Tag Archives: Joe

Joe Simon and thee Newsboy Legion Archives

Star Spangled #7

Amazon.com shows that Volume 1 of the Newsboy Legion will be released on March 9, 2010. If past experience is any guide, the book may actually appear in comic stores a week or two before that. This volume covers the Newsboy Legion and the Guardian stories that appeared in Star Spangled Comics #7 to #32 (April 1942 to May 1944). This is the entire Simon and Kirby story run created before the artists went into military service. That would leave Volume 2 to stories drawn largely by Gil Kane and perhaps another artist. While that might sound attractive to many potential readers of Volume 2 I expect most will be disappointed because at that time Kane was nowhere near the talented artist he would become. However there will also be some stories in Volume 2 by Simon and Kirby from when they returned to civilian life and a lot of their covers.

One of the things that I could not understand about the Marvel golden age reprints is why that company never got Joe Simon to provide any of the introductions? Well DC caught on to that idea and Joe has written the intro for the first Newsboy Legion volume. Joe tells me that it will include some previously unrevealed facts about the Newsboy Legion. I have not read it so I do not know what that might be. I have read many other unpublished essays by Joe and I am confident that this introduction will be a good read because he is such a great writer.

I am sure I will have something to say about the book when it comes out but I will not be writing a review. It turns out that I also have played a part in this book although admittedly a small one. I do not know if the restorations of the Newsboy Legion stories will be done in the same approach as the Simon and Kirby Sandman Archive but I do have a comment to those who have criticized the work done for that volume. Some have said that not enough effort was done on restoring the scans. Worse yet some have tried to align the work that I did on the Best of Simon and Kirby with Marvel’s approach as examples of how DC should be doing their archives. Well all I can say is that greatly disagree with that assessment. There maybe a superficial resemblance to my work in BoSK to Marvel’s archives but superficial is all it is. Marvel’s reprints are essentially recreations and on close examination show inaccuracies. While my restorations for BoSK may look different from the S&K Sandman Archive in fact both are based on scans with no line art recreation. When it comes to reprints I want to see the original artists’ work not some reinterpretation by a modern artist. That is much, much more important than whether printing defects such as registration problems are corrected.

Simon and Kirby’s Black Owl

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby first began working as a team early in 1940 (on Blue Bolt #2 and Champion #9 both cover dated July 1940). In a few months they would form the core of Timely’s first comic art bullpen. There they worked on the first, and only, Red Raven Comic and created a backup story for Marvel Mystery Comics called the Vision. But their working relationship was forged not just in the Timely bullpen but in the jobs they did outside the company as well. Particularly important was the work they did on the Black Owl for Prize Comics.

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The Black Owl was not a Simon and Kirby creation but even at this early stage of their career they would put their distinct stamp on the hero. They did not make any changes to the costume although the Owl’s goggles would reappear years later in the unpublished Night Fighter and the published Fly. It is the story that most clearly shows the Simon and Kirby touch. There is no question they were not from someone else’s script but writing it themselves. With a female detective, an eccentric millionaire, a whistling hit man and King Arthur’s sword Excalibur it was an imaginative story to say the least. A final fight leads to a dramatic ending but the story ends with a caption that asks “Is the Whistler really dead”?

Prize Comics #8
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) “The Black Owl” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby

Well it appears the Whistler was not dead as he returns in the next Simon and Kirby story. Since that ended the last story with a hint about Whistler’s survival I presume that Simon and Kirby knew when they did Prize Comics #7 that they would also be doing the next issue as well. The story contains the same cast of characters plus some additional ones. Even more interestingly the plot takers place on the high seas. Once again there is a dramatic fight at the end only this time the closing caption offers no hint of the Whistler’s return.

Prize Comics #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “The Black Owl” page 3, pencils by Jack Kirby

A conniving reporter and a beautiful villainess, what more can you ask for? Nothing if the story is by Simon and Kirby! Another great effort for what is admittedly a pretty lame hero. Joe and Jack were using someone else’s creation so they cannot be blamed for the rather poor and unimaginative costume. But Simon and Kirby always made good stories even out of seemingly poor material. With the Black Owl Joe and Jack had not reached the creative pitch that would appear next month in Captain America #1 but they were not far from it. The Black Owl was a testing ground for Simon and Kirby on techniques like irregular shaped panels, circular panels and figures that extend beyond panel borders. These effects only make a sparing show in these issues of Prize Comics but they are there. The reader can see another example of unusual panel layouts in a page that I included in Chapter 9 of my serial post Early Jack Kirby.

Usually I choose the images to include in my posts that support the comments that I make. This is not the case for the image of page 3 shown above. It is here because of the final three panels. I find it rather surprising that the reporter would turn out the lights while attempting to capture the Black Owl. Why turn out the lights? The sequence is quite amusing, although not entirely for the reasons Simon and Kirby intended.

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “The Black Owl” page 9 panels 1 and 2, art by Jack Kirby

Some have tried to say that the Black Owl stories are solo efforts by Jack Kirby; that is without any input from Joe Simon. For me the problem with such a statement is that Joe’s contribution is often difficult to discern. I believe I see Simon’s inking in some of the Black Owl stories but it is hard to be sure and harder yet to convince others. Fortunately there is another line of evidence and that is the lettering. I credit Howard Ferguson with the lettering for Prize Comics #7 but some changes were made. In the first panel of page 9 shown above the letters for “slowly he forces the Black” are larger than the rest of the caption and the lower edges of the paste up can still be detected. The ‘F’, ‘C’ and especially the ‘W’ are done differently than Ferguson and without doubt they were done by Joe Simon. In the second panel we find larger letters for the portion “figures plunges head”. The letters ‘F’, ‘G’ and ‘S’ are not Ferguson’s but they are done the way Simon does his lettering.

Prize Comics #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “The Black Owl” page 6 panel 6, pencils by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby did the lettering for the Black Owl from Prize Comics #8 and so far I have not spotting any final changes (which is not the same thing as there were none). Ferguson was the letterer for Prize Comics #9 but I have spotted at least one alteration on page 6. Observe how the ‘ew’ in ‘newcomer’ is done with slightly thicker lines than the rest of the caption. The ‘E’ does not look like Ferguson’s but I cannot say for sure it was by Simon either. However the ‘W’ is distinctly Simon’s preferred form and so again I have little doubt that that he did the alteration. Now admittedly a few paste ups are not much but it does show Joe Simon’s involvement in Black Owl at some level. At this point in time Simon was the editor at Timely while Kirby was just an artist (although the most important artist in the bullpen). So I doubt that Simon involvement in Black Owl was limited to some final fix ups.

I do not think it is a coincidence that Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) would be Simon and Kirby’s last issue (at least for some years). Captain America #1 came out with a March cover data but I am sure Simon and Kirby knew that it would be a hit. Since they were promised royalties for Captain America, Joe and Jack probably felt that Cap warrant their best efforts and so they cut back on moonlighting. Unfortunately while Captain America was a hit but due to some accounting tricks the royalties was not what would have been expected.

Early Lettering by Joe Simon

Like most comic book artists from the earliest period, Joe Simon lettered his own art. Actually Joe was doing lettering long before he began his career in comic books. While working as a newspaper staff artist Simon would letter his sport illustrations. Joe’s lettering for these sport drawings was quite variable even within the same individual work.

Silver Streak #2
Silver Streak #2 (January 1940) “Solar Petrol” letters by Joe Simon

Simon’s lettering for his earliest comic book work was rather amateurish as even he admits. Letter size varied a bit in different parts of the same page as did line spacing. I tried to get most of my letter samples from “Solar Petrol” from the same regions but even so there some of this variation can be seen above. Interestingly, Simon did his ‘G’ similarly to the way Jack Kirby did it. This was just a coincidence because when Joe did “Solar Petrol”, his first published comic book story, he had not yet met Jack. While some of the other letters are not very useful in distinguishing Joe from Jack one helpful one is the letter ‘M’ where Joe’s version has vertical side strokes while Jack made his ‘M’ with slanting sides. Further Joe never gave his ‘U’ the horse-shoe shape that Kirby used. The most useful letter for spotting Simon’s hand is ‘W’. Joe did this letter in a very distinctive manner that I have not seen others use.

One of Simon’s characteristics found in his earliest lettering is the way he would occasionally embellish a letter. I provide examples for the letters ‘R’, ‘S’ and ‘W’ at the bottom of the image. It is important to note that Joe did not do this sort of embellishment often but some can found in all the early stories and are quite distinctive when found.

The samples from Silver Streak are pretty typical for Simon’s early comic book art. Similar lettering can be found in the following:

  • Daring Mystery #1 (January 1940) “The Fantastic Thriller of the Walking Corpses” (Fiery Mask)
  • Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) “The Phantom Bullet”
  • Daring Mystery #2 (February 1940) “Trojak the Tiger Man”
  • Target #1 (February 1940) “The Case of the Black Widow Spider”
  • Amazing Man #10 (March 1940) “Ranch Dude”
  • Target #2 (March 1940) “Sabotage”

Daring Mystery #3
Daring Mystery #3 (April 1940) “Trojak” letters by Joe Simon

In later works Simon seemed to restrain his use of embellished letters although they still occur with some examples on the bottom line shown above. Joe changed the way he usually did the letter ‘Y’ writing it with a vertical lower stroke. However there are occasional uses of a diagonal lower stroke of the ‘Y’ with an example on the last line from Daring Mystery #3. Such mixed use of letter forms is often the sign of two different hands; one the original letterer and the other making alterations. But I do not believe that this is the case here because we will see later works where the use of the two versions of “Y” seems characteristic of Joe.

I only had the time to put together these two samples of Joe Simon’s lettering so I will be return later with some other examples.

Belated Birthday to Joe Simon

Somehow I forgot to post Joe Simon’s 96th birthday yesterday. I did not forget his birthday as I visited him Saturday. But Joe downplays his birthdays and does not want to make a big deal about it. He is in good health and still rather active. He is scheduled to appear at the Wizard’s Big Apple Con on Friday, health permitting. No mention of time. Joe rarely makes convention appearances and when he does they generally are rather short. Not so much because he gets tired but rather because he gets bored. So if you go to the Big Apple Con keep and eye out for him.

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5, New Faces

(May – July 1952, Black Magic #12 – #14)

As in Chapter 19 of The Art of Romance, Mort Meskin was the most productive artist for Black Magic drawing a total of 30 pages. Bill Draut was particularly active and draw 21 pages. The third and fourth places was held by an artists new to the studio; Bill Walton with 14 pages and Bob McCarty(?) with 10. Jack Kirby takes a surprising fifth place having provided only 9 pages. Kirby was the only artist who drew covers for Black Magic so three of those pages were covers with the remaining 6 pages from a single story. However we shall see Jack had a hand in other aspects of the title. Still it is a continuing mystery why Kirby, renown for his fast drawing, was so unproductive lately and especially during the period covered in this chapter. The rest of the art was provided by three artists each providing a single piece; George Roussos (4 pages), Al Eadeh(?) (2 pages) and 3 pages by an unidentified artist who used J. G. as initials.

Unfortunately John Prentice does not appear in any of the Black Magic issues covered in this chapter. Simon and Kirby did not use Prentice in Black Magic as much as some of the other studio artists. This certainly was not because Prentice was poor at the horror genre. Not only do I think he did a good job in Black Magic but he was clearly better than some of the artists that were used. I suspect the bias had more to do with how well Prentice did in the love titles that S&K preferred to assign him romance work.

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “Up There”, art by Jack Kirby

I always want to include at least one Kirby story in all my serial posts, but this time there is only one to choose from. Still it is a great story and was recently included in Titan’s “Best of Simon and Kirby”. Of course picking the best from Simon and Kirby’s repertoire is always a difficult decision since they did so much great stuff in all genres.

Black Magic #14
Black Magic #14 (July 1952) “The Mailed Fist of McGonigle”, art by George Rossous

I am sure I have said this before, but George Roussos is not among my favorite Simon and Kirby studio artists. His artwork is a bit too crude for my tastes. With that said I often find his use of blacks very interesting especially when he uses them in a splash such as in Black Magic #14 (July 1952) “The Mailed Fist of McGonigle”. Perhaps the greatest weakness in this particular splash is that it is easy to overlook the running figure in the background as an empty suite of armor.

Black Magic #12
Black Magic #12 (May 1952) “Say the Magic Words”, art by Bill Walton

When I wrote Chapter 19 of the Art of Romance there was one story whose artist I could not identified but felt looked very familiar. Had I reviewed the work in this chapter of the Little Shop of Horrors I would have been known immediately who it was since both Black Magic stories by Bill Walton are signed. Fortunately all was not lost as sharp eyed Ger Apeldoorn recognized the correct attribution right away. Bill has a tendency to shorten the height of his faces and in his three quarter views to place the eyes at an angle. Walton will be making regular appearances in Simon and Kirby productions for a while so there will be amply opportunities to see examples of this work.

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “Where is Alfred Weeks?”, art by Bob McCarty(?)

The June issue of Black Magic provides the first appearance of another artist that will regularly show up in Simon and Kirby productions for a time. The problem is he never signs his work and the only reason I have questionably attribute the art to Bob McCarty is because of some similarities to that artist works from 1954 (McCarty also did not sign his work but Foxhole was the only Simon and Kirby comic that provides some of the credits). However there are some differences between the art that might mean that they were not done by the same artist or that his art had evolved. One of the most distinctive features of the art in “Where is Alfred Weeks” as compared to McCarty’s art in Foxhole is the use of oversized eyes (not particularly obvious in the image I supply above). I will continue to questionably attribute this work to McCarty but I hope that I will resolve this issue, at least to my own satisfaction, as I proceed with these serial posts.

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “The Handwriting on the Wall”, art by J. G.

“The Handwriting on the Wall” is an unsigned piece but there are some similarities to a story from Black Magic issue Black Magic #9 (“The Man in the Judge’s Chair”) that signed “J. G.”.

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “Visions Of Nostradamus”, art by Jack Kirby and Al Eadeh(?)

One story, “Visions Of Nostradamus”, is by an artist that I originally thought might be Al Eadeh but I have not yet done my homework and found a contemporary signed piece by the artist to resolve the issue so I will continue to use a question mark. Ger Apeldoorn, who is much more familiar with Atlas where Eadeh also worked, seems more confident about the attribution. Eadeh(?) is a competent artist but nothing in his work that I have seen suggest the artistic talent shown in the splash. Of course that is not an acceptable reason to question whether he drew the splash (even poorer artists sometimes create a masterpiece) but the brushwork does not look like his either but does look like inking by Jack Kirby. The rather oversize eyes might seem incongruous for Kirby but similarly sized eyes appeared in a Kirby splash from Young Love #25 (September 1951, Chapter 16 of the Art of Romance).

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair”, art by Jack Kirby and Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin’s style is very different from Kirby’s and normally there is no problem in distinguishing the two. The story for “A Rag, A Bone And A Hank Of Hair” is obviously penciled and inked by Mort and in the past I assumed he did the splash as well. But since there are no figures in the splash, or at least human figures, this was really nothing more than an assumption. But during my review for this post I noticed the arcing of the two shadows on the wall. These are not true abstract arches but they still are a typical feature of the Studio Style inking. Now Meskin was excellent at Studio Style inking but he used that approach when inking Kirby’s pencils and generally not when inking his own work. Then I notice the inking of the oversized rag doll. The brushwork on the dummy is done with a rather blunt brush that is more typical of Kirby than Meskin. There is also a brush technique that I have not discussed before nor included in my Inking Glossary but nonetheless is an often found method used by Kirby (perhaps Joe Simon as well). Notice the simple hatching found on the lower part of the dummy’s arm (somewhat obscured by a white piece of paper). They form a shadow that is a sequence of arcs; what I think of as a scalloped edge shadow. Much of the brushwork in the splash has the sort of loose control that Kirby was so great with, but not all of the inking. The crosshatching on the cupboard is more mechanically arranged than typical of Jack but often found in Mort’s inking as can be seen in the two story panels on the bottom of the page. Also the inking of the pillow in the foreground looks more typical of Meskin particularly where closely spaced nearly parallel brushstrokes are used.

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

I include a story page as well so Meskin’s method of inking the large rag doll can be seen as well. Notice the brushwork is not as blunt, there are more uses of parallel ink lines, and there are no scalloped edge shadows. Even the hair is inked rather differently than Jack’s splash.

The reader might have noticed that while I have recognized Kirby’s inking, I have not said anything about the drawing. Unfortunately there is little to go on as the dummy is drawn in the same manner in the splash and the story. This might suggest that Meskin drew both but the cover is also based on this story and provides a similarly drawn dummy and there is no question that Kirby drew the cover. The only thing I can point out about the splash is the use of perspective; somehow it seems more consistent with Jack’s work than Mort’s. I fully realize that this is a very vague and subjective description but it is all I have to offer at this time. I do not know if I have convinced anyone else, but I have convinced myself that Jack was largely responsible for the splash panel.

Black Magic #12
Black Magic #12 (May 1952) “A Giant Walks the Earth”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mort Meskin and Jack Kirby

Kirby drawn splashes in stories otherwise drawn by other artists are not the norm but are not that unusual either. They are rare enough that I can include all the cases I find in my serial posts. But Kirby splashes are common enough that many chapters (but not all) have examples. However it seems out of the ordinary to find so many Kirby splashes in just three issues because “A Giant Walks the Earth” appears to be another case. Again Kirby’s hand is easiest to spot in the inking. The folds on the human’s pants are typical of Jack’s brushwork; they have simple abstract shapes with no signs of the brush tip. The inking on the giant hand is done with a blunt brush more typical of Jack’s than it is of Mort’s inking. There is crosshatching on the giants forearm but note how less mechanical it is compared to the examples found in “A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair”. However the inking of the foreground rocks all looks like it was done by Meskin. In fact there are some rocks in the story that are inking exactly the same manner.

Mort also clearly inked the story panels of the first page. This provides a good comparison of the two artist’s approach to inking cloth folds. At a glance they may appear the same but instead of the almost puddle like look found in Kirby’s inking, Meskin constructs folds using parallel lines with no attempt to hide the tip of the brush.

Black Magic #12
Black Magic #12 (May 1952) “A Giant Walks the Earth” page 2, art by Mort Meskin

Even though Mort is clearly inking the story panels on the splash page the art does not look like his. I provide an image of the second page so that two can be compared. The difference between the two is most obvious in the older man. So if Meskin did not draw the story panels from the first page, who did? I believe Kirby drew these as well. The end result may not look like typical Kirby art because Meskin appears to have inked them with a heavy hand. Normally Mort was quite a good inker of Kirby’s pencils and not so heavy handed but I believe in this case Mort purposely inked the first story panels this way so that they would blend better with the rest of the story.

Black Magic #13
Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “When I Live Again”, art by Bill Draut

One of Bill Draut’s contributions was “When I Live Again”. Bill does his usual competent job but to be honest I doubt that I would have mentioned it because there is nothing truly unique about it. However when I reviewed I quickly realized that the plot was very familiar. So much so that I did some searching and sure enough found a similar story in Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957, “Logan’s Life”). It is more than similar stories; they were the same plot only the six pages of “When I Live Again” had been reduced to a mere two for “Logan’s Life”. According to every source I have ever seen the art for “Logan’s Life” has always unquestionably been attributed to Jack Kirby.

Black Magic #13 and Alarming Tales #1
Left Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “When I Live Again”
Right Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Logan’s Life”

The text was re-written but the art for the story in AT #1 has clearly been swiped from Draut’s from BM #13. Of course the art was not a close copy; no one is likely to mistake the AT #1 story as done by Draut. But most of the panels in the AT #1 story were obviously based on panels for BM #13.

Black Magic #13 and Alarming Tales #1
Left Black Magic #13 (June 1952) “When I Live Again”
Right Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Logan’s Life”

In fact every panel in “Logan’s Life” from AT #1 was based on one from BM #13 although as can be seen in the above images it is not always so obvious since not only has the panel been recomposed but the people portrayed are sometimes changed as well. These changes might seem superfluous but in fact the in each case the alterations made the alterations the particular panel from Draut’s layout to one like Kirby would use. In the end entire story is a convincing example of Kirby’s art. Of course it must have been convincing because as I said in the past everybody has credit Kirby with the pencils to his story.

Last week I wrote about the Red Raven cover and the Hal Foster panel it was swiped from. I have since searched through all my sources and it would seem that most who were unaware of the swipe attributed the cover to Kirby alone while all those who knew of the swipe credited to Joe Simon either alone or in combination with Jack. (There were a few who gave joint credits to all the art by Simon and Kirby.) I still attribute the Red Raven cover to Jack but in the case of “Logan’s Life” I have changed my mind and now believe it is by Simon. I had detected Joe’s hand in this story but I had previously decided it was due to the Simon being the inker. Now I realize he penciled “Logan’s Life” as well. I base this conclusion not on the fact that the story was swiped but because the similarity to another story Joe swiped for Fighting American (Jumping the Shark). The Fighting American story was swiped from a Kirby drawn Manhunter story so it may not be surprising that everybody had previously attributed it to Jack. But the source for “Logan’s Life” was by Draut and this shows how convincing a job Joe could do at mimicking Jack. Something that should always be kept in mind when trying to determine attributions for work by Simon and Kirby.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4, Another Hit

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6, Mixed Bag

Fighting American Does NOT Come to Dynamite

This year’s San Diego Comic Con was the place to introduce many new projects. However the most surprising event, at least for Joe Simon, was Nick Barrucci’s announcement that Fighting American would be published by Dynamite (as seen in Comic Book Resources and Newsarama). According to Mr. Barrucci:

We started talking to Joe Simon himself, and met with him and his attorney Ted Kessler, and then the conversation went to Lisa Kirby and Lisa’s attorney Paul Levine. From there, it’s just been a very long conversation.

It is true that Mr. Barrucci started with talks with Joe Simon, but Simon turned down Dynamite’s proposal in no uncertain terms. Apparently Mr. Barrucci did not know the meaning of the word no and he proceeded anyway. Joe only found out the supposed deal when it appeared on Comic Book Resources.

Joe Simon says:

There are some penciled covers of Fighting American by Mr. Ross that are printed in the story without copyright notice. I find that damaging, as is the whole fake story.

8/3/09 Update:

Newsarama has written new information on this subject

There is an important pieces of information that I feel I should include here:

Newsarama also spoke with Lisa Kirby Monday afternoon, who informed us the Kirby estate will no longer be participating in a Fighting American project at Dynamite.

DC’s New Book, The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Joe Simon gave me a copy of DC’s new book “The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby”. Amazon lists the release date as August 18, but it may be in comic books stores sooner then that. Simon and Kirby worked on Sandman (along with Manhunter, the Newsboy Legion, and Boy Commandos) just after leaving their highly successful run of Captain America at Timely. It was with Captain America that Simon and Kirby achieved fame but it was at DC that their unique collaboration really took root. This book provides all the Simon and Kirby Sandman stories that appeared in Adventure and World Finest Comics. That means the book contains all the independent Sandman stories that Joe and Jack did but excludes Sandman’s appearance in All Star Comics as part of the Justice Society of America. The Sandman also excludes some Sandman stories done by other artists while Simon and Kirby were doing their military service during the war. Included also is Simon and Kirby’s last comic book collaboration, a remade Sandman from 1974. Only the first issue of the 70’s Sandman is here since Joe and Jack once again went their separate ways. With 290 pages of art that is a lot of Simon and Kirby and at $39.99 a real steal. At that price you could not even buy a single issue of the original comic let alone the entire run.

There are two basic philosophies about how to reprint old comic book art. One approach is to recreate, or as Marvel calls terms it reconstruct, the art. The other approach is to use cleaned up scans. Recreated reprints can look superficially attractive but the reader is actually getting a modern artist interpretation of the original work. Depending on the artist doing the recreation this may or may not be very accurate. Reprints using scans are accurate but not always pretty because of the primitive printing of the original comics and the deteriorations that they have suffered with age. I prefer reprints that use scans and I am happy to say that is the approach that DC has adopted for this volume.

The Sandman by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

In all honesty there are some problems with The Sandman. The book is 7 by 10.5 inches in size. This is a common dimension for books of this nature but it meant that the art had to be reduced in size. However it is not much smaller then the original and reading is not really impaired. I would have preferred the original size but that would have meant a larger book with a correspondingly higher sales price. It is not the height of the original comics that caused the difficulty but rather the width. DC was obviously trying to limit the amount of size reduction and so the margins and gutters are rather narrow. The image above shows the resulting page format. The narrow gutter does not really affect the reading but as can be seen it does make scanning difficult.

There is a nice introduction by John Morrow, publisher of The Jack Kirby Collector. Morrow provides some much needed background for those not steeped into the history of Simon and Kirby. However there is a secret rule that says that every volume reprinting Jack Kirby material must include an essay by Mark Evanier, in this case it is an afterword. Of course I am being a little bit facetious about there being such a rule, but only a little bit. Evanier not only knows more about Jack Kirby then anyone else but he is also a marvelous writer. His presence in The Sandman, or any other Kirby volume, is always much appreciated.

What can I say, this is after all the Simon and Kirby Blog and this book is prime Simon and Kirby. Buy this book to find out how a second rate backup feature became the star of Adventure Comics. Buy this book to see how exciting Simon and Kirby could be. But buy this book.

Art of Romance, Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over

(February 1952 – April 1952: Young Romance #42 – #44, Young Love #30 – #32)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 - 1953
Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1953 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

There has not been much change in what the Simon and Kirby studio was producing which were two monthly romance titles and one bimonthly horror all for Prize Comics. I believe all three titles were doing well but I will leave off explaining what is behind my belief until Chapter 20 of The Art of Romance and Chapter 4 of The Little Shop of Horrors.

Mort Meskin provided an astonishing 105 pages of art for the period covered in this chapter. This was much more then what Kirby drew (37 pages). To provide perspective Kirby only drew one more page then Bill Draut (36 pages) an artists not known for his speed. At this point Meskin has been the primary romance artist for about a year. You have to go back 3 years to find a period when Kirby produced more pages then Meskin did in these three months. The pool of other studio artists used during this period is rather small; John Prentice (27 pages), George Roussos (13 pages) and an unidentified artist (6 pages).

Young Romance #44
Young Romance #44 (April 1952) “Forget Me Not”, art by Jack Kirby

Kirby was the artists for the lead story for YR #42, #43 and #44 as well as YL #31. He continues to use the confessional splash where someone introduces the story to the reader and their speech balloon is also the title. The splash for “Forget Me Not” is perhaps the best of the Kirby splashes for this chapter.

Young Love #30
Young Love #30 (February 1952) “Problem Clinic”, art by Jack Kirby and George Roussos

Kirby has been known to provide a splash page for a story otherwise drawn by another artist. But it is unusual to find another artist doing the splash for a Kirby story. I find it particularly surprising that the artist would be George Roussos. The “Problem Clinic” is a standard Nancy Hale feature but this particular one is different from the others. The large vertical splash is not found in other Nancy Hale and is also not a typical splash format for Kirby. Normally “Problem Clinic” starts with Nancy Hale introducing the story, but not in this case. All this makes me suspect that the story was not originally meant to be a Nancy Hale “Problem Clinic” but was re-edited to become one.

Young Romance #44
Young Romance #44 (April 1952) “The Lady Says She’s Innocent”, art by Mort Meskin

While I commonly find phrases in romance stories drawn by Jack Kirby that suggest that he was at least modifying the scripts I normally do not find such phrases in the work of other studio artists. This not to say that Jack did not contribute to the writing of stories for other artists, some writers have reported that Kirby would help provide the writers with plots. But Jack did not seem to re-write the scripts the writers returned unless he was going to draw the story. However the splash for “The Lady Says She’s Innocent” might be an exception. The last line of the soldier “you were wearing my ring and someone else’s heart” sounds so like Kirby to me. Even the whole concept of a person entering the room to verbally disrupt the proceedings is one typically found in Jack’s art. Unusually Kirby did not alter Mort Meskin’s art as he sometimes did with other artists. However I suspect that is what happened here. The composition suggests that there always was a figure on the right side of the splash. Perhaps Kirby was not happy with it, removed the old figure and added a layout and text for the balloon. With other artists Kirby would just have proceeded to draw and ink the figure but since Meskin worked in the studio Jack just left it to Mort to finish it up.

Young Romance #43
Young Romance #43 (March 1952) “Gentlemen Prefer Ladies” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

As I have previously mentioned, Meskin has seemed to pick up the use of tall narrow panels for some pages in a story. I find the above page from “Gentlemen Prefer Ladies” particularly effective both in how well Mort uses the narrow panels and for the cinematic approach to presenting the story. Mort likes to provide the man of his stories with a pipe as a suggestion of their sophistication. I love how this pipe is prominently displayed even in fight scenes.

Young Love #32
Young Love #32 (April 1952) “Can’t Help Wanting That Man”, art by Bill Draut

Despite the fact that Meskin was providing more pages of art then anyone else, it was Bill Draut that was used for those lead stories not done by Kirby during this period. Draut was not as good an artist as Kirby (who was?) but he still did an excellent job on the confessional splashes. The one for “Can’t Help Wanting That Man” provides a complete story. The struggling starlet torn between ambition and desire is venting her dilemma on a busy television studio while here love interests looks on. It is everything a splash should be, particularly for the all important first story of the comic.

Young Love #30
Young Love #30 (February 1952) “Learn to Love” page 5, art by John Prentice

John Prentice had his own way of graphically telling a story and I provide an example above. The way he works up to the dramatic close-up in the last panel is quite good. I do have some qualms about panel 4. The simple hatching used for the sky unfortunately inappropriately suggests rain. It is not Prentice’s fault but the handkerchief that the lady holds has suddenly become the same color as the man’s shirt making it all a bit more confusing then it really would have been. Note the way the brickwork is handled in the last panel. The use of scattered groups of black bricks done in rough brushwork is often seen in Bill Draut’s work.

Young Romance #43
Young Romance #43 (March 1952) “The Way They Met”, art by George Roussos

George Roussos drew 6 features during this period and except for one they were all 1 or 2 page long. It is easy to see why; Roussos really was not that great of a romance artist, at least at this time.

Young Love #31
Young Love #31 (March 1952) “The Great Indoors”, art by Mort Meskin and George Roussos

Like most of the comic book industry at that time, Simon and Kirby did not normally provide credits for the artists that worked for on their productions. However they always allowed, perhaps even encouraged, artists to sign their work. So I always pay attention to the signatures because they provide the means to learn how to identify the various artists. The signature for “The Great Indoors” is a bit hard to make out but I thought it might have said Persius. It was the only story by Persius in my database and I could never uncover any further information or work by that artist. That is how it stood for a long time but my work for The Art of Romance has really tuned me in to the style used by George Roussos and when I saw the last panel of the splash page I immediately recognized it as his work. There are some parts, such as the man in the splash panel, that look like Mort Meskin’s style but initially I just attributed that to the large influence Meskin had on Roussos. When I closely looked at the signature again, I thought it actually read Roussos. Hey what can I say? Both the signature and the printing were poor.

Young Love #31
Young Love #31 (March 1952) “The Great Indoors” page 3, art by Mort Meskin and George Roussos

Going through the story I came across page 3 and saw the tall narrow panels. This is not a panel layout that I have seen Roussos use but it is one that Mort Meskin often turned to (see above). Then it all made sense. “The Great Indoors” was laid out by Meskin and finished and inked by Roussos. I have seen Jack Kirby do this with some less talented artists but this is the first example I have found of Meskin doing it. Roussos was one of Meskin’s inkers for work done previously at DC. I often find him listed as the inker for Meskin’s S&K work as well but I have not seen any evidence of that. Further Joe Simon has told me that Meskin inked his own work. “The Great Indoors” gives an indication of what Roussos inking Meskin have looked like at this time.

Young Love #32
Young Love #32 (April 1952) “Three Day Pass” page 3, art by unidentified artist

There is one artist I have not been able to identify but he only did a single piece, “Three Day Pass”. I find some resemblance to the work by Al Eadeh (Art of Romance, Chapters 5 and Chapter 7). Eadeh worked for Simon and Kirby back in 1949 and if “Three Day Pass” is by Al then his work has evolved a bit. Unfortunately I have no interim Eadeh pieces to compare it with, so for now I am just leaving it as unidentified.

Chapter 1, A New Genre (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 2, Early Artists (YR #1 – #4)
Chapter 3, The Field No Longer Their’s Alone (YR #5 – #8)
Chapter 4, An Explosion of Romance (YR #9 – #12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 5, New Talent (YR #9 – 12, YL #1 – #4)
Chapter 6, Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 7, More Love on the Range (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 8, Kirby on the Range? (RWR #1 – #7, WL #1 – #6)
Chapter 9, More Romance (YR #13 – #16, YL #5 – #6)
Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut (YR #17 – #20, YL #7 – #8)
Chapter 11, After the Glut (YR #21 – #23, YL #9 – #10)
Chapter 12, A Smaller Studio (YR #24 – #26, YL #12 – #14)
Chapter 13, Romance Bottoms Out (YR #27 – #29, YL #15 – #17)
Chapter 14, The Third Suspect (YR #30 – #32, YL #18 – #20)
Chapter 15, The Action of Romance (YR #33 – #35, YL #21 – #23)
Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New (YR #36 – #38, YL #24 – #26)
Chapter 17, The Assistant (YR #39 – #41, YL #27 – #29)
Chapter 18, Meskin Takes Over (YR #42 – #44, YL #30 – #32)
Chapter 19, More Artists (YR #45 – #47, YL #33 – #35)
Chapter 20, Romance Still Matters (YR #48 – #50, YL #36 – #38, YB #1)
Chapter 21, Roussos Messes Up (YR #51 – #53, YL #39 – #41, YB #2 – 3)
Chapter 22, He’s the Man (YR #54 – #56, YL #42 – #44, YB #4)
Chapter 23, New Ways of Doing Things (YR #57 – #59, YL #45 – #47, YB #5 – #6)
Chapter 24, A New Artist (YR #60 – #62, YL #48 – #50, YB #7 – #8)
Chapter 25, More New Faces (YR #63 – #65, YLe #51 – #53, YB #9 – #11)
Chapter 26, Goodbye Jack (YR #66 – #68, YL #54 – #56, YB #12 – #14)
Chapter 27, The Return of Mort (YR #69 – #71, YL #57 – #59, YB #15 – #17)
Chapter 28, A Glut of Artists (YR #72 – #74, YL #60 – #62, YB #18 & #19, IL #1 & #2)
Chapter 29, Trouble Begins (YR #75 – #77, YL #63 – #65, YB #20 – #22, IL #3 – #5)
Chapter 30, Transition (YR #78 – #80, YL #66 – #68, YBs #23 – #25, IL #6, ILY #7)
Chapter 30, Appendix (YB #23)
Chapter 31, Kirby, Kirby and More Kirby (YR #81 – #82, YL #69 – #70, YB #26 – #27)
Chapter 32, The Kirby Beat Goes On (YR #83 – #84, YL #71 – #72, YB #28 – #29)
Chapter 33, End of an Era (YR #85 – #87, YL #73, YB #30, AFL #1)
Chapter 34, A New Prize Title (YR #88 – #91, AFL #2 – #5, PL #1 – #2)
Chapter 35, Settling In ( YR #92 – #94, AFL #6 – #8, PL #3 – #5)
Appendix, J.O. Is Joe Orlando
Chapter 36, More Kirby (YR #95 – #97, AFL #9 – #11, PL #6 – #8)
Chapter 37, Some Surprises (YR #98 – #100, AFL #12 – #14, PL #9 – #11)
Chapter 38, All Things Must End (YR #101 – #103, AFL #15 – #17, PL #12 – #14)

Joe Simon’s Hot Stuff

Zippy #1
Zippy #1 (May 1941), art by Joe Simon

When Joe Simon was young he tried his hand in a number of different types of art work; political cartoons, sport illustration, portraits, story illustration, and oh yeah comic books. One art media Joe did not do was adult humor, that is except for the cover of Zippy #1. Here Joe provided a lecherous short man wearing a devil’s costume and an advertisement sign for Hot Stuff trailing a tall beautiful woman with a rather revealing dress. No punch line, just a visual gag that is more naughty then humorous. Joe executed the art with an air brush, a tool that he had become an expert at when he was a newspaper staff artist.

The first, and I believe only, issue of Zippy was cover dated May 1941. It was a large, tabloid size, publication. The cover reflected the work found in the interior both in subject and in size although some pages had 4 cartoons to a page. Much of the work is unsigned and based on the art styles done by a number of different cartoonists. There is nothing that today would be considered pornographic but all of a sexually suggestive humor. Back in the early 40’s, however, many would call it pornographic and such magazines sometimes brought legal difficulties to the publisher. So it is not surprising that the indicium is very short:

Zippy is published bimonthly by Manvis Distributors at Dunellen, N. J. May, 1941, Vol. 1, No. 1

Dunellen is a small community in central New Jersey that in 2000 had a population of 6823. It might seem to be an odd address for a publisher but in 1941 the town’s principal industries were R. Hoe Printing Press (manufacturer of letter presses) and Color Printing Company (owned by the W. F. Hall Printing Company of Chicago which at one time was the largest printing company in the world). Color Printing was almost certainly the printer of Zippy #1.

The subject matter is not the only thing that makes Joe’s work for Zippy unusual, the date does as well. Simon and Kirby’s Captain America was released to great success just two months before Zippy #1. Even before Captain America had made it to the newsstands, Joe and Jack had discontinued moonlighting for other publishers. Simon and Kirby must have felt they had a hit and with the promise of a share in the profits decided to concentrate their efforts to Timely alone. So why at this point would Joe decide to venture out into adult humor?

The answer is that actually Joe was not moonlighting when doing Zippy. A Google search found Manvis listed as a subsidiary of Magazine Management Company and publisher of the pulp Western Short Stories, and the comics Navy Combat and Sub-Mariner. Magazine Management was the name often used by Martin Goodman for his company that today is commonly referred to as Timely. Goodman would want to avoid legal hassles that Zippy might generate and the use of Manvis Distributors in the indicia could be nothing more then a smoke screen. Joe Simon was Timely’s first comic book editor and his handiwork can be found not just in the comics but the pulps and crime magazines as well. Joe would have been a logical choice to oversee Zippy and he had used the opportunity to put his own work on the cover.

Many years later, 1957 to be precise, Warren Kramer would create a little devil for Harvey Comics that was also called Hot Stuff. Just a coincidence? Perhaps, but in that year Joe Simon was also working for Harvey and he could have shown Harvey and Kramer one of the copies of Zippy from his collection, copies that he still has today. If so it would not have been the only time that a Simon original had inspired the creation of a popular comic book feature.

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 3, The Same Old Gang

(October – December 1951: Black Magic #7 – #8)

During the period covered in this chapter, along with the bimonthly Black Magic, Simon and Kirby were producing two monthly romance titles (Young Romance and Young Love). Not the largest work load for the prolific duo but apparently all the titles were doing well. Since Simon and Kirby received a share of the profits, sales volume was more important then the number of titles produced.

As was true with the concurrent romance titles (Chapter 17 of The Art of Romance), Jack Kirby was producing less then his normal amount of pages of art work. In BM #7 and #8, Jack would do the two covers and a single 8 page story. It was Mort Meskin who was the most prolific artist providing 23 pages for these two issues. Even John Prentice and Marvin Stein produced more pages then Kirby (both with 12 pages each). Bill Draut would provide a single 7 pages story. That was the complete artist line-up for BM #7 and #8; just the regular studio artists of that time. This is another of those chapters where I have been able to identify all the artists who worked on these issues.

Black Magic #7
Black Magic #7 (October 1951) “The Thing in The Fog”, art by Jack Kirby

The full page splash for Jack Kirby’s single story, “The Thing in the Fog”, is quite unusual for the artist. Typically Kirby focuses on the human elements of a picture but here all we see are the backs of three individuals on a make shift raft. The center of attention is the approaching ship and even it is mostly lost in the fog with only the masthead distinctly delimitated. The depiction of fog would normally be expected to be billowing cloud shapes but instead the mists are rendered by a complex of strong crosshatching. The whole effect is one of eerie mystery and impending doom. It may be an unusual splash for Kirby but still one of his greater pieces of art.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 (December 1951) “Invisible Link”, art by Mort Meskin

Meskin’s splash for “Invisible Link” consists of a repeated image although with different clothing and surroundings. Today the artist would probably simply draw one, make a copy and work on the copy to produce the second image. But at this time there were no cheap copiers and so a stat would have to be made. This not only meant added costs but added delay as well. Instead Mort simply redrew the figure. By quickly going back and forth between the two images you can verify the differences between the mouth, nose and other details. The use of a double image is a simple device but one that captures the essence of the story.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 (December 1951) “Invisible Link” page 4, art by Mort Meskin

I have previously remarked that Meskin would sometimes adopt the tall narrow panels that earlier were used by Leonard Starr. In Mort’s case this typically meant dividing the page into two rows each with 3 panels. Above I provide a page with a slightly different approach. The height of the bottom row has been reduced giving even more vertical dimension to the narrow panels of the top row. To make up for the loss of height, the bottom row only has two panels. These tall narrow panel layouts are normally not found in the works by Jack Kirby during this period and that is another of the recurring indications that Kirby was not providing layouts to Mort as some people have claimed. Further it suggests that whatever script was provided to Meskin it either did not completely detail out the art on the page, or if it did Mort felt free to deviate from the directions.

Black Magic #7
Black Magic #7 (October 1951) “Don’t Ride the 5:20”, art by Bill Draut

A skeletal cloaked figure of death looms over a speeding train in this full page splash by Bill Draut. Of course none of these elements are found among Bill’s romance art so it is by depictions of people in the story that allows this work to be safely attributed to him. The detailing of the drawing of the train indicates it was based on a photographic image. But the sharpness, so untypical for Draut, suggests that rather being swiped from a photograph that perhaps the picture was literally glued down on the board and then inked over to provide the desired effect. If true this would be an unusual occurrence at this time although years later Simon would often build up a cover using stats.

Black Magic #7
Black Magic #7 (October 1951) “Old Tom’s Window”, art by John Prentice

It is not unusual for Jack Kirby to assume the role of art editor and make alterations to the work submitted by artists employed by the studio. Normally this is for less talented artists and I do not recall ever seeing Jack fix up the work of Bill Draut or Mort Meskin. I consider John Prentice as in the same talented class with Draut and Meskin which is why I am surprised to see Kirby art editor’s hand at work in some of art submitted by Prentice when he first appeared in Simon and Kirby productions. Compare the first story panel for “Old Tom’s Window with the rest of the page and you will note subtle but important differences. The figures in panel one are simpler and lack the craggy feel found in the splash and the second panel and which is typical of Prentice’s depictions of men. Also observe the difference in brush techniques. Those in the first story panel include picket fence crosshatching, drop strings and abstract arch shadows (see my Inking Glossary for explanations of these terms) that are typical of the Studio Style inking. The brush work is blunt but nuanced and was almost certainly done by Kirby. The inking on the rest of the page lacks these elements and is typical of Prentice’s approach. It is hard for me to understand why Jack felt compelled to work on this panel since the depiction of the men in hospital beds is really not that different from those done by Prentice on the rest of the page. Perhaps it was not so much Jack correcting John as providing him with guidance about how to do the story. If that was true it was with this single panel as the rest of the story is laid out in Prentice’s characterizing manner.

Black Magic #7
Black Magic #7 (October 1951) “No One Human” page 2, art by Marvin Stein

By this time as I mentioned in The Art of Romance (chapter 16), Marvin Stein’s art was beginning to show some significant improvements from his earlier more crude style but has not quite reached his more mature style. I credit much of Stein’s improvement to his close study of Kirby’s art either through close observation while working in the same studio or perhaps by actually inking Jack’s work (although I have not yet verified Stein’s inking of Kirby at this early date). Marvin’s inking has particularly improved from his early version to this one. Normally I prefer to present a splash, but in the case of “No One Human” it is difficult to recognize Stein’s hand in the first page. Instead I show page 2 where the man in panel 3 is very close to Stein’s mature art style. Note Marvin’s frequent angular crosshatching. While this is not generally found in Stein’s work it plays a prominent part of this story but I have to admit I find it rather distracting. Also observe the vertically oriented captions. Kirby would only occasionally use vertical captions so this is an indication that this story was not based on Kirby layouts. Interestingly vertical captions are often used by Mort Meskin who also occasionally uses similar angular crosshatching. I find it hard to believe that Meskin would be supplying Stein with layouts and even harder to accept that Mort would be inking Marvin’s pencils so I suspect that Stein was also carefully studying Meskin’s work as well.

Black Magic #8
Black Magic #8 (December 1951) “Donovan’s Demon”, art by Jack Kirby and Marvin Stein

I have discussed the splash for “Donovan’s Demons” in the past (Summoning Demons). The only modifications of my previous views is that I know come to credit the artist for the story as Marvin Stein. But to quickly review, while the man appears to have been drawn and inked by Stein, the woman is clearly the work of Jack Kirby. Both are background elements with the most important part of the splash being the chair, candles and star pattern on the floor. The candles are good matches for those done by Kirby found elsewhere. Chairs do not normally play such a prominent part in Kirby’s art so it is difficult to make a comparison. However the perspective on the chair is so well done and since this sort of dramatic perspective played such an important art I believe Jack did the chair as well. It is not that unusual to find a Kirby figure in a splash otherwise done by another studio artist but it is odd to see a single figure by another artist in a splash otherwise done by Kirby. Perhaps this was done so that there would be some continuity between the splash and the rest of the story art.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 1 (#1 – 3), Expanding Their Fields
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 2 (#4 – 6), Up and Running

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4 (#9 – 11), Another Hit
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5 (#12 – 14), New Faces
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6 (#15 – 17), Mix Bag
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7 (#18 – 20), Kirby Returns
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8 (#21 – 23), The Gang’s All Here
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9 (#24 – 26), The Party’s Ovetr
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10 (#27 – 29), A Special Visitor
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 11 (#30 – 33), The End