Tag Archives: Simon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Simon and Kirby Superheroes


San Diego Comic-Con International

July 22, 2009


Massive Collection Scheduled for 2010

Titan Books to release comprehensive 480-page edition

of fully-restored – and – previously unpublished superhero stories

by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Following the success of The Best of Simon and Kirby, the first volume in The Official Simon and Kirby Library, Titan Books has announced that The Simon and Kirby Superheroes will be collected in an ambitious 480-page omnibus featuring all of the costumed hero adventures produced by the legendary team that created Captain America. “Aside from their work for Marvel and DC, this will be all of the superhero stories Joe and Jack wrote and illustrated together from 1940 through 1960,” noted Titan owner and publisher Nick Landau. “It’s a massive undertaking, but our team is ready to take it on.”

The Simon and Kirby Superheroes will be released in summer 2010 in the special 11″ x 7-1/2″ oversized format, making it possible to reproduce the comic book pages in their original printed size. “Comics were larger in the Golden Age of the medium,” explained series editor Steve Saffel, “and we wanted to be able to give readers the full experience of these brilliant stories.” As with The Best of Simon and Kirby, the stories will be fully restored by Kirby historian Harry Mendryk, presented on quality matte stock paper in vivid color.

The edition will begin with the mysterious costumed hero The Black Owl from Prize Comics in 1940–the year Simon and Kirby first joined forces. It will include the big-top swashbuckler known as Stuntman, the Runyonesque adventurer The Vagabond Prince, the entire run of the cold-war patriot The Fighting American, and The Fly and Private Strong the final Simon and Kirby collaborations before Jack Kirby moved over to help launch the Marvel Universe.

“What’s more, we’ve got some amazing surprises in store,” Saffel added. Restoration wizard Harry Mendryk will take the groundbreaking 1953 adventures of Captain 3-D and convert them to their original line art. These classic stories also feature artwork by Mort Meskin and a young Steve Ditko–who went on to co-create The Amazing Spider-Man at Marvel–and will be published in full color for the first time.

“Plus, with a little help from our friends, we’ve located a bunch of never-before-published pages starring Stuntman,” Saffel revealed. “Many of the pages are in the hands of private collectors, with others coming directly from the Joe Simon archives. As a result, we’ll be able to pull together nearly the entire story, ‘Stuntman Crowns a Jungle Lord,” and offer up other exciting features for the readers.”

Details concerning The Simon and Kirby Superheroes are still being finalized and will be announced shortly. In addition, to support this volume and the entire Official Simon and Kirby Library, Titan will be launching a dedicated Simon and Kirby web site (http://www.titanbooks.com/simonandkirby) offering exclusive behind-the-scenes content, complete stories, and soon to feature video conversations with Joe Simon.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby first joined forces on the science fiction character Blue Bolt in 1940, and later that year created the seminal hero Captain America (scheduled to be featured in a 2011 major motion picture by Marvel Studios). Simon became the first editor at Timely Comics, the company that later became Marvel, then he and Kirby moved over to DC Comics, the home of Superman and Batman. There they created the military title The Boy Commandos, which at its peak outsold Superman himself.

The Official Simon and Kirby Library features the only editions overseen by Joe Simon and fully authorized by Simon and the Estate of Jack Kirby. The next release will be Joe Simon’s definitive autobiography, followed by editions collecting the team’s extraordinary adventures of detective fiction, horror, and romance. “Every one of these books is a labor of love here at Titan Books,” Nick Landau noted. “Our partnership with Joe Simon is one of our most treasured relationships, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to bring these exciting adventures back into print, looking better than ever before.”

Titan Books is a leading publisher of licensed entertainment, the UK’s top publisher of graphic novels and world-renowned for television and film companions, including Watching the Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, and the official Watchmen and Terminator: Salvation movie tie-ins. Titan Books also publishes a series of high-end art books, and biographies such as the New York Times bestselling My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith.

# # #

Press Contacts US: Katharine Carroll: 914-788-1005 / ktc2000@aol.com

UK: Ellie Graham: 020 7803 1839 / ellie.graham@titanemail.com

The Official Simon and Kirby Library  Joseph H. Simon

and Joseph H. Simon and The Estate of Jack Kirby.



A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

Titan Publishing Group Ltd is a company registered in England & Wales with company number 1599367. VAT number 607 9631 24.?Registered office: 144 Southwark St, London, SE1 0UP



Captain 3D
(1) A splash page from the 1953 release Captain 3-D, taken from the 3-D page and restored to line art by Harry Mendryk. These stories will be presented in full color for the first time. (A color version of this page is available upon request.) Copyright 2009 Simon and Kirby. All rights reserved.

Simon & Kirby Superheroes
(2) A page from the never-before-published story “Stuntman Crowns a Jungle Lord.” The story was partly inked and fully lettered, and with the exception of one missing page, will be published in its entirely in The Simon and Kirby Superheroes. Copyright 2009 Simon and Kirby. All rights reserved.

Ted O’Neil

1940 was a difficult time for many Americans. Although the economy was improving the country was still in the grips of the Great Depression. The relatively new comic book industry provided work for some artists but it did not provide the big time money like a successful syndication strip. For a comic book artist to make a good living he had to be talented and hard working. Well the newly formed team of Simon and Kirby were certainly both hard working and talented. Newly arrived to form the core of Timely’s first bullpen, the duo were hard at work on the Fiery Mask, the Vision and the short lived Red Raven. But that was not enough for Joe and Jack, as they also moonlighted for other publishers. Kirby, probably by himself, would do the Solar Legion for Crash Comics. Jack would also join Joe on Simon’s earlier creation, the Blue Bolt. The two would also work on some existing features for Prize Comics one of which was Ted O’Neil.

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “Ted O’Neil”, art by William Rowland

Prize Comics was a fairly new title with the first issue having a March 1940 cover date. Ted O’Neil was a feature of Prize Comics right from the start. Unfortunately I have seen none of the earlier issues so I have little idea how the feature started out. By Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) Ted O’Neil was an American in England’s Royal Air Force. The splash page credits William Rowland with for the story. Early in the golden age of comics such credits often refer to the writer and not the artist. However Who’s Who of American Comic Books shows Will Rowland as the artist for other titles so I think we can safely say he is the artist for this Ted O’Neil story as well. Rowland may also have written the story as well as was so commonly the case this early in the history of comic books.

Prize Comics #7
Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) “Ted O’Neil” page 4, art by William Rowland

What can I say, while I would not call Rowland a bad artists, I just cannot get to exciting about him either. Rowland tries hard to make the story interesting but he just is not quite up to it. The story itself is a bit clunky and the artwork a bit stiff. While the flying scenes are easy to understand they just do not grab the reader. I really do not mean to be too hard on William Rowland’s work on this Ted O’Neil story because it compares well with most comic book stories from that period.

Prize Comics #8
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) “Ted O’Neil”, pencils by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby’s work for Prize are all unsigned. Some fans like to give Kirby all the credit for this work, but just because we cannot see clear indications of Simon’s participation does not mean that this was not a collaborative effort. I prefer to provide joint credits for their work once Simon and Kirby had teamed up unless there is good reason to do otherwise. (The only exception that comes to mind is the Fiery Mask story from Human Torch #2 which is so close to Joe’s earlier efforts that I wonder if it had been left in inventory for a time).

Prize Comics #8
Prize Comics #8 (January 1941) “Ted O’Neil” page 5, pencils by Jack Kirby

It should come as no surprise that Kirby’s pencils for the Ted O’Neil story found in PC #8 was much superior to Rowland’s from PC #7. Simon and Kirby were not yet famous but you have to wonder if some of the more observant artists had not begun to take notice of Jack’s art. Perhaps not since Simon and Kirby traits have not taken full effect. Here and there part of a figure will extend beyond the panel boundaries but it is all very tentative and easily overlooked. There is a circular panel but it is a small insert and not the larger ones that Joe and Jack would use later to such great effect. A couple of panels have a sinuous edge but none of the panels have the irregular borders that played such an important part of Simon and Kirby art for a time.

But observant readers might have noticed something special. Rowland’s flying scenes are all viewed from a distance while Jack would pan in and out. It does not sound like much but it reminds the reader of the very human occupant of the cockpit and keeps the eye interested. Rowland does not provide a single close-up in his story while Kirby provides many.

Not just the art is interesting but the story is as well. If Joe and Jack were presented a script they already had developed the habit of rewriting it. Rowland’s story was a straight forward action tale but Joe and Jack would add a little humor. One scene were Blinky receives a kick in his rear end for good luck reminds me very much of a scene from a much later Kirby story, “Street Code” where a kid’s hunchback is rubbed for similar reasons.

Prize Comics #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “Ted O’Neil”, pencils by Jack Kirby

While America had not entered the war, Britain was in the thick of it with their Royal Air Force battling Germany for command of the skies. However Edward R. Murrow’s live broadcasts from London during the Blitz incited many Americans to support England. This certainly was the reason that Ted O’Neil ended up in the R.A.F. But Rowland hardly made use of that connection. While the Germans are mention in PC #7, the bad guy works for another plane manufacturing company. Simon and Kirby places Ted O’Neil in the thick of it. We see the Battle for Britain and the London Blitz. There are saboteurs and spies. Ted O’Neil may not have worn a colorful costume and his only power came from flying a plane, but Simon and Kirby were already laying the ground works for their soon to be released Captain America.

Prize Comics #9
Prize Comics #9 (February 1941) “Ted O’Neil” page 3, pencils by Jack Kirby

By PC #9 even the art work was becoming more powerful. Note how the figures have begun to escape the boundaries of the panels in a more obvious fashion. Joe and Jack had flexed their artistic muscles and they were ready to explode in full force with Captain America. Even before it hit the stands they must have known they had something special in Captain America. Issue #9 would be their last work for Prize for many years. Joe and Jack would do a rush job to produce a special edition of Captain Marvel that would get released in the same month as the first Cap comic. That would be the end of their moonlighting for a while except for some covers that Joe would do for free as a favor to his friend Al Harvey. Previously Simon and Kirby almost went unnoticed but with Captain America a big success everyone in the industry took paid attention and comic books were never the same.

Art of Romance, Chapter 16, Someone Old and Someone New

(August 1951 – October 1951: Young Romance #36 – #38, Young Love #24 – #26)

Number of Romance Titles 1947 – 1952 (the period covered in this chapter is shaded in blue)

Despite the fact that today many fans point to Boys’ Ranch as one of Simon and Kirby best efforts it was at the time a commercial failure. The last issue of Boys’ Ranch would have an August cover date. After that Joe and Jack would only be working on the two monthly romance titles and the bimonthly Black Magic all of them for Prize Comics. Young Romance entered its fourth year and I believe both romance titles were still selling very well.

Jack Kirby is legendary for the amount of work he could produce. While there were periods during the Simon and Kirby collaboration that support that legend there are other times that do not. In the previous chapter Meskin replaced Kirby as the most productive studio artist. During the period covered in this chapter Meskin has maintained the first place position but now Bill Draut has replaced Jack for the second place. For the romance titles Meskin produced 64, Draut 49, and Kirby 45 pages. Adding the work for Black Magic only increases the disparity (Meskin 78, Draut 67 and Kirby 60 pages). Mort Meskin was famous for his productivity but Bill Draut was not. The difference is all the more striking when it is considered that Meskin and Draut were doing all there own inking while Kirby was not.

Another indication of Jack’s decreased involvement in the art from this period is that Bill Draut did the lead story for Young Romance #36. While it was not unusual for the first story of Young Love to be done by artists other then Kirby, Young Romance was the flagship title and up to now Jack almost always provided the lead story. The single previous exception was for YR #12 (July 1949) and Draut was the feature artist on that occasion as well.

I cannot offer any explanation for Kirby’s decreased page production. If his time was occupied with trying to develop something new it did not come to fruition. But it must be remembered that Jack was a boss and his income depended on the how good sales were for the S&K titles not on how many pages of art he drew. His decreased output could be due to nothing more then attention to some personal issues.

Most of the rest of the romance work was done by two artists; John Prentice with 25 pages and Marvin Stein with 24 pages. Three other artists supplied single stories. Two of them will be discussed below and the third has not been identified but only provided a single page.

Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “Family Trouble”, art by Jack Kirby

While his page count has dropped the quality of Jack Kirby’s work had not suffered. He still drew great splashes and his stories were still unique compared to other studio artists (suggesting that Jack was rewriting the scripts while he was drawing them). This uniqueness was often the result of placing more action into the story, something that Kirby excelled at. But as I have pointed out before, Jack also excelled at comic book art that did not rely on action. His romance splash panels are often examples of this. The splash for “Family Trouble” uses the confessional format that is so typical of Kirby’s lead stories. The word balloon that introduces the story provides the plot of young lovers facing family disapproval but does not explain the basis of their problem other then age. Kirby presents the couple passing through a gate carrying their luggage presumable off to start their new life together. The sign on the entrance indicates they are leaving the servant’s quarters and therefore theirs is a romance that breaks the class boundary between the rich and their servants. The man seems calmed but resolved while the woman seems more resolute. At a glance this splash is nothing more the two standing figures but Jack embodies an entire story in it. Of course the viewer is expected to be enticed to read the story to get the full explanation.

Young Love #25 (September 1951) “My Old Flame”, art by Jack Kirby

Kirby’s splashes are almost always interesting but occasionally they are quite unique. Given Joe Simon’s long history of innovative designs I suspect he provided layouts for many of Jack’s covers and splashes but even if that is true it still took a genius like Kirby to make them work so well. Here while riding a train a man pauses from reading his book to reflect on a past relationship. Normally the splash would be expected to show a head shot or half figure of the former love object. Instead we are provided with just a close-up of a set of eyes seeming arising behind the man; a compositional device that is much more effective in capturing the man’s mood.

Young Romance #36 (August 1951) “Yesterday’s Romance”, art by Bill Draut

“Yesterday’s Romance” was the lead story for YR #36 that Bill did instead of Jack. It is an unusual story for any romance title because it main characters are all in their advanced years. Draut does a good job of capturing the offbeat nature of the story in his splash. The odd thing about this piece is that usually the lead story used the confessional format where the protagonist’s speech balloon tells what the story is about and provides the title. Bill has used that confessional splash before so he was aware of Simon and Kirby’s preference for using that splash format for the lead story.

Young Romance #36 (August 1951) “Married In Haste”, art by Bill Draut

While “Yesterday’s Romance” failed to make use of the confessional splash it appears in the same issue in “Married in Haste”. This suggests that “Married in Haste” was originally meant to be the lead story but its place was taken by “Yesterday’s Romance” after the art was completed. Bill does a good job with the confessional splash and as any good splash it succeeds in its roll as the story’s preview. It may not be fair but it is constructive to compare the splash for “Married in Haste” with Kirby’s “Family Trouble” (shown above). Both do well at having the splash background support the story needed although it is not clear how much of this was the result of the artist and how much came from the writer. I describe the comparison as unfair because Kirby is such a great artist the comparison will tend to make Draut’s work poorer then the excellent art it really is. But the comparison is useful because it highlights the nuanced emotions Kirby gives his characters compared to the more static ones that Draut provides. While Kirby is justly famous for the exciting action the work he did for romance pushed him to be equally adept at portraying more subtle emotions.

Young Love #24 (August 1951) “Native Wedding”, art by Mort Meskin

The splash for Meskin’s “Native Wedding” is reminiscent of the one Bruno Premiani did some time ago for YR #10 (June 1950, see chapter 11 of The Art of Romance). One obvious difference is that Meskin is uncharacteristic in his use of busy brushwork found throughout the splash. Normally this would result in the image loosing focus but somehow Mort pulls it off. Mort also takes care to make the camp fire scene occur at night providing the nearby faces shadowed from below as appropriate for the position of the fire. The dancer’s back is also appropriately shadowed.

Young Love #26 (October 1951) “Let’s Keep It Gay” page 5, art by Mort Meskin

For a couple of pages of “Let’s Keep It Gay” Meskin adopts and 2 rows by 3 columns panel layout. This results in tall narrow panels that Mort put to good use especially in the second panel of page 5. This panel layout was one that previously Leonard Starr was fond of using so one wonders if perhaps Meskin picked it up from him. Starr also used a 3 rows by 3 panel layout where he would decrease the height of two rows so that the remaining row would have similarly tall panels. Starr’s modified 3 by 3 panel layout did not seem to be one the Meskin picked up on.

I particularly like how the bottom row starts with the couple in the foreground and a TV studio as the background, then Mort comes in for a close-up without the studio background, before ending by once again pushing the couple into the background of the studio. Careful manipulation of point of view was an important aspect of Meskin’s art during this period providing his stories with what could be described as a cinematic approach.

Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “One Tragic Mistake”, art by John Prentice

John Prentice has become a regular presence in Simon and Kirby productions, especially the romance comics. In the last chapter I provided an example where Prentice seemed to be adopting some of the Studio Style inking techniques. Although it was possible it could have been Joe or Jack touching up John’s work the picket fence crosshatching (see my Inking Glossary for explanations of some of my inking terminology) my opinion was and still is that it was the work of John himself. For the splash page of “One Tragic Mistake” we find a more typical Prentice inking. Note in particular his method of doing cloth folds. They are not the spatulate or oval shape typical of Kirby but tend to be long with roughly parallel edges and with a more or less flat and sometimes slanted ends. John also has a fondness for long sweeping cloth folds. Note the inking of the man’s shoulder. At a glance this might be mistaken for a Studio Style shoulder blot but see how it appears on only one of the shoulders and is clearly integrated with the shadow on the side of the face. With Joe or Jack I am never sure if shoulder blots were meant to indicate shadows or the turn of the form but Prentice always seems quite clear with his intent.

Young Romance #38 (October 1951) “One Tragic Mistake” page 8, art by John Prentice

While the splash page to this story looks like typical Prentice inking other pages seem to be a combination of his own inking techniques and the Studio Style. Most of the cloth folds are done in Prentice’s typical brush work but note the abstract arch shadows (panels 1, 2 and 4), picket fence crosshatching (panels 3 and 4) and shoulder blot (panel 6). Only drop strings appear to be missing. Panel 6 truly has shoulder blots because they appear on both shoulders while a shadow would only be appropriate foe the man’s right side. While I am not certain that the picket fence crosshatching was not by John, the abstract arches are so untypical for Prentice that I believe this is Joe or Jack stepping to do some touching up.

Young Love #24 (August 1951) “Don’t Tell On Me” page 2, art by John Prentice

A page from another Prentice story from the same period provides a more typical example of Prentice inking. Again note the cloth folds some of which are long and sweeping and few could be called oval or spatulate in shape. There are some arching shadows that might suggest the Studio Style. But the round shape in the first panel is not abstract at all but is clearly meant to be the moon. The arc of the left side of the second panel is meant to be the entrance to an arched hallway. The shadow on the right side seems to be the light of the window falling on the darken exterior. Almost all applications of large areas of ink appear to be intended as realistic shadows. There is some picket fence crosshatching that again does not look typical of the brush work of either Kirby or Simon. However note the picket fence crosshatching of the last panel. The pure black area on the man’s left shoulder seems an appropriate shadow but then the picket fence crosshatching on the opposite side does not. Since I have found both Simon and Kirby touching up other artists works distinguishing between their efforts and that of the original artists adopting Studio Style techniques can be a difficult conundrum. In John Prentice’s case I am still undecided. The distinction becomes important when trying to detect Prentice’s hand in the inking of work by Jack Kirby. Some have suggested that John was the inker for some of Kirby’s art and he certainly is a candidate for that type of work.

Young Love #24 (August 1951) “Left At the Alter”, art by Marvin Stein

Previously I have had mixed feelings about Marvin Stein and in particular felt his romance art was little more then adequate. Even in the last chapter I noted his presence and gave an example image but did not provide more detailed examination. However Marvin had been working hard at improving his art and although signs of improvement have been noted before now his efforts really seems to bare fruit during this period. Marvin developed a style for his crime and western work that owed much to what he learned from Jack Kirby. For that more action oriented art Stein also developed an inking style that was blunt but well controlled; a style very suitable for the genre it was used on. Neither the pencil nor inking style would be very appropriate for romance work so instead Marvin used a more refined style for both. Not only was the bold inking brush restrained but Marvin sometimes used a pen to create crosshatching. His figure drawing has improved but he still retains one of his earlier trademark tendencies to give his woman eyes that are set at an angle with each other.

Young Love #25 (September 1951) “Alice Finds Her Wonderland”, art by Marvin Stein

The splash for “Alice Finds Her Wonderland” is so special I could not resist including it. The Alice in Wonderland cast was probable requested by the script writer although the wonderland that Alice desires in the story did not include these delightful characters. Having seen much of Marvin Steins work in the romance, crime, western and horror genres it is quite a pleasure to see him so successful at a more cartoon-like drawing.

Young Romance #36 (August 1951) “Just Good Friends”, art by Vic Donahue

Vic Donahue has not made an appearance in a Simon and Kirby production for almost a year (last seen in YL #13, September 1950, see Chapter 11 of The Art of Romance). Even then I remarked that his art had been improving. Apparently that improvement has progressed so far that I almost did not recognize him in “Just Good Friends”. Even though this piece is unsigned enough of Vic’s mannerisms remain to credit Vic with this story such as the tilt he often gives the heads of females or the way he occasionally reverts to fine pen work often as simple hatching. Vic also appeared in this same month in Black Magic #6 (Chapter 2 of the Little Shop of Horrors) in a signed piece but I have to admit I did not find that work particularly appealing.

Young Love #26 (October 1951) “Polly Wants a Boy Friend”, art by Ross Andru

I am always impressed by the number of talented comic book artists that had worked for Simon and Kirby at one time or another. Some like Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice did extended stays. Others like Leonard Starr and John Severin worked for more limited durations but provided their share of work during that time. Yet others made brief appearances and only did a few pieces for instance Bernie Krigstein and Steve Ditko. Ross Andru belongs in the last category.

I must admit that I am not that knowledgeable about Ross Andru’s history. Most fans are probably familiar with him for the work he did many years later on Amazing Spider-Man. Andru was clearly an enterprising individual who formed his own company on three occasions. The earliest was in 1951 when he and Mike Esposito created MR Publications. I am not clear exactly what the nature of this company was. Some have said it was a comic publishing company in which case Andru and Esposito were three years ahead of Simon and Kirby’s Mainline (although Al Harvey was much earlier then them all). However I have been unable to determine what comic titles they published. If MR Publications was actually producing comic books for another publisher to release then Simon and Kirby had been doing that for years (and Will Eisner doing it still earlier). MR Publications was short lived and it would be interesting to determine the timing of that company or its demise and the appearance of Andru’s in Simon and Kirby productions.

“Polly Wants a Boy Friend” is typical romance work by Andru. The sort of wistful expression with tilted head of the woman in the center of the splash panel can be found in some signed pieces from a few years later. The man in the last panel of the page was also a dead giveaway of Andru’s style. Although unsigned I have not doubt about the correct attribution of this story. My database indicates Ross will appear in a couple more Simon and Kirby romances in the near future and again under different circumstances in 1954. Considering that Andru’s earlier pieces for Joe and Jack are unsigned there is also the possibility I will find more as my reviews progress.

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

Joe Simon’s Northart Concepts Inc.

At the very start of this year I did a post on Joe Simon’s commercial work (Joe Simon’s Career in Advertising). I wrote it at the time because I thought that Joe’s work outside of comics would provide some insight into his career. Surprisingly I got some reader response requesting some more. Unfortunately I still have not scanned any of Simon’s bank illustrations which are for all practical purposes unknown to the comic book community. As far as I know the two black and white images I provided in the previous post are the only ones that have ever shown outside of their original use in advertisements. But I was scanning some more of Joe’s commercial work and thought I would include some here.

Simon did this work as a consultant and he called his company Northart Concepts Inc.

Layout for Miller Cardboard advertisement

In my previous post I included a published advertisement for Miller Cardboard. The above image is the actual layout used. What are shown in the image are a clear plastic sheet and an illustration board. The guide marks (found in the four corners) shows that the plastic sheet and illustration were not perfectly aligned when the scan was made but are close enough to be understandable. The plastic sheet is marked at the top “Red Plate”. The sheet therefore was meant to indicate the second, or color printing plate. Referring to it as the red plate is typically a term designating the magenta plate in a four color printing process. However in cases like this where only two print plates are required it was truly a red, or more precisely an orange ink. The red areas are colored transparent tape placed on the plastic sheet indicating where the red ink should go. There are two text lines pasted on the plastic and judging from the printed advertisement there was another one just above the large company name that has since fallen off. The two horizontal lines that are above and below the company title also adhere to the plastic sheet. Three of the pieces of red tape are marked with an ‘X’ to indicate that the image under them should be completely removed. The images under the other areas of red tape were meant to be retained giving those areas a texture in the printed results.

The rest of what is visible in the image above are all laid out on the illustration board. Most of the image consists of a montage of photographs of close-ups of textiles and a clock. Most of the pieces of photographs were cut to the required shape but some of the ones at the top were adjusted further by the use of black ink.

Layout for another Miller Cardboard advertisement

Joe Simon’s collection includes another layout for Miller Cardboard. In this case it was meant to be printed in black ink alone. I am not completely certain, but I do not believe the artwork was drawn by Joe; the fine but rough pen work is not typical for him. I find the removal of the tops of the three figures on the right to be a bit disturbing. The fact that this was not the original intention suggests that it came from the direction of Miller Cardboard.

Layout for Woodruff-Stevens advertisement

Joe did lot of work for one outfit called Woodruff-Stevens. They dealt in mailing lists. Much of the work was simple layouts and not particularly exciting. However providing these layouts was a regular source of income for Simon. Woodruff-Stevens was so pleased with all the work that Joe did for them that they wanted him to become a partner but he declined to do.

Front of brochure for Grolier Enterprises

This above brochure was for another mailing list. Actually I suspect it was just another name used by Woodruff-Stevens.

Front of brochure for Fingerhut

Another brochure for another mailing list. Again I suspect Fingerhut was just another company name used by Woodruff-Stevens.

Woodruff-Stevens Advertisement

Artwork does appear in some of the work Joe Simon did various companies. But generally speaking I do not believe Joe did the actual drawing, just the layouts.

Early stage for a Trido Research advertisement job

The above image is of an altered photograph. Joe had his own stat camera with which it was possible for him to make stats, film or prints. Stats are different from photographic film or prints in that they cheaply and easily produced images that were essentially black or white. I believe what was done is this case was that dot screen film was place over the original photograph and the combination shot using the stat camera onto stat film. A contact print was then made from the stat film. What looks like grey tones in the above images are actually due to the dots generated by using the dot screen. Joe then painted over the print with opaque white pigment in the hair and black ink on parts of the background. If you look carefully at the top of the image you can make out three light lines that seem to radiate from the model’s head. These lines are guide marks on the stat camera that Joe used and are frequently found in his work.

Later stage for a Trido Research advertisement job

The above image is a later stage of the same job discussed just above. Although the white pigment used in the hair in the early image had traces of grey these would not remain in this later stage. There are minor differences between this later image and the earlier one which leads me to believe that there may have been another state in between the two. Even this is not the last state as there are directions in pencil on the left margins indicating what further changes had to be made. Basically they wanted greater separation between the text and the image.

Opaque pigments on photographic image

My last example for this post is an image of a woman. There is no indication what the image was intended for but it was found among Joe’s other commercial work and the image’s appearance seems most suitable for an advertisement. Joe taped a photograph onto an illustration board and then proceeded to paint onto it with opaque pigments. This was done so thoroughly that the only parts of the original photograph that can be made out are thin strips at the edges that had not been covered with paint. In its present state there is no way to tell how closely Joe followed the original photograph. The pigment was applied with a brush for the hair while the face was done using an air brush.

I have no idea how many but there were a number of comic book artists that ended up doing commercial art. For most of them, like Mort Meskin, this meant providing illustrations for advertisements. I also suspect that most ending up employed by some particular advertisement agency. Joe Simon’s commercial career was different and it mirrored his comic book career. First off Joe did not work directly for any advertisement agency but had his own consulting company instead. Simon did some illustrations the most interesting to most comic book fans would be the ones he did for Mechanics National Bank (the subject of a future post when I have had a chance to scan them). However Joe’s work ran a range from simple layouts to more complicated jobs using a stat camera. Just like in comics Joe did it all but he was his own boss.

A Great Joe Simon Inverview

I tip my hat to The Jack Kirby Comics Weblog for pointing out the great interview Christopher Irving did of Joe Simon for Graphic NYC. Joe had mentioned it to me but I had no idea what a marvelous job Irving did. I am quite critical about most interviews of Joe because they never seem to get him really engaged. Previously the only interview I recommended was Jim Amash’s for Alter Ego #76. Now I will add Christopher Irving’s as well. Do not miss it!

Fighting American, Chapter 3, Jumping the Shark

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had launched their own publishing company, Mainline, starting with Bullseye #1 (cover date August 1954). In an uncharacteristic move, Simon and Kirby did not advertise their involvement in the Mainline titles (Bullseye, Foxhole, In Love and Police Trap). This unusual reticent was undoubtedly due to a desire to avoid conflicts, at least initially, with Prize Comics for whom Joe and Jack continued to produce comics including Fighting American. The extra work Simon and Kirby had taken on was not without consequences as there was a drop in the quantity and quality of the work drawn by Kirby. The art for the earlier issues of Fighting American was top notch but in my opinion most of the art for the issues covered in this chapter were relatively inferior (but an inferior Jack Kirby was still better then the best of most other comic book artists).

Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Jiseppi, The Jungle Boy” page 3, art by Jack Kirby

The decline in art quality that I mentioned above does not seem to have occurred in “Jiseppi, The Jungle Boy”. This is a delightfully nonsensical tale about a jungle boy in India that speaks English with a distinct Italian accent. Actually in the end it turns out there is a perfectly logical explanation for this incongruity (okay maybe only as logical as can be expected in a comic book). As seen in the previous chapter, Simon and Kirby’s humor includes making fun of the comic’s heroes. Above we see Fighting American trying to track Jiseppi through the jungle completely oblivious to all the dangers that his quarry saves him from. I love the way that the jungle boy’s tiger speaks in stick figures.

Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “The Year Bender” page 4, art by Jack Kirby

Simon and Kirby would throw in some science fiction-fantasy into their humor as well as seen in “The Year Bender”. They travel in time is said to be about 3000 years in the past. It looks like Rome but that could not be since at 1000 BC Rome was just one of many small Italian cities and the arena games presented here would not be held for many years from then. But historical accuracy was never an important criteria for Simon and Kirby particularly if it got in the way of a good story. Check out the fun Jack had in drawing the ancient helmets; I do not believe any two head gear were drawn the same throughout the story.

As delightful a tale as this is, the decline in art quality that I mentioned is pretty obvious. It would be easy to blame the inker but Jack had some pretty poor inkers in the past but Simon and Kirby would usually rescue it by doing the final touchups.

The final panel reads:


Despite what they promised issue #6 had no time travel tale.

Fighting American #5 (December 1954) “Invisible Irving”, art by Jack Kirby

The villain for “Invisible Irving” makes use of invisible paint although oddly enough often comes off just part of his body leaving him looking like a flying head.

The tale ends with a caption:


Perhaps this refers to the same story mentioned at the end of “The Year Bender”. Even so “City Beneath the Sea” is a story that would never appear and as far as is known was never drawn.

Fighting American #6
Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “Deadly Doolittle” page 4, art by Joe Simon

The art for “Deadly Doolittle” is generally attributed to Jack Kirby, and with good reason since many Kirby mannerisms can be found in the story. However as I have previously pointed out (Art of Joe Simon, Chapter 11) this story is actually a rewrite of a Manhunter story (Adventure Comics #75, June 1942, “Beware Of Mr. Meek”). In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon describes how he and Jack got into hot water with Prize Comics for using re-scripted old romance art. While I have never been able to trace down the specific romance work in question (not that surprising considering the thousands of romance pages that Simon and Kirby produced) this recycling of an old Manhunter story occurred about the same time and was a similar cost saving measure. Attributing the actual pencils for “Deadly Doolittle” to Joe Simon is not based on the use of swipes. Some use the false swiping criteria (non-swipe = Kirby, swipe = Simon) but it has been amply shown that Jack would swipe as well. Rather I credit Simon for this particular story because of the art, especially the woman in the last panel of page 4. Similar women can even be found in the reworked Black Magic that Joe did for DC many years later (Black Magic at DC).

Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “The Making of Fighting American”, art by Jack Kirby

Four pages of issue #6 are used for the retelling of the origin of Fighting American and Speedboy. This was all art selected from the first issue except for the splash panel. Not that the splash was new, it was originally meant as the cover for Fighting American #4.

Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “Super Khakalovitch”, art by Jack Kirby

For me “Super Khakalovitch” is where Simon and Kirby had finally jumped the shark in Fighting American. It may be just me, but I find the humor forced and the story dull. Further the story is not helped by the fact that not all the art was drawn by Jack Kirby. I judge that Jack did pages 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Fighting American #6 (February 1955) “Super Khakalovitch” page 8, art by unidentified artist

The other pages (3, 8, 9 and 10) were done by an artist that I have not been able to identify; he does not look like any of the artists working for Simon and Kirby at the time.

Simon and Kirby may have jumped the shark but they produced enough art for two more issues although one would not be published for years later.

Fighting American, Chapter 2, Fighting With Humor

An Unused Silver Spider script by Jack Oleck

Joe Simon has a typical New York apartment; that is one that in most areas of the country would be considered rather small. Despite that fact Joe has managed to accumulate an amazing amount of material. I am constantly surprised with what I find and the latest gem is a Silver Spider script “The Menace from One Million B.C.”.

In “The Comic Book Makers” Joe Simon has described the creation of the Silver Spider:

In 1953, a year before the devastating Senate investigation into comics, I was visited by C.C. Beck, the artist behind the success of Captain Marvel. Beck told me that he owned the Ukulele Bar & Grill in Miami, Florida, and while tending the bar, often thought about doing another superhero. He offered to “take a crack” at the business again, if I would come up with an idea for a new character and a script.

Jack Oleck, my brother-in-law, who had been the number one scriptwriter for Simon and Kirby since the early days of Young Romance, had time on his hands. Oleck always had time, even if he turned out a script seven days a week. As always, he was anxious to join in a new venture.

It was a good thing that I came across this script because as can be seen in the image of the first sheet the script is badly suffering from the affects of time. All pages are badly yellowed and quite fragile. The first page has suffered a bit but it was the last preserved page that has been damaged the most. The original last page of the script is no longer present; I cannot say if it was detached not too long after the script was written, got separate from the other pages and may yet be found in Joe’s collection, or has been completely crumbled and is now lost forever. With “The Menace from One Million B.C.” was yet another Jack Oleck script in similar condition. That script was for “His Brother’s Keeper” which was published by Atlas and therefore was not done for Simon and Kirby. I originally wrote about a xerox of the first page of the script (The Astonishing Jack Oleck) but now that I have the complete original version I may revisit the subject.

The original script was 22 pages long but as I said above it is now missing the last page. The story is however complete because the bottom of script page 21:

Large chart of the monster (as per attached sketch). Occupies all off

As can be seen from the first page the actual comic story was first planned to be 11 pages long and then modified to down to 10 pages. I am uncertain what the 121 written at the top meant but a similar notation is found on the “His Brother’s Keeper” script. I wonder if it was a reference to the fee to charge for the script. If it was Jack would have been charging $11 a page (before the page count change). The preserved script appears to be a carbon copy. I am not sure if that explains Jack’s tendency to type slightly off the page but I am pretty sure it is why on one page the last line is almost entirely below the lower margin. Besides the notations at the top of the first page there are numerous corrections and modifications done in pen. The ink is brown in color but I understand that is a common transformation over time (if I remember correctly it is due to iron particles in the ink that literally rust with age). The modifications begin on page five of the intended comic and extend throughout the rest of the story. These modifications were made to change the story from 11 to 10 pages. Many of the changes are simple alteration of the panel numbering other changes are more extensive alterations of the script.

The plot involves a search for a lost gold mine, gun tooting villains, and a flame breathing dinosaur. Needless to say it is a story with a lot of action. It is however a story for young readers very much along the lines of Captain Marvel. The device of a young boy transforming into an adult superhero is shared with Captain Marvel. Although C.C. Beck is closely associated with the big red cheese, Simon and Kirby had also produced an early Captain Marvel comic book. The genie, particularly as portrayed in the Silver Spider, is unlike anything used in Simon and Kirby productions. The 1953 date that Joe provides for the genesis of the Silver Spider makes sense since the use of machine guns and dynamite as weapons indicate that this script was written before the Comic Code after which such violence was strictly forbidden.

One thing to notice is the complete absence of Jack Kirby in what Joe writes about the Silver Spider. This seems credible, because if Jack had been involved he would have done the art for the origin story as he did for all Simon and Kirby creations. But since this was a favor for C.C. Beck he would do the art (The End of Simon & Kirby, Chapter 10). Simon’s contribution seemed to be coming up with the idea with Beck, working on the logo, providing the contact with Oleck, and taking the package to Harvey Comics. In the end Harvey decided not to publish the new superhero. C.C. Beck’s art lingered in the Harvey storeroom until Joe retrieved it to provide the basis of the Fly for Archie Comics. Was the script for “The Menace from One Million B.C.” also retrieved or had it remained in Jack Oleck’s possession to go on to Joe along with the script for “His Brother’s Keeper” when Oleck passed away? In any case “The Menace from One Million B.C.” was probably too whimsical a story to be recycled into the Fly and so remained unused.

Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 2, Up and Running

(April to August 1951, Black Magic #4 – #6)

Black Magic #4 to #6 were released during the same period as Boys’ Ranch #4 to #6 (for Harvey Comics). Both titles were bimonthlies which mean that the greatest amount of work produced by the Simon and Kirby studio was for Young Romance and Young Love both of which were monthlies. This is not at all unusual for while Simon and Kirby are most famous for their superheroes most of the work they did during their collaboration was for love comics.

The period discussed in this chapter roughly corresponds with chapter 15 of my serial post The Art of Romance.

While Jack Kirby did all the covers for Black Magic (as he would throughout the first run) in terms of the number of pages drawn he was not the primary artist for Black Magic like he was in the earlier issues. That honors now went to Mort Meskin who did 37 pages compared to Jack’s 17 pages. Even Bill Draut with 18 pages of art did more then Kirby. But even Bill was not the second most prolific artist in the issues covered; surprisingly that would go to the newcomer George Roussos who did 20 pages. Vic Donahue who has been absent from Simon and Kirby productions for some months does a single 5 page story. John Prentice is new to the studio and only provides a single 7 page story. Two stories remain without attributions but one of them is a single page feature.

Black Magic #4 (April 1951) “Voodoo on Tenth Avenue”, art by Jack Kirby

Kirby has scaled back on his splash for his only large piece for Black Magic. Still even with half a page Jack could get a lot of impact. It is amazing how Kirby has managed to make the woman both beautiful and evil; no haggard witch here is just a cold and angry heart. What a text book example of the use of abstract arch shadows (see my Inking Glossary). I count 6 of them in this small splash.

Black Magic #5 (June 1951) “The World of Spirits”, art by Jack Kirby

While Kirby’s other contribution to Black Magic #4 to #6 were very short pieces one of them, “The World of Spirits” is not to be neglected. It is a small masterpiece. It is one of those cases where Jack, so famous for his action, has managed to make exciting art out of nothing more then talking heads. Part of what makes a page like the one shown above so vital is how Kirby changes the expressions in every panel. Since the characters are all past their youth Jack can push his already exaggerated eyebrows to much advantage. The inking is also superb. I am not one to automatically attribute good inking jobs to Kirby but the way the spotting is done on the white shirt in the splash and the use of bold cloth folds make me believe that at least much of the spotting was done by Jack himself. A lot of the times these very short pieces just did not seem to get the same attention from the various studio artists as they gave to the more substantial stories. But not Kirby; some of his greatest masterpieces are short stories such as this one.

Black Magic #4 (April 1951) “The Dead Don’t Really Die”, art by Mort Meskin

I am afraid I am giving short shift to Mort Meskin by only including one example despite the fact that he produced far more work then any other artist. This certainly does not reflect on the quality of the work that Mort was producing; Meskin’s Black Magic work is among the best that he ever did. I admit that Mort did some great work for DC after leaving the Simon and Kirby studio but that unfortunately was done under the severely detrimental effects of Comic Code censoring.

I have selected this particular splash page because of its unusual design. Not that the half page splash is so visually different but the fact that the splash panel is actually the first story panel. Typically splash panels are used as the comic book equivalent of a movie trailer; they provide a sort of a synopsis of the story to entice the reader. I do not remember a story splash panel being used in any prior Simon and Kirby production. The use of this device in “The Dead Don’t Really Die” is still pretty much an isolated case but it would become very typical of Simon and Kirby romance comics in the future.

Black Magic #4 (April 1951) “The Jonah”, art by Bill Draut

Black Magic seems to have given Bill Draut the confidence to draw the type of characters that had all but disappeared from his romance work. You normally would not see something like the sailor with the white hat in Bill’s love stories at this time. The splash panel is also something not to be seen in a romance work. How seedy can you get? Beat up trash cans, littered bottles and yeah I am sure that man in the background is just asking directions from the woman. Note the building on our right; the way the bricks are roughly inked as solid black is a mannerism often used by Draut.

Black Magic #5 (June 1951) “Justice for the Dead”, art by John Prentice

I am not sure why but John Prentice did not seem to do as much work for Black Magic as compared to what he did for the romance titles. It certainly is not because he did a poor job on them; quite the contrary. “Justice for the Dead” is a typical Black Magic piece but with a crime slant that shows that John would have made a great crime comic book artist. He had previously worked for Hillman so perhaps he had done some drawing in that genre there. The GCD lists Prentice as also having worked in Gang Busters and Mr. District Attorney for DC but I have not yet verified that. Years later John would do some work for Simon and Kirby’s Police Trap and later yet take over the syndication detective strip Rip Kirby. My knowledge of John Prentice work outside of the Simon and Kirby studio is sadly incomplete but I am working on rectifying that defect.

Black Magic #5 (June 1951) “The Face from The Future”, art by George Roussos

BM #3 (February) marked the earliest appearance of pencils by George Roussos in a Simon and Kirby production. Despite having two stories in that BM #5 and one in the next issue, it is odd that Roussos has not yet appeared in either Young Romance or Young Love. Since George did a lot of inking and was well known to Joe and Jack there is the possibility that he has help with inking Kirby’s work prior to this but I have seen nothing that confirms that conjecture. That Simon and Kirby both knew Roussos is indicated by a sketches both did for him in 1942 (Joe did Hitler in a zoot suite (Poking Fun at Hitler) and Jack did the Boy Commands (A Belated Happy Birthday to Jack Kirby). George also knew Mort Meskin and had inked some of Mort’s work for DC (Early Mort Meskin).

As often happens in Simon and Kirby productions, George Roussos’ splash for “The Face from the Future” uses some inking technique that seemed borrowed from the Studio Style inking. In this case we find picket fence crosshatching (Inking Glossary) on the hooded figure and a rounded shadow in the upper right corner. However it is clearly Roussos doing the inking and not Joe or Jack touching it up. While there is classical picket fence crosshatching on the right ghostly figure it changes as it proceeds to the left and becomes an inking technique not found in the Studio Style. There the shadow is built with short strokes that initially look like the pickets from the picket fence crosshatching but without the rails. The rounded shadow in the upper corner has a ragged edge that again is not typical of the way it usually is done in the Studio Style.

Black Magic #6 (August 1951) “The Girl the Earth Ate Up”, art by George Roussos

George does such a great job on the splash for “The Girl the Earth Ate Up” I could not resist including it. Do not get me wrong Roussos pencils and inking are on the crude side but his use of blacks makes it really work.

Black Magic #6 (August 1951) “A Wolf That Hummed a Nursery Rhyme”, art by Vic Donahue

Vic Donahue has not been appearing in Simon and Kirby productions for a while and this is the only work that I have assigned to him for 1951. It is an odd story and it allows Vic to draw the type of characters that would not have been appropriate for romance work. Even so I just cannot get enthusiastic about Donahue’s effort. Vic was one of the lesser talents in the Simon and Kirby studio and now that all three of the usual suspects (Bill Draut, Mort Meskin and John Prentice) are present Donahue will rarely appear again if at all (my database has no more entries for him after this one).

Black Magic #5 (June 1951) “Follow Me”, art by unidentified artist

There is one Black Magic artist from this period that I have not been able to identify but he does a nice job on “Follow Me”. Good characterization, excellent inking and good graphic story telling.

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 1 (#1 – 3), Expanding Their Fields

The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 3 (#7 – 8), The Same Old Gang
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 4 (#9 – 11), Another Hit
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5 (#12 – 14), New Faces
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 6 (#15 – 17), Mix Bag
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 7 (#18 – 20), Kirby Returns
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 8 (#21 – 23), The Gang’s All Here
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 9 (#24 – 26), The Party’s Ovetr
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 10 (#27 – 29), A Special Visitor
The Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 11 (#30 – 33), The End

My Two Cents

The Jack Kirby Collector always has something interesting in it but with all the great art included it can hardly fail to excite a Kirby fan. I thought I would write a brief comment about a couple of articles from the latest issue (JKC #52).

The first concerns a short piece by John Morrow about the screen play “Fish in a Barrow”. I had previously posted on this play (A Simon and Kirby Screen Play) based on a copy belonging to Joe Simon. It seems however that Morrow has a somewhat different copy. John notes that his copy was 66 pages in length while the one I reported on was 77. Morrow’s description of the overall plot indicates it is the same play but obviously something has been changed. The JKC article includes an image of the first page of Morrow’s copy that provides a hint about what has happened. Morrow’s version of the story begins with two men exiting an elevator and proceeding down the corridor to an office. In Simon’s copy they are already in an office and instead it centers on the reactions initiated by the publisher’s unlighted cigar. Simon’s version seems more dramatic. Further since Simon’s version takes place in an office while Morrow’s goes from the elevator to an office, Simon’s version would seem better for a performance in the TV live plays that the piece seems intended. All that and the longer length of Simon’s version suggest that Joe’s copy is the more recent rewrite of John’s copy.

Single panel from Demon #14 used in “Casting a Shadow” (Jack Kirby Collector #52)

The second comment I have to make concerns the article “Casting a Shadow” written by Adrian Day. In it Day suggests that Kirby’s use of shadows in some of his later works was the results of the influence of a science fiction television show “The Outer Limits”. As presented it all seems very plausible and I have no problem with considering Kirby’s art reflecting outside influences. Unfortunately Adrian failed to consider earlier work from Kirby’s extensive career. Simon and Kirby had a long history of the use of abstract shadows to enliven their comic art and it can be found not only in some of Jack’s earlier work but it was even applied to work by other artists working for Simon and Kirby productions. While the strange shadows on the couch in the image used by Day in his article (shown above) seem to be a late addition to Kirby’s repertoire, those on the walls are not. Note the way some are slightly curved; this was a common Simon and Kirby technique. For comparison I provide the line art for the cover for Young Romance #34 (June 1951) below. I should add that this is by no means the earliest example. Can there be any doubt about Kirby’s long use of seemingly inappropriate shadows? I suggest the absence of such shadows during the silver age was more a result of the way the inking of Kirby’s pencils was handled at that time.

Young Romance #34 (June 1951), art by Jack Kirby