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Joe Genalo, Prize Editor and Colorist

Recently Lawrence Genalo, Joe Genalo’s son, left a comment to my post The Lineup. He mentioned that the center man in the lineup of the comic cover, who Joe Simon had identified as Joe Genalo, did not look like his father.

Simon and Kirby Studio
Simon and Kirby studio (probably from 1951 or 1952). Left to right: Joe Genalo, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Mort Meskin, Jimmy Infantino and Ben Oda

I sent Larry a copy of the studio photograph (shown above) and he has verified that the man on the left is his father. Joe Genalo is shown working on a color guide. Before him are two low boxes filled with small jars, these are the dyes he is using for his coloring. You cannot tell it from this image, but a blowup of the original photograph reveals that Genalo is working on a cover for Prize Comic Western. Joe Simon has told me that color guides were the responsibility of the publisher, Prize Comics. Joe Genalo was therefore being paid by Prize and although he worked in the studio (the publisher did not have their own bullpen) he did not actually work for Simon and Kirby. In a further email Larry mentioned that as a teenager, he and his older brother (also named Joe) would help color proofs that their father brought home.

Please allow me a brief digression. In the photograph on Joe Simon’s drawing board are two caricatures. I am usually critical about identifications based on similar photographs, but the art looks like Simon’s work. The caricature on the right is obviously of Jimmy Infantino, but the one on the left does not match anyone in the photograph. In a recent issue of Alter Ego (#76) provided in Jim Amash’s interview of Joe Simon is a photo of Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Bill Draut, Ben Oda and Marvin Stein. When I saw the second photograph I immediately recognized the left caricature was of Stein. I strongly suspect that the reason that Marvin did not appear in the first photograph is that he was the one taking the picture.

Besides being a colorist, Joe Genalo was also an editor for Prize. The Postal Statements issued annually in comics may not be completely reliable but at least in the case of Prize comics there is no reason to discount them either. The GCD list Joe as the editor for Frankenstein Comics throughout its run (1945 to May 1956). Unfortunately I am unable to confirm that. I am in a better position for some of the other Prize titles but even with those there still are gaps due to issues that I do not have access to. The postal statements that I can verify that list Joe Genalo as the editor are:

All For Love
     #12  (v.3, n1)  April 1959

     #58  (v.8, n4)  March 1953
     #65  (v.9, n5)  May   1954
     #71  (v.10, n5) May   1955
     #76  (v.11, n4) May   1956

Justice Traps the Guilty (Prize)
     #48  (v.6, n6)  March   1953
     #60A (v.7, n6)  March   1954
     #72  (v.8, n6)  March   1955
     #81  (v.9, n3)  Aril    1956
     #89  (v.10, n5) October 1957

Personal Love
     #10  (v.2, n4)  March 1959

Prize Comics Western
     #98   March 1953
     #105  May   1954
     #111  May   1955

From this I would say that Joe Genalo was the editor for all Prize comics not produced by Simon and Kirby from at least 1953 until 1960. In 1960 Joe Simon returned to edit the romance comics, which were the only titles that Prize was still publishing. Genalo continued to work for Prize even after Simon’s return although I cannot say in what capacity.

On a more personal level, Joe Genalo was born in Brooklyn on October 21, 1920. He was actually Joseph Genalo Jr. but is never listed as such in the comic books. When young, Joe played baseball for the Brooklyn Eagles, a semi-pro team. He was an outfielder and eventually a first baseman. Joe lived in Brooklyn until moving with his family to Levittown in 1950 and in 1958 to North Bellmore. In the 50’s he was an excellent bowler, according to his son one of the best in the New York region. Other members of the Simon and Kirby studio joined Genalo in some bowling games but none were quite as good.

From his son Lawrence I learned that as a child Joe had rheumatic fever which caused two valves of his heart to be smaller then normal. Apparently Genalo did not talk about his heart problems because Simon was unaware of it until the day before Genalo left for Houston to have it operated on. His doctors were Denton Cooley and Michael DeBakey. These doctors would later become famous for their work in heart transplants, the first to be performed in the United States. Unfortunately when operating on Genalo the doctors were only aware of the problem with one of the valves. When the single valve was replaced, the other faulty valve could not take the increased pressure and it burst during the surgery. Joe Genalo died on March 15, 1963. He wife, Lorraine Mandella Genalo, lived until the age of 49 dying in 1973. They had three sons that are all still living, Joe Genalo III is now 64, Lawrence is 62 and Don is 50. Larry tells me that all are active bowlers but Don is the most successful. Don has won six national PBA titles from 1981 to 1991 and is ranked among the top 50 pros for financial success.

I am grateful for the information that Joe’s son, Lawrence Genalo, has provided. It is nice to put a more human face to one of the contributors to Prize Comics. It is also rewarding to be able to identify with certainty all the people in the above photograph of the Simon and Kirby studio. Unfortunately it also means that the man in the center of Marvin Stein’s lineup cover remains to be identified.

Prize Comics Western, a Rough History

Ger Apeldoorn’s comments to chapter 9 of “It’s A Crime” led me to search Prize Comics Western for examples of artists that had also worked for Simon and Kirby. Because of that search I have decide to post a rough outline of this western title. It is rough because I only have access to a little more then half the issues. The biggest gap consists of three missing issues (PCW #86 to #88, March to July 1951). So while it is quite probable that I may miss some artists it is unlikely that any of them played an important part in the title’s history.

Prize Comics Western #74 (March 1949), art by Al Carreno

Prize Comics started as a superhero anthology in March 1940 (cover date). However the popularity of superheroes was in a decline in the late 40’s. Probably spurned on by the success of Simon and Kirby’s crime and romance titles, Prize Comics was renamed Prize Comics Western with issue #69 (May 1948). The primary feature was Dusty Bellows which was a typical, if nondescript, western genre piece. One of the recurring backup features was the Black Bull. While the hero had a western theme, his costume really makes him look like a typical superhero and a bit out of place in the western genre the title had now adopted. Another regular backup was the Lazo Kid.

The earlier issues of PCW would use Al Carreno as the primary artist. Carreno would do the art for the cover and the lead story as well as generally providing a backup story as well. It was Al that was most often called on to work on the title’s main feature, Dusty Bellows. Al Carreno was a competent artist but I have to admit I am not particularly moved by his work.

Prize Comics Western #71 (July 1948) “Bullets at Salt Lick”, art by Dick Briefer

Other artists besides Al Carreno would appear as well. As Ger indicated in his comment, one of them was Dick Briefer. Besides “Bullets at Salt Lick”, Briefer also did “Rod Roper” (PCW #69, May 1948) and “Black Bull Bulldogs a Bandit” (PCW #77, September 1949). Due to the gaps in my collection, it is quite possible he did other stories as well. Briefer was most famous for his long work on Frankenstein, but as seen in my serial post, It’s A Crime, Dick also did some work for a period for Simon and Kirby. Briefer’s work for S&K appeared in Charlie Chan, Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty from October 1948 to October 1949 which was slightly later then his work in PCW.

Prize Comics Western #70 (July 1948) “Rocky Dawn and Windy Smith”, art by Warren Broderick

Another Simon and Kirby artist that appeared in PCW was Warren Broderick. So far I have only found one example of his work in this western title but it a good match for the works that Broderick did for Simon and Kirby. There are 11 stories I credit as having been drawn by Warren they are all from the crime titles Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. Broderick was involved in only one romance story (“Mother Said No”, Young Romance #7, September 1948) and even then only as an inker on Kirby’s pencils.

Prize Comics Western #73 (January 1949) “The Black Bull Saves the Ranch”, art by John Severin

The first appearance of John Severin in PCW was with issue #73 (or possibly #72 since I do not have that comic). This was some months before the first work that he did for Simon and Kirby (Headline #35, May 1949). In the early period of PCW, Severin only did backup stories and he did not sign his art. But once he arrived he did seem to be a consistent presence in Prize Comics Western.

Prize Comics Western #75 (May 1949), art by Jack Kirby

Most, if not all, of the covers for the early period of Prize Comics Western were done by Al Carreno. The one exception that I am aware of was the cover for PCW #75 which was done by Simon and Kirby. What can I say, while I find it hard to be enthusiastic about Al Carreno’s covers, the one drawn by Jack is a gem. When a gunfight is depicted on a comic book cover it is usually either the moment before the fight begins or it would show the actually fight. Here Kirby shows us the aftermath, or nearly so as the Senorita is just about dispatch the sole surviving enemy. This is very fortunate for Dusty Bellew as he has already turned his back to his fallen foes. Dusty does not have any obvious injuries but the way his right arm hangs suggest he might have been winged. But even if he is physically unscathed, his expression shows that the fight has left him wearied. Pathos in triumph, Jack has depicted Dusty as an unconventional hero. Jack Kirby would draw the cover for PCW #83 as well but it was no were near as effective as this cover.

Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949) “Bullet Code”, art by Mart Bailey

Like most of the comics published by Prize, PCW switched to photographic covers with issue #76 (July 1949). More importantly there was a change in contents. Al Carreno no longer provided work and his place as lead artist was taking by a new comer for the title, Mart Bailey. As part of the change, the lead story became a movie adaptation. I suspect it was because of the movie adaptation that Bailey was used. While Al Correno could draw well I doubt that he was able to achieve the type of realism Bailey showed in these movie adaptations. I am not saying Bailey’s realism was better art but it probably was more acceptable to RKO. The use of movie adaptations was not long lasting, the last one may have been “Stage To Chino” from PCW #79 (January 1949). However Mart continued used as the primary artist and his artwork was no longer quite so realistic.

Prize Comics Western #85 (January 1951) “American Eagle”, art by John Severin

Issue #85 started the third period for Prize Comics Western. American Eagle was introduced as the new main feature. From this point American Eagle would be on every cover and always was the lead story. Generally there would be at least one backup story, sometimes more, on the American Eagle as well. John Severin had appeared in PCW for some time but now he became the lead artist. It was a position he would retain for much longer then his predecessors Al Carreno and Mart Bailey. Bailey continued doing some backup stories for a few issues before disappearing from the title. John Severin had also worked for Simon and Kirby but not after having attained the position of lead artist for Prize Comics Western.

Prize Comics Western #85 (January 1951) “The Prairie Badman”, art by Marvin Stein

Another artist who had also worked for the Simon and Kirby studio began providing art for Prize Comics Western during this period. Initially Marvin Stein did various backup stories but he most commonly drew the Lazo Kid feature. In his interview with Jim Amash, Joe Simon describes “trading” Stein. Besides his work for PCW, Marvin also became the primary artist for Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty.

The period with John Severin as the primary artist came to an end with issue #113 (September 1955). A short period followed where Marvin Stein became the primary artist. However, unlike before this did not mean that Marvin did all the covers and lead stories.

Prize Comics Western #115 (January 1956) “The Drifter”, art by Mort Meskin

It was during the fourth period that Mort Meskin began doing some backup stories for Prize Comics Western. Of all the artists that had work on PCW, Mort is certainly the one with the greatest ties to the Simon and Kirby studio.

Prize Comics Western #118 (July 1956) “Liberty Belle”, art by Ted Galindo

Another artist with Simon and Kirby connections who appeared during the fourth period was Ted Galindo. Ted even did the lead story, “Liberty Belle” for issue #118. Galindo did a piece for Foxhole #4, but most of the work he did for what might be called Simon and Kirby productions came after the breakup of the studio.
The fourth period was short and it marked the end of the title with issue #119 (September 1956).

There are a number of artists used throughout the history of Prize Comics Western that I have not discussed here. The number of stories they provided were limited, I have not been able to identify them, and their artistic talents were limited.

In his original comment that prompted this post, Ger wrote that Vic Donahue was one of the artists common to the Simon and Kirby studio and Prize Comics Western. I did not encountered Donahue in the search I did on my PCW issues. I asked Ger to double check and he has not been able to find him either. I am not sure that even the combined collections are not complete so there is still the possibility that Donahue did work on PCW.

One artist, who shows up in Prize Comics Western that I have discussed yet in my serial post, It’s A Crime, was Moe Marcus (“Buffalo Stampede”, PCW #92, March 1952). While Marcus appeared in Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty he did so during the period that these titles were not produced by Simon and Kirby. “Buffalo Stampede” was inked by Rocco “Rocke” Mastroserio. Rocke is most widely known for the work he did for Charlton.

At this point it might seem that there were a lot of comics artist that work on Prize Comics Western as well as on Simon and Kirby productions. However there were more Simon and Kirby studio artists that, as far as I have been able to determine, did not work on PCW. Important studio artists like Bill Draut, John Prentice, Vic Donahue, Leonard Starr, Bruno Premiani?, Jo Albistur and Ann Brewster. There are some lesser S&K studio artists as well such as A. C. Hollingsworth, Charles Nicholas, George Gregg, Manny Stallman and Al Eadeh. Conversely, two of the primary artists for Prize Comics Western, Al Correno and Mart Bailey, never worked for Simon and Kirby. John Severin did work for both, but by the time he became primary artist for PCW he was no longer providing work for Simon and Kirby. I have already written about Joe Simon’s statement about trading Marvin Stein. Mort Meskin was an important S&K studio artist and he provided work for PCW as well. But the work Mort did on PCW was largely done after he stopped working for Simon and Kirby. Actually it is a little surprising that Mort did not supply work earlier then that as he had provided such work for Headline and JTTG when these were not produced by S&K.

The handling of Prize Comics Western seems very different from Simon and Kirby productions. As described above the history of PCW the title was very much defined by the primary artist. During each period it was the primary artist that supplied the covers, did the lead story and at least one backup story as well. Jack was the primary artist for Simon and Kirby productions. If there was a cover to be made it was almost always done by Kirby. But Jack would only dominate the contents of a new title. After the initial launching period of a title, Kirby would not dominate the contents so much and a variety of artists would be used. The type of handling of Prize comics Western was similar to that used for Frankenstein Comics and, as we will see in a future chapter to “It’s A Crime”, the same reliance on a primary artist would be adopted by the crime titles as well.

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.

Early Mort Meskin

While my main interest in Mort Meskin concerns the art that he did for the Simon and Kirby studio, he also did some great work both before and after that. I thought a brief examination of his earlier efforts might prove interesting. Unfortunately I can only provide a very unbalanced outline of Mort’s initial career as I have a very limited access to the comics that he appeared in. But even a flawed outline of Meskin’s early art can be useful especially since Mort Meskin has been overlooked by most of today’s comic book fans and little of his work has been reprinted.

Pep Comics #11 (January 1941) “Press Guardian”, art by Mort Meskin

The earliest work by Meskin that I can provide comes from Pep Comics #11 (January 1941). Meskin had already been working at comic books for a couple of years so this is by no means among his earliest efforts. It is a very different Meskin found here as there are no signs of the typical traits that can be found throughout most of Mort’s career; traits such as the very distinctive grin he often provided to male characters. The vertical splash layout for the Press Guardian is one that Meskin would later use particularly when working with Jerry Robinson. However Mort’s handling of the story panels makes this layout distinctive from his later uses of the vertical splash. Here Meskin uses three story panels instead of the more typical two. In fact they could more properly be called three rows as there are two panels in the second row and the undivided rows now have wider panels. This arrangement gives most of the room on the page to the story panels but Mort puts what space is available for the splash to good use.

Pep Comics #11 (January 1941) “Press Guardian” page 4, art by Mort Meskin

It is in the story art that the difference between the very early Mort Meskin and his later efforts is most apparent. Almost the entire story is shown from distant view points where either the entire figures are shown or at least the upper half of the figures. Examples such as panel 6 from page 4 where the view gets close enough to provide facial details are the rare exceptions. True close-ups are nonexistent. The “cinematic” approach that would be so important to Meskin’s later art it not to be found in these earlier stories. Within his more limited control of view point, Meskin could still graphically tell a good story. While his figures may, at times, be a little stiff, Meskin included some nice action sequences.

Pep Comics #11 (January 1941) “Midshipman”, art by Mort Meskin

The Press Guardian story was signed simply as Mort. There can be no question that this was indeed Meskin because that name was signed to the “Midshipman” feature from the same issue. While the layout for the splash page is different, otherwise the art style is the same. I wish I had more of this very early Mort Meskin to show; it would be interesting to see how and when his more typical style developed.

Action Comics #42 (November 1941) “The Vigilante”, art by Mort Meskin

It was just ten months later from Pep Comics #11 when Mort Meskin’s first work for DC appeared. While his work in Pep #11 showed promise, Meskin’s Vigilante for Action Comics #42 was promised fulfilled. The splash was signed, but a signature really is not required to identify this work. Meskin’s unique hand can be seen all over the story. But those readers only familiar with his work for Simon and Kirby or his later efforts for DC horror comics might find this early Meskin surprising. It is full of action and exciting artwork. While the DC Archive volumes have included all the Superman stories from these early issues of Action Comics, few of the Vigilante stories have ever been reprinted. This is certainly not a reflection of artistic value as Meskin’s Vigilante work is greatly superior to anything else being published by DC at the time. Well that is excepting the work that Simon and Kirby were doing for DC and that has not received the archive treatment either.

While the Vigilante’s dress might suggest that it was a western, they were contemporary stories (at least initially) and the western garb is the Vigilante’s costume. The Vigilante has no special powers; just an uncanny skill with his pistol and his rope. Initially the Vigilante worked alone, but he soon picked up a sidekick, Stuff the Chinatown Kid.

What happened to Mort between Pep #11 and Action #42 to cause such a dramatic change in his art? I really do not have enough of his early art to say, but I would like to submit a hypothesis. It is nothing more then a guess that would need more investigation before it could even be called a theory. I wonder if the change that Meskin underwent was a response to the release of Simon and Kirby’s Captain America? The timing is right since Captain America Comics #1 came out in March 1941. Mort’s Vigilante art uses figures extending past the panel borders, circular panels, exaggerated perspective, and dynamic slugfests all of which were favorite devices of Simon and Kirby found in Captain America. If there is any truth to this hypothesis, Meskin was not copying Kirby’s art but would instead put his own interpretations of all those techniques.

Action Comics #43 (December 1941) “The Vigilante”, art by Mort Meskin

Meskin’s Vigilante splashes could be quite intricate. Here we find the Vigilante lassoing two criminals while simultaneously shooting at the image of his current nemesis, the Shade. A vanquished foe lies at his feet while shadows on the wall behind him reveal two other gun carrying opponents. There is a lot going on but Mort’s presentation is perfectly clear.

Action Comics #50 (July 1942) “The Man Who Came Back”, art by Mort Meskin

The motorcycle is a clear reminder that the Vigilante is not a western, but instead belongs in the hero genre. Here part of a man’s face is clipped off by the panel’s border. This is a very effective technique Meskin would use often but it is not typically used by Simon and Kirby so Mort probably picked it up elsewhere.

Action Comics #50 (July 1942) “The Man Who Came Back” page 6, art by Mort Meskin

This is a good example of a story page in that it shows many of traits of Mort Meskin during this period. The most obvious feature is Mort’s great handling of the action. While he may, or may not have, drawn inspiration from Kirby’s slugfest, Mort’s handling of the fight scene is very different from Jack’s. Another technique that stands out is his use of circular panels. Again this could have been derived from Simon and Kirby but Meskin’s circular panels are very different. While Simon and Kirby’s circular panels would typically expand as far as the space allowed leaving isolated corner pieces, Meskin’s circular panels are usually smaller and fully embedded in the rectangular panel. There are also several examples of faces cropped by the edge of the panels (panel 4 and most noticeably the last panel). Mort makes effective use of this device. In fact the use of shifting view points and viewing distance, the cinematic effects, play an important part of Mort’s comic book art from this period on.

Action Comics #56 (January 1943) “Melody of Menace”, art by Mort Meskin and George Roussos

I really do not know enough about Mort’s early DC work to say whether he was doing his own inking or not. It certainly was not inked in the manner typically used in Mort’s Simon and Kirby work. Some of his later DC work has dual signatures which indicate that in at least these cases another artist did the inking. Perhaps the most commonly used and most talented of these inkers was George Roussos. It is obvious from work that Roussos later did for Simon and Kirby that his own art was very much influenced by Meskin.

More Fun Comics #85 (November 1942) “The Jest of Jason Biltwell”, art by Mort Meskin and Cliff Young

The Vigilante was not the only regular feature that Mort Meskin did for DC comics. He also drew Johnny Quick which appeared in Adventure and More Fun Comics. Much has been made of the fact that Meskin was the first to provide multiple images to indicate fast action. Previously only speed lines were provided to suggest rapid movements. While I would not want to diminish this technical innovation by Mort, his manipulation of view points and viewing distance were much more significant. For “The Jest of Jason Biltwell” Meskin was inked by Cliff Young.

Adventure Comics #81 (December 1942) “Starman’s Lucky Star”, art by Mort Meskin and George “Inky” Roussos

Mort Meskin would also occasionally pencil other stories. For example Mort drew a couple of Starman stories for Adventure Comics. I had previously provided an image from the Starman splash from Adventures #82 and now I provide an image from Adventure #81 above.

My original plan was to write about Mort Meskin’s pre-Simon and Kirby work in a single post. Since I do not have enough examples to provide a more thorough examination of Meskin’s early art, one post should have been sufficient. However I must admit I was seduced by Meskin’s DC splashes and could not resist including a number of examples. I do prefer his graphic story telling for Simon and Kirby productions but Mort did not use full page splashes during that period. The closest that Mort came to these early splashes where some covers he did for Young Brides and Young Love in 1954 and 1955. Those covers are really nice and some are pure masterpieces of comic book art, but the earlier splashes provide a side of Meskin that I have seen no place else. So I extend my coverage and conclude it next week with a brief survey of Mort Meskin’s work that he did after the war. I will also be providing a few examples by Jerry Robinson as well.

The Art of Romance, Chapter 10, The Peak of the Love Glut

(January – April 1950: Young Romance #17 – #20, Young Love #7 – #8)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1950 (the period covered in this chapter shaded in blue)

This chapter will cover the period from January to April 1950. This is the height of the love glut and the beginning of the decline in romance titles that followed. For Prize Comics the dropping of titles had not begun since the final issue of Real West Romances would come out in April. Young Romance had been and would remain a monthly. The presumably poor sales experienced by the western romance titles because of the glut was not shared by Prize’s standard love comics as Young Love became a monthly with the April issue. Frankly I am not clear what Simon and Kirby’s status was at this time with the crime titles Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. At some point Joe and Jack seemed to have passed on the production of those titles to Prize Comics. A better understanding of exactly when that happened will hopefully be achieved as I advance further in my serial post It’s A Crime.

I have no explanation why in the last chapter Jack Kirby’s output dropped so much but now he returned to being the primary artist, at least by page count, with 6 stories and 71 pages (I am excluding illustrations for text features as they are minor works and may include recycled art.) Bill Draut, now again the second most used artist, actually had more stories but fewer pages (8 stories with 53 pages). The discrepancy is caused by the lead stories provided by Kirby have the highest page counts (13 to 15 pages). The two longest stories by artists other then Kirby were 10 and 9 pages while most were 8 pages long. As noted in the previous chapter Kirby would provide the lead story for Young Romance while Bill Draut would have the honor for Young Love. The general rule from now on will be Kirby more or less regularly providing a long lead story to Young Romance and this would be the only real distinction between the contents of Young Romance and Young Love where the lead story was generally done by other artists.

Other artists significantly trailed Kirby and Draut in page counts. The number of artists used in YR and YL drops, and the artists have been seen previously in either the standard or the western romance comics. As was true in the last chapter, Kirby did not supply layouts to any of the artists in this period. This was in contrast to the early issues where some of the less talented artists worked using Kirby layouts.

Young Romance #17 (January 1950) “The Girl Who Tempted Me”, art by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby persists in providing exceptional splashes for his long lead stories. The use of a character introducing the story with the word balloon forming the title has become a trademark of Simon and Kirby romances. (As this splash layout will be repeatedly seen, I am going to refer to it as the confessional splash.) The very provocative splashes would be more risque then the actual story. These splashes are often very simple in composition but very effective nonetheless.

Young Romance #20 (April 1950) “Hands off Lucy”, art by Jack Kirby

Okay maybe I do not have much more to say about Kirby’s splashes, but they are so great (in my opinion) that I cannot resist including an image of another one.

Young Romance #19 (March 1950) “That Kind of Girl” page 13, art by Jack Kirby

Of course comic books are not all about splashes, those were just the devices to entice a reader to buy the comic and read the story. Jack always considered himself as mainly a graphic story teller. Although today Kirby is primarily for his work on superheroes, he was exceptional in pretty much every genre that he worked on. Because of the unique nature of his romance stories, it is clear that Jack was not just illustrating someone else’s script. He must have been an active participant in the plotting and I am sure that he continued the long S&K tradition of changing the script as he saw fit. At this time Jack liked to give a special quality to his romance stories by adding something beyond just romance. I am not sure how the readers of Young Romance and Young Love at that time (overwhelmingly teenage girls) felt about Jack’s romances but I am convinced that if these stories were given a chance many of today’s more adult readers would find them interesting reading.

For the most part Jack has adopted a very standard page layout of three rows with two panels in each row. Kirby would occasionally depart from that pattern when the story called for it but that would be the exception. Gone were any uses of circular panels. Figures would not extend beyond a panel’s border although captions or speech balloons might. My description of Kirby’s layouts might make his work sound dry and uninspired but that is certainly not the case. Using a standard panel layout seems to allow Jack to concentrate on depicting the story. Further when the story called for an alteration in the panel layout it was then that much more effective. Kirby was a master of use of changing view points, the addition or removal of background, and even the careful accommodation of speech balloons as the above page amply shows. It was not just melodrama, it was great melodrama! (An honest appraiser would admit that was true of Kirby’s superhero work as well.)

Young Love #7 (February 1950) “The Carnival Girl”, art by Bill Draut

Bill Draut’s position as the number two artist at this time was justified. He could fill a splash panel with a cast of characters each with their own distinctive personalities. Bill was no longer used as an artist in Headline or Justice Traps the Guilty, but this was not due to any problem in handling action since in his romance art he had no problems when action needed to be depicted. Perhaps of even greater importance for love comics, his women, while stylized, are attractive. All of these talents and more are shown in the above splash. Some of Draut’s stories start with a confessional splash even though they are not lead stories. Perhaps they were originally intended as lead stories but in the end placed elsewhere in the comic. Although I have seen this happen to Draut, I do not recall a Kirby confessional splash that was not the first story.

Young Love #8 (April 1950) “Every Man I Meet” page 4, art by Bill Draut

Like Kirby, Bill Draut generally kept to a standard six panel page layout. If anything he adhered to this layout even more then Jack. Bill would vary view points to keep the visuals interesting but he was not as cinematic as some other comic book artists. Draut graphically tells his story in a straight forward and understated manner. While the reader may not always be amazed by Draut’s art he will always find an entertaining and clear story.

Young Romance #18 (February 1950) “I Own This Man”, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin first solo work for Simon and Kirby appeared in the month before the time covered in this chapter. During this period Mort played no more important a roll then any of the other studio artists (excluding Kirby and Draut). He supplied 4 stories and 2 short features with a total of 32 pages of art. While his presence was not insignificant it was nothing like the prolific output that Mort would achieve in the future. Interestingly Mort was initially used only for the standard and western romance titles, his first crime work would be in the March issue of Headline. Perhaps Meskin’s artist block was not completely overcome by Joe’s strategy of placing random pencils marks so that Mort would not be faced with a blank page.

Meskin’s preference was for a first page; two thirds of which would be used for a splash panel leaving room for a single row of story panels. Most commonly it would have the layout seen in the image above. (Again, these splash page layouts are seen so often that providing them with a name seems a good idea; I will use square splash for those with the story panels arranged horizontally and vertical splash for when the story panels are arranged vertically.) While working in the Simon and Kirby studio Mort did his own inking. Generally this included spotting formed by long parallel, sometimes overlapping, groups of lines. Occasionally, as in “I Own This Man” Meskin would use picket fence crosshatching similar to that found in the Studio style. (For a more complete discussion of Mort Meskin’s inking technique see my post Kirby Inkers, Mort Meskin, for an explanation of the terms I am using to describe inking techniques see the Inking Glossary). My search of Meskin’s work prior to joining Simon and Kirby have so far failed to uncover any examples of the use of picket fence crosshatching so Mort may have adopted it up from Joe and Jack.

Young Love #8 (April 1950) “Danger, Soft Shoulder” page 8, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin’s art was more subdued compared to his earlier hero genre comic art. Some of the more dramatic compositional devices would largely disappear. Techniques, such as the mass of floating heads used in the third panel of page 8 of “Danger, Soft Shoulder”, would now be the rare exception in Mort’s work. Instead, like Bill Draut, Meskin would concentrate more on graphically telling a story. Few other artists, if any, could do it better. Unfortunately for Mort Meskin’s current reputation, it is all too easy to overlook what he was doing. Also it should be admitted that Meskin’s art was not consistently at the same high level, perhaps a result from his push to achieve a high page production rate (with a corresponding income boost).

Young Romance #19 (March 1950) “The Fisherman’s Daughter” page 2, art by Mort Meskin

But it would be mistake to say that now Mort was only interested in telling a story. Mort was also a master at his use of blacks. The shadows found in the first panel of the page from “The Fisherman’s Daughter” shown above are very effective. Even when blacks are used in more limited amounts that are carefully placed to provide the most impact as can be seen elsewhere on the page and the fifth panel in particular. In a way though, Meskin’s use of whites and blacks was not separate aspect of his work. It was carefully used as one of Mort’s tools for advancing the story.

At this time Mort was also working primarily in the standard six panel page layout. But he would use other design techniques to add interest. Note the use of vertical caption boxes on the page shown above. Mort sets up a pattern of vertical captions for the left edge of the first and third panel rows, and the center of the second row. This while using horizontal captions in the second part of the first and third rows. It all provides a pattern that helps to pull the page together without being obtrusive.

Young Romance #17 (January 1950) “Love’s Little Teacher”, art by Bruno Premiani?

I may not be able to truly show that this artist is Bruno Premiani but he is a great creator nonetheless. The splash here is unusual for him in that he provides a split scene. It is so well integrated that it is easy to overlook two separate views are presented. I have described Premiani’s women as attractive but not striking. But in the end to understand an artist’s style well enough to identify his work requires seeing enough examples. So as I continue with work on this serial post I will include further samples of the more important Simon and Kirby studio artists.

Young Romance #17 (January 1950) “Love’s Little Teacher” page 5, art by Bruno Premiani?

Bruno had an interesting drawing style but he was also, like most of S&K studio artists, adept at graphically telling a story. The page from “Love’s Little Teacher” opens with a couple’s kiss, usually more properly placed as the last panel on a page. But Premiani has other things in mind as he proceeded to show the protagonist following the advice of her cousin. Premiani indicates to the reader that the cousin is secretly scheming by the pose he provides her in the background of the final panel. Evidentially Bruno is not just following some formula but carefully brackets the cousin’s influence between the love scene in the first panel and the misguided rejection of a date in the last. I particularly like the fifth panel with the man shown calling in the caption box and the close-up of the telephone receiving the call in the actual panel. With Premiani’s careful arrangement of the towel on the leading lady, the depiction really is not very revealing but just seems so.

Young Romance #17 (January 1950) “I Want Him Back”, art by Leonard Starr

When I first entered the Simon and Kirby productions into my database I was not that familiar with Leonard Starr’s style and so it was largely stories with a signature that ended up attributed to him. Unfortunately this made Starr seem like a minor contributor since, like most Simon and Kirby studio artists, he did not sign all his art. With my current reviews and armed with a better understanding, I have been adding a number of unsigned stories as works that can be credited to Starr. I have long stressed the importance to the studio of three artists (the usual suspects: Draut, Meskin and Prentice) but there is also a second tier of artists who made an important contribution to Simon and Kirby productions but only for shorter periods of time. I would put Starr in this second tier along with artists like Premiani?, Severin, Donahue, Albistur and Brewster.

Leonard did 4 stories with 33 pages during this period. All were unsigned but with styles that are in complete agreement with contemporary signed work. Starr’s splashes were either the square or vertical layouts with, perhaps, a preference for the vertical format as seen above in “I Want Him Back”. It is the drawings of woman that I find the greatest help in identifying Starr’s work. They have an appearance that is almost frail with generous foreheads, small mouths, and narrow chins giving them a look I often describe as elfin.

Young Romance #18 (February 1950) “Mother Tags Along” page 4, art by Leonard Starr

While I would not call Starr’s splashes spectacular they were well done. But it is his story art were Leonard really shines. Like some of the other studio artists, Starr would carefully vary the view point to keep the pages interesting and the story progressing. What makes Starr unique among the S&K studio artists at this time are his panel layouts. More then any of the other artists, Starr would break from the standard page layout of three rows with two panels per row. Instead Leonard preferred to introduced, when possible, a row of three panels with an extended height. Sometimes this was achieved by switching to a page layout of two rows with three panels per row. More frequently the greater height provided for one row would be compensated by decreasing the vertical dimensions of the remaining two rows. These panel layouts did more then provide interesting pages as Starr would use it to aid the story telling. Note how in the page from “Mother Tags Along” Leonard uses the narrow panels for the meeting of the two lovers physically bringing them close together while the more horizontal panels are used the woman’s discussion with her mother allowing the distance that is possible in these panels to suggest the emotional separation between them. No other studio artist at this time made such effective use of panel shapes although Mort Meskin would soon begin to use narrow panels as well.

Young Love #7 (February 1950) “A Secret Affair” page 7, art by Vic Donahue

Vic Donahue’s contribution to the standard romances diminished in the previous chapter and this state continues here. There is a difference though; in Chapter 9 Vic work was restricted to the Nancy Hale feature which was 2 or 3 pages long. During this period the Nancy Hale feature was drawn by other artists. Instead Donahue would draw 1 story and 2 short features with a total of 10 pages which was well below artists like Meskin, Premiani? or Starr.

I have included the above story page to show that while Donahue was not as talented as some of the other studio artists; he was more varied in his panel layouts. I feel, however, that the handling of the story leaves a bit to be desired. For instance this page ends with one man’s confrontation with a rival. Since the last panel depicts such a critical moment the reader would expect the next page to show the result of this confrontation, perhaps even a fight. There was a fight of sorts, but at the start of the next page it is all over with the original man already defeated and on the ground! We really do not know anything about the scripts given to studio artists or how carefully they were expected to be followed, so I cannot say whether Donahue or the writer is responsible for this rather poor handling of what should have been a dramatic scene.

Young Love #8 (April 1950) “The Man in My Dreams”, art by John Severin and Jack Kirby

While Jack Kirby did not supply layouts for any of the artists during this period, there is at least one example of his assuming the roll of art editor. The man in the splash panel of “The Man in My Dreams” is clearly penciled by Kirby, and I believe inked as well. This is the second case of Kirby adding to or altering a splash by John Severin that I have seen (the other was in Chapter 7). If, as I believe, Kirby inked his part of the splash then most likely Kirby was correcting Severin’s finished art.

During this period Severin played a small roll in the standard romance titles. John only did 1 story and 3 features with a total of 8 pages. This is in sharp contrast to the amount of work Severin had done during this same time for the Prize western love titles.

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)

Mort Meskin Group at Yahoo

A new group has started on Mort Meskin. I have added on my sidebar but you can also follow this link. I have discussed Mort often in this blog, and I am sure I will so often in the future as well. Mort was perhaps the greatest talent of the Simon and Kirby studio, that is second to Jack. You could not tell it today as he is largely overlooked by comic fans. Perhaps this new group and an up in coming book on Meskin may start to change that. So if you are interested in discussing or learning more about Meskin why not join?

The Art of Romance, Chapter 9, More Romance

(Young Romance #13 – #16, Young Love #5 – #6)

Chart of the number of romance titles from September 1947 to December 1950 with the period covered in this chapter marked in blue.

My discussions of Young Romance and Young Love were left off in Chapter 5 after which I then spent the next three chapters on Simon and Kirby’s two western romances titles Real West Romance and Western Love. Returning to Simon and Kirby’s purer romance titles, Young Romance was starting its third year. Previously Young Romance and the newer Young Love were both bimonthlies on an alternating schedule so that one would appear on the stands each month. With the Young Romance #13 issue (September 1949) that title would now become a monthly. The house ad announcing this new schedule declared there were three and a half million readers. An exaggeration? Perhaps, but this was the golden age of comics and readerships were much larger then found today. Taking Young Romance to monthly schedule clearly indicates that Prize was doing quite well with that title. Since the deal with Prize provided Simon and Kirby with a percentage of the sales, the creative duo were receiving great financial benefits. There was competition, however, as September 1949 was well into the start of the love glut.

Young Romance #15 (November 1949) “Back Door Love”, art by Jack Kirby

For whatever reason, Jack Kirby was not that prolific during the period covered in this chapter (September to December 1949). The covers for YR and YL were all photographs and so Jack would not be providing any covers. Kirby would supply a single story for YR #13 to #15, two for YR #16, and none for YL #5 or #6. His diminished presence in YR and YL was also true for the other Simon and Kirby titles (Headline, Justice Traps the Guilty, Real West Romance and Western Love). While Jack may not have been his usual prolific self he still was an important contributor to the two romance titles. Kirby would provide the lead story for Young Romance and while these stories may not have been as long as some from the past they still had the highest page count compared to any others in the same issue. So while there were two artists that provided more stories then Jack only one of them actually drew more pages. For the record Jack did 5 stories and 58 pages for the 6 issues. Unlike the case found in previous chapters of “The Art of Romance”, or even “Its A Crime”, I conclude that Kirby did not provide layouts to any of the other artists in these issues.

Jack provided great splashes for all the lead stories for YR #13 to #16. All made use of the motif of a character introducing the story with the word balloon forming the title. All lead stories were meant to suggest provocative themes as can be seen by their titles alone (“Sailor’s Girl”, “Runaway Bride”, “Back Door Love” and “Dance Hall Pick-Up”). Today they might seem tame but in the late ’40s they would be considered risque. I have chosen two of them as examples not only because they are the best but also because of their contrasting nature. The splash for “Back Door Love” shows a couple on one side, a large word balloon/title, and three overlapping panels crowded into another corner. The panels are not the beginning of the story, but rather provide examples of the shameful love and its emotional price the woman has to pay. The couple was inked in the standard Studio style with abundant picket fence crosshatching and drop strings (see my Inking Glossary for explanations of my terms to describe inking techniques). This was overlaid with much relatively fine simple and more complicated crosshatching; techniques not commonly found in Simon and Kirby art. The inking is meant to provide the couple with a nighttime setting which is enhanced by the colorist blocking them out in a light blue. While the woman’s face turned to the viewer (I do not understand why many do not find Kirby’s woman beautiful) the man’s remains concealed in the shadows; all in keeping with the mystery of their relationship. Not much in the way of action, but one of Kirby’s more interesting splashes nonetheless. However there is a “but”; while some like comic art with a lot of detail work, I generally do not. I find all the crosshatching in this splash gives the figures a hard edge, almost like they were carved out of stone and are not flesh and blood. A small detraction from what was otherwise a masterpiece.

Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “Dance Hall Pickup”, art by Jack Kirby

Shame was the theme for the splash of “Dance Hall Pickup” as well, but its similarity to the “Back Door Love” splash pretty much ends there. This time it is the man’s turn to be found in a shameful relationship. Nothing mysterious here, everything is in full lighting. The woman’s low cut dress, fake flowers on her belt, costume jewelry, and false eyelashes clearly mark her as the type of woman a gentleman would be uncomfortable with bringing home to meet his mother. Of course the story will reveal that the somewhat trashy appearance of the woman really hides a warm and loving heart. The inking for this splash is truly a text book example of Studio style inking. It has all the typical hallmarks; lots of picket fence crosshatching and drop strings along with an abstract arch shadow and shoulder blots for the man. No fastidious brushwork here, each stroke is boldly marked; straddling the boundary between working with others for indicating the shadows and maintaining an independent existence. Most fans are attracted to his action scenes but for me this is Kirby at his best; telling a complete story with just some simple gestures and some abstract marks.

I cannot leave this splash without pointing out the hanging curtain in the top corner. It serves no logical purpose. The windows in the back are complete bare, so why is that drapery hanging from the ceiling in the middle of a dance floor in front of a pillar? It is a mistake to look at Kirby art, or any comic book art, as if it was an attempt at rendering a truly realistic image. Elements are added for their suggestive power and how they provide visual interest. The hanging curtain is a motif that Jack will use often.

Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “The Wolves of the City”, art by Bill Draut

The largest contributor to YR #13 – #16 and YL #5 and #6 was Bill Draut. Bill did twice as many stories compared to Kirby (10 vs. 5) and 10 more pages (68 vs. 58). Bill’s strength was his clear visual story telling and his effective use of body language. The simplicity of faces drawn by Bill did not lend itself to a wide range of emotions. Perhaps that is why Draut was very careful in the poses he provided his characters. Upturn faces could portray admiration or wonderment. Thrusting the head forward and providing clenched fists would reveal a person’s anger. In the splash for “The Wolves of the City” you do not need to read the story to realize how demure and proper the lady on our right is. Hands folded on her lap and eyes cast down tell it all. Her friend has her hand on her hip, the way her head pushed forward, and even the way she holds her cigarette shows she has a harsh and sharp personality. Despite the similar profiles, she presents quite a contrast to the mother figure from the second story panel.

Young Love #6 (December 1949) “For Handsome Men Only”, art by Bruno Premiani?

The third most prolific artist for the issues cover in this chapter was possibly Bruno Premiani. I say possibly because none of the work this artist did for Simon and Kirby was signed and none of it compares well with work done for DC that has been credited to Premiani. Either the attribution of this work to Premiani is wrong or he adopted a different style for romance compared to his superhero comic book art. Whoever the artist is, and for now I continue to refer to him as Premiani, he was one of the more talented individuals to have worked for Joe and Jack. Bruno first showed up in Young Love #4 (August 1949) and would provide work to the S&K studio until December 1950). During that period of a little over a year, Simon and Kirby would include about 25 stories by Premiani. For the issues covered in this chapter, Bruno did 6 stores (one more then Kirby) for a total of 48 pages (much less then Jack’s 58 pages). One of the stories supplied by Bruno was even used for the all importing lead story (the “For Handsome Men Only” shown above). It is easy to see why Premiani was used so often. Although his woman are perhaps a little plainer then some other studio artists, they (and the men as well) seem to radiate an emotional energy. Like Draut, Premiani could make effective use of body language as well. The hands on the hip and face in profile as superficially similar to Draut’s pose in “The Wolves of the City”. But by pulling the head back and thrusting one leg forward, Bruno makes his protagonist much more alluring. In the second panel the lady ostensibly uses her hand to keep her scarf in place but the gesture is actually part of a physical withdrawal from a disappointing blind date.

Young Romance #14 (October 1949) “Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic” page 2, art by Vic Donahue

There were a number of other artists who contributed to these issues of YR and YL but nowhere nearly as much as Draut, Kirby or Premiani. One was Vic Donahue who we have seen in previous chapters of “The Art of Romance” both for the standard romance as well as the western love titles. Vic’s work for the issues covered her has diminished and is restricted to three “Nancy Hale’s Problem Clinic” features. These are all short work of 2 or 3 pages long. There is no more I can add to my previous discussions of Donahue; his woman are attractive and Vic often provided them with a tilt to the head. Vic was careful in the inking of hair and he sometimes filled shadows with fine simple hatching. Aspects of the Studio style inking also show up in his work. The page above shows drop strings (panel 1 and 3), shoulder blots (panel 3), an abstract arch shadow (panel 6) and picket fence crosshatching (panels 4, 6 and 7). I am still undecided whether this was Joe or Jack stepping in as art editor to strengthen up the work. Alternatively is may have been Vic adopting portions of the Studio style. Joe Simon has described the inking of Kirby’s pencils as being like a factory line involving many different inkers. Although I cannot point to any specific work by Kirby that Donahue could have inked, as one of the more minor but still talented artists continually employed by S&K Vic certainly was a candidate to help in inking.

Young Love #5 (October 1949) “For Sale: One Dream”, art by Al Eadeh and John Belfi?

Another minor contributor, or rather an artist team, that we have seen before was Al Eadeh and John Belfi. The work is unsigned and my attribution provisionally, but I believe Eadeh and Belfi did “For Sale: One Dream”. While talented, Eadeh and Belfi were still among the lesser lights of the S&K studio.

Young Love #5 (October 1949) “The Love I Didn’t Want”, art by George Gregg

Signatures found in three comics (Young Love #4 and Justice Traps the Guilty #17 and 19) have allowed me to identify one of Simon and Kirby’s studio artists, George Gregg. Since then I have spotted an unsigned work in Western Love #1 and here I can add two more. Even without a signature, Gregg’s style still stands out. His art has a sort of stylized cartoony edge to it and frankly a touch of primitivism. Gregg’s often provides his characters with distinctive, but varied eyebrows. The leading ladies frequently have a pinched look to their faces. While “The Love I Didn’t Want” is no masterpiece, it is still nice to be able to assign a name to some of work produced by the Simon and Kirby studio.

Young Love #6
Young Love #6 (December 1949) “My Promise”, art by George Gregg with help from Jack Kirby in splash panel

“My Promise” is another unsigned work by George Gregg. The Jack Kirby Checklist includes the splash as being done by Kirby. While it is true man was clearly done by Jack, the rest of the splash and the story panels were by Gregg alone. This is another example of Kirby acting as art editor stepping in to help the all important splash. I believe the man in the splash was inked by Jack as well, but he is deliberately working in a simpler manner to blend in better with Gregg’s inking. Careful examination, however, will show that Jack’s brush has a subtlety that was beyond Gregg’s capabilities. The over sized ear in the second story panel was a mannerism that Kirby often fell into, particularly on work done before he went into military service (for Timely and DC). This suggests that Gregg may have been using old Simon and Kirby comics as source material for swiping.

Young Love #5
Young Love #5 (October 1949) “Too Many Boy Friends”, art by Ann Brewster

New to Simon and Kirby production is the artist Ann Brewster. S&K must have like her work because they used her first submission, “Too Many Boy Friends”, as the lead story for Young Love #5. I am not sure that “first” is the proper description. I do not believe there were any earlier works for Simon and Kirby but I am unaware of any other works by Ann from this period either. In 1955 Ann would provide a number of stories for the Prize romance titles during the time when Joe and Jack were trying to get their own publishing company, Mainline, going.

When I previously discussed this splash, I thought that this might have been delivered as pencils and inked in the S&K studio. That conclusion was largely due to the presence of Studio style inking throughout the story. However, I no longer hold that viewpoint. There appears to be at least two inkers involved. One, Ann herself, working with a fine brush and another inker, probably Joe or Jack) working with a broader, more loaded, brush. The Studio style inking was probably added later to strengthen the art.

Young Love #6 (December 1949) “The Life of the Party”, art by John Guinta and Manny Stallman

Another new team to appear was John Guinta and Manny Stallman. Fortunately the work is signed because I am completely unfamiliar with John Guinta’s work. Manny Stallman has done his own penciling for Simon and Kirby primarily in the crime titles (not yet covered by my serial post “It’s A Crime”) but also in Western Love #1 (July 1949). “The Life of the Party” is the only story that I know that they did for S&K but perhaps more will show up.

The art for Guinta and Stallman’s “The Life of the Party” is good, but I am particularly impressed by the splash panel. It actually is two splash panels as neither of the top panels belong to the story proper. Floating heads are not used often by Simon and Kirby but they do occur. However I do not recall any of theirs approaching the avalanche of heads as produced here by Guinta and Stallman. I particularly like the way they spill from the right panel into the left with the gutter bisecting two heads. While I attribute most of this to work to John and Manny, I wonder about the single head at the center bottom of the panel. It is the only head without hair and the uppermost contour looks decidedly unnatural; almost as if it was cut from some other work. I cannot help but wonder if that one head was actually done by Jack Kirby. Perhaps, though, this is due to the inking with its aspects of Studio style. This was probably done by either Joe or Jack as most of the story is inked in a different style. Again the presence of places with Studio style inking in the story probably is due to Joe or Jack stepping in to strengthen the art.

Young Romance #16 (December 1949) “His Engagement Ring”, art by Mort Meskin

Young Romance #16 marked the return of an important artist Mort Meskin. Perhaps return is not the proper word as a little over a year ago he had appeared teamed up with Jerry Robinson. In the same month of December 1949 Mort also appeared in Real West Romance #5. Joe Simon has described in his book “The Comic Book Makers” the difficulties Meskin faced overcoming the artist’s equivalent of the writer’s block. However once this problem was passed, Mort became the most prolific of the Simon and Kirby studio artists. There were periods when he out produced Jack Kirby (no small feat) despite the fact that Mort would do all his own inking while Kirby often was inked by others. During his career, Mort was much admired by many of his fellow artists including Jerry Robinson, Joe Simon and Steve Ditko. Unfortunately today he is largely overlooked among comic book fans failing even to be voted into the Will Eisner Awards’ Hall of Fame. Partly this is due to the stylized drawing that Meskin adopted. Also a lot of his later work was done for Simon and Kirby romance titles; a genre not much appreciated among today’s fans. Perhaps the most important reason was that Meskin dropped out of comics in the late ’50s and afterwards avoided any contact with fans. However Mort was one of the best graphic story tellers from the golden age of comics. Meskin’s skill in presenting a story is easy to overlook due to the unobtrusive methods he used. Probably the only thing I can say against Meskin as an artist was that his work sometimes suffered from his efforts to produce lots of work.

The splash page for “His Engagement Ring” uses a layout that Meskin typically preferred; two thirds of the page for the splash panel with two or three story panels at the bottom of the page. It is a common layout used by many artists but different from the layout most frequently used when teamed up with Robinson which had a vertical splash panel with two story panels on the right side of the page.

The December issue of Young Romance was released just a few months prior to the peak of the love glut. The rise in the number of romance titles in such a short period was nothing short of dramatic. The decline following the peak was almost as rapid when publishers found that there just was not enough room on comic racks for all the new titles.

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)

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

Historical Treasures

Treasure Comics #12 (Fall 1947), art by Dan Barry

In a recent post I included a brief discussion of Mort Meskin’s contribution to Treasure Comics #10 (December 1946) published by Prize Comics (It’s a Crime, Chapter 1, Promoting Crime). Mort’s piece was for a historical feature called “Know Your America”. I wondered at the time whether Meskin had provided other work for Prize. The answer to my question is yes for I have found that Mort also did the “Know Your America” feature for Treasure Comics #12 (Fall 1947). At this point Simon and Kirby were already producing Headline and Young Romance for Prize but I see nothing in Treasure Comics #12 to suggest that Joe and Jack had anything to do with it. I do not believe any of the artists from TC #12 would do work for the Simon and Kirby studio. That is excluding Dan Barry whose future roll for Simon and Kirby I still have not worked out. Dan Barry’s cover has nothing to do with the theme of this post but it is so nice I could not resist including an image of it. (Who else ever did a man lassoing a black leopard from the back of an elephant (the circus version of a rodeo)?

Treasure Comics #12 (Fall 1947) “Know Your America” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

This time Mort depicts events from the start of the Revolutionary War. The subject provides much more in the way of action then Meskin had in the story he did previously in Treasure Comics #10. Even with what should have been better material I cannot help but feel that Meskin just was not as successful as in his earlier effort. The close-up shots were not always done as well, although there are exceptions such as the first panel in the page shown above. I feel the greatest problem came from the distant shots that included groups of people. The individual actions portrayed seem to be overwhelmed by the settings. Still even an inferior work by Meskin is superior to the best efforts of most of his contemporaries.

Treasure Comics #12 (Fall 1947) “Know Your America”, art by Mort Meskin

There is a bit of a mystery connected with the art for this particular story. The Meskin family has two pages of uninked pencils from the first two pages of the same story. Unfortunately I cannot provide a link directly to the particular pieces but only to the home of the Meskin site provided by the family. Following the Original Comic Art link and then select the third thumbnail from the left in the top row. The page on the left is the same as the splash that I provide above. There are no significant differences between the penciled versus the published versions. The biggest alteration is the leaves of some of the trees. Why did Mort abandon the Meskin family page only to carefully repeat it for the published version? Or was the inking done on tracing paper or through the use of a light box? If so why? It is a conundrum for which I have no solution to offer.

Treasure Comics #8 (August 1946) “Know Your America”, art by Frank Frazetta

Since Mort Meskin did the “Know Your America” feature for TC #10 and #12 it is possible that he did the feature for TC #11 as well. But what about prior issues? It can now be said that Meskin did not do “Know Your America” for TC #8 as that was signed by another artist, Frank Frazetta. I am certain that there would a lot of people, including myself, who would not have identified Frazetta as the artist had this story been unsigned. It is a fascinating piece from early in Frank’s career. It is hard to believe it is the same artist who only a few years later would produce very polished comic book art.

It’s a Crime, Chapter 1, Promoting Crime

(Treasure #10, Prize Comics #63, Frankenstein #7)

Feature Publications, more commonly known as Prize Comics but also as Crestwood, was a relatively small company in 1946. There were five titles in their comic line all of which were bimonthlies; Frankenstein, Headline, Prize, Treasure and Wonderland. It was not just that Prize had a limited number of comic titles; Hillman for example had even fewer. Feature’s problem was more about what they were offering. Wonderland had funny stories aimed at the younger comic book readers but did not have any outstanding features. Treasure was a more general anthology again without any features that were likely to excite readers in 1946. Prize and Headline were also anthologies with an emphasis on the hero genre. Unfortunately in 1946 the popularity of superheroes was on a distinct decline. This could even be seen in Prize’s offering. During the war Yank and Doodle had been young patriotic heroes while the Owl was more of a standard crime fighting costumed hero. Yet by 1946 the two had been combined into a single feature. It was an awkward match to say the least. The only title Feature had that set them apart from other comic publishers was Frankenstein. It probably was not a great success otherwise it would not have remained a bimonthly. With the exception of Frankenstein, the best description of Prize’s comics would be tired.

Treasure #10 (December 1946) “The Treasure Keeper”, art by Dan Barry

Blame for Prize’s humdrum nature does not rest with its artists. Some talented individuals at least occasionally appeared in their comics. We have encountered Dan Barry before when I discussed My Date. The Treasure Keeper was an ongoing feature in Treasure Comics. Unfortunately I do not have access to any other issues but I do not believe Barry was always the artist. Here Barry illustrates the story a successful Russian violinist fall after his anti-Czarist efforts are discovered by the authorities. Dan does a good job with the story, or at least as good as can be expected with the script.

Treasure #10 (December 1946) “Know Your America”, art by Mort Meskin

In 1946 Mort Meskin was doing work for a number of different publishers. Was his appearance in Treasure #10 unique or are there other works by Mort to be found in early Prize comics? Meskin was certainly in good form with his contribution to this issue of Treasure. “Know Your America” was another ongoing feature. I suspect its historic nature probably did not generate a lot of reader enthusiasm even in those patriotic days following the war. Meskin manages to add excitement to what really was a rather dry script. The story page I present above is by no means unique. Note how Meskin puts action into a sequence which is really nothing more then the report to the governor about the public’s rejection of the stamp act (about 10 years prior to the revolutionary war). Mort’s command of perspective, something he is not normally known for, is clear in his depiction of the hand extending to the viewer in the third panel.

Treasure #10 (December 1946) “Tomorrow’s Murder”, art by Jack Kirby

The final story in Treasury #10 was something new for Treasure, or for any Feature comic. It was “Tomorrow’s Murder” by Simon and Kirby. New because it was the first Simon and Kirby piece to be published by Feature since a few pre-war stories. But more importantly new because it was Prize’s first true crime genre work. The crime genre itself was certainly not new as Bob Wood and Charles Biro created Crime Does Not Pay for publisher Lev Gleason in 1942. At that time Simon and Kirby may have been too busy with their entrance into the armed service to notice Wood and Biro’s new genre but after the war they could hardly have missed it. When their post-war titles, Stuntman and Boy Explorers, failed and Joe and Jack were looking for something to keep their collaboration going one of the categories they turned their attention to was the successful crime genre. Just a few months after the failure of their Harvey line (Stuntman #3 with cover date October 1946 was released as miniature comic to subscribers only) Simon and Kirby had manage to sell the crime genre concept to Prize.

“Tomorrow’s Murder” also introduced Red-Hot Blaze. Blaze was supposed to be a sort of investigative reported for Headline Comics. The results of his investigations would then be drawn up as a comic story. The splash presents the enactment of the crime as if it was being rendered on a drawing board. In the story panel we get to see the artist. The comic artist’s curly hair indicates that this was not meant to literally be a self-portrait of Jack Kirby. There was no reason to be since the comic book reading public would not have any idea what Jack looked like. Nor was “Tomorrow’s Murder” signed. However the ever present cigar shows that in Jack’s mind there truly was a connection between the real and fictional comic artist.

Treasure #10 (December 1946) house advertisement, art by Jack Kirby

The end of the “Tomorrow’s Murder” story only occupied the top with the house ad shown above taking up the rest of the page. Clearly Simon and Kirby had not just sold Prize on a single crime story, Joe and Jack had convinced them to publish a comic devoted to the genre. Headline would no longer be a general anthology. Of the titles currently being published by Prize, Headline had the most appropriately named for a crime comic. By retaining the original title name, I am sure Prize hoped that they might keep some of the former readers as well. The advertisement indicated that the switch to crime would happen in the January issue. Things did not work out as originally planned as Headline #23 would be cover dated March. When Headline #23 was finally released its cover was not the mock-up issue depicted in the house ad either. The one shown in the ad would actually be used for Headline #24.

Prize Comics #63 (March 1947) “Romania’s Strangest Killer”, art by Jack Kirby

The same month that Headline #23 was released a Simon and Kirby crime story also appeared in Prize Comics #63. In “Romania’s Strangest Killer” the placement of the splash panel at the bottom of the first page is rather unique. Of course the story panels at the top of the page are not truly part of the story. It is actually just an introduction using the theme of Red-Hot Blaze being an investigator for Headline Comics. Only this time it is a Headline editor who makes an appearance not the artist. The splash panel is very powerful showing a murdered victim in the foreground, another hanging in the mid-ground and the perpetrator exiting in the back. Part of the title is enclosed with an outline of a hatchet. It is a great design but we shall see that a lot of the Simon and Kirby crime splashes are masterpieces.

Just as with “Tomorrow’s Murder”, the last page of “Romania’s Strangest Killer” includes the same house advertisement. Well not quite the same since the text referring to the release and issue dates have been removed. Not, however, completely because although small and blurred the January – February cover date can still be made out on the small mock-up cover.

Frankenstein #7 (May, 1947) “Justice Finds A Cop Killer”, art by Jack Kirby

Two months after the actual release of the first crime version of Headline a crime story appeared in yet another Prize title. In 1946 Frankenstein as portrayed by Dick Briefer was not truly monster stories but rather belonged to the humor genre. The Simon and Kirby story “Justice Finds a Cop Killer” seems very much out of place. It is once again a Red-Hot Blaze story with the curly haired and cigar smoking artist making a reappearance. Although not a particularly impressive design the splash panel is still very dramatic largely due to Kirby’s famous exaggerated perspective. The falling policeman is so dramatic that it is easy to overlook the fact that the gun and bullet trace do not actually seem to be aimed properly.

“Justice Finds a Cop Killer” concludes with the same house ad. More specifically the dateless version that appeared in Prize Comics #63. Despite the late date (as the second crime version of Headline had appeared in this same month) the presence of the crime story in Frankenstein was part of the same promotion campaign. The only Prize comic not to receive this treatment would be Wonderland. That title was much too directed at a very young readership for a crime story to be at all appropriate or productive.

The art for these promotional stories was typical for the crime genre work that Simon and Kirby would do. Most important was the dramatic action that was Jack Kirby’s trademark. There would be a slightly greater emphasis on realism as compared to Kirby’s Stuntman and Boy Explorers but the art would otherwise very much like S&K’s previous efforts for Harvey. One hallmark of Simon and Kirby’s art for Timely and DC had been the extending parts of figures beyond the panel borders. This technique could still be found in Stuntman and Boy Explorers but not nearly as commonly as the earlier work. It would disappear completely in the crime work.

Another prominent trait of Simon and Kirby’s work for Timely and DC was the use of unusual panel shapes. Among panels with the normal straight edge others would trace a zigzag pattern. Circular or sub-circular panels would also be used in places. This use of non-rectangular panels would be continued in Stuntman and Boy Explorers. For instance “Curtain Call for Death” from Stuntman #2 (June 1946) 16% of the panels were circular or sub-circular. The number may seem small but had all the pages had the typical 6 panels (however S&K never adopted such a regimented layout) that would mean on average there was a rounded panel on each page. The promotional crime stories maintained a similar level of rounded panels. In “Tomorrow’s Murder” and “Romania’s Strangest Killer” 14% of the panels were circular or sub-circular while in “Justice Finds a Cop Killer” the ratio was 16%.

The inking was in the bold manner of what I have called the Sculptural style due to its emphasis on what I refer to as form lines that are not shadows but are used to give a sense of volume to shapes (see my Inking Glossary for explanations of my terms). The Sculptural style was previously used for the Simon and Kirby work done for DC (as for example in the Newsboy Legion stories). The use of this inking style was continued after the war. However Simon and Kirby art was never static and was always evolving. The Sculptural style used for Stuntman and Boy Explorers made use of even bolder brushwork. The individual brush marks stand out and while still indicating shadows or form they take on an expressive roll of their own. This bolder manner of the Sculptural style would be used in the early S&K crime art as well. Absent for the most part are techniques like picket fence crosshatching, drop strings, shoulder blots and abstract arch shadows. Such techniques do make rare appearances but even then are usually not done in the manner typical of the soon to appear Studio style.

Joe and Jack were heavily into self promotion. Much of the comic book art that they created was provided with a Simon and Kirby signature. The operative word is “much” as not every work they did was signed. None of the three promotional pieces I discussed above had a signature. Normally with such a small group I would not make much about that fact but as we shall see the absence of a signature was not limited to these pieces alone.

Again and again, while working on my serial post “The Art of Romance” I found myself referring to the Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty for help in questions about attributions. This is not surprising because artists that worked for the Simon and Kirby studio normally were expected to be able to handle work from any genre. I have decided that it would be beneficial to review the Simon and Kirby crime material so this will be the first of another serial post. It will not have as many chapters as “The Art of Romance” because as we will see Simon and Kirby’s involvement with the crime genre only lasted a few years.

Chapter 2, A Revitalized Title
Chapter 3, Competing Against Themselves
Chapter 4, Crime Gets Real
Chapter 5, Making a Commitment
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