Tag Archives: Jerry

The Eleventh Commandment

“Thou shall not desecrate art”. Okay maybe Moses did not forget to include the eleventh commandment on his tablets when he came down from the mount. And I will admit that most of the other commandments concerned more serious sins. Still alteration of art is truly morally wrong. This restriction may seem odd when it comes to comic books since that art often gets modified on its way through the publication process. However a point is reached when comic art is published (or not) and further modification should no longer be done. Some will say that when a person buys a piece of art he can do anything he wants with it. But the truth is no one really buys art, it is more like an extended lease. While the person may have possession of a piece of art, the expectation should be that someday, somehow, it will pass on to someone else. It is the owner’s duty and self interest to preserve the art for that eventual day.

Unpublished page art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (as published in “History of Comics” volume 1, 1970)

James Steranko’s “History of Comics” is a great resource written by a man who is both a historian and practitioner of comic books. It was published in two tabloid size volumes and is long out of print. However issues appear at conventions and sources like eBay from time to time and are well worth the search. While profusely illustrated most of the images are small in size. There are a limited number of exceptions that take full advantage of the large dimensions of the books. One of the larger illustrations in volume 1 is the source for the image shown above of a page done in pencil by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.

There are good reasons why Steranko gave this image such a prominent treatment. Both artists played important parts in the history of comics. Among the many contributions by Jerry Robinson is the work he did on Batman as a ghost artist for Bob Kane. Unfortunately Mort Meskin’s importance in the history of comics is largely forgotten today but is well understood by Steranko. Hopefully a forthcoming book on Meskin may help to change his current reputation. However Mort is not completely neglected for instance Ger Apeldoorn has provided some recent posts about some of his work (for example Tom Corbett Viewmaster, Real Crime and No Kid Stuff) and there is a list group devoted to him (Mort Meskin List). Besides Robinson and Meskin’s importance to the history there is the rarity of the art. Not a lot of original art for either artist has survived from early in their careers. While they shared a studio for some time they only collaborated for a relatively short period (less then two years) so examples of their joint work would be expected to be rarer still. Original art that was unpublished and left uninked are particularly rare. Last, but certainly not least of the reasons Steranko illustrated this particular page, is the quality of the art itself.

What was this unfinished page originally intended? Meskin did some marvelous work on his creation, the Vigilante, which started as a hero feature and ended up as a western. However Robinson was never associated with the Vigilante and the young man on this page of original art was clearly not the Vigilante’s sidekick Stuff the Chinatown Kid. This page of art can also be found on the Meskin web site where it is suggested it might have originally have been meant for Prize Comics Western. The period that Robinson and Meskin are known to have collaborated was from January 1948 to August 1949 (cover dates). Prize Comics was converted to Prize Comics Western with the May 1948 issue so it certainly was a possible destination for this piece. Robinson and Meskin were doing work for Simon and Kirby during this time and although I do not believe S&K produced Prize Comics Western they may have provided Jerry and Mort a connection to the editor of that title. But Robinson and Meskin’s work never be published in any issue of PCW and the solo Meskin would not appear in the title until 1956 1955. So while nothing rules out Prize Comics as the intended comic, there is little evidence to support that suggestion.

Considering the artists, it is not surprising what a wonderful page this is. The third panel is particularly marvelous. This may be the most complex panel these artists had ever done either together or individually. The panel is framed on each side by the cutoff close-ups of two smokers. A gambling game gone wrong takes up most of the panel with onlookers filling the rest. Every little portion of the panel is filled with interesting details. The only problem is where would the speech balloons go? Actually this seems to be a difficulty with much of the page with only the second and fifth panels seeming to have room for the speech balloons. The fourth panel particularly seems to call for a balloon with no place to put it. This all suggests another possibility for this page, it may have been nothing more then a portfolio piece used to show perspective publishers what the artists were capable of doing. However in the end we are left with little more then informed speculation as to the intended purpose of this unpublished art.

Unpublished page art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin (recent scan)

The image in Steranko’s book is just marvelous. Pencils are difficult to reproduce (which is why art is inked for comic book publication) but the image in “History of Comics” is clear and easy to see. Considering this was done before personal computers and scanners that was quite an accomplishment. Above is a more recent scan of the same art. While it may not be as clear as the Steranko’s image it does show some subtleties that the published image did not. Even here the image has been enhanced as the original pencils are lighter.

I had previously wondered what method Robinson and Meskin used when they collaborated on art since the final result looks like an amalgamation of their two styles. At least some of the inking appeared to have been done by Mort so the simplest explanation would be that Robinson did the pencils and Meskin the inking. But is the simplest explanation actually correct? The best way to answer this question is to examine uninked art such as the page discussed here. Most of the figures on the page look like they were done by Meskin with the exception of the woman in the third panel who looks like she was drawn by Robinson. That assessment is based on the style of the art but notice that the woman is drawn slightly darker then the rest of the figures. Remember this image is an enhanced scan and the difference is even harder to detect on the original art. The panel is so intricate and fully realized that I doubt that Meskin had simply left the woman blank for Jerry to fill in. To me this all suggests that Mort first penciled the entire page and then Jerry came in and altered portions. Robinson may have worked on parts of the art other then the woman but they are now hard to distinguish. I am not suggesting that this was the creation sequence that Robinson and Meskin used in all cases but it does suggest that the reason for their amalgamated style was the passing of the pencils from one artist to the other.

It is interesting how fully developed the drawing is on this page. Not only are all outlines clearly indicated but the required spotting is shown as well. For example the shadows cast by the post sticking out of the top of the house in the first frame and the shadows on the underside of all the hats. Even the cloth folds have the sweeping parallel lines that are characteristic of Meskin’s inking. Previously I felt the inking of the Robinson and Meskin pieces had been done by Mort, but perhaps Jerry also did some inking that is now hard to detect because the inks closely followed the pencils.

By now the reader maybe impatiently proclaiming “but what about the bottom row of panels”? What indeed. Because of the Steranko illustration we know that this row was originally uninked. Did Jerry Robinson, still very much active today, come back and resume working on the page? Or did Mort Meskin return to it before his untimely death? Unhappily neither is the case. A good comparison between the inked version and the one found in the Steranko illustration shows many discrepancies. Hairlines were altered and cloth folds moved. Even the outlines were not closely followed. While it is not completely clear in Steranko’s illustration, the boy on the extreme right of the last panel is cast in shadow with just enough traces of light patches to indicate the shape of the figure. Apparently this was all beyond the questionable talents of the inker who covers it all in solid black. It is true that since the silver age of comics inkers are often expected to add their personal touches, but this particular inker’s alterations have done nothing but deaden the art. Since he did not follow the pencils closely one wonders why the inking was done directly on the original art and not over some copy? Once he had finished the bottom row the contrast between it and the two upper rows must have been painfully obvious even to this inker and he finally halted his destruction before any more damage was done and the page become worthless. The page is now a monument to the wisdom of the Eleventh Commandment. Frankly even if the inker had been more talented he should not have attempted inking the actual pencils. A modern inker has modern sensibilities and his art could not truly recreate the type of inking that would have been done on this page had Robinson and Meskin completed it.

Jumbo Comics

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) Jumbo, the mascot

Will Eisner and Jerry Iger teamed up in 1936 or 1937 to become one of the first studios to provide complete comic book packages to publishers. Previously comic books were largely reprint compilations of newspaper syndication strips. Years later Will Eisner said that he believed there would not be enough syndications material available to meet the rising demand for comic books and so there would be a market for new material created specifically for comic books. That may have been true but one of Eisner and Iger’s packages Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) published by Fiction House was actually composed of syndication strips. I have no idea on how many of the strips from Jumbo Comics #1 had previously appeared in newspapers but at least some of them had been printed in the British magazine Wags. Others may have truly been new creations but in a format showed that they were meant for syndication strips.

Jumbo Comics certainly lived up to its name as it was printed in what is called tabloid size (10.5 by 14.25 inches). Except for the cover, no color was used. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of color, the paper used came in two tones; one the normal “white” and the other dyed a pinkish color. (I have removed the page color from all images presented in this post.) All pages followed the same format. There would be a title panel that would normally occupy the entire top of the page although sometimes a single story panel might be included. Below would be three or four rows of panels with three panels per row (occasionally two panels would be combined to form a longer one). While there would be three or four pages provided for each title, all pages would have the same format including the title.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Hawks of the Sea” by Will Eisner

Will Eisner was very conscious about the small size of his operation. While Eisner was involved in many aspects in the making of the strips found in Jumbo Comics but, his name appears on none of them. However, in the title “Hawks of the Sea” is credited to Willis Rensie; Rensie is Eisner spell backwards. This is years before his famous work on the Spirit, but here Eisner is already an accomplished comic artist. Note Eisner’s dramatic use of sifting perspective. As we will see, a number of the artists appearing in Jumbo Comics who would later achieve great fame but none of them supplied art at that time with quite the quality as found in “Hawks of the Sea”.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Bobby” by Jerry Iger

“Bobby” is credited to S. M. Iger, but surely that must be an alias for Jerry Iger. Iger was supposed to have been the salesman of the Eisner & Iger partnership, but here he shows how talented artist he was as well. Or it would if we can be sure that this piece was actually done by Jerry. In an interview (The Jack Kirby Collector #16) Eisner said that Iger was not a good artist but he could letter. Was this sour grapes about a former partner or realistic evaluation? I have no way of knowing. It all depends on whether “Bobby” was really done by Iger.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Peter Pupp” by Bob Kane

Bob Kane was a high school friend of Will Eisner, so his presence in Jumbo Comics is not surprising. Batman did not debut until May 1939 so Kane almost certainly did not yet have his studio of ghost artists that he became famous for in later years. I have always found the earliest Batman art, presumably done by Kane, as stiff and rather unappealing. Because of that “Peter Pupp” is quite a surprise. Granted it is of the funny animal and not the hero genre but it shows a suppleness totally absent from Batman. Mickey Mouse would seem to be an obvious inspiration for this strip. I particularly find amusing how the villain’s minion sports Mickey Mouse ears.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby has said that his first published comic book work be for Wild Boy Magazine, although I do not believe anyone has been able to confirm that. The earliest work that can be confirmed is probably “The Count of Monte Cristo” which appeared in the British magazine Wags in March 1938. These Kirby strips were used again in Jumbo Comics #1. The name Jack Kirby was one he adopted later while his birth name was Jacob Kurtzberg but in this strip he signed his name as Jack Curtiss. By any name this was a far cry from the work Jack would do in just a few years. Even though Kirby’s art would progress much further, his art in Jumbo Comics shows that he already was a very gifted artist, better then most of his peers.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” by Jack Kirby

Jack also drew “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” this time under the name Curt Davis. While “The Count of Monte Cristo” was based on the book by Alenandre Dumas, the Dr. Hayward strip was all new writing. It is hard to be sure, but the plot seems to be similar to those Jack would write later and so I credit the scripting here to Kirby as well. Without the classic trappings of “The Count of Montet Cristo”, Jack seems quite comfortable both in art and script with the more science fiction story of Dr. Hayward. A handsome hero, a mad scientist and body switching it all provides a setting for a morality tale about good versus evil.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Wilton of the West” by Jack Kirby

It would seem two strips were not enough for the already prolific Kirby as he did a western as well but this time without signing it. It is here that we can see that while Kirby had a way to go before he reached his full potential, he already had developed his predilection for slugfests. The smashing blow depicted in panel 6 is done in a manner far from his signature style but it still embodies Kirby’s enthusiasm. He may not have mastered his use of exaggerated perspective but look how Jack has in panel 7 the hero bend at the torso while thrusting his face forward so that no neck is seen. It is the beginnings of a pose that would become Jack’s trademark.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” by Mort Meskin

Of all the strips present in Jumbo Comics, the most enduring was “Sheena Queen of the Jungle”. It would eventually dominate the long running Jumbo Comic (1938 to 1953) as well as achieving its own title. Sheena even became a television show (1955) and a movie (1984). The title block credits Sheena to W. Morgan Thomas but this was just one of the pseudonyms adopted by Will Eisner to hide the small size of his studio staff. For the Sheena strips in the Jumbo Comics the artist was Mort Meskin as can be seen by the signature in the final panel. This is the earliest published work by Meskin that I am aware of. While not as polished as Will Eisner or Jack Kirby, Mort’s art already has an energy to it. Look how he composes the figures of the armed natives in panel 6 all on the left side of the panel and on the right in panel 8. Over and over in these strips you can see Meskin’s concerns about how to graphically tell a story. It may be the start of his professional career, but Mort already had his own unique vision.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer

It is hard to recognize some of the artists appearing in Jumbo Comics when you are only familiar with their later work. This is especially true with the first strip of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer. What makes this particular strip so unlike some familiar work by Briefer is mainly the detailed pen work so different from the simpler and more fluid inking found much later in Briefer’s Frankenstein. One thing to note is that while the other artists reviewed in this post had adopted a very grid-like panel layout, Dick’s use of caption boxes and panels breaks from that familiar rigid pattern.

Jumbo Comics #1 (September 1938) “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Dick Briefer

The fine inking was abandoned immediately after the first strip and the results make it much easier to recognize Briefer’s participation. I choose to use the fifth strip but in terms of technique it does not differ from the second. But what a great page! While Dick is no longer using the same captions he still deviates from a grid panel layout. Note how the fifth panel was extended vertically down into and how the last panel really is two panels in the same boarder separated by a caption.

There are other strips in Jumbo Comics #1 done by talented artists that are unsigned. Considering the pretenses Eisner maintained of a larger shop there is a good possibility that they some were made by Eisner himself deceptively adopting another style. Or perhaps assigning the finishing or inking to a different artist. I am sure Eisner provided direction to all the artists working for him but I am just as certain that did not include laying out the art. Each of the artists reviewed here had their own unique manner of graphically telling the story which would not have been true if they were working from layouts. It is amazing to see so much talent, albeit in its earliest flowering, in one comic book. Jack Kirby would be also included in Jumbo Comics #2 and #3 for his work on “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” and “Wilton of the West”. Mort Meskin would work on “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” even longer (at least until issue #5). Bob Kane and Dick Briefer would also make further appearances. Eventually Jumbo Comics would abandon its oversize format and adopt a more standard comic book content but for a while it was a most unusual comic book.

Mort Meskin before Joining Simon and Kirby

Golden Lad #1 (July 1945) “The Heart of Gold”, art by Mort Meskin

Last week I provided some examples of early work by Mort Meskin. Now I would like to do the same for the period from after the war until Mort began working for Simon and Kirby. Actually I am being a little inaccurate by describing this period as post war. The war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945 and in Japan on August 15. The first issue of Golden Lad was cover dated July 1945. Because cover dates were usually advanced a couple of months from the actually released date, this issue probably hit the stands in May. Therefore the war was still ongoing when the art was created (which probably started in February). During most of the war Mort Meskin was doing work solely for National Comics. Mort would continue to provide work to DC while doing Golden Lad for Spark Publications.

Maybe it is just a question of luck as to which issues are available to me, but it seems to me that there was a decline over time in the quality of Meskin’s art for DC. However that decline only affected his DC work. While the Golden Lad character may not have been that great of a creation, the art Mort provided was first rate. The splash is particularly nice. Golden Lad rises dramatically from a cauldron of molten gold. The fire provides the only light for the scene giving the surrounded conquistadors with expressive shadows. But with their modern weaponry, they are not truly conquistadors. The heart of gold that provides Golden Lad with his powers was created during the time of the destruction of the Aztecs but Golden Lad fights modern criminals. The splash is a graphic amalgamation of the two concepts.

Golden Lad #2 (November 1945) “The Haven for All” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

I really cannot get very enthusiastic about Golden Lad himself. Like Superman, he is just too powerful to provide interesting stories. However Meskin did a good job on graphically depicting the story. The first panel shows the use of multiple images that Mort devised in Johnny Quick for indicating super fast action. The showing the unrolling of the sail might have seem the most obvious choice for panel 5 but Meskin’s depiction of the crowd’s reaction was probably more effective.

More Fun Comics #107 (January 1946) “Vacation with Double Pay”, art by Mort Meskin

As I said before, Mort’s art for the later DC work is not as impressive as his earlier stuff. This Johnny Quick splash is probably the best of the few I have available from his later DC work. Even here I do not find the approaching alligators truly threatening. What are they going to do, gum the fisherman to death? Some of this decline in quality maybe due to the inkers being used but perhaps Meskin was loosing interest after so many years. That he did such great art for Golden Lad shows that he had not lost his talent.

Real Fact Comics #10 (October 1947) “How a Movie Serial Is Made”, art by Mort Meskin

Meskin could do great work for DC as well, if it supplied enough of a new challenge. This scan of “How a Movie Serial Is Made” was provided by Ger Apeldoorn (Those Fabuleous Fifties). It certainly is an oddball feature. Meskin provides examples of how serial movies were created using his own character, the Vigilante. I particularly like the splash. While I am not old enough for movie serials, I do remember weekend matinees where there was a very similar response from the exclusively young audience.

Mort did other work during this period besides what he did for DC and Spark. This was the time that he did a couple pieces for Prize Comics (but this was not for Simon and Kirby). I will not be discussing the Prize stories here as I covered them recently in other posts (Treasure #10 and Treasure #12).

Atoman #2 (April 1946) “The Vanishing Vandals”, art by Jerry Robinson
Larger Image

Mort Meskin would later team up with Jerry Robinson. It would therefore be informative to provide examples of Jerry’s work. Much of what Robinson did previously was on Batman working for Bob Kane. This makes it difficult to come to a clear understanding as to what Robinson’s personal style really was. The one example I can supply was for Atoman, a title from Spark Publications, the same publisher that did Golden Lad. Here Jerry does an ingenious double page splash. The best location for a double page splash was the centerfold. Place one anywhere else and the two pages would have to be printed on separate sheets of paper. With the primitive printing of comics of those days there was little likelihood that the registration would work out properly in the finished comic book. Robinson’s wide splash is at the front of the comic but he avoids the registration problem by purposely including a gutter in the design that would separate the two image halves. He has not simply bisected the image; if you were to bring the two pages together they would not line up properly.

Atoman #2 (April 1946) “The Vanishing Vandals” page 3, art by Jerry Robinson

Here is an example of a story page from Atoman. But note the man in panel 5. He has to my eyes a distinctively Meskin look to him. There are a few other similar Meskin-like portrayals in the story as well. Was Mort giving Jerry a hand? Or was Robinson being influenced by Meskin and adopting some of his style? I do not have an answer but it is something to keep in mind when we examine joint efforts by Robinson and Meskin.

Western Comics #4 (July 1948) “The Four Notches of Hate”, art by Mort Meskin

In 1948 Meskin work for DC would be ending. Did Mort’s emotional problems have something to do with his end at DC? Or was it conflicts from working at National that provoked his emotional problems? The above splash from Western Comics #4 was among these final efforts. I am not sure how, but the Vigilante has somehow made the transition from a costume hero in the modern age to being a western genre hero.

Black Terror #23 (June 1948) “The Eye of the Lady Serpent”, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Robinson and Meskin were only teamed up for a relatively short time, a little over a year. I may not be clear as to exactly what each of the two artists contributed to the joint efforts, but whatever it was it certainly was very successful. I find the art as exciting as Mort’s early work for DC.

Black Terror #23 (June 1948) “The Eye of the Lady Serpent” page 5, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

It was not just the splashes that Robinson and Meskin did so well, the story art is also first rate. Note the inking on this page as particularly seen in the last panel. The long sweeping parallel lines would later play an important part of Meskin’s inking style. Even more interesting is the presence of picket fence crosshatching (see the Inking Glossary for explanations of the terms I use to describe spotting techniques). Similar inking can be found for a piece that Jerry and Mort did for Simon and Kirby (Young Romance #5, May 1948). The inking looks like it was done by Meskin, but did he pick up the picket fence technique from Simon and Kirby or is there an earlier Robinson and Meskin example that I have not seen yet?

Black Terror #23 (June 1948) “Danger in the Air”, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Another great splash by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. I might not have anything to say about it but how could I resist including it in this post?

I previously used a story page from this work to show the style Mort had adopted for depicting punches.

Fighting Yank #29 (August 1949) “Fireworks on the Fourth”, art by Mort Meskin

There may have been a relatively brief period between after the breakup of the Robinson and Meskin team where Mort was doing work by himself again but he had not yet started to work for Simon and Kirby. Fighting Yank #29 is signed by Meskin alone and Robinson does not appear anywhere in the comic. Mort’s first solo work for Simon and Kirby were cover dated December 1949 (Real West Romance #5 and Young Romance #16). Joe Simon has reported in The Comic Book Makers that initially Mort had an artist block. That Meskin was doing some solo work before joining Simon and Kirby may indicate that the artist block did not start until he actually began working for Joe and Jack. Perhaps intimidating presence of Jack Kirby had something to do with Mort’s artistic difficulties.

The “Fireworks on the Fourth” is inked in an interesting spotting technique. The blacks are grouped in a blocky fashion that to my eyes seems to flatten the image while providing it with interesting patterns. This is not the result of a bad printing; other stories by Meskin in the same issue are not inked in this manner.

Fighting Yank #29 (August 1949) “Fireworks on the Fourth” page 7, art by Mort Meskin

The effects of this unusual inking can be best be seen in the story itself. While it is possible that this inking was done by another artist, I believe it was Mort’s own work. He would use a similar style of inking for a period later for some Simon and Kirby productions.

In a few months Mort Meskin would begin working for Simon and Kirby. Mort would become an important and prolific artist for Simon and Kirby productions. He did not, however, work exclusively for Joe and Jack. Meskin would also provide work for other Prize comics and occasionally other publishers as well.

Stan Lee Talking About Joe Simon

I mentioned Stan Lee’s statement about Joe Simon when I wrote about the 2008 New York Comic Con but I recently came across a short clip of it.

This was presented by YouTube user AstonishingTale’s. He also has a couple of other videos from the same Living Legends panel. One is a clip with Jerry Robinson and Stan Lee discussing the most creative individuals they ever meet. As much as I liked Lee’s choice, it was who Robinson praised that I really appreciated.


Jerry Robinson at the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel

Detective Comics #65
Detective #65 (July 1942), art by Jack Kirby and Jerry Robinson

I mentioned in a previous post a review of the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel that Comic Book Resources has posted (written by Jim MacQuarrie).

At the very end of the article is found:

Jerry Robinson closed the panel by recalling his participation in one of the very few collaborations that Kirby did with anyone but Joe Simon. “The only time Jack collaborated with anyone but Simon on a cover was an issue of “Detective Comics” when the Boy Commandos joined the book. The cover showed Batman and the Boy Commandos shaking hands. I drew Batman and Jack drew the Commandos.”

In Love #1
In Love #1 (September 1954), art by Jack Kirby and John Prentice

While of course Jerry is right about his contributions to the cover of Detective #65, he is not correct about being the only artist, other then Joe Simon, to collaborate on a cover with Jack Kirby. John Prentice, one of the usual suspects of the Simon and Kirby studio, also had that honor. Jack did the foreground couple while John did the two background figures.

Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon
Jerry greeting Joe Simon at the Big Apple Con of 2006

Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon
Jerry and Joe at New York ComicCon 2008

It’s A Crime, Chapter 5, Making a Commitment

(Headline #26 – #28, Justice Traps the Guilty #1 – #1)

September 1947 (cover date) was the release of Simon and Kirby’s Young Romance. This marked a milestone for the creative duo. Previously Joe and Jack had not signed any of the work that they provided for publishers Prize or Hillman with the exception of Hillman’s My Date. Starting in September Simon and Kirby signatures would appear not only in Young Romance but in Headline Comics as well. Jack Kirby drew four stories of Headline #26 and three of those were signed. From this point on Simon and Kirby signatures would frequently be found on Kirby’s drawings for Prize Comics. Despite all the work that S&K provided to Hillman, in the end it was Prize that got Joe and Jack’s commitment. Right from the start the crime version of Headline was produced by Simon and Kirby while they never seem to have the same influence with Hillman. Surely whatever deal that Joe and Jack made with Prize must have reflected their greater control over Headline while at Hillman they had remained only marginally better then just work for hire. In the end Simon and Kirby were businessmen and it was all about the money. By early next year Simon and Kirby’s work for Hillman would end.

The crime version of Headline Comics must have been a very successful seller. After just the first four bimonthly issues Prize introduced a new crime title Justice Traps the Guilty. Simon and Kirby produced JTTG as well and there really was no difference in the contents between Headline and JTTG. Since both were bimonthly titles, effectively there would be a crime comic released by Prize each month. There must have been some difficulty because JTTG #2 should have been scheduled for December but was released in January instead; while Headline #28’s normal January release was pushed back to February.

Jack Kirby would still be the main contributor to Headline Comics and the new Justice Traps The Guilty. Jack drew 4 out of 6 stories for Headline #26 (September), but would only draw two stories each for issues #27 (November) and #28 (February). The first issue of Justice Traps the Guilty followed the Simon & Kirby’s modus operandi of starting a title with lots of Kirby; Jack penciled 6 out of the 8 stories. However with the second issue Jack returns to supplying a more modest 2 stories. Still no other artist appeared more often then Jack in these issues.

Headline #26 (September 1947) “The Life and Death of Public Enemy Number One”, art by Jack Kirby

The splash for “The Life and Death of Public Enemy Number One” uses a silhouette. There seemed to have been a flurry of the use of this device because we have seen it previously. However it would be pretty much dropped by Simon and Kirby and this may be its last use. While making the overall design of the splash more interesting, the use of silhouette diminished the impact as well.

Headline #26 (September 1947) “Bullets for The Bogus G-Man”, art by Jack Kirby

Another device used by Simon and Kirby in the early Prize crime comics was having “Red” (or “Red-Hot”) Blaze introduce the stories. While I suspect that Simon and Kirby found it a useful idea when they were promoting the idea of crime comics to Prize and for the initial in-house advertisements, in the end it just took up story panels that would had been better served for telling the actual story. “Bullets for the Bogus G-Man” may have been the last use of “Red” Blaze and even there he is only mentioned in the caption at the bottom of the splash page and never makes an actual appearance in the story.

Headline #28 (February 1948) “I Worked For the Fence”, art by Jack Kirby

One motif Simon and Kirby sometimes used for the first story was adopted from previous use in Young Romance. That is having a character introducing the story and using the word balloon as the title caption. Simon and Kirby did not use this design technique as frequently in the crime titles as they would in Young Romance but it still was an effective part of their repertoire.

Headline #27 (November 1947) “Spirit Swindlers” page 7, art by Jack Kirby

I have remarked before that circular panels was largely limited to an occasional splash page for the work that Simon and Kirby did for Hillman. For the Prize issues discussed in this chapter, Joe and Jack continued to use circular panels. What was new is that while previously almost all the Prize comic stories used circular panels in Headline #26 to #28 and JTTG #1 and #2 about half of the stories did not use round panels at all. For the stories that still featured circular panels they are used in lower proportions. For Headline #23 to #25 ratios of rounded panels to all the panels was over 16% and in one story reached 20%. Remember for a story done in the standard 6 panels per page, this would work out to an average of a semi-circular panel for each page (although they rarely were distributed so evenly). For Headline #26 to #28 and JTTG #1 and #2, when rounded panels were used they were generally used in the range of 14% to 10%. This is only a small decrease, but it seems to be consistent. In one story (“The True Life Story of Alvin Karpis” it drops to 4%. The last issue covered in this chapter (Headline #28, February 1948) did not have any rounded panels.

I have also been trying to track the evolution of the inking techniques used. Previously in Headline drop strings and abstract arch shadows, typical Studio style mannerisms, had become commonly used. Picket fence crosshatching and shoulder blots were still rare and when found are not typical in execution. (See my Inking Glossary for explanations of the terms I use to describe these techniques). In the last chapter we saw those final typical Studio style techniques show up suddenly in the Hillman crime title. The same thing happened at Prize. The earliest typical picket fence brush work for Prize that I have noticed was in “Spirit Swindlers” (see above image, particularly panels 4 and 6. There seems to be no gradual conversion of previous simple crosshatching to picket fence crosshatching; picket fence just suddenly appears. The picket fence inking shows up elsewhere in the story as well. Not every story in the same issue, however, shows the use of this most distinctive inking. Also note the shoulder blot in panels 1 and 2.

Headline #26 (September 1947) “Beyond the Law”, by unidentified artist

As mentioned above, Kirby drew 4 of the 6 stories for Headline #26. The other two stories (“Test of Death” and “Beyond the Law”) were done by the same artist. I have not been able to identify him but he also did “Murder’s Reward” and “Blind Man’s Death” from Headline #25. Ger Apeldoorn has suggested that it might be Bob McCarty. I am most familiar with McCarty’s work for S&K’s Mainline titles. The Mainline material does not resemble these four stories but that could be explained by the seven years separating the two groups of work. In any case the work in Headline #25 and #26 was done by a talented artist who played an important part in the early Headline issues. After issue #26 the artist stopped providing work to Simon and Kirby.

Justice Traps the Guilty #1 (October 1947) “G-Man Trap”, art by Bill Draut

After the mystery artist last appearance in Headline #26, his place as the most important supporting artist (after Kirby) was taken by Bill Draut. Draut’s first returned to the Simon and Kirby productions in Young Romance #1 (September 1947). From that point on Bill would be a mainstay of the S&K studio until its breakup. Draut would provide two stories each issue for Headline #27 and #28 as well as JTTG #1. In those issues Draut’s contributions of stories equal that of Jack Kirby. It is interesting to see Draut’s take on crime since so much of his output for the Simon and Kirby studio was for romance titles. Bill could be surprisingly effective with action and he also did some interesting splashes. The one for “G-Man Trap” is a good example. The use of diagonal elements makes the splash visually stimulating. However, the placement of the gun smoke and the odd pose of the shooter in the background really did not work well and diminishes what should have been an interesting confrontation. Still you have to admire Draut for the attempt made even if it was not completely successful.

Justice Traps the Guilty #1 (October 1947) “Try an FBI Test” page 2, art by Bill Draut

As I have mentioned a number of times in the past, I am convinced that Kirby did not supply layouts for Draut as some experts have suggested. Bill’s means of telling a story and his splash designs (such as the one from “G-Man Trap” shown earlier) are often different from Jack’s. There is one story, “Try an FBI Test”, that might suggest otherwise. Note the use of circular panels. These appear throughout the story and are the same form that Kirby uses. While this might suggest that Kirby did the layouts, I am not convinced. In “Try an FBI Test” the captions and word balloons frequently extend beyond the border of the circular panels which is unlike Kirby’s use where both captions and work balloons invariable are confined within the circular boundary. Nor was there any real change in the way the story is graphically told compared to other work by Draut. I believe Draut has just trying a layout technique that he previously observed Kirby using. Whatever the reason for the use of circular panels, it was a one time occurrence as I do not believe Bill would ever used it again.

Headline #28 (February 1948) “Postage Stamp Swindle”, art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin

Young Romance #3 (January 1948) saw the first appearance of the Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin team working for the Simon and Kirby studio. “Postage Stamp Swindle” (Headline #28, February 1948) was the first crime work that they did for S&K. As a team, Robinson and Meskin would only work for Joe and Jack for about seven months and provide a total of ten pieces of work. Only two of the stories are signed but the unsigned work is very consistent with those bearing signatures. Jerry and Mort had a preference for splash pages with a vertically dominated splash panel with two story panels also vertically arranged. The first page of “Postage Stamp Swindle” exaggerates that motif by placing the title over the story panels in a caption shaped like a stamp. Otherwise the splash panel usually had the shape of an inverted ‘L’.

I have been assigning the pencils to Jerry and the inks to Mort. This was due to the order that their names appear in their signature. Further the inking does predominately look like Meskin’s. Recently I have been spending some time looking over some of Meskin’s work from 1946 and 1947. I find that the work Robinson and Meskin’s supplied for Simon and Kirby look very much like the early work that Mort did on his own. So much so that I wonder what Robinson’s contribution was? I am tempted to attribute all the early unsigned art for S&K as Meskin alone and only credit the last three stories, two of which are signed, to the Robinson and Meskin team. I have two reasons for not taking that course. One is the still great similarity of the signed and unsigned work. The second is Joe Simon’s story of when Mort came to work for the Simon and Kirby studio as described in his book “The Comic Book Makers”. Joe really makes it sound like that was the first time Mort had worked for them which would not be true if Meskin was solely responsible for the work from 1948.

Headline #27 (November 1947) “The Guns of Jesse James” page 5, art by Jack Kirby and an unidentified artist

“The Guns of Jesse James” is one of those stories that at a glance were obviously done by some artist other than Jack Kirby; the drawing is just too crude. There are some places where the art, although still crude, looks like Jack’s style. The second panel in the page above is a good example. This story even uses rounded panels like those that Jack would use for some of his own stories. While it is possible that the artist was trying to mimic Kirby’s techniques, I think it more likely that he is working from rough layouts provided by Jack.

Justice Traps the Guilty #2 (January 1948) “The Killer Thought He Was Satan” page 4, art by an unidentified artist (Jack Kirby layouts?)

The possibility of rough Kirby layouts may also apply to “The Killer Thought He Was Satan”. Note in particular the second panel from page 4 shown above. In many ways the graphic story telling is even more like typical Kirby mannerisms then “The Guns of Jesse James”. Both of these stories come from a period where Kirby’s contributions had diminished and the use of layouts may have been an effort to filling the titles without using too much of Jack’s time.

Justice Traps the Guilty #2 (January 1948) “The Murdering Bender Family”, art by an unidentified artist

As I precede in future chapters of this serial post I will certainly not try to cover every unidentified artist in these titles. While I would consider most, if not all, talented some were more deserving of recognition than others. Besides there will be too many artists that I have not identified yet. In these early issues of the crime titles, however, the number of artists appearing is much more limited. So I will close with the splash page of one of mystery artists. I sure wished more of them took advantage of Simon and Kirby’s willingness to allow artists to include their signatures.

Chapter 1, Promoting Crime
Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title
Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves
Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real

Chapter 6, Forgotten Artists
Chapter 7, A Studio With Many Artists
Chapter 8, The Chinese Detective
Chapter 9, Not The Same
Chapter 10, The Master and His Protege
Chapter 11, The New Team

Jerry Robinson & Mort Meskin Checklist

Last update: 1/2/2012

    s:  = signed
    a:  = signed with alias
    &:  = signed Simon and Kirby
    ?:  = questionable attribution
    r:  = reprint

Black Terror (Standard)
   s 23   June 1948   10p "The Eye of the Lady Serpent"
   s 23   June 1948   10p "Danger In The Air"
   s 24   Sept 1948    8p "The Revenge of Red Ann"
   s 24   Sept 1948    8p "The Lady Serpent Returns"
   s 25   Dec  1948    8p "The Girl Who Cleared Her Name"

Exciting (Standard)
   s 66   Mar  1949    9p "Grandpa Shows His Medals"

Fighting Yank (Standard)
     24   Mar  1949   10p "Larceny in the Lighthouse"
     25   Apr  1949   10p "The Crossroads of Crime"
     27   June 1949   10p "The Return of Fingers"
   s 27   June 1949    6p "Patriots on Parade"
   s 27   June 1949   10p "Taxi Terror"
   s 28   July 1949    7p "Swing Your Partner"
   s 29   Aug  1949   10p "Fight for Freedom"

Headline (Prize)
     28   (v.3, n4)  Feb  1948    7p "Postage Stamp Swindle"
     29   (v.3, n5)  Apr  1948    8p "The Night Of The Freak Murder"

Justice Traps the Guilty (Prize)
     4    (v.1, n4)  May  1948    9p "Guilty Boys"
   s 5    (v.1, n5)  July 1948    8p "Murder Special Delivery"

My Date (Hillman)
     4    Jan  1948       [cover]

Young Romance (Prize)
     3    (v.1, n3)  Jan  1948    8p "Love Or A Career"
     4    (v.1, n4)  Mar  1948    8p "I Love You Frank Gerard"
     5    (v.1, n5)  May  1948    7p "Jealousy"
     6    (v.1, n6)  July 1948    7p "The Love That Might Have Been"
   s 6    (v.1, n6)  July 1948    8p "The Inferior Male"