizontal lower bar. But again there is some variations in Oda’s question marks.
Young Romance #30 (February 1951) “Weekend For 3” by Ben Oda
At this point the serif on ‘U’ has all but disappeared. A small serif can be formed by extending the horizontal bar of ‘G’ slightly to the right, but it is so small it probably was not intentional. I have provided an single example of ‘G’ on the bottom line that shows how Oda executed it as two separate strokes. The question mark has become even more angular and more like a ‘Z’ with the bottom sloping down slightly.
Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “His Dancing Teacher” by Ben Oda
We have now reached the lettering for the Mort Meskin art that I used to start my investigation of Ben Oda lettering. By coincidence it is here that Oda’s question mark is most like a ‘Z’. The difference between the upper and lower portions seen in ‘D’ can also be seen in ‘P’ and ‘R’.
Young Romance #45 (May 1952) “The Things I Didn’t Know About Him” by Ben Oda
Not much change but I just wanted to provide another later example of Ben Oda lettering.
Young Romance #53 (January 1953) “That Girl In My Corner” by Ben Oda
One final example of Ben Oda during the period covered by this chapter. Not much has changed except ‘U’ often has a bottom portion that is almost flat.
As mentioned previously, Ben Oda lettered 95% of the pages for Prize during the period covered by this chapter. He also lettered almost all of the pages for Boys’ Ranch that Simon and Kirby produced to Harvey in 1950 and 1951. But It pays to examine some of the letterers who did the other 5%.
Young Romance #2 (November 1947) “My Broken Heart” by Bill Draut
Like he did earlier for Harvey, Bill Draut would do his own lettering for the features he drew for Young Romance #1 and #2 along with Justice Traps the Guilty #1, all from late 1947. Draut’s lettering really has not change much from the work he did for Harvey. It’s most distinctive feature remains the hook shaped lower portion of ‘J’. Bill is erratic in whether he supplies a serif to the upper part of ‘J’ but he usually is consistent within a story. Draut’s ‘S’ is also somewhat distinctive with is straight and horizontal middle portion. Note the shape used for ‘D’, ‘P’ and ‘R’. As I mentioned before a number of letterers exhibit this feature. At least in “My Broken Heart” Draut seems undecided as to which for of ‘Y’ to use. After these startup issues were done, Draut’s art would usually be lettered by Ben Oda and we will not see him letter his own work again for some time.
Prize Comics Western #77 (September 1949) “Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit” by Dick Briefer
Dick Briefer was another artist who would letter his own work. Mostly Briefer worked on Frankenstein Comics and the Frankenstein features from Prize Comics. Those were not Simon and Kirby productions and will not be discussed here. Prize Comics would turn into Prize Comics Western and while it is not clear if Simon and Kirby were its editors they were examined as part of my investigation. Briefer did some art and letters for Prize Comic Western #69 (May 1948 “Rod Roper”), #71 (September 1948) and #77 (September 1949 “Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit”). He also drew and lettered three features for Charlie Chan #5 (February 1949 “The Antique Burglar”, “Murder On Ice” and “The Dude Ranch Hold-Up”) which was a Simon and Kirby production. Briefer is a very inconsistent letterer. In the example above balloons are done in italics while captions are not. In some others he did everything in italics and in others all in standard lettering. His variations for individual lettering and over all appearance makes it easy to distinguish Briefer from Oda.
Young Romance #26 (October 1950) “Hired Wife” by Sir
Justice Traps the Guilty and Headline from issue #23 were Simon and Kirby productions. But at some point it seems to have been passed on to others. The postal statement for Headline #49 (March 1950) and Justice Traps the Guilty #25 (April 1950) lists Nevin Fiddler as the editor. Except for the initial Simon and Kirby issues of Headline and Guilty, Ben Oda would dominate the lettering as he did in the other Simon and Kirby titles. However under the new editors other letterers would make appearances. I will not be discussing all of them, some came and went quickly. Others were around for more features and one I nick-named Sir would even letter a Simon and Kirby production, the “Hired Wife” that I use for the letter set above. Sir shares Oda’s tendency to push ‘D’, ‘P’ and ‘R’ up, as well as providing a serif to the bottom right of ‘U’ (which Ben was also doing at this time). Sir can be distinguished from Oda by his more angular ‘G’ were the horizontal stroke meets with the lower right portion with no sign of a vertical. Sir is a little erratic on whether he supplied a small serif to the top of ‘J’ but in any case his has a distinct hook. Finally the question mark do not have the more distinctive ‘Z’ shape of Oda’s with the lower stroke is much shorter than Oda from this same time.
Justice Traps the Guilty #31 (October 1951) “335 Days of Terror” by Georgie
Georgie is another unidentified letterer found in Justice Traps the Guilty from July 1951 to April 1952 (oddly he was never used for Headline). The hook provided to ‘J’ is distinctive from Oda while the small vertical serif at its end is distinctive from Sir. Even more significant is the question mark which lacks a lower vertical or horizontal portion. Georgie usually supplied a serif to the top of ‘J’ but not always. Georgie used simple drop caps in his captions that were only slightly larger and bolder than the rest of the letters.
Young Romance #55 (March 1953) “The Other Woman” by Sid
Sid only did the lettering for two Simon and Kirby features both appearing in Young Romance #55 (“Heartless” and “The Other Woman”). Because he worked on so few Simon and Kirby productions, I would certainly have neglected writing about Sid if he lettered at a time covered by other chapters of this series. But during this time of Oda predominance, it is worth pondering why Sid was used. The two features Sid lettered were not only used in the same issue but were also done by the same artist who was not one of Simon and Kirby’s regulars. This suggest that the work was picked up by Simon and Kirby already lettered. Possibly some unused art from another publisher’s discontinued title or perhaps something lettered by the artist himself.
Sid has the same upward tilting for ‘D’, ‘P’ and ‘R’ and although I had not mentioned it before the longest axis of ‘O’ sloping upward is also often found in other letterers. One thing more distinctive for Sid is his ‘J’ with a unusually shorter lower portion that in itself has only a slight curve but which is attached to the vertical at an acute angle. Sid usually provides a serif to the top of ‘J’ but not always. His ‘G’ has a small but distinct vertical portion with a right angle attachment to the horizontal bar. The ‘S’ is similar to Bill Draut’s with a straight and horizontal mid section. The question mark is most distinctive having a shape almost like an ‘S’. Sid would use shadow and geometric drop caps.
Young Romance #39 (November 1951) “Marvin’s Pearl” by unidentified letterer
I have not bothered to provide a nick-name for the letterer used for “Marvin’s Pearl” as he was used only this one time. What is specially unusual here is the artist for this piece as a Simon and Kirby regular, Mort Meskin. This is the only occasion where Meskin was not lettered by Oda in a Simon and Kirby production. Although there were a few times other letterers would be used for Meskin’s art in Justice Traps the Guilty after that title passed to other editors. It is possible that this is Meskin lettering himself. Mort sometimes got help from others so perhaps someone else lettered it for him directly. In any case with just a single example it is hard to be sure and so it remains an interesting anomaly.
Young Romance #63 (November 1953) “Mock Marriage” by unidentified letterer
There is another case similar to the previous one, that is a letterer who was not Oda who would letter just 2 features both drawn by artists regular to the studio (“Mock Marriage” by John Prentice from Young Romance #63 and “Speed” by Bob McCarty from Young Love #51 both November 1953). Since two different artists were involved we can be certain that they were not the letterer. This letterer’s most distinctive feature is his question mark. His horseshoe shaped ‘U’ is also distinctive and reminiscent of that by Jack Kirby.
Young Romance #63 (November 1953) “Good Manners” by Marty
There was one artist that drew a number of “fillers” for Simon and Kirby romances. Fillers are short pieces used when just a page or two is needed to complete a comic book. In the case of this artist many are half a page. All but one of these fillers was for “Good Manners” which almost but not quite became a regular feature. Since all this work is done by the same artist and all using the same letterer it might be thought that he was lettering his own work. However we will see in the next chapter the same letterer was used for the work by another artist. So I have supplied the nick-name Marty for this letterer and will explain what I think is going on in the next chapter.
Marty uses a ‘M’ with vertical outer strokes and the inner stokes not quite reaching the bottom of the letter. However towards the end of his work for Joe and Jack he adopted the more standard ‘M’ with sloped outer strokes and inner lines reaching the bottom. Marty also uses a ‘Y’ with a vertical lower portion, a ‘G’ with a distinctive vertical portion at right angles with the horizontal stroke, a ‘J’ with lower portion distinctly curved, a ‘S’ with a horizontal mid section, an angular exclamation point sometimes with an unfilled section and finally a question mark with a short but basically vertical lower section. Oddly Marty adds serifs to ‘I’ whenever it is the first letter of a word such as “IT”. Marty uses various drop caps some of which are quite distinctive.
Battle Cry #4 (November 1952) “The Treatment” by Howard Ferguson
We last saw Howard Ferguson doing work on Stuntman and Boy Explorers. His lettering continued to appear in various Harvey titles up to November 1948 but that was all inventoried features left over from the sudden cancelling of Stuntman and Boy Explorers. It is not known why Ferguson was not involved with Simon and Kirby’s earlier work for Hillman and Prize. Howard can be found lettering for Avon (March 1949 to October 1950) and later for Stanley Morse (May 1952 to February 1954). We can be especially sure this was Howard’s work because in some cases he actually signed it making it a rare example of golden age lettering credits. The GCD also has him doing some work for Gilberton and Seaboard Publishing but I have not been able to verify that. Unfortunately I cannot provide my usual letter sets because I do not have access to the comics and the scans in the Digital Comic Museum are of too low a resolution.
The GCD attributes to Ferguson some of the Hillman and Prize work that I credit to Ben Oda. This is understandable because their lettering is quite similar. As I mentioned earlier, I have traced Ben Oda’s lettering from a story that I can confidently credit to Oda. But the two can be distinguished. Both have a similar ‘J’ with the lower portion only slightly curved and at right angles to the vertical arm. Earlier in his lettering Ferguson would sometimes add a serif to the top of ‘J’ and sometimes did not. However at this stage a serif would consistently be supplied by Ferguson while Oda did not. Their question mark have a similar ‘Z’ shape but when the upper and lower arm deviate from the horizontal they slope down when done by Ferguson and slope upward when lettered by Oda. Finally Oda as a rule does not use drop caps or banner captions (except in Young Romance #1) while both are common in Ferguson lettering.
Mister Mystery #15 (February 1954) “Nightmare” by Howard Ferguson
Real Fact #1 (March 1946) “Pirate Or Patriot?” by Ray
The first post-war Simon and Kirby features to be published were possibly done while Jack Kirby was still in the Army and certainly while Joe Simon was in the Coast Guard. I have nick-named the letterer as Ray. Ray used vertical outer strokes for ‘M’ but his most distinguished feature is the curved provided to the diagonal lower stroke for ‘R’. Ray is a bit of an enigma. There was a time I thought Ray might actually be Simon. Both use the same type of ‘M’ and early in his career Joe sometimes used a similar ‘R’. Further Simon’s work on Adventure Is My Career and True Comics showed that he could letter without his classic ‘W’ and in a more professional and careful manner. However Ray would letter some Simon and Kirby work right up to cover date January 1947. This is well beyond Simon and Kirby’s work on Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Harvey that I will discuss below. It is hard to believe that Joe would sacrifice time on lettering better served for the Harvey features. The earliest lettering by Ray appears to be “Coast Guard Reconnaissance” that appeared in Boy Commandos #12 (September 1945). This was certainly done while Joe was still in the Coast Guard and Jack in Europe. Joe was not in a position to find someone new to do the lettering. Perhaps DC had the lettering done. This seems reasonable because Ray would not letter any of Simon and Kirby’s work for Harvey. The only problem with that idea is that Ray lettered “You Can’t Loose A Faithful Dog” from Picture News #1 published, not by DC but by Lafayette Street Corp.
With both Joe Simon and Jack Kirby back in civilian life a deal was made to produce Stuntman and Boy Explorer titles for Harvey. Whether it was a reaction that DC had because of this, or the general changes in comic books that followed the war, DC curtailed the work that Simon and Kirby did for them. Simon and Kirby’s Sandman would end with Adventure Comics #102 (February 1946). The Newsboy Legion would continue in Star Spangled Comics until issue #64 (January 1947). These would be lettered by Ray (#53, #54, #55, #59, #60, #63 and #64), Howard Ferguson (#61 and #62), and another unidentified letter (#56, #57 and #58). The Boy Commandos would last the longest with the last issue being #36 (November 1949). But Simon and Kirby would only provide story art for some of the issues (#15, #17, #19, #21, #23, #24, #29, #30, #31, #32 and #33). Unfortunately I no longer have access to any of these issues. Nor do I have access to Detective Comics #95, #110, #134, #136, #137, #140 and #150 which also had Boy Commando features done by Simon and Kirby. I do have scans for Detective Comics #128 (October 1947) and there the Boy Commandos lettering was done by Ben Oda. That however does not make up for all the DC work I am missing which would have shed light to an interesting aspect of Simon and Kirby history.
Stuntman Comics #1 (April 1946) “Killer in the Big Top” by Howard Ferguson
Howard Ferguson would return to working for Simon and Kirby for the comic titles Stuntman and Boy Explorers produced for Harvey. His lettering really has not changed much from the work he did for Joe and Jack at DC before they went to do their military service.
Boy Explorers #1 (May 1946) “Talent for Trouble” by Howard Ferguson
As work on the Harvey features progressed, Ferguson would change his style in one small but important way. In “Talent for Trouble” the serif on ‘C’ would be come smaller and some ‘C’ would lack it altogether.
Stuntman Comics #3 (October 1946) “Rest Home for Criminals” by Howard Ferguson (but the example above is actually from the reprint in Green Hornet #39)
Ferguson’s changing ‘C’ would continue so that only an occasional ‘C’ would exhibit a small serif an example shown above in the second from last line. Stuntman and Boy Explorers would be casualties of the post-war comic glut. However unused work for these titles would continue to appear in Harvey titles such as Green Hornet, Terry and the Pirates, Black Cat and Joe Palooka. But this provides a misleading indication of when Howard Ferguson lettered for Simon and Kirby as it was inventoried work published well after it was actually created.
Stuntman Comics #2 (June 1946) “Triangular Troubles” by Bill Draut
As in previous times, Howard Ferguson was the go to guy for lettering the Simon and Kirby Harvey productions done just after the war. Besides Joe and Jack, other artists did art for Simon and Kirby Harvey titles. One was Bill Draut, an artist Joe Simon met while serving in the Coast Guard. All the features that Draut did for the Simon and Kirby’s Harvey titles was lettered by himself. Actually there are a few of exceptions where the splash would be done by others. His ‘S’ has a almost straight and horizontal middle portion. Even more distinctive is the hook shape to his ‘J’. Generally Draut’s ‘J’ will have a small horizontal serif on the top, but sometimes this is left out. Bill’s art and lettering would continue to be found in Harvey’s other titles after Stuntman and Boy Explorers were cancelled. Once again this is inventory work and should not be used to establish dates.
Stuntman Comics #3 (October 1946) “Bust of Adonis” by unidentified letterer (example here from reprint in Green Hornet #37)
There is one other letterer who worked on a single Simon and Kirby’s Harvey feature. Normally I do not include such a letterer here because he only did this one lettering for Joe and Jack. However some of the ‘C’s that he used can appear to have an serif somewhat similar to Ferguson’s (see the text balloon in the image above). But this unidentified individual has a distinctive ‘J’ where the lower portion meets the vertical at an acute angle and his question mark is quite different from that used by Ferguson.
Clue Comics vol. 2 no. 1 (March 1947) “King of the Bank Robbers” by Wyatt
Having soured their relationship with DC by the Harvey deal and then having the Harvey titles cancelled, Simon and Kirby had to search elsewhere for work. Initially they would produce comic book features for Hillman and Prize. One might have expected the lettering for this work would be done by Howard Ferguson but that was not the case. We will return to what happened to Ferguson in a later chapter but for now the lettering would be done by others we have not previously encountered. The first published post-Harvey work would be cover dated March 1947 and all but one of the eight features that included would be done by one letterer, nick-named Wyatt. I have not found any previous lettering by Wyatt in \neither comics by Hillman or Prize. Wyatt’s lettering is very professional; clear letters with good and even line spacing. He can easily be distinguished from either Howard Ferguson or Ben Oda by his ‘M’ with vertical outer strokes and his ‘Y’ with a vertical lower branch. In his earlier lettering the top of ‘J’ lacks a serif.
Headline Comics #24 (May 1947) “Trapping New England’s Chain Murderer” by Wyatt
While the previous example showed standard lettering in the captions, in all other lettering by Wyatt he used italics in the captions. Bold lettering would also be italicized but that was pretty common. Unlike Ferguson, Wyatt does not use drop caps or banners in his captions to panel art. Wyatt would also do all the lettering for Headline #24 (May 1947) but his other work for Simon and Kirby would be more sporadic.
Prize Comics #63 (March 1947) “Romania’s Strangest Killer” by Ben Oda?
The one initial feature from post-Harvey that was not done by Wyatt was questionably lettered by Ben Oda. Like Wyatt I have not been able to find any previous lettering by Oda in either Hillman or Prize comics. As previously mentioned, Oda can easily be distinguished from Wyatt by the letters ‘M’ and ‘Y’. However Oda’s letters are very similar to those by Howard Ferguson. Unlike Ferguson, Ben did not use drop caps or banners in the panel art for Simon and Kirby productions. Oda used italics only for bold lettering and not in captions like Wyatt. The only reason I question that Oda lettered “Romania’s Strangest Killer” is that there is a small serif on the top of the ‘J’s while typically Ben’s ‘J’ lack such a serif.
Golden age comics rarely include credits and I have never seen any for Ben Oda. Therefore one might reasonably wonder why this and others lettering I will be discussing should not be credited to Ferguson. The answer is that I had to work backwards from a period where I am confident that the lettering was done by Oda. Why I am confident in this will be discussed when I reach that time period. What I can say for now is that Ben’s lettering for Simon and Kirby can be traced with numerous examples from this point on. While Oda’s lettering does change over time the changes are small and gradual. And they reach a point where Oda can be compared to Ferguson’s work at the same dates and while close, they can be distinguished.
Clue Comics vol. 2 no. 3 (May 1947) “The Case of the Superstitious Slayers” by Ben Oda
Because my previous Ben Oda example was questionable, I thought I would provide an early lettering that I am more confidently attribute to him. While Wyatt would be used a lot for Simon and Kirby’s initial post-Harvey lettering, as time went on Ben Oda would be used more frequently until he would dominate.
Headline Comics #25 (July 1947) “Death Takes a Honeymoon” by Fred
Headline Comics #25 (July 1947) had seven features, four of which were lettered by yet another letterer I call Fred. Fred’s ‘M’ and ‘Y’ have the same form used by Wyatt but Fred’s question marks are quite different from Fred’s. Further captions by Fred use standard lettering unlike the italics that Wyatt preferred (except for one early work). Fred had captions that included outline drop caps, a feature not used by Wyatt.
Punch & Judy Comics vol. 2 no. 12 (August 1947) “The Mystery Crooner” by Wyatt
I want to close this chapter with one final example by Wyatt. Wyatt’s lettering had not change much over the time being discussed here, not surprising because it is only a mater of five months. But the question mark has become like a squat ‘2’.
Simon and Kirby was about to introduce a new comic book title for Prize after which their work for Hillman would dwindle to end shortly later.
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “Introducing Marvel Boy” pages 1-3 by Howard Ferguson
Joe Simon became the first editor for the company now called Marvel but referred to as Timely during the golden age of comics. Jack Kirby joined him as the chief artist in the bullpen that was established. Simon used a number of letterers for the comic features that he edited but clearly Howard Ferguson was his favorite. It is easy to understand why, Ferguson’s lettering is clear and easy to read with consistent line spacing. The earliest lettering I attribute to Ferguson were all cover dated September 1940 (“The Human Torch” and “Terry Vance” in Marvel Mystery #11, along with “Introducing Marvel Boy” in Daring Mystery #6). Here I will discuss Ferguson’s lettering for Daring Mystery #6 as it can more clearly attributed to him. Still the form of the letters used has not achieved his final characteristics. Note the lack of serifs for ‘I’ and ‘J’ and the way the lower diagonal limb of ‘K’ intersects with the upper diagonal stroke and not the vertical one. However the most telling feature of Ferguson letters has already has already appeared; the small vertical serif provided to the upper end of the letter ‘C’. There are some limitations to using the serifed ‘C’ to identify lettering as by Ferguson but during the period covered by this chapter Howard always employed this type of ‘C’. While the ‘J’ lacks serifs, it has long and gently curved horizontal portion but there are some other letterers who use the same ‘J’. Also present are Ferguson’s frequent and effective use of drop caps. Note that letters are the standard form in the captions and balloons, even when bold lettering is used. At this stage Ferguson did not use italics.
Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) “Introducing Marvel Boy” pages 4-10 by Joe Simon
Ferguson did not do most of the lettering for “Introducing Marvel Boy”, that was done by Joe Simon. Simon’s lettering has now become more professional but still exhibits the occasional flare such as the examples shown in the last line of this letter set. His distinctive ‘W’ is still found, as is the ‘M’ with vertical outside strokes and a small vertical bar to ‘G’.
Marvel Mystery #11 (September 1940) “Human Torch” by Howard Ferguson
While Ferguson’s Daring Mystery #6 lettering has already been discussed I feel I have to back-track a little to explain why I attribute the lettering from “The Human Torch” and “Terry Lance” from Marvel Mystery #11 to Ferguson. The lack of a serif on ‘C’ might seem to disqualify such an attribution. However the drop caps are the forms that typically appear in Howard’s lettering. Outline, shadow, geometric and negative drops caps never appeared in Timely comics prior to Ferguson. Afterwards other letterers picked up these forms. So while I would caution using only drop caps to identify Ferguson lettering, for the Marvel Mystery #11 work I feel comfortable with using them for that purspos. The lack of a serif on ‘C’ may be interpreted as the Marvel Mystery #11 having actually preceded Ferguson’s work on Daring Mystery #6.
Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940) “Blue Bolt” pages 1-6 by Howard Ferguson
Howard Ferguson continued to improve as seen in Blue Bolt #6. He as now adopted a ‘K’ where the lower diagonal stroke meets the upper one at or near the vertical bar. However his ‘I’ and “J’ still lack serifs.
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl” by Howard Ferguson
Ferguson has now added serifs to ‘I’ and ‘J’. There also appears in ‘G’ a small serif formed by the horizontal bar extending a little to the right. Howard has now arrived at his standard lettering, at least for the period covered by this chapter.
Captain America #1 (March 1941) “Case #2: Sando and Omar” by Howard Ferguson
Here Ferguson has returned to his older form for ‘K’ with the lower diagonal intersecting the upper diagonal. However even in this feature there appear some letter ‘K’ where the upper and lower strokes both meet the vertical bar. Oddly the letter ‘R’ has also been changed with the diagonal stroke intersecting the curving stroke and not the vertical bar as Ferguson had done previously. I am not bothered by these differences because overall the lettering seems to be Howard’s, even with his serifed ‘C’. This changes would disappear soon in future issues of Captain America. One important change that would last is that the captions are now italicized. Although not appearing in the example provided above, bold lettering would also be done in italics but not consistently in this particular feature.
Captain America #2 (April 1941) “Hurricane” by Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby was doing a bit more lettering than Joe Simon. This was done for the new features such as the Vision, Hurricane and Tuk the Caveboy. As these features went on, Jack would no longer do the lettering even when he was still doing the penciling. This might suggest that these features were largely the effort of Kirby without Simon. However that was also once suggested in another new feature with Kirby lettering, Mr. Scarlett for Wow Comics #1 (Spring 1941). But in that feature there was at least one small section that has Simon lettering including his characteristic ‘W’. Showing that Joe was involved in the initial Mr. Scarlett at least in an editorial role and is a reminder that even when Simon’s participation in Simon and Kirby productions are not obvious that does not mean he did not provide a significant contribution.
Captain America #3 (May 1941) “Tuk, Cave-Boy” by Clem
Joe Simon used an assortment of letterers for such Timely titles as Marvel Mystery but generally Howard Ferguson was the go to guy for lettering Captain America. However even in such as important title as Captain America (where Joe and Jack were supposed to be sharing some of the profits) other letterers were used. It is not too surprising that Kirby would do the lettering for “Hurricane” from Captain America #2. What is surprising is that the three Captain America stories for that issue were all lettered by someone else. I gave him the nickname Clem. Clem is one of the reasons that I earlier stated that there were limitations to using a serifed ‘C’ to identify Ferguson lettering. Clem does use a ‘C’ with serif but his the horizontal stroke for ‘G’ does not extend to the right to form a serif. The lower horizontal part of ‘J’ is shorter and more curved. Clem uses the style of ‘M’ where the outer strokes are vertical and a ‘R’ where the diagonal arm is attached to the curved portion. While his ‘I’ has serifs when used as an isolated first person singular, it lacks serifs when used in contractions such as “I’LL”. The stroke used in the exclamation point (‘!’) expands in width going from bottom to top. While Clem does use some shadow and negative drop caps, they are not quite the same form as those done by Ferguson. Having said all that I have to admit there is a lot of variability to the lettering for the Captain America #2 that I am attributing to Clem. I have not been able to make up my mind whether another letterer was involved. Nor am I completely sure that I am correct to attribute the lettering to Clem and not to Ferguson. The main reason I do so is that typical Ferguson lettering appears in Marvel Mystery #18 cover dated the same month.
Clem would do the lettering for a handful of Simon and Kirby features, some questionably. In an often repeated pattern he would then disappear.
Captain America #3 (May 1941) “The Return of the Red Skull” by Charlie
Kirby would do the lettering for the short one shot feature “Amazing Spy Adventure” while Ferguson would letter Tuk the Cave-Boy in Captain America #3. However once again the three Captain America stories for that issue were all lettered by someone else. I gave him the nickname Charlie but that is not important because after the work he did on Captain America #3, we never see him again. Charlie’s lettering tends to be narrower than letterers such as Ferguson. His ‘I’ has serifs but his ‘J’ does not. The lower horizontal part of ‘J’ is short. He makes occasional use of outline drop caps with only a single use of a negative drop cap.
Marvel Mystery #25 (November 1941) “The Patriot” by Clem?
Clem may also have been the letterer for the Patriot story from Marvel Mystery #25 (November 1941). However the serif on ‘C’ is no longer found and the expanding width to the exclamation point is not always so obvious. Further the only drop caps used are of the outline type and they are more mechanically done and always extend into the gutter between panels. One other, perhaps not important, difference is that serifs are added to all first person singular ‘I’ even those used in contractions such as “I’LL”. Otherwise the lettering is quite similar to what Clem used in Captain America #2 and #3.
Captain America #9 (December 1941) “The White Death” by Howard Ferguson
I wanted to provide an example of Howard Ferguson lettering from near the end of Simon and Kirby’s stay at Timely. This will serve for comparison with work done when Howard returned to Simon and Kirby employ after Timely. Largely the lettering is unchanged from Ferguson’s earlier effort except for the question mark (‘?’) which has taken on more of the shape of ‘S’.
Captain America #9 (December 1941) “Hurricane” pages 1-4 by Sam
Another letterer would appear in later Captain America issues starting with the Farther Time feature from Captain America #7 (October 1941) who I have given the nickname Sam. Sam is unusual in that all his lettering is done in italics. While other letterers have used italics for bold lettering or within captions, it is rare to see it in plain balloon lettering. Sam is another reason to use a serifed ‘C’ with caution. A serifed ‘C’ is unusual and its uses by Sam and Clem suggests a copying from Ferguson. Sam can be distinguished from Howard by ‘G’ where the horizontal stroke extends more to the right than the left whereas Ferguson generally has this stroke extending more to the left. Sam shares with Clem and angular exclamation point. But the feature most useful in recognizing Sam’s lettering is his unique ‘S’ with a serif attached to the upper end. Sam would employ outline drop caps but not much else.
Captain America #10 (January 1942) “Hotel of Horror” by Howard Ferguson
As I discussed, all lettering done in italics is rather unusual. However Sam was not the only letterer to employ it. Italic lettering is also found in Captain America #10 and the Vision story from Marvel Mystery #27 both cover dated January 1942. Despite the italics the lettering looks like typical Ferguson work even having ‘C’ with a small serif. This January work would be the last Howard would do for Timely. When Simon and Kirby decamped from Timely, Ferguson did likewise.
Adventure Comics #72 (March 1942) “The Riddle of the Slave Market” by Xavier
When Simon and Kirby began producing work for DC it might be expected that they would turn to Howard Ferguson to do their lettering. Instead they used a new letterer who I have nicknamed Xavier. One explanation for this might have been that Joe and Jack would be using a DC letterer, but I have not found any lettering done by Xavier for DC in any feature other than those done by Simon and Kirby. The more significant features of Xavier’s lettering are long but curved lower portion of ‘J’, the lack of serif on ‘J’, ‘K’ with the lower diagonal attached to the upper diagonal and ‘M’ with vertical outer strokes. Even more important is the form of ‘Y’ with a vertical lower stroke. The exclamation point expands in width similar to that used earlier by Clem but the differences in the other letters seem too great to be from the same person. Xavier lettering would dominate in Simon and Kirby’s DC work until September.
Detective Comics #81 (November 1943) “Yankee Doodle Dynamite” by Howard Ferguson
Howard Ferguson returns to working for Simon and Kirby in September (cover date) and from that point he is the dominate letterer for Simon and Kirby’s DC productions. His lettering has not really changed since the Timely work except a serif has now been added to ‘J’. There are frequent use of typical Ferguson drop caps and the occasional banner caption (see the example above). I have not mentioned banner captions before but Ferguson started using them in Marvel Mystery #18 (April 1941).
Detective Comics #82 (December 1943) “The Romance of Rip Carter” by Xavier
While Ferguson once again became the main Simon and Kirby letterer, Xavier still did some lettering for them. There are even some cases where Ferguson and Xavier lettered the same feature such as in some of the chapters for Boy Commandos #4 (Fall 1943). Xavier adopts the same form for ‘Y’ that Ferguson and others used. But Xavier does not add a serif to ‘C’, his ‘J’ remains without a serif and with a more curved lower portion and exclamation points still exhibit an angular form. Further the question mark was changed to having a vertical aspect to the lower part of the main stroke.
Adventure Is My Career (1945) by Joe Simon
Both Joe and Jack left DC to performed their military service. Towards the end of his tour of duty in the Coast Guard, Joe did some comic book work which he lettered himself. Three short features were done that were used in Boy Commandos and World’s Finest. More substantial was the comic book “Adventure Is My Career”. There Joe’s lettering has become more professional. The letter ‘M’ continues to be written with vertical outer strokes and ‘G’ with a small but distinct vertical stroke. Surprisingly most ‘W’ letters are done in a more typical fashion, but every so often Joe slips and uses his more personal ‘W’ and even its mirror image .
Blue Bolt #10 (March 1941) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson
Blue Bolt was a comic serial feature. Except for the first issue, the plot for each story reached a satisfactory completion but the end always included what effectively was the start of the next story. However the story for BB #10 ends with the green sorceress promising to give up her evil goals of domination and letting Blue Bolt go free. What would Blue Bolt be without the green sorceress as a nemesis? The inside cover was titled “Ye Editor’s Page” which states:
Most of you are tired of seeing the green sorceress constantly fighting Blue Bolt. Hereafter, this strip will be improved by showing new and more exciting action without the green sorceress.
Blue Bolt would continue but without Simon and Kirby.
Captain America #1 (March 1941) Meet Captain America, pencils by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson
I doubt very much whether Simon and Kirby’s leaving Blue Bolt had anything to do with any dissatisfaction with the work they had done on the feature. Rather I suspect they stopped moonlighting to devote more attention to Captain America, their new creation for Timely Comics. Joe and Jack had made a deal with Goodman, the owner of Timely, in which they would get a share in the profits. It therefore made sense to give priority to the work that they would do for Timely. Since Simon and Kirby would create all the work that appeared in Captain America, 61 pages for the first issue, this meant a substantial increase in they amount of work they had to produce each month. (Although the Captain Marvel Adventures that Simon and Kirby had done previously required a similar number of pages.)
While Kirby is usually credited with drawing Captain America, some of it was actually penciled by Simon particularly in the first issue. For instance the standing figure of Captain America shown above was drawn by Joe while the rest of the page, including the running Bucky, were done by Kirby.
Captain America #1 (March 1941) Captain America and the Chess-board of Death page 9, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson
In a previous post (Chapter 10) it was observed that Simon and Kirby had begun using some new layout devices. One, picked up from Lou Fine, was to extend figures beyond the panel borders. If anything, Joe and Jack made even greater use of this device in Captain America. Sometimes to extremes as for instance the standing Bucky in the upper left of the page shown above whose figure extends over three panels. In Captain America Simon and Kirby began using unusually shaped panels as well such as the circular panel and others with a curved border shown above. Even Ferguson got into the act by using vertical letters for normal text in the speech balloons while using slanted letters in captions and when emphasis was desired. It appears that Simon and Kirby were doing whatever they could to make Captain America art stand out.
Captain America #1 (March 1941) Hurricane, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby
While all the Captain America stories from the first issue were drawn by both Kirby and Simon, inked by various hands and lettered by Howard Ferguson there were two backup features that were drawn, inked and lettered by Kirby alone. That is not to say that Simon was not involved just that there is no evidence to prove he was. One feature, Hurricane, concerned the return of the god Mercury to the human sphere. As such it was the first Kirby piece with a mythological theme.
Captain America #1 (March 1941) Tuk Caveboy, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby
The other all Kirby piece was Tuk Caveboy.
Marvel Mystery #17 (March 1941) Vision, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, letters by unidentified letterer (from Golden Masterworks reprint)
Kirby also drew and inked the Vision story for Marvel Mystery #17 but, as with the previous issue, he did not do the lettering.
Captain America was a break through comic for Simon and Kirby, particularly for Kirby. Simon’s Blue Bolt had been an important enough of a creation to be the featured story of a new comic book title with the same name. It probably was popular enough but nowhere near as big a seller as Captain America. Up until then none of Kirby’s comics received any real attention. Captain America changed all that and made Simon and Kirby a brand name. While somewhat primitive compared to what Simon and Kirby would produce even a single year later, Captain America was well advanced relative to the comics published at that time. Pretty much everyone noticed and the comic book industry was changed forever.
It would be a great story to say that when Simon met Kirby they shortly began their classic collaboration. A great story but not what actually happened. Instead what appeared to occur was a variety of working conditions. Sometimes Jack helped out with some pages of art (for instance Blue Bolt #2 and #3), sometimes Kirby would do the pencils and Simon the inking (Blue Bolt #4 to #7), sometimes Kirby would do the pencils and other the inking (Blue Bolt #8 and #9), occasionally both Joe and Jack would pencil and others would do the inking (Captain America #1) and finally both might do their own individual projects (like Simon’s Fiery Mask in the Human Torch #2(1) and Kirby’s Vision stories in Marvel Mystery #13 to #15). While the overall tendency was for greater dependency on Kirby’s undeniable artistic skills as time went on, what appears to be happening was Simon taking on the roll of a true or acting editor using Kirby (or not) in whatever combination needed to get the job done. In my opinion it was not until Simon and Kirby left Timely for DC that they began to truly forge their business and artistic collaboration.
So ends another serial post. I am sure that someday I will do one on Joe and Jack’s Captain America but that day is not today.
Blue Bolt #9 (February 1941) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson
Once again some rather poor inking mars an otherwise great Simon and Kirby piece. As mentioned previously the inking was very likely the work of one or more of the Timely studio assistants; Al Avison, Al Gabriel and Syd Shores. Unfortunately this time Kirby did not even ink the splash.
A recent “innovation” was the used of a blue field to encircle the page and separate the panels. Simon and Kirby had not used this device either before or since. The other features in the comic book had similar color fields although using colors other than cyan (blue) so it was likely an addition by the publisher. I have to say I find this color field unnecessary and somewhat distracting.
Blue Bolt #9 (February 1941) Blue Bolt page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson
Joe and Jack included in this story a reporter by the name of Bucky Williams. Of course Bucky was the name of Captain America’s sidekick and actually Bucky Williams fills the roll of a temporary sidekick. The use of the name Bucky was not the only things found in BB #9 to predate their use in Captain America which would premier next month. For the first time Simon and Kirby would extend figures outside of the panel borders (see above image). This was not an Simon and Kirby innovation (they picked it up from Lou Fine) but nonetheless was followed by some other artists once Captain America became a big success.
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) Black Owl, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson
Simon and Kirby return for one final Black Owl story. With Simon providing inks to Kirby’s pencils this story is much more attractive than the Blue Bolt #9 from the same month. The story includes a reporter who plays the part of a temporary sidekick for the Black Owl. This is basically the same plot device played by the reporter Bucky Williams in BB #9. In the art for this story Simon and Kirby extended figures beyond the panel borders just as they had in Blue Bolt #9.
I do not know who to blame, but note the rather odd shadowing of the letter ‘O’ in the title, in particular the center of the letter. When I restored this page for the “Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” book I got a email from an editor at Titan asking if I got the restoration wrong. Well of course it is wrong only it was not my error.
Marvel Mystery #16 (January 1941) The Human Torch, pencils by Carl Burgos, letters by Howard Ferguson (from Golden Age Masterworks reprint volume)
Howard Ferguson provided the lettering for the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #16. Ferguson did not provide the lettering for all the Human Torch stories in the issues of Marvel Mystery but he did letter some of the Human Torch and Terry Vance stories but only those two features. Why Howard was restricted to just those two features is unclear but that would eventually change but not during the period covered by this serial post.
Marvel Mystery #16 (January 1941) Vision, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, letters by unidentified letterer (from Golden Age Masterworks reprint volume)
While Ferguson provided lettering for all the moonlighting work that Simon and Kirby produced for this month he did not letter their single Timely piece, the Vision from Marvel Mystery #16. That would not been surprising had Kirby provided the lettering as has he had done in previous Visions stories but oddly some other letterer was used. Since credits were not supplied in the comics of those days it is unlikely this particular letterer will ever be identified.
Blue Bolt #8 (January 1941) Blue Bold, pencils and splash inks by Jack Kirby, letters by Howard Ferguson
Blue Bolt #8 initiates a working methodology that Simon and Kirby would use often in years to come. Kirby would ink his own splash panel while leaving the rest of the story to be inked by other artists (besides Joe Simon). Kirby’s inking tops off an already spectacular splash. While in later years Jack’s primary interest was the story art, during his collaboration with Joe much emphasis was placed on covers and splashes. Great stories may have built the Simon and Kirby reputation but covers and splashes are what drew attention and persuaded comic book readers to spend their money. Of course having all the story inked by either Kirby or Simon would be preferable but if that was not possible the next best thing was for Jack to ink the splash.
It has been said that Kirby pencils could withstand even poor inkers. Well the story art to Blue Bolt #8 certainly puts that claim to the test. As I mentioned previously, I will not try to identified the inkers other than either Kirby or Simon but one or more of the assistants from the Timely bullpen were likely candidates for this work. Al Avison, Al Gabriel and Syd Shores were very young and just learning their trade.
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) Black Owl, pencils and letters by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon
Blue Bolt was a serialized comic feature. Not quite like in the movie serials as Blue Bolt did not have “cliff hangers” endings. Instead each story would be complete but with an ending that left open the question of where the tale would go from there. The Black Owl feature from Prize Comics #7 leads to PC #8 in the same manner. However the ending in PC #8 does not suggest further development of the story in the next issue. This issue was included in a previous post (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl).
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) Black Owl, letters by Jack Kirby
Kirby provided the lettering for PC #8 and since I have prepared samples for a previous post (Jack Kirby as a Letterer) I will repeat them here. But truth be told Kirby’s lettering really has not changed from the previous sample that I provided (Red Raven #1, August 1940, shown in Chapter 5).
Marvel Mystery #15 (January 1941) Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby (from Marvel’s Golden Age Masterpieces reprint)
As with Marvel Mystery #13 and #14, Kirby seemingly does it all, or at least all the visuals, for the Vision story in MM #15 (January 1941). Of course Simon might have had something to do with this feature, he was after all the editor.
Ferguson provided the lettering in Marvel Mystery #15 for the Human Torch and Terry Vance features.
Captain Marvel Adventures #1, Pencils by Jack Kirby (from a bleached page)
I have chosen this chapter to include some moonlighting work that Simon and Kirby did for Fawcett. Unfortunately the dating of this work for is uncertain as the comic books lack dates on the covers or in the indices. One of the works was Captain Marvel Adventures #1. This was the first comic book dedicated to Fawcett’s new hit Captain Marvel. It must have seemed a rather troublesome assignment. Not only did the art have to look like the work that C. C. Beck had previously done on the character, but also Simon and Kirby were not allowed to alter the scripts (Joe Simon’s Fawcett Testimony). The pencils had to be returned to Fawcett for lettering and then picked up again for inking. Yet despite all this the final art is rather nice. Kirby was never very good at imitating other artists and despite the simple lines of the artwork Kirby style keeps showing up. Beck might not have been pleased but in my opinion Simon and Kirby’s version was much more interesting. I have no idea who the inker was but it certainly was not Kirby, Simon or any of the assistants from the Timely bullpen. Whoever it was they did a marvelous job.
Wow Comics #1, Mister Scarlet, Pencils and inks by Jack Kirby, letters by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon
It is uncertain whether this work was done before or after Captain Marvel. In the Fawcett testimony Simon said it came later however that testimony was given some eight years later and therefore might not be accurate.
Mister Scarlet appears to largely be the work of Jack Kirby but Joe Simon’s presence is revealed in some of lettering. His distinctive ‘W’, ‘M’ and other letters make their appearance in some of the text as for instance in the captions in panels 1, 4 and 6 from page 2 shown above. All the Simon letter that I have spotted so far comes from captions and not the word balloons. This suggests that Joe was trying to make an existing story clearer. This feature is also a good reminder about the problems of identifying Joe’s contributions in Simon and Kirby productions. Had this story been lettered by someone other than Kirby and Simon, Joe’s additions would have gone unnoticed.
Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) Blue Bolt, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson
Blue Bolt #7 continues the Simon and Kirby collaboration in its purist form, that is with Jack doing the pencils and Joe providing the inks. The only other feature from December that showed such a degree of collaboration was the Black Owl from Prize Comics #7 which I will discuss below. Both of these features were done while moonlighting. As we will see below the features created for their regular gig at Timely were not quite the same joint effort.
The enlarging World War II, romance, betrayal, spies and assassins are just some of the elements of this engaging story. Simon and Kirby were not satisfied with telling a simple confrontation between a hero and a villain they had to put in as much as possible. Ten pages hardly seemed enough to fit all that they included. It does not seem that Blue Bolt had any significant impact on the rest of the comic book industry of the day but it should have.
Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) Blue Bolt page 8 panel 1, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson (horizontally flipped image)
Sure Blue Bolt was science fiction but that did not mean that the hero always used a ray gun. Previously Kirby had a penchant for dramatic slugfests but now he began to take that art to a new level.
I present the above image in reverse…
Captain America #1 (March 1941), pencils by Jack Kirby
as I want to highlight that roll Blue Bolt played in laying the groundwork for a future hit. Captain America would appear on newsstands just three months later.
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) The Black Owl, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon?, letters by Howard Ferguson
Blue Bolt was not the only moonlighting job that Simon and Kirby produced for December they also did Black Owl for Prize Comics #7. Joe and Jack would end up doing a Black Owl story for three issues which I discussed previously (Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl). All three stories were reprinted in Titan’s “Simon and Kirby Library: Superheroes” (shameless plug). The Black Owl was not a Simon and Kirby creation and I really do not know much about previous appearances of the character. But of course Simon and Kirby added their distinct touch if in nothing more than the story and art.
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) The Black Owl, letters by Howard Ferguson
Howard Ferguson provided the lettering for the Black Owl story. I have previously provided the lettering samples for Ferguson’s Prize Comics #7 but I have since made a correction and some additions to it. A recap of the more useful features would seem in order. The most useful trait for identifying Ferguson lettering is the little vertical stroke attached to the upper end of the letter ‘C’. Another useful trait is the very shallow hook for the letter ‘J’ but unfortunately that is not a common letter. Some other traits are less useful but still should be noted particularly the way the upper portions of the letters ‘P’ and ‘R’ predominate over the lower portion. The letter ‘S’ is similarly often affected by a predominate upper portion but there is some variation in this feature. Another trait is found in some but not all ‘N’ is the manner that the left vertical stroke is sometimes tilted downward to the left somewhat. Perhaps not as useful than the letter ‘C’ but certainly easier spot is Ferguson’s special handling of the first letter in captions (examples are provided above). I believe all these traits (except the special ‘N’) were retained by Ferguson the rest of his career. I plan to review his entire career after I finish this serial post.
In is at this time that in my opinion Ferguson’s lettering has gone from good to great. This is not due to form of his letters which has changed only a little from previous work. Rather it steady and firm hand used and the spacing and legibility of the final results. Ferguson’s work is not mechanical but neither is it overly variable.
Besides an improvement in quality, the lettering differs from what was done not that long ago for Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940) by three changes.
I have previously pointed out the special handling of the first letter in captions. Such enlarged and specially formed letters are similar to the first letter of chapters often found in older books. The analogy is not perfect but it is close enough that I have decided to adopt the name given to them, drop capitals (or drop caps for short). Drop caps were used by other comic book letterers but Ferguson began using a special version where the letter is created a negative space in a black field such as the two final examples in the image above. I shall refer to these as negative drop caps. It was the introduction of negative drop caps that is one of the things that distinguish Prize #7 from Blue Bolt #5. But there appears to be two flavors of negative drop caps. The first that appeared in Blue Bolt #6 and the Terry Vance feature from Marvel Mystery #13 (both November 1940) had vertically oriented letters. Later in Blue Bolt #7, Prize Comics #7 and the Human Torch and the Terry Vance features from Marvel Mystery #14 (all December 1940) Ferguson introduced negative spot caps that were tilted.
The second change in Ferguson lettering concerns the letter ‘G’. In Blue Bolt #6 (November 1940) and earlier Howard constructed the ‘G’ with a small horizontal element on the left side of the bottom of the character and does not extend to the right. In Prize Comics #7 and the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #14 (both December 1940) Ferguson extends the small horizontal so that it appears on both the left and the right side. Interestingly Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940) uses the old form of ‘G’ for most of the first page of the story while otherwise using the new ‘G’. The old ‘G’ is used in BB #5 (October), BB #6 (November) and the Terry Vance stories from MM #13 and #14 (November and December). As mentioned both forms of ‘G’ appear in BB #7 (December). Only the newer ‘G’ appears in the Human Torch of MM #14 (December).
The third change involves the form of the letters ‘I’ and ‘J’. Ferguson’s older form for these letters excluded any horizontal elements while the newer form did. While the letter ‘I’ is common enough, horizontal strokes are not supposed to be added when the letter is used with others to form a word. Unfortunately the isolated use of ‘I’ and the use of ‘J’ are not too common. The old form of ‘I’ and ‘J’ appear in BB #5 (October), BB #6, Terry Vance from MM #13 (November) and BB #7 (December) with the new forms used in PC #7 and the Terry Vance feature of MM #14 (both December).
With these three changes in Ferguson’s lettering it would seem possible to sort out the relative order that Ferguson lettered the work appearing in the months from October to December. Regrettably it turns out that no ordering is possible that will satisfy all three criteria for all cases. The few cases of lettering by Ferguson from later periods suggest that perhaps he was not consistent in his use of ‘G’. Hopefully this question will be answered as my review progresses.
Marvel Mystery #14 (December 1940) The Vision, pencils, inks and letters by Jack Kirby,
The Vision became a regular Marvel Mystery Comics features with his second appearance in MM #14 (December 1940). As in the previous issue, Kirby would provide pencils, inks and letters for the Vision story. Even today the Simon and Kirby Vision is a largely neglected feature and at that time it was very much overshadowed by the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. (This story was reprinted in “The Best of Simon and Kirby”, another shameless plug).
Lettering by Howard Ferguson also appeared in Marvel Mystery #14 in the Human Torch and the Terry Vance features.
Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940) the Human Torch “Introducing Toro”, pencils by Carl Burgos, lettering by Howard Ferguson
As mentioned in the previous chapter, Timely did not release a Red Raven #2 issue. Instead that titles mailing license was used instead for a new title, Human Torch Comics #2. That the first issue was numbered 2 has brought about confusion to the numbering of the title even back when it was released. I have added “(1)” to the issue number to indicate it is actually the first issue. The cover is dated as Fall 1940 which means there might be some question as to what month to assign it. However Marvel Mystery #13 (November 1940) and #14 (December 1940) have house advertisement for the Human Torch #2(1). The MM ads provides a release date of September 25. Normally comics are cover dated about two months after their release so it is seems appropriate to assign HT #2(1) to December.
This issue has been reprinted in the Golden Age Masterwork series. Unfortunately Marvel did a horrendous job re-creating it. I have discussed this previously (The Human Torch #2) but I feel I need to emphasize here that the reprint volume is useless for anything beyond a casual reading. It is simply not possible to use this reprint book to examine the art or lettering. Luckily I will be using scans from the original comic in my discussions here.
Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940) the Fiery Mask “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses”, pencils and inks by Joe Simon, letters by Howard Ferguson
The Fiery Mask was one of Simon’s earliest creations having first appeared in Daring Mystery #1 (January 1940, Daring Mystery and Joe Simon BK (Before Kirby)). Another artist drew the character for Daring Mystery #5 (June 1940) but Simon returned with Kirby’s help to provide the Fiery Mask for Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940). Simon worked on the Fiery Mask one last time for Human Torch #2(1) (Fall 1940). I periodically get asked, but I really feel this was a solo effort because I cannot find any sign that Kirby had anything to do with this Fiery Mask story, “The Strange Case of the Bloodless Corpses”. Simon’s comic book art improved rapidly so that even though only a short period had past the art style for HT #2(1) Fiery Mask story shows it was definitely drawn when Simon became editor at Timely and was not some older inventoried story from when he first started working in comics. Still it would be nice to provide a more accurate date for the story as it theoretically have been done a few months earlier and inventoried or it could have been drawn later specifically for the HT #2(1) issue.
Fortunately the lettering Howard Ferguson did for the story may provide a clue. As mentioned before Ferguson’s work had been undergoing development during this period. The Fiery Mask story lacks negative drop caps and uses the older form of the letters ‘G’, ‘I’ and ‘J’. Therefore I believe it must have been done no later than the work for Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940). It likely was originally intended for Daring Mystery #7 which possibly was meant to be released in October or November but that publication of that issue was delayed until April 1941. Or alternatively it might have been meant for Red Raven Comics #2 which should have come out in October but that title got cancelled. But in any case the Fiery Mask story was done earlier than the Human Torch story in the same issue as that story was lettered by Ferguson but with the tilted negative drop caps, the new ‘I’ and ‘J’ and mostly using the new ‘G’ all of which suggests a December date.