Tag Archives: Mort Meskin

Speaking of Art, Secondary Artists

Joe Simon had accumulated a rather large collection of art. Not surprisingly many were works that he created over his long career starting when he was a staff artist for a newspaper. Also as might be expected there are a fair number of works drawn by Joe’s long time collaborator, Jack Kirby. However that does not mean, as I suspect some people believe, that Kirby material dominates the collection. Rather much of Joe’s art collection consists of work by a variety of lesser known artists. I thought I would discuss just a few of them selected for various reasons.

Police Trap #3 (January 1955) “Tough Beat”, pencils and inks by Bill Draut

Long time readers of this blog are by now quite aware that Simon and Kirby were not just a great artistic team but also produced comic books that included work by a large assortment of artists. I have spent much time trying to identify the various artists who worked for Joe and Jack with some, but by no means complete, success. However any reader can correctly attribute the artist for a large majority of Simon and Kirby productions if they can learn to spot three particular artists. I have been fond of calling the three artists the usual suspects. Foremost among the usual suspects was Bill Draut who had a long history of working for Joe and Jack. While Draut contributed a lot of art to S&K productions, Simon’s collection only has work by Bill from three periods; from right after the war at the time S&K were producing Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Harvey Comics, from S&K own publishing company Mainline Comics, and from the 60’s when Harvey briefly tried to cash in the renewed interest in superheroes. The reason for the rather limited periods found in Joe’s collection is that Joe’s collected primarily from work on hand when a projects terminated or art he recovered years later from Harvey, Archie and DC.

Joe’s collection has a fair amount of work created by Bill Draut and the example I provide is from Police Trap a Mainline comic book. Although Draut did a lot of romance work (as did all the Simon and Kirby artists) he could be quite adept at depicting action as can be seen in the lower splash panel. What a great assortment of characters. Note the way Draut depicts the bricks in the background building; inked as simple rectangular black shapes obviously executed without the use of a straight edge and forming small isolated groups. This manner of drawing bricks was quite typical of Draut.

It is hard to tell from the low resolution image that I have provided, but the discoloration at the top of the page is not due to some odd staining but rather the yellowing of tracing paper that has been attached to the illustration board. Bill did this as a time saving device. The final panel of the last page of the story is the same street scene differently inked to suggest another time of day. Rather than redraw the same scene, Draut put tracing paper over the final panel and inked directly on the tracing paper. When finished he just attached the results to the top of the first page.

Chamber of Chills #24 (July 1954) “Credit and Loss”, pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

Simon’s collection does not include many examples of original art by the second of the usual suspects, Mort Meskin. This is not because Joe did not like Mort’s art. Quite the contrary as shown by the fact that Joe had gathered together flats* for many of Meskin’s splash pages. This was something that Simon had done for Mort and no other artist. But the absence of Meskin original art was due to the fact that Mort did not work for Simon and Kirby during the Stuntman period and did little work during the Mainline period except for some covers (where apparently Meskin kept the original art). The one good example of Meskin original art that Joe had was not created for Simon and Kirby but for Harvey Comics. I suspect that Joe had retrieved it from the Harvey inventory some years later. It was fortunate that Simon had done so because it is, in my opinion, the finest comic book work that Meskin had ever done since the war. Great control of the story telling through devices like use of the viewpoint, marvelous drawing and superb inking.

Bullseye #1 (August 1954) “Bullseye, the Man”, pencils and inks by John Prentice

John Prentice is the final of the three usual suspects. Prentice started working for Simon and Kirby even later then Mort Meskin. Joe’s collection had some examples of Prentice’s art but perhaps the most interesting is the art he did for Bullseye. There was a time that many claimed that Kirby provided layouts for the artists that worked for Simon and Kirby. One of the primary methods that I have used to investigate that claim was the way different artists used panel shapes. From that I feel quite confident that as a rule Kirby did not provide layouts for the other artists. But there are exceptions to that rule and Bullseye maybe one of them. I am not saying that Kirby provided complete layouts for Prentice’s Bullseye work but did appear to do so for at least some parts.

Unfortunately when Simon and Kirby wanted to retell the origin story for Bullseye #3 rather than redraw it Joe simply cut desired panels out of the earlier original art and pasted them together. Because of this it is not unusual to see original art from the first issue of Bullseye missing a panel or two.

Bullseye #3 (December 1954) “The Adventures of Sheriff Shorty”, pencils and inks by Leonard Starr

Joe’s collection not only included art by the three usual suspects but other artists as well. Leonard Starr is much better known for his work on the syndication strip Mary Perkins On Stage but he also had a long career as a comic book artists included occasional work for Simon and Kirby. The example I select comes from Bullseye #3. As it was published the story appears to be unsigned but careful examination of the original art shows otherwise. The vertically oriented signature appears the bottom left edge of the splash panel. Or rather half the signature is there as the panel border now cuts through it. But enough remains to show that it is in facts Starr’s autograph.

Foxhole #3 (February 1955) “The Face”, pencils and inks by Joaquin Albistur

Some artists that worked for Simon and Kirby are pretty much unknown entities for today’s fans. Jo Albistur only worked for Joe and Jack for a little over a year but produced a fair amount of art during that time. But Albistur did very little comic book art for any other publisher and only a small number of his original art have ever appeared on the market. The gimmick used for Foxhole was that the stories were created by actual war veterans. Because Albistur was from Argentina and had not served in the U. S. military, he was not suitable to receive any credit in Foxhole. But when credit was provided in Foxhole it was not always just for the graphic artists for instance writer Jack Oleck also occasionally received Foxhole credits. For “The Face” credit is given to Jack Kirby. Now Kirby certainly was a war veteran but he neither drew nor laid out this story. Further (and I may get in trouble among certain fans) I am convinced he did not write this story either. However it is known that Jack provided plots to some of the script writers that Simon and Kirby employed and perhaps it was in that capacity that this story is credited to him.

Chamber of Chills #24 (July 1954) “Grim Years”, pencils? and inks? by Manny Stallman

The Simon collection includes work by Manny Stallman. I attribute the work to Stallman with some trepidation. Stallman provided signed work for Simon and Kirby productions but when that art is carefully examined it becomes obvious that four different artists did the penciling (It’s A Crime Chapter 7, Chapter 8 and Chapter 9). Apparently Stallman was using ghost artists to pencil the work that he would then ink and often sign as his own. The work by Stallman from Joe’s collection was not created for Simon and Kirby but rather for Harvey Comics. Unfortunately it was unsigned and the pencils done in yet another style so the attribution is very provisional. But whoever penciled and inked the work the final results are rather nice.

Artists like the ones discussed in this post do not get much recognition these days. That is a shame because they really were talented artists. Now I do not want sound disdainful of contemporary artists because there is a lot of great comic book work being produced today. But let us face it, not all of them are superstars. But I am sadden that original art by secondary contemporary artists sell for much, much more than that by earlier artists. That despite the fact that relatively little of the work of the older artists has survived. It is obvious that most of today’s fans really have little interest in older original comic book art. If the reader is a collector of original art that does not share this low opinion of older work, keep an eye on the upcoming Heritage auctions as I am sure some great deals can be made.

* flats – Proofs of the line art printed on sheets in the same way finished comic book would be.

Speaking of Art, True Kirby Kolors

A number of years ago I wrote about my skepticism about the many fans who believe they can identify numerous works that Jack Kirby supposedly colored (Kirby Kolor, A Kirby Myth). But Kirby did sometimes color work as for instance some of his later presentation pieces done to promote some of his many ideas. Jack also colored some of the original art he had (see What If Kirby for a scan of a Kirby colored double page splash from Boys’ Ranch #4). Oddly Kirby colored some original art that he did not draw most notably a couple of covers by John Severin (True Kirby Kolors and Joe Simon Too).

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, original art with involvement by Mort Meskin?, coloring by Jack Kirby

Kirby also colored another artist’s work. In this case the determination of who the original artist was is somewhat problematical. Parts of the art looks similar to work by Mort Meskin. My latest thought is that Mort was actually involved in the work but I am uncertain as to exactly what that involvement was. The inking does not appear to have been by Mort, or by his most frequent inker George Roussos. While some of the pencils look like Mort’s work (although perhaps modified somewhat by the inker) there are some other parts that do not. My current guess is that “Tough Little Varmint” was a group effort but that Meskin was part of that group.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, art with involvement by Mort Meskin?

The coloring of the original art was not part of the typical process used in producing a comic book. Normally color guides were made using silver prints taken photographically from the original art. A comparison of the current state of the original art and the published comic book shows they are quite different. The type of coloring shown on the original art would not have been suitable for the comic books of the day. Generally speaking comic book interior art was printed with a limited set of colors as flat areas of color without any gradations. Earlier comic books sometimes included simple gradation of a background color but that technique had been largely given up by the time Bullseye #5 was published. Complicated tonal effects such as exhibited in Kirby’s coloring would not have been attempted for the interior of a comic book.

The original art for the splash page is from Joe Simon’s collection. It may seem odd that I am attributing the coloring to Jack Kirby for a piece in Joe’s collection. There is an explanation how this came about but for now let it suffice that this piece had been in Kirby’s possession for many years after the breakup of the Simon and Kirby studio and was only returned to Joe relatively late but while Jack was still alive.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint” page 2, original art with involvement by Mort Meskin?, coloring by Jack Kirby (image provided by Steven Brower)

It seems odd that Jack colored the splash page for “Tough Little Varmint” but odder still that he colored the second page as well. This page had remained in the Kirby estate until fairly recently. Simon’s collection includes the original art for the rest of this story but none of it was colored. Most of the coloring that Jack did on original art seems to have been for display purposes. But I doubt that was the reason that he colored two pages from “Tough Little Varmint”. Not that there is anything wrong with the art but with all the art that Kirby had there was much more material available that would be much more suitable for hanging up in his house.

Bullseye #5 (April 1955) “Tough Little Varmint”, original art with involvement by Mort Meskin?, coloring by Jack Kirby

The coloring was applied quickly but with control. Most of it appears to be done using dyes. Dyes are convenient since they are not opaque and therefore would not obscure the original inking. However dyes can fade with age particularly when exposed to light without proper protection. The colors on these two pages seem quite fresh so I suspect that neither of them were displayed for any significant length of time. Most of the coloring is rather interesting. but I have to admit that I find the bluish shadow effect on the man from the second story panel rather unnerving.

Police Trap #6

Police Trap #5 (July 1955) was the first issue published by Charlton. It appears to be composed largely of work that was already in the work at the time of the sudden failure of Simon and Kirby’s own publishing company, Mainline. It would expected most of that work would be used up and Police Trap #6 would consists of newly created work. All of the work on issue #6 was drawn by Jack Kirby. Previously Kirby’s involvement was largely limited to providing covers with the only Kirby story appearing in Police Trap #5. Jack’s greater presence can be explained as a means of offsetting recent financial loses. The cost of creating the Mainline comics was covered by Simon and Kirby to be paid back by a share of the profits. However with the sudden demise of Leader News Joe and Jack would not get the money to recover their publication costs. Their incomes from Prize Comics were based on a share of the profits but with all the negative public criticism against comic books those royalties were probably down as well. By providing all the art for Police Trap #6, Kirby probably hoped to decrease the production costs, increase sales (and therefore his share of the profits) but also be paid as the artist as well.

Police Trap #6 (July 1955), pencils by Jack Kirby

The cover of Police Trap #6 is another less than spectacular piece of art. But it is interesting as a rare example of Kirby swiping from another comic book artist, in this case Marvin Stein. This is not a close copy, Kirby did not need any help in how to draw figures. Rather it is the unusual idea that Kirby picked up, that of counterfeiter’s being candidly filmed by the police. I had previously written about this swipe (A Criminal Swipe) where I provided an image of the Stein cover that Kirby swiped. In that post I offered the possibility that it was actually Stein that swiped from Kirby and that this cover was an unused piece left over from Simon and Kirby’s earlier efforts in the crime genre from 1947 to 1951). However I now consider this unlikely as the art for the Police Trap #6 cover does not seem to match
the style used during the earlier period.

Police Trap #6 (July 1955) “The Amateur”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mort Meskin

As mentioned above, Jack Kirby drew all the art for this issue which makes Police Trap #6 a special comic. Needless to say the art is all well done. Kirby had a flair for graphically telling a story. Note the short sequence of story panels at the bottom of the splash page. It starts out typically enough but then proceeds to two panels with captions or speech balloons. Text was not required to explain the story and in fact the lack of text makes the panels even more effective.

Police Trap #6 is also special in that all the art was inked by the same artist. I’ll explain why I think this inker was Mort Meskin below where his hand is even more obvious but here I will discuss why I believe it was not either Simon or Kirby that did the inking. Normally that might not be too difficult to determine because both Jack and Joe were much better inkers than many of the other artists they used to ink Kirby’s pencils. Here, however, we have a great inking job. Not only that but it is done in what I describe as the Studio style. On this page (and others in this book) can be found shoulder blots, picket fence crosshatching and abstract arc shadows (see my Inking Glossary for an explanation of the terms I am using). But note that the shoulder blots are not done in a manner typical for Simon and Kirby. They are less abstract and more apt to be broken up into pieces. The most glaring example of this is found in the man in the blue suite. There are other suggestions that this was not inked by either Simon or Kirby. Note the simple eyebrows even in the more close-up views provided in the splash panel.

It is unclear whether some of the typical Studio style techniques were done by the inker or instead were added by either Kirby or Simon afterwards. For example the abstract arc shadow in the first story panel is done in a very typical style. My suspicion is that the original inker provided these touches as well as they are so well integrated with the surrounding artwork. If this is true it is another indication on how well acquainted the inker was with techniques previously used in the now defunct Simon and Kirby studio.

Police Trap #6 (July 1955) “The Debt”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mort Meskin Albistur

The story panels for the first page of “The Debt” follows the same pattern as seen in “The Amateur”. First an introduction panel that quickly places the reader into the action followed by two panels without text that show how the action unfolded. The big difference between the two stories is that while “The Amateur” has a typical splash the splash found in “The Debt” is actually a story panel as well. While collaborating with Simon, Kirby worked from scripts created by various writers but which he would then customarily rewrite. It is unclear how much of the published story was rewritten but there are often phrases that sound very much like Kirby. But who can say whether the original writer originated these unusual textless story sequences or that Kirby rewrote them into the script.

Police Trap #6 (July 1955) “The $64 Question”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mort Meskin

The $64,000 Question was a popular game show in the 50’s and even today you occasionally here someone use that term a colloquialism for a significant question. However that show first appeared on television in June 1955 much too late to have influenced this story (whose creation start around February of that year). However there was an earlier game show that was on the radio from 1950 to 1952 that was actually called the $64 Question. Although it was off the air when this story was created I am sure that was that show that formed the genesis of this story’s title.

Police Trap #6 (July 1955) “Only The Guilty Run”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mort Meskin

All the stories in this issue were inked by the same artist. “Only The Guilty Run” is the story that most convincingly shows that this inker was Mort Meskin. Like all the other stories from this issue the inking was done in the Studio style. Most noticeable in the splash is his use of picket fence crosshatching. Of course other inkers used this technique most notably both Kirby and Simon. However Meskin executed picket fence crosshatching with an almost mechanical control compared to the more spontaneous use by Kirby or the more rougher brushwork by Simon. Observe how Meskin’s “rails” and “pickets” are almost consistent in width and the “rails” are placed to almost entirely contain the “pickets”. Other Meskin inking characteristics can be found in the simplified and often angular eyebrows particularly those of the escaping thief in the splash panel. Of course since credits were not provided inking attributions can never be given with absolute certainty but I am as confident as it is possible to be that this inking was by Mort Meskin.

While the art may convince me that Meskin was inking there Kirby pencils I am somewhat puzzled how this came about. While Mort had inked Jack’s work before, generally he was too busy penciling and inking his own work. There were exceptions to this most notably in Boys’ Ranch (1950 to 1951) and Captain 3-D (1953). However in 1954 he had started working for DC. Meskin still did some work for Simon and Kirby but this was largely limited to some covers and nowhere near his prolific output when the S&K studio was going strong. Yet here he is providing a lot of inking for a single issue (plus one Kirby story for the previous issue). Very perplexing.

Police Trap #6 (July 1955) “Third Degree”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Mort Meskin

Despite the Comic Code all the stories from this issue are really quite good but I have to admit that I find “Third Degree” the least satisfying. The interrogation of the housewife by the burly police officer seems a bit forced. Still that story and all the others in this issue leaves one with a desire for another all Kirby crime comic. Unfortunately it was not to be, at least for some years (see Jack Kirby’s “In the Days of the Mob”) and never again with Joe Simon.

I have had a comment about why I believe this inker was Mort Meskin and not Marvin Stein. For readers who also wonder about this I suggest checking my previous posts Kirby Inkers, Mort Meskin and Kirby Inkers, Marvin Stein.

Police Trap #1, Title for the Heroes

Police Trap #1 (September 1954), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Crime comics received a lot of undesirable attention during their heyday. It is generally acknowledged now that this criticism was pretty much unwarranted but at that time it accepted by most of the public. One criticism was that crime comics glorified the criminals. Again any modern reader would see that this clearly was not the case, at least for the great majority of crime comics and especially for those that had been produced by Simon and Kirby. But Joe and Jack were well aware of this criticism and so when they launched their own publishing company, Mainline, they included a title Police Trap where the focus was not on the criminals but rather on the police.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Capture”, pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin was one of the “usual suspects” of artists that contributed frequently to Simon and Kirby productions. He not only arrived in the studio in time to provide art for some of the crime comics produced by Simon and Kirby but he also continued to supply art for the titles even after they were no longer put together by Joe and Jack (Criminal Artists, Mort Meskin). However this would be the only piece that Mort drew for Police Trap. In fact Meskin typically prolific output seems to have decreased greatly at about this time. He would continue to supply work for the Prize romances but very little for any of the Mainline titles.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “Masher”, pencils and inks by Bill Draut

“Usual suspect” Bill Draut drew and inked “Masher”. Draut is most famous for his romance art but he does a fine job on this story. This is probably the most unusual story of this issue and certainly my favorite. The main protagonist is a female police officer. On a personal note my great grandmother was one of the earliest female detective of the New York Police Department. Unfortunately I know very little about her career but among other things she was used as a decoy. She was not very tall but when it came time to apprehend someone she would hold on to them so tightly that the suspects would be unable to escape before her backup arrived to secure the arrest.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “Beer Party”, pencils and inks by John Prentice

John Prentice was also a regular contributor to Simon and Kirby productions which means this issue of Police Trap has all the usual suspects. Prentice first work for Joe and Jack appeared in a May 1951 issue of Young Love and he continued to provide art up until the end of the Simon and Kirby studio. John was used primarily for romance comics but he did provide some art for Black Magic. Unfortunately Simon and Kirby were no longer producing crime titles at the time of Prentice’s first appearance but John did so some really nice work in the crime genre prior to that. So “Beer Party” marks a much appreciated return of Prentice to crime. With some nicely handled action and such beautiful art, what is not to like? I particularly love the splash panel. Nobody appears in the splash but it still is a marvelous portrait. Missing plaster and cracked walls show how run down the police station has become. If anything the minimal decorations seem make the room even more depressing. The title captions talks about a shindig but obviously this was going to be a rather small affair. But could you image having a beer party inside a police station today?

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Grafter”, art by unidentified artist

At this time Simon and Kirby were producing four Mainline and four Prize titles. Most of the titles were bimonthlies except for Young Romance and Young Love which were monthly. I suspect producing these titles and running Mainline required a lot of effort for both Joe and Jack. The amount of art that Kirby penciled seems to have dropped and his only contribution to this Police Trap issue was the cover. Further artists new to Simon and Kirby productions make their appearance. One such artist provided the art for “The Grafter”. I cannot claim to be very excited about art but he did an adequate job.

Police Trap #1 (September 1954) “The Beefer”, pencils and inks by Joaquin Albistur

I have recently discussed the part that “The Beefer” played in relationship to the pinup used in Police Trap #2 (The Police Trap Pinup). This story and two others that appeared in Young Romance and Young Love marked the first appearance of Joaquin Albistur in the Simon and Kirby studio. Most of the artist that appeared during this period made rather limited contributions to Simon and Kirby productions but Albistur would provide much work for the relatively short period that he was employed by Joe and Jack (13 months).

Mort Meskin and Ancient Greek Culture

Often when people discuss culture they are referring to things like the fine arts, classical music, opera and other “superior” arts. While culture encompasses all those things it includes much more. Art forms such as popular music and even comic books are part of our culture. All humans have a culture of some form. But do not ask me for a definition of what the term means as no one has been able to provide an accurate one. Since having a culture is so characteristic of humans many have tried to define it in such a way as to exclude it from animals. However they have been completely unsuccessful. Animals like the chimpanzee have a culture, albeit of a somewhat primitive nature. I may not be able to provide a definition of culture but teaching and learning are important features in the transmission of culture.

One of the Riace Bronzes (created about 460 – 420 BC)

Our culture, all others as well, is descended from the culture of previous generations. However culture is not only passed on it evolves as well. Certain cultures from the past have had great influence on us while others have been forgotten. One culture that had great importance to ours despite the great separation in time is that of the classical Greeks. Politics is part of culture and it was in ancient Greece where democracy was first born. The influence of the classical Greeks can be found in the visual arts as well despite the separation of about 2500 years. The classical Greeks developed an art based idealistic but realistic portrayal of the human figure. Their cities were filled with such art for both political and religious purposes (although at the time there was not much of a distinction between the two). The figures were idealized not only in form but in the emotion portrayed as well. The figures have a calm, almost serene, disposition and extremes in emotions or motion were generally avoided.

Pergamon Alter (2nd century BC)

About the time of Alexander the Great, classical Greek art evolved into what is usually referred to as Hellenistic art. Unusual subjects and posses became common. The human figure no longer adhered to the classical standards and became more expressive. Pathos became more often depicted in art.

While cultures often developed from particular regions, their continued existence was by no means limited to that of some ethnical group. Eventually the ancient Greeks succumbed to the military might of Imperial Rome. But this did not mean the end to the centuries long tradition of Greek art. The Roman world recognized the importance of Greece and added portions of it to its own culture. This was a backhanded compliment because many of Greek’s art treasures were looted and sent to Rome. The Riace bronze statue illustrated above were found off the coast of Italy was most likely loot from Greece aboard a ship that sank on its final voyage.

In time the mighty Roman Empire also declined and Europe entered into a period often called the Dark Ages. Much of the ancient culture was lost. Surviving bronze statues were melted down to make weapons. Ancient marbles were feed to kilns to produce lime. Painting were generally too fragile to withstand the passage of time. Much of the ancient literature was also lost however some was copied and saved especially outside of Europe by the Islamic cultures. Among the preserved literature included descriptions of ancient art. For instance this one from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History:

There are many whose fame is not preserved. In some cases the glory of the finest works is obscured by the number of artists, since no one of them can monopolize the credit, nor can the names of more than one be handed down. This is the case with the Laocoon, which stands in the palace of the Emperor Titus, a work to be preferred to all that the arts of painting and sculpture have produced. Out of one block of stone the consummate artists, Hagesandros, Polydorus and Athenodoros of Rhodes made, after careful planning, Laocoon and his sons, and the snakes marvelously entwined about them.

Ancient descriptions such as these were more a reminder of how much had been lost and not very useful in understanding what the art really looked like. The story of Laocoon and his sons the sculpture depicted was based a story from the Trojan Wars. Laocoon was a Trojan priest who tried to warn his fellow Trojans to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. The gods sent a serpent to kill him and his two sons. (On a side note, Pliny the Elder died while trying to investigate the eruption of Mount Vesuvius during which Pompeii and other nearby communities were entombed).

Laocoon (about 40 to 20 BC) by Hagesandros, Polydorus and Athenodoros

Time passed and Europe eventually started to recover from the Dark Ages. This period has been referred to the Renaissance, the rebirth. Progress in the arts came from new discoveries but also by rediscovering the ancient cultures of Rome and Greece. Unearthed ancient sculpture were treated as treasures and carefully studied. The Laocoon sculpture described by Pliny was rediscovered on January 14, 1506. This was a sensation with artists and scholars because the statue was immediately identified as the one written about by Pliny. One of the artists who visited the excavation on the very first day of the discovery was Michelangelo, one of the foremost artists of the Renaissance.

As originally found the sculpture was missing Laocoon’s right arm. There arose a dispute on how the sculpture should be restored. Today it would almost certainly be left as found but in those days missing parts would often be fabricated so that the sculpture would appear unblemished. Michelangelo declared that the missing arm was originally bent. However there was a bitter rivalry between Michelangelo and another sculptor by the name of Bandinelli. Now I suspect that most of my readers are familiar with the name of Michelangelo but do not feel bad if you do not recollect Bandinelli. Both may have been well known in their day but today Bandinelli is generally known only by art historians. Bandinelli declared that the Laocoon’s arm should be restored straight. Surprisingly it was Bandinelli’s interpretation that was used for the restoration. Michelangelo had spent time dissecting corpses to develop a thorough understanding of human anatomy so you would think that what he said would have carried more weight. But Michelangelo had more commissions than he could handle (actually more than he could every finish) so perhaps he simply was too buy to assist in the restoration of the Laocoon sculpture. But Michelangelo would posthumously have the last laugh. Sometime about 1963 the original arm from the Laocoon sculpture was rediscovered and just as Michelangelo had predicted it was bent. The image of the Laocoon that I provided above has the original arm reattached.

Sketch of Laocoon by Michelangelo (1530)

The Laocoon and some other rediscovered Hellenistic sculptures had an immense affect on the art of Michelangelo. The importance of the Laocoon can be seen in the Medici Chapel in Florence. I do not mean the architecture and sculptures that Michelangelo executed for the Medici Chapel although that connection seems pretty clear to me as well. To explain I first have to tell a short story. The Medici were the effective rulers of Florence. However the Medici were not loved by all and a revolt occurred which drove them out of Florence. Despite the fact that the Medici had previously been Michelangelo’s patrons the artist joined the rebellion. However in the end the revolt failed and Michelangelo was a wanted man whose life would almost certainly have been lost had he been captured. In 1530 he hid out to escape his enemies in a passage below the Medici Chapel. To pass the time Michelangelo drew on the walls of his hideout. They are wonderful sketches that relate to his work on the Medici Chapel and Sistine Chapel ceiling. There is even what appears to be a self portrait. You can read more about Michelangelo’s graffiti in a wonderful web page by the Moscow Florentine Society. The presence of the underground chamber was not well advertised when I visited Florence years ago and I had to get permission to see it. My time alone in the room was one of my most moving experience of my visit to Florence and perhaps of my life. All of Michelangelo’s sketches there appear to have based on his own art save one, a portrait of Laocoon. The Laocoon sculpture was so important to Michelangelo that twenty four years after it’s rediscovery the artist would capture it accurately during what he thought at the time could be his lasts days on earth. (Michelangelo was eventually pardoned and lived a long and productive life.)

Sketch of one of Laocoon’s Sons by Peter Paul Rubens (sometime between 1602 and 1608)

The effect of the Laocoon continued after Michelangelo as well. It was an important influenced on Baroque art and its leading artist, Peter Paul Rubens. The ancient sculpture was less important to the art periods that followed but it was never forgotten. At least by those who studied art history.

Action Comics #80 (January 1945) “The Pillage of the Parthenon”, pencils by Mort Meskin.

One of those who had not forgotten about the ancient Laocoon piece of art was Mort Meskin. Mort did a magnificent rendition of it in the splash for the Vigilante story “The Pillage of the Parthenon”. The Greek sculpture does not appear elsewhere and the story has only a tenuous connection to the Parthenon or any other aspect of ancient Greek culture. That Meskin would depict the Laocoon in a piece of comic book art expected to be read by juveniles would certainly have been for his own satisfaction. He could not expect his audience to recognize it. I suspect the only piece of ancient art that has achieved the status of an icon with the general public is the Venus de Milo.

Real Clue Crime Stories v. 2 no. 6 (August 1947) “Get Me the Golden Gun” page 15 panel 4, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

A contrast can be made between Meskin and another great comic book artist, Jack Kirby. Kirby included sculpture in some of his comic book work. But while Kirby’s depictions of sculpture are quite interesting and well done they are completely derived from his own imagination. It is clear that unlike Meskin, Kirby had not spent much time studying art history and the ancient Greek culture.


  • Bieber, Margarete “Laocoon, The Influence of the Group Since its Rediscovery” 1967
  • “Due Bronzi da Riace” 1985
  • Saflund, Gosta “The Polyphemus and Scylla Groups at Sperlonga” 1972
  • Schmidt, Evamaria “The Great Alter of Pergamon”, 1962

What? Who?

Prize Comics Western #78 (November 1949) “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail”, art by unidentified artist

I got an email from Meskin scholar Steven Brower asking whether I had seen a piece from Prize Comics Western #78 with very odd art which Meskin seemed to have had a hand in. Very odd art indeed although it was not clear to me what, if any, part Meskin played in its creation. The art includes some Meskin looking traits most noticeably the simple angular eyebrows. There are other traits, however, that are untypical for Mort. For example the tall and lanky form given to the hero of the piece. Also some of the characters are done in a more cartoonish manner that look nothing like what I have seen in Meskin’s art. The inking is very distinctive as well. There is frequent use of what I call picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary). This is a technique often found in Simon and Kirby studio inking of Kirby’s pencils. The artist does the picket fence crosshatching in a very specific manner with the “pickets” largely confined to within “rail” lines and the “rails” being formed by a simple line almost like a wire. This picket fence variant is similar to that used by Meskin. Another unusual inking technique this artist uses is to use simple hatching (Inking Glossary) to provide volume to smoke or dust clouds. Most artist provide such clouds with simple billow lines and leave it to the colorist to provide volume with the use of a light color, usually light cyan.

Real West Romances #4 (October 1949) “The Perfect Cowboy” page 5, art by unidentified artist

The very distinct inking found in “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail” brought to my mind another work published at about the same time, “The Perfect Cowboy” from Real West Romances #4. It is in fact the work of the same inker with the same techniques used in both stories. The same distinctive style of picket fence crosshatching and the same simple hatching used on dust clouds. The only inking difference is that picket fence crosshatching was used on a woman’s hair in “The Perfect Cowboy” but that unusual hair inking was not done anywhere in the Prize Comic Western story. The similarities between the two stories are not limited to the inking but include the pencils as well. Most importantly the hero of both stories was drawn tall and thin.

However there are differences between the artwork of two stories. While there are places in the PWC one that suggest Mort Meskin, in RWR it is Jack Kirby that comes to mind. In fact The Jack Kirby Checklist credits Kirby with the pencils and Simon with the inks. As I pointed out previously when discussing “The Perfect Cowboy (Chapter 8 of the Art of Romance) the inks were certainly not done by Joe. And the pencils sometimes show traits, like the tall lanky figures, that do not look at all like Kirby.

I am still inclined to believe that this artist was working from layouts; Kirby layouts in “The Perfect Cowboy” and those by Mort Meskin for “Showdown on the Chisholm Trail”. The layouts might have been tighter in some places more than others. I also suspect that either layouts were not provided for the entire story or the artist in question choose to ignore them in places. The picket fence crosshatching used in these two stories is more similar to Meskin than it is to Kirby or Simon. Further there is a complete lack of some studio style inking such as abstract arc shadows or drop strings and these brush techniques are also often absent from Meskin inking as well. So perhaps Mort gave the artists some pointers about inking as well.

Left Justice Traps the Guilty #14 (February 1950), page 3 panel 5 by Marvin Stein
Right Real West Romances #4, page 4 panel 6 by unidentified artist

There is another artists that used a similar picket fence crosshatching although not as frequently and with a much coarser brush, Marvin Stein. Further Stein penciled women, at least early in his career, that look very much what is seen in both the stories discussed here. However I offer him up not as a candidate but as an object lesson. For Marvin was already working for Simon and Kirby at this time. The work that Stein did at this period was nothing like this unidentified artist. Marvin’s use of picket fence crosshatching started at a later period and he never inked dust clouds in the unusual manner described above. While Stein’s art had not yet reached his mature style some of his trademarks were already present and they do not appear in the PCW or the RWR stories. Nor did Marvin draw the same lanky figures. I am pretty confident that Stein was not our mystery artist. It just goes to show that attributions based on one or two traits must be viewed with caution.

There are still a number of artist that worked with Simon and Kirby that I have not been able to identify so this mystery artist has company. Nor is he by any means the most talented of the unknowns, in fact I suspect he is just starting as a comic book artist. However he is so distinctive that I like to think that his name will eventually be uncovered.

Mort Meskin’s Dark Fighting Yank

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

Mort Meskin was the most important artist in the Simon and Kirby studio, second only to Jack. But he did important comic book art before and after his stay in Joe and Jack’s studio. Mort often inked his own work and he was a talented inker. Inking of Meskin’s pencils are generally fairly light. That is overall there are significantly more white or colored areas in a panel as compared to black ones. Now there are exceptions such as panels displaying night scenes. But look at the splash for “Fireworks on the Fourth”. Lots of black and since the actions occurs indoors there is no reason that so much blacks had to be used. To my eyes, the inking in “Fireworks on the Fourth” seems to flatten the image. This may not have been an accidental effect as Meskin’s comic book art often exhibited a narrow depth of field.

But let me digress. During the war years there was a flood of patriotic superheroes published in comic books. Of course all superheroes in American comics would be expected to be patriotic. By patriotic superheroes I am referring to those with a costume or a name that distinct patriotic overtones. With so many patriotic superheroes it must have been difficult to come up with an costume that was appropriate and original. Most had a costume based on the American flag with the most famous examples being MJL’s Shield as well as Simon and Kirby’s Captain America. But that was not the direction taken by Standards for their Fighting Yank. This hero had a costume based on the type of clothing used during the Revolutionary War. Not that the flag was neglected; it appeared on the Fighting Yank’s chest. I am not sure if the Fighting Yank was the first to use the Revolutionary War theme but in any case there were others as well. Since it really was not that spectacular of a costume one might think the Fighting Yank would have been one of the less successful patriotic heroes. But actually he did quite well lasting from November 1941 (Startling Comics #10) to August 1949. It really was a long run since most superheroes, patriotic or otherwise, did not last nearly as long. The last issue of Fighting Yank was #29, the very one with Meskin’s interesting inking.

The inking has a greater emphasis on black than normally used by Meskin I still feel that he did the inking. While cloth folds are blocky they still exhibit the long sweeping curves that Mort preferred. When inking such folds Meskin typically used multiple brush strokes which he sometimes overlapped. This inking technique is often revealed by looking at the ends of the cloth folds were sometimes the separate ends of the individual strokes are reveals. This can be seen here are for example inking of the man in the blue suit on the left side of the splash. In Steven Brower’s recent book on Mort Meskin (“From Shadow to Light”) Jerry Robinson remarked that to keep things interesting he and Mort would often varied how they created the art. I think that this inking technique is an example such a practice.

Fighting Yank #29 (August 1949) “Fireworks on the Fourth” page 3 panel 5, pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

Meskin put this new inking style to good use. In the panel shown above he uses a low light source to provide dramatic lighting. This is something he rarely did when he later worked for Simon and Kirby. While Mort’s inking is the basis for the image’s drama, the colorists use of a light violet shadow greatly enhances the effect. The use of two color tones on the face is uncommon in golden age comics. It is pretty rare, but not unknown, in Simon and Kirby interior art where generally colored areas are separated by the line art or isolated in white areas.

Fighting Yank #29 (August 1949) “Fireworks on the Fourth” page 7 panel 2, pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

The colorist did not limit his use of multi-tone coloring to simple shadows but he also often put them to dramatic effect for scenes meant to have low light levels. Certainly the most spectacular of these multi-tone panels is the one from page 3 that is shown above. The combination of an orange background and the yellow to green toned figures is just stunning. The combinations of Meskin’s great pencils and his unusual inking along with the colorist efforts combine to make this an unforgettable piece of comic book art. One might be tempted to credit such exceptional coloring to Meskin himself however other Standards comics should be checked for multi-tone coloring before such a conclusion is reached. Coloring of golden age comics was generally handled by the publisher and not the artist who did the original line art. Standard Comics may have had to fortune of using one of the more talented colorists in the business.

“From Shadow to Light”, an Ode to Mort Meskin

I have previously posted an announcement for this book with a comment on how important a volume I believed it would be. Of course I had not yet seen the book at that time so now that I have the question now is did Steven Brower succeed in doing justice to a great artist like Mort Meskin? The answer is a resounding YES!

This is a large book, the paper size is 9 by 12 inches. In my opinion this is a perfect format for a project like this. Scans of printed comic books have been enlarged for better viewing and the size works nicely with the reproductions of original art. And there are a lot of both spanning Meskin’s entire career. It starts with some work that Mort did in high school. While not very exciting compared to what would follow, it still is great to see the initial efforts. I could detail all the reproductions that follow but I fear that such a list would prove too tedious while the actual art is certainly not that. But I cannot resist mentioning some of my personal favorites such as some great Vigilante splashes, amazing work for the Fighting Yank (working with Jerry Robinson), terrific Golden Lad covers and some truly beautiful romance covers for Prize Comics. While those are my favorites, what is presented is actually much fuller and thoroughly representative. It is not just isolated pages of art. While a marvelous artist, Mort Meskin was also a consummate graphic story teller. “From Shadow to Light” has a Golden Lad and a crime story; both complete and never before published.

Mort Meskin was an artist’s artist. Brower has brought together comments from some of the creators who acknowledge how important Meskin was to them personally. Artists such as Steve Ditko, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth and Mort’s sometime partner Jerry Robinson. These are not just your usual commentary, they provide discussions of Meskin’s actual working methods. I found these very revealing and they answered some questions that have been nagging me for years. Particularly the commentary by Robinson. Jerry was Mort’s collaborator on a lot of comic books. I have often wondered exactly how they worked with each other, what rolls each played. Well Robinson answers that directly. I have also wondered why so much of Meskin’s comic book art is still exists as un-inked pencils. Very surprising since at least some of it, such as a couple of pages from Treasure #12 that are reproduced in this book, had been published. Again Robinson provides the answer.

Anyone who has followed this blog should know I am a big Mort Meskin fan. He did a lot of work for Simon and Kirby and therefore appears frequently in my posts. I have even written about Mort’s prior career (Early Mort Meskin and Mort Meskin before Joining Simon and Kirby). But the Internet is not the best format for viewing Meskin’s art. You really need a book for that and Steven Brower’s “From Shadow to Light” is that book. You do not want to miss this book.

Criminal Artists, Chapter 2, Mort Meskin

This is the second of my post of the various artists who worked in the Prize crime titles Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty after they were no longer produced by Simon and Kirby. In the previous chapter I wrote about Marvin Stein who was the dominant artist for these crime titles. Now I will review the crime art by Mort Meskin, the second most used artist. Meskin provide art from 1950 to 1955 and while he does not appear in every issue from that timeline he does appear in most. Mort is one of the forgotten masters of the comic book art form. Hopefully Steven Brower’s upcoming book, “From Shadow to Light: The Life and Art of Mort Meskin”, may help to correct this undeserved neglect.

There are a number of reasons to explain Meskin’s neglect by today’s fans. Perhaps the most pressing is the current emphasis on superheroes. Meskin did some great superhero work but it was older work on heroes that no longer play much of a part in modern comics; the Vigilante and Johnny Quick. The original comics are very expensive and little of Meskin’s war time work have been reprinted. Most of today’s fans have never had much of a chance to see Mort’s superhero work. The only superhero work that Meskin penciled for Simon and Kirby was on Captain 3-D and that was never published (Captain 3-D #2 ). Most of Meskin’s art done in the 50’s was for romance. The romance genre is probably the most underrated one for today’s fans. This unfortunate because Mort really showed his skills as a graphic story teller. Those skills, however, were still evident in his work for the Prize crime titles with the additional benefit or more action and drama.

Headline #43
Headline #43 (September 1950), “Our Swords Will Find You”, art by Mort Meskin

Mort Meskin had initially provided work for the Prize crime titles in 1948 but that was in collaboration with Jerry Robinson. Meskin returned to the Simon and Kirby studio by himself in 1950 at which time Simon and Kirby were still producing the crime titles. By this time Simon and Kirby had toned down the violence in the crime titles to a level that would continue even after they stopped producing the titles. Even though the stories lacked the violence found in crime comics by other publishers, they still are enjoyable to read.

It appears that Meskin did most of the inking of his own pencils for the Prize crime comics (I think this is true for the romance titles as well). In the earlier issues Mort’s inks give the art an overall dark look. Not surprisingly this works out particularly well for night scenes such as in the splash for “Our Swords Will Find You”. Years before the first stalker movies, Meskin provides all the essential elements. A beautiful girl alone in the night pursued by a mysterious knife holding figure which in this case is scene only through the shadow he casts on the wall.

Justice Traps the Guilty #28
Justice Traps the Guilty #28 (July 1951), “Foto Frame-Up”, art by Mort Meskin

Another example of the darker inking initially used by Meskin for his crime stories. Even though the clothing folds are thick and dark, it can still be seen that they were constructed from long sweeping but narrow brush strokes. This is typical of Meskin inking. However it should be used with caution for inking attribution because unlike Jack Kirby, Mort would include spotting in his pencils. In this case it is accompanied by some other typical Meskin inking techniques. For instance note the way that the shadow on the man’s shoulder has a distinct border strip and is not completed filled with ink but rather formed by thick black strokes separated with narrow spaces.

Here Meskin uses a vertical splash; a format that he seemed particularly fond of. Still most of the time Mort uses a horizontal 2/3 page splash like most of the artists did in Headline and Justice Traps the Guilty. Full page splashes did not appear in the Prize crime comics after Simon and Kirby stopped producing them.

Justice Traps the Guilty #57
Justice Traps the Guilty #57 (December 1953), “The Tri-State Terror”, art by Mort Meskin

“The Tri-State Terror” is perhaps one of Meskin’s finest splashes from the crime titles. The G-Men are not shown but hopefully are sheltered from the blistering attach by the two criminals. The near distance view highlights the defiance of the one hood and the casual determination of the other. These two seem determined not to be taken. Our focus is concentrated by the careful use of blacks.

Justice Traps the Guilty #39
Justice Traps the Guilty #39 (June 1952), “Terror”, art by Mort Meskin

Close-ups did not play as important part of Mort Meskin’s art as they did for artists such as Marvin Stein. Still he did make effective use of this device from time to time. This splash is a good example. This close-up of a fleeing man may seem more stylized than some other artists but it still is a gripping portrait of a man filled with fear. Hiding the faces of his pursuers in shadow makes them mysterious and heightens the effect.

Justice Traps the Guilty #54
Justice Traps the Guilty #54 (September 1953), “Fatal Mistake” page 3, art by Mort Meskin

The page I selected from “Fatal Mistake” provides another example of Meskin’s use of a close-up. I particularly like the sequence for the top row of panels. Mort goes from a more distant shot, to just the upper body, and then finally just the face while simultaneously rotating the view point. This all plays into the story line that starts with a declaration of reluctance by the loan officer, to a admittedly unfavorable offer and finally to blatant arm twisting. Thus both the art and the writing are increasingly revealing the character of the loan officer.

Justice Traps the Guilty #41
Justice Traps the Guilty #41 (August 1952), “No Place To Hide” page 6, art by Mort Meskin

Crime stories are very different from ones about superheroes but at least they provide more opportunities for the use of action than the romance genre. Mort does not do the sort of choreography (for lack of a appropriate term) that Marvin Stein used but he does make careful use a shifting viewpoints. Note how the pursuer appears in the foreground in the first panel, switches to the criminal in the third, only to have the rolls repeated switch in the fourth, fifth and sixth panels. The distance between the two varies as the sequence proceeds as well; starting with a greater separation, working up the close confrontation in panel four then the separation between the two increases again until panel six.

Headline #72
Headline #72 (July 1955), “My Beat” page 2, art by Mort Meskin

Another action sequence starting with a panel that would have been right at home in Young Romance. Note how once again the foreground/background relation between the cop and the muggers keeps alternating with the exception of the final panel. Also how the viewing distance goes from a more distant one, to two close-ups than moves back again. Meskin handles the action so well that I am sure most readers did not notice a logical inconsistency. After showing the cop’s hat flying off his head in panel five, how did it manage to return to being firmly attached in the last two panels? The lose of the hat in panel five is required to show the strength of the impact of the youth’s fist but is a required part of the cop’s “costume” allowing him to be easily identified in the group shots in panels six and seven. What is required for the clear graphical presentation of the story sometimes outweighs the needs of logic.

Justice Traps the Guilty #56
Justice Traps the Guilty #56 (November 1953), “Side-Liner” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

I cannot resist providing another example of Meskin’s graphical story telling talent. Meskin draws in a very stylized manner that perhaps causes many of today’s comic book fans to overlook his other skills. But other artists did notice and were influenced by Meskin. Steve Ditko is probably the most famous of those paid close attention to Mort Meskin.

Justice Traps the Guilty #62
Justice Traps the Guilty #62 (May 1954), “The Last Leap”, art by Mort Meskin

There seemed to have been a move of some sorts in Simon and Kirby productions of 1953 to modify the splash from its tradition roll as the equivalent of a movie trailer. Instead the splash would actually become part of the story. This only lasted about a year in Simon and Kirby comics but this device would turn up from time to time afterwards even in comics not produced by S&K. Was this an artist’s choice or something dictated by the writer? Unfortunately we have no scripts for Prize comics from this period and I do not care to guess at the answer. Still Meskin makes effective use of the device. The splash panel is certainly a classic but the page is made even better by the subsequent panels. What a exciting start of a story! Note the tilted view in the final two panels. I am not sure when Meskin started to regularly use this device but it became an important element in his story telling technique in his later years.

Justice Traps the Guilty #72
Justice Traps the Guilty #72 (March 1955), “The Saucer Man”, art by Mort Meskin

As mentioned above, after the war Mort Meskin did not have many occasions to draw superhero stories. Features like “The Saucer Man” provide some hints about what such superhero stories might have looked like. Although from late in his career, in this story Mort has reverted to the darker inking style that predominated his earlier work.

Justice Traps the Guilty #45
Justice Traps the Guilty #45 (December 1952), “Embezzlement”, pencils by Mort Meskin, inks by George Roussos

As a rule an artist has an advantage when inking his own pencils. Still examples of Meskin inking Jack Kirby (Kirby Inkers, Mort Meskin ) show that Mort was a talented inker. Meskin generally inked his own work in the 50’s but there were occasional exceptions. In most cases where the inking was not done by Meskin it was George Roussos who did it. Frankly I am not a fan of Roussos’s inking. I feel it is a little too sloppy. However George’s use of full blacks were often quite nice as in the splash for “Embezzlement”.

Art of Romance, Chapter 33, End of an Era

(November 1956 – April 1957: Young Romance #85 – #87, Young Love #73, Young Brides #30, All For Love #1)

Number of Romance titles 1947 - 1958
Number of Romance titles 1947 – 1958 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

We now come to the end of the all Kirby Price romance comics and transition into a new and significantly different period of Prize Comics. Young Brides #30 (November 1956) and Young Romance #85 (December 1956) qualify as all-Kirby comics but only half of Young Love #73 (December 1956) was drawn by Kirby with the rest of the art done by Bill Draut. Unfortunately the comic book crash had finally caught up to Prize Comics. Young Love #73 and Young Brides #30 would be the final issues of those two titles although Young Love would be resurrected in 1960. At the point of cancellation Prize Comics would only be publishing three titles; Young Romance, Justice Traps the Guilty and Prize Comics Western. Since all were bi-monthlies this was a rather small line-up even for such a small company.

Starting with issue #86, Young Romance was a very changed title. The annual postal statements still listed Joe Simon and Jack Kirby as the editors but whatever working arrangement the two had it clearly was not the same as before. Kirby had started doing freelance work for DC and Atlas while Simon was doing some editorial work for Harvey Comics. Most, but not all, issues would include art drawn by Jack Kirby. Previously cover art was typically done by Kirby alone but now most covers would be done by other artists. The biggest change that came over the title was the largely complete absence of the earlier S&K Studio artists. Artists who previously played prominent rolls in the title such as Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, John Prentice and Bob McCarty would never again appear in Young Romance. The fact that some of these artists would show up in Prize romance titles not edited by Simon and Kirby suggests that there may have been some hard feelings between the artists and their former employers.

The change in Prize Comics was not a complete retreat but rather a reorganization. In April 1957 Prize came out with a new romance title, All For Love. It may seem strange to cancel two romance titles only to start up a new one. The answer is suggested by the Postal Statements which list Joe Genalo as the editor for All For Love. Prize not only wanted a new title, they particularly did not want Simon and Kirby to produce it.

Young Romance #85
Young Romance #85 (December 1956) “Lizzie’s Back In Town”, pencils by Jack Kirby

As I mentioned earlier, YR #85 was one of the issues that was drawn entirely by Jack Kirby. While the story art was often first rate, the splashes frequently left something to be desired. At least compared to the work Kirby had done in earlier years. The splash for “Lizzie’s Back In Town” is a good example of this. There is nothing wrong with the splash and granted it was probably a challenge to instill interest into some standing figures, but it was just this sort of romance splash that earlier Kirby was so good at. I suspect Kirby was just trying to do too much romance art in too little time. Some interesting splashes will be found in the future issues when Jack had returned to a more measured output of romance stories.

Young Romance #86
Young Romance #86 (February 1957) “Reject”, pencils by Jack Kirby

There are exceptions to lackluster splashes. I certainly like the one for “Reject”. This is not because of the subject matter because once again all there is are some standing figures. Nor is it the how well the art was handled; I suspect the original pencils were much better than what was left after the inker got finished with it. I think what appeals to me is the characterizations of the players; the stern central figure and the gossipers in the background. I also like the way the title of the story is placed on a placard worn by the lady.

Young Brides #30
Young Brides #30 (November 1956) “The Unhappy Housewife”, pencils by Jack Kirby

There seems to have been one inker used for all the works penciled by Kirby during this period and a good portion of the art from the all-Kirby romance issues. In the past I had considered it likely that the inker was Marvin Stein. I have heard others advance Bill Draut and Joe Simon as candidates. During the review for this chapter I have come to the conclusion that I am just not sure who he was. In some places it looks like Bill Draut, other Marvin Stein or even Joe Simon. But I also feel it is quite possible that it was someone else entirely.

One interesting feature of the inking of the splash for “The Unhappy Housewife” is the presence of picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary). This technique was once a staple of the inking of Kirby pencils during much of the Simon and Kirby collaboration. Part of what I refer to as the Studio style inking. Picket fence crosshatching appears on some of the covers from this period but is largely absent in the stories.

Young Romance #85
Young Romance #85 (December 1956) “Resort Romeo” page 2, pencils by Jack Kirby

The inking of eyebrows during this period were often done in a simplified but exaggerated manner. The women in panel 5 of the page shown above is a good example. There is some resemblance between these eyebrows and those used by Bill Draut which is the main reason to suggest Draut was the inker for these Kirby pencils. Unfortunately I cannot find any other evidence to support crediting Draut as Kirby’s inker during this period. But I will return to this subject below.

Young Romance #87
Young Romance #87 (April 1957) “Rock n’ Roll Sweetheart” page 4, pencils by Jack Kirby

Note the inking of the man’s face in the last panel from page 4 of “Rock n’ Roll Sweetheart”. The black shadow down one side of the face is what I refer to as negative highlights. I have never seen Bill Draut use negative highlights but Marvin Stein did and his looked very much like this example. Because the inking evidence does not consistantly suggest one inker, I have decided to no longer attribute the inking to Marvin Stein and for now leave it as an open question.

Young Love #73
Young Love #73 (December 1956) “Soldier’s Homecoming”, pencils and inks by Bill Draut

Bill Draut provided two of the four stories from the final issue of Young Love. The style is similar to that he was using just prior to the start of the all-Kirby run. However even that was somewhat different from his earlier work. This is most notably seen in the clothing folds which earlier had been somewhat splotchy but now where cleaner and more streamlined.

Young Romance #86
Young Romance #86 (February 1957) “I Took The Easy Way Out”, art by unidentified artist

The first issue (YR #87) of Young Romance after the cancellation of Young Love and Young Brides had only a single Kirby story. Oddly the other three stories were all done by the same artist. He is not a bad artist, but I do not believe I have seen him in a Simon and Kirby production before. It is a puzzle why he suddenly achieved such dominance in this romance title.

All For Love #1
All For Love #1 (April 1957) “Dream Wedding”, art by Bill Draut

As mentioned above, the new Prize romance title All For Love, was not produced by Simon and Kirby. One of the things I will be looking for in future chapters of the Art of Romance was whether the same artists would appear in Young Romance and the Prize titles that were not produced by Simon and Kirby. One artist that shows up in the first issue is Bill Draut. Not only does Draut provide a story but he did the cover art as well. Here Bill is working in the same style we saw Young Romance #86 (February 1957).

Bill had also been appearing in some of the Harvey romance titles at this time which I believe were edited by Joe Simon. But it is unclear whether these were new stories or reprints of older material. In any case work by Draut for Harvey would end at this same time. Draut would not work with Joe Simon on comics until 1966. Bill did work on Sick but right now I am not sure when that was.

All For Love #1
All For Love #1 (April 1957) “Hollow Triumph” page 3, art by Mort Meskin?

There are two stories in All For Love #1 that I am somewhat uncertain about. I some ways “Hollow Triumph” reminds me of the work of Mort Meskin. The way the eyebrows are inked might suggest Bill Draut but the story lacks any of Draut’s mannerisms of graphically telling the story, in particular the body language depicted and how the use of view points. Meskin is a better fit in just these graphic qualities. However if this was drawn by Mort I am certain it was not inked by him. Some of the inking reminds me of the unidentified inker for Kirby that I discussed above.

All For Love #1
All For Love #1 (April 1957) “My Wishful Heart”, art by Bill Draut?

“My Wishful Heart” is the other story that I questionably attribute to Mort Meskin. Although not identical to “Hollow Triumph” it is close enough to suggest it was done by the same artist.

All For Love #1
All For Love #1 (April 1957) “I Was Only Cheating Myself”, art by Ted Galindo

The only other romance artist from this period that I can identify other than Jack Kirby, Bill Draut and possibly Mort Meskin was Ted Galindo. Ted does a real nice job on his romance stories. His women are attractive and his art style more modern than most of the artists that I have discussed so far. Galindo’s use of changing viewpoints keeps his stories graphically interesting. we will be seeing more of his work

We are now coming into the final period covered by the Art of Romance. It was always my intention to take this serial post up to 1960. However I am really uncertain how many chapters remain. Frankly overall I find the Prize romance titles from this point on the least interesting of the series. If not for the presence of Jack Kirby I might be tempted to cover it in some future serial post. But there is some really great Kirby art, much of it inked by Jack himself. Plus some other interesting artists appeared from time to time.

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)