Simon and Kirby studio Left to right: Joe Genalo, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Jimmy Infantino and Ben Oda. Caricatures (probably drawn by Joe Simon) of Marvin Stein and Jimmy Infantino.
I have seen a number of photographs of the Simon and Kirby studio but the one above is my favorite. One reason is that it shows more of the individuals who worked there than any other photo I have seen. But also I just enjoy the camaraderie that is depicted. Jack Kirby seems ready to leap at the viewer, Mort Meskin raises his leg to, shall we say, pass gas and Joe Simon looks amused by it all. The two caricatures in front of Joe were not meant for publication but were executed for the shear pleasure of it. Because of the limitations of the photograph it is hard to be certain but the caricatures look like Joe’s work. The fact that one of them is Marvin Stein who is not present in the image leads me to believe that Marvin was the photographer.
The original print for this photograph was severely damaged. I restored a scan of it using Photoshop some years ago and saved it on a CD. I have made a lot of scans for material from Joe Simon’s collection and the CD with this photo got lost among the numerous CDs and DVDs that I have accumulated. I had low resolution copies of it and knew I had a high resolution version somewhere but I just could not locate it. Sometime ago I discovered that CDs and DVDs are really poor for archival storage. With my recent completion of work on “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” I decided it would be best to transfer all my CDs and DVDs to hard disks with USB interfaces. Fortunately I had made two copies for every disk I saved and I was able (with much work) to retrieve almost all the archived files (I lost a very few files but nothing that could not be replaced). In the process I finally came across my original high resolution file for the studio photograph.
There was nothing written on the original photograph to indicate when it was made. The photo included Jim Infantino and judging from his rather limited appearance in Simon and Kirby romance comics I earlier concluded this photo was probably taken in either 1951 or 1952. However there was a lot of uncertainty in that estimate and in any case a more accurate one would be desirable. Now that I had recovered the detailed scan I resolved to see what I could do about it.
Joe Genola is shown coloring a comic cover. I was pretty certain that the cover was for the Prize Comics Western title. Unfortunately the viewing angle is so severe that it is impossible to make out exactly what the cover looked like.
Close-up of the studio photograph
There are a couple pages of unfinished art behind Mort Meskin; one on his drawing table and the other propped up next to Kirby. When enlarged the photo shows this art to have been done by Mort. The art revealed in the detail of this photograph is of interest in and of itself because it shows a stage in the art production that I have not seen before for either Meskin or the Simon and Kirby studio. We can see a penciled but as yet an uninked page. The speech balloons and the accompanying text are all penciled in.
Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “His Dancing Teacher” page 2, art by Mort Meskin
After much searching I managed to locate Meskin’s two art pages. The easiest one to identify was the more vertical one beside Mort’s drawing table. It was page 2 of “His Dancing Teacher” from Young Romance #38 (October 1951). The pencils look pretty tight with no indication of where spotting should be added.
Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “His Dancing Teacher” page 5, art by Mort Meskin
While the page that Mort is currently working on is a little harder to see I am still very confident it is page 5 from the same story. The pencils for panel three seem tight. It is harder to make out the other panels but they really seem to be little more than outlines. It would appear that Mort laid out the entire page then went back and finished it off with some more detailed penciling.
There is another page of art on the floor that also appears to have been drawn by Meskin. Unfortunately only a single panel can be made out and I have so far not been able to identify it. But I do not believe it is from the same “His Dancing Teacher” story.
Because comics were typically cover dated a couple of months later then the actually release and because time also has to be allocated for printing and distribution of the comic, cover dates have to be adjusted to indicate the calendar date for when the art was created. This adjustment would date this photograph to about May 1951. Happily this is well within the range of my original estimate (1951 or 1952).
I had hoped that I would be able to even more closely date this photograph. In the lower left corner by Joe Genola there is a tabloid sized newspaper. It shows two lines of a headline but I can only make out the first line which I believe reads “Beat Red China” although I am not certain about the China word. Still it makes sense since during this time the Korean war was being waged. It is still harder to make out the paper’s name but the first part looks like “Daily”. Two logical candidates are the Daily News and the Daily Mirror. A check of the microfilm of the Daily Mirror from that period pretty much rules it out; the Mirror included a black band at the top of the title page that is clearly not present in the close-up of the photograph. The top of the Daily News does look very much like the paper in the studio. Unfortunately hours of searching through microfilm failed to disclose a matching headline.