Tag Archives: newsboy legion

Replacing Simon and Kirby, Chapter 3, They’re Back

In the previous chapter I covered the artist who did most of the Newsboy Legion stories while Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were off doing their military service. I had questionably attributed this work to Arturo or Louis Caseneuve based on comments made by Joe Simon. However I have now seen enough work attributed to these artists to doubt that they had anything to do with penciling all those Newsboy Legion stories. I also looked into a commenter’s suggestion that the artist might be Phil Bard and although I will completely rule that out I do not believe it is a correct attribution either. All I can say is that I am certain this artist was not Gil Kane. Whoever the replacement artist was his Newsboy run ended with Star Spangled #49 (October 1945).

Star Spangled #50
Star Spangled #50 (November 1945) “The Leopard Man Changes His Spots” page 11, art by unidentified artist

It was not Simon and Kirby that followed the replacement artist but yet another artist that I am unable to identify. Unfortunately he is not up to the standards of the S&K replacement artist let alone the real Simon and Kirby. Panel 2 of page 11 (see above) and the cover for KO #1 (October 1945) clearly share some sort of connection. The cover dates for the SS #50 and KO #1 are so close that is hard to believe one was swiped from the other unless that happened before publication. Perhaps there is an older Simon and Kirby work that both were based upon that has not yet been recognized. Oddly while no one seems to have credited “The Leopard Man Changes His Spots” as a work by Simon and Kirby some have attributed the KO #1 cover to Kirby. However there are so many things wrong with the KO #1 cover that a Kirby attribution can certainly be rejected (see Not Kirby: KO #1, KO #1 Returns and KO #1, Round Three).

Star Spangled #52
Star Spangled #52 (January 1946), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The covers for Star Spangled #44 (May 1945) to #47 (August 1945) were drawn by the replacement artist that I covered in my last chapter (Chapter 2, The Replacement). Jack Kirby drew the covers for Star Spangled #48 (September 1945) to #51 (December 1945) but the question is when were these done? Were they part of the inventory that Simon and Kirby created before they entered military service? Or were they done after Jack returned from Europe? Kirby could have drawn them even if he had not yet left the service. I am not going to try to answer that question at this time but I am certain that the cover for Star Spangled #52 (January 1946) was not part of the original inventory. Kirby not only penciled this cover he inked it as well. Such inking was a luxury that Kirby could not afford while busily building up the original inventory. So from this point on it can confidently be said that Kirby was back. It has a Simon and Kirby signature but I do not think Joe was out of the military yet. This was just Jack recognizing his partnership with Simon. Joe had done the same thing earlier on the cover for Boy Commandos #12 (Fall 1945) done while Joe was in the Coast Guards and Jack was still in Europe.

To my eyes this cover has a more advanced appearance compared to earlier covers. Much more like what would be seen in Stuntman; the first issue of which would appear a few months later. Even later Star Spangled covers were not quite as advanced probably because Jack did not ink them as well.

Star Spangled #52
Star Spangled #52 (January 1946) “Rehearsal for Crime” page 5, art by Gil Kane?

Jack Kirby did the cover for Star Spangled #52 but he did not draw the “Rehearsal for Crime” story that appeared inside. Nor was this the artist who did art found in issues #50 and #51. The artist’s work reminds me a lot of the earlier work that Gil Kane did for the story in issue #30 (Chapter 1, The Newsboy Legion).

left Star Spangled #8 (May 1942) “Last Mile Alley” page 13 panel 2, pencils by Jack Kirby
right Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane” page 7 panel 5, art by Gil Kane?

Page 5 of “Rehearsal for Crime” was not the best page for showing that Gil Kane probably drew this story but I could not resist using it because of the fourth panel. It is a swipe that ultimately is derived from Simon and Kirby art from Star Spangled #8 (May 1942). But that was not the version that was actually swiped, it was the one Kane did for Star Spangled #30 (March 1944). Only now the figures of Gabby and Scrapper have been switched.

Star Spangled #60
Star Spangled #60 (September 1946) “Steve Brodie the 2nd” page 6, art by unidentified artist

Jack Kirby would draw the stories for issues #53 to #59 (February to August 1946) and the covers up to Star Spangled #61 (October 1946) and that would end Simon and Kirby’s involvement in their Newsboy Legion. I doubt that Simon and Kirby every just walked away from work so I believe this was DC’s decision. Stuntman #1 is cover dated April so that timing is just right to suggest that Simon and Kirby were dropped because they had jumped ship to a competitor (Harvey Comics). While this might have been true I would not read too much into it because Joe and Jack continued to provide work for Boy Commandos for years to come. Without question DC was pretty mad about what Joe and Jack had done but just not mad enough to sabotage a popular title like Boy Commandos.

Simon and Kirby’s replacements would still strive to look like they were done by the masters but unfortunately these imitators were just not that successful. It seems that each issue had a different artist with perhaps the penciler for “Steve Brodie the 2nd” being the best.

Star Spangled #61
Star Spangled #61 (October 1946) “The Great Balloon Race” page 9, art by unidentified artist

I do not know, could there have been any purchasers who bought this comic with a Simon and Kirby cover who were not disappointed by the story inside?

Star Spangled #63
Star Spangled #63 (December 1946) “Code of the Newsstand” page 9, art by unidentified artist

I provide another example a Newsboy Legion artist from after Simon and Kirby had left a second time. Perhaps the reader can sense that my heart just is not into this work. It is not these artists are really that bad but coming after Simon and Kirby it is a bit of a let down. They did not even have the interesting and original qualities of the main replacement artist from the war years.

Star Spangled #64
Star Spangled #64 (January 1947), art by unidentified artist

The cover for Star Spangled #64 (January 1947) shows a boat leaving the Newsboy Legion behind. Somehow it seems a fitting metaphor for the last issue of the Star Spangled that contained the Newsboy Legion. The next issue would feature Robin on the cover. Still the run lasted from April 1942 to January 1947. At 56 issues that is not bad at all. The demise of the Newsboy Legion seems to be part of DC’s decision to move away from the multitude of golden age features and concentrate on what they considered their core characters, Superman and Batman.

Replacing Simon and Kirby, Chapter 1, The Newsboy Legion

While Simon and Kirby were working for DC they knew that at some time they both would be entering military service. To prepare for this the two went into hyper drive and started generating an inventory for DC to use while they were gone. This was very successful and Simon and Kirby covers and stories appeared long after Joe and Jack were working for Uncle Sam. But the inventory was not large enough to last until Simon and Kirby were back from helping to protect our country. By early 1944 (cover dates) there were no more Simon and Kirby story art left.

The question of Simon and Kirby’s replacement came back to my attention recently while reading DC’s Simon and Kirby Sandman archive. There were two stories in it that were listed as being done by Joe and Jack but to me looked like they were actually by some other artist (“Courage a la Carte”, Adventure #91, April 1944 and “Sweets for Swag”, Adventure #100, October 1945). The issue came up again when I recently obtained a copy of DC’s Simon and Kirby Newsboy Legion archive. For the Newsboy Legion volume, DC decided to include material that clearly was not drawn by Simon and Kirby. The replacement artist for most of the Newsboy Legion was credited in the DC volume as Gil Kane. It is an attribution that I have used previously as well. However when I talked with Joe Simon about this he insisted that Gil Kane was not the artist and suggested that it was the brothers Arturo and Luis Cazeneuve.

Simon and Kirby’s replacements was a subject that I have always meant to investigate a little further. This will be the start of another serial post. It will be a bit more erratic than most of my serial posts because I am not going to do this in a strictly chronological order. Instead I will begin with several chapters examining the Newsboy Legion, then look at Sandman and finally cover the Boy Commandos.

Star Spangled #29
Star Spangled #29 (February 1944) “Cabbages and Comics”, pencils by Jack Kirby

I will start with the Newsboy Legion because the work covered in this chapter can all be found in DC’s recent archive volume. Thus the reader will be able to view more examples than I can provide in this blog. The first story I will remark on is what I believe to be the last published complete Newsboy Legion story by Simon and Kirby before they went off into military service. Because of the push to create inventory and the use of other hands in the inking, the art by this time was not quite as good as early in the Newsboy Legion run. But even poorer quality Simon and Kirby art is still much better than what most other artists were doing. And while many artists might try to imitate Kirby’s dynamic art they were unable to keep it up page after page. In short I have no doubt that this story is in fact a Simon and Kirby production.

The Jack Kirby Collector (issue #21) published an interview with Gil Kane. Two of Kane’s answers are particularly pertinent to this discussion:

TJKC: What were your job duties with S&K?

Gil: Mine was penciling. I would try to turn out a job every week or so. [They were] 12-page stories. I was copying-tracing-Jack’s work.

TJKC: What happened when Simon & Kirby went into the service? What happened to you?

Gil: I got a “Newsboy Legion” job to do by myself (like I had done the rest of them except they didn’t fix it up or do the splash), but when I walked through the door with the finished job, they said, “You’re fired.” They didn’t even look at the work. I really was lousy and I was out! At that point, I was about seventeen and I worked for Continental Comics for a guy named Temmerson. (I penciled and Carmine Infantino inked.) But that only lasted until I went into the Army.

There are a couple of really significant points in Gil’s short answers. Kane describes having previously done work that Simon and Kirby fixed up or provided the splash. Now it is possible that Gil Kane had something to do with earlier stories such as “Cabbages and Comics” but if so it was only in a minor capacity. Kane may have done things like help with the inking but I am sure that Kirby was the penciler.

Star Spangled #30
Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane”, pencils by Jack Kirby

There is no sign of Gil Kane, or any other artist other than Simon and Kirby, in the splash for “The Lady of Linden Lane” (Star Spangled #30, March 1944). It is a great splash with plenty of action and a little bit of humor with the normally fearless Guardian trying to duck from the blows of an elderly lady. The hoods in the background are a typical Simon and Kirby feature. This was inventoried material and so perhaps was executed in a hurry, but it still is great comic book art. Joe entered the Coast Guards before Jack went into military service so some of the inventory art may have been done by Kirby without Simon. However there is no reason to believe that DC published the inventoried art in the same order that Joe and Jack produced it. Nor are there any signs that I can find that distinguish this story from others there were done by both Simon and Kirby.

Star Spangled #30
Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane” page 9, art by Gil Kane?

While the splash for “The Lady of Linden Lane” is work that can be attributed convincingly to Simon and Kirby, the rest of the story is not. The art is crude and stilted. There are parts that really do look like Kirby’s pencils but they appear to be swipes. For instance the cigar smoker in panel 5 of page 9 (shown above) is shown in the type of perspective that Kirby favored however it appears to be based on Guardian from the cover of Star Spangled #26 (November 1943).

Star Spangled #8 and #30
left Star Spangled #8 (May 1942) “Last Mile Alley” page 13 panel 2, pencils by Jack Kirby
right Star Spangled #30 (March 1944) “The Lady of Linden Lane” page 7 panel 5, art by Gil Kane?

An even more obvious swipe can be found in the figures of Snapper and Gabby shown above. Unlike my previous example this is a close swipe showing only minor alterations. Kirby did swipe on occasion but one thing I have never seen him do was swipe from himself. Jack did have some favorite poses that he often repeated but they are always done with such variation that it seems clear that he is not copying any previous drawing. Simon did swipe from Kirby, in fact rather often. But Joe was a good artist in his own right and his art is much better than this crudely drawn story. Further I can detect none of Simon’s drawing style in “The Lady of Linden Lane”. While I am not familiar enough with the work of Arturo or Luis Cazeneuve to confidently spot their work, what I have seen is much better than these crude drawings. The combination of a Kirby drawn splash with story done by another artist fits very well the interview reply that Kane gave. Add to that the use of swipes and Kane’s admitted poor artistry (he was 16 at the time). So assuming that there is at least some truth to his statements I am questionably attributing the story art for “The Lady of Linden Lane” to Gil Kane. The one problem with this attribution is that there is only one Newsboy Legion story that fits this description while Kane statement suggests he did multiple works in this fashion.

Star Spangled #31
Star Spangled #31 (April 1944) “Questions, Please” page 6, art by unidentified artist

The next issue of Star Spangled Comics had a very different Newsboy Legion story. No clear sign of Simon and Kirby here, neither in the splash or the story art. Nor is this the same artist that produced the story art from “The Lady of Linden Lane” I must admit that I have slighted this artist in the past. His more “cartoony” approach gives the impression that he could be considered an “anti-Simon & Kirby”. But it would be a mistake to dismiss this artist. Put aside any comparisons to Joe and Jack and I am sure the reader will see this is a rather interesting and talented artist. Sure his faces and figures are exaggerated but they are full of life. He makes good use of varying the point of view. He seems to purposely distort background scenery giving it an almost cubist look. This artist may be rather bizarre but he is definitely not boring. I will cover this artist in more detail in the next chapter of this serial post.

But who is this artist? In the past I, and at least some others, have thought this was Gil Kane. Now I attributing “The Lady of Linden Lane” to Gil Kane but is there any other reason to reject Kane as the replacement artist for “Questions, Please” and other Newsboy Legion stories? Actually there is. Gil Kane went into the army shortly after his 18th birthday and he spent 19 months in service. Since he was born on April 6, 1926 that would mean he was in the army sometime about April or May 1944. However, as we will see in the next chapter, this replacement artist would provide work up to Star Spangled #49 (October 1945). This is well into the time that Kane was doing military service. Unlike Simon and Kirby, I doubt that DC would consider the replacement artist important enough to provide an inventory of works to use while he was gone. So it can be said with good confidence that Gil Kane was not the primary Simon and Kirby replacement artist.

But what about Joe Simon’s suggestion of the Cazeneuve brothers? I prefer to put off trying to answer that question until the next chapter where I will review more of the primary replacement artist’s Newsboy Legion work.

Joe Simon and the Newsboy Legion Archives

The Newsboy Legion, volume 1

During a recent visit to Joe Simon I picked up a copy of DC’s “The Newsboy Legion by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby” volume 1. This post will not be an unbiased review as I was one of the contributors having provided all the covers. I have been extremely busy with restorations for “Simon and Kirby Superheroes” but I had previously scanned and cleaned up these Star Spangled covers so providing them to DC did impact my commitment with Titan. The covers are generally not what I would call full restorations but I think they came out rather well. The restoration of the stories was done by others (Rick Keene and Mike Montagna) and is even better than the work done for “Simon and Kirby’s Sandman”. I know there are some who are critical of DC’s approach but I am not one of them. I am pleased to see that only Marvel continues to follow the outdated technique of art “reconstruction” (a code word for recreation).

This first volume covers the work that appeared in Star Spangled issues #7 to #32 (April 1942 to May 1944). Joe and Jack provided DC with a handsome inventory before they went into military service. Because of that inventory this volume is almost exclusively work by Simon and Kirby with only three stories and a single cover drawn by other artists.

There are some aspects about this archive that I am less satisfied with. Mainly the smaller dimensions of the book requires that the art must be slightly reduced in size with narrow the gutters and margins. This was true for the Sandman archive as well. But I suspect this was all done to keep the cost of the book low. The dust jacket shows re-colored Simon and Kirby art. I am not a fan of the use of modern coloring on gold and silver age comic art. The line art was made for the type coloring and printing that it originally received. I have not seen any examples of the successful use of modern coloring applied to older art. But hey it is just the dust jacket and it is the contents of the book that really count.

A particular appeal feature of this reprint is the introduction written by Joe Simon. It seems so obvious a choice that I do not know why Joe is not asked to do more of these. Joe is a great writer and this is another of his fascinating essays. I will not discuss the contents at this time so the reader will just have to buy the book. But it does cover a wide range of the history that lies behind the Newsboy Legion.

Simon and Kirby’s Captain America was so innovative that it changed the comic book industry. However it was at DC that the Simon and Kirby collaboration really jelled. Which is why I am so pleased that DC will be reprinting so much of this important material. There should be a volume two for the Newsboy Legion and DC has announced the first Boy Command volume as coming out in November. Simon and Kirby fans live in exciting times.