I’ve mentioned before how sometimes ideas for art kind of come at me from random directions, and certain ideas will stick in my head until I do something about them. This is one of those.
Most fans of comics and comics history will recognize the significance of All Star Comics. Especially issue #3: it was the first appearance of the Justice Society of America! The cover for #3 is well-known, as it’s been re-created and repurposed by a number of other artists over the years. I even did it myself once some years back for an FCA cover (Fawcett Collectors of America), replacing the DC heroes with Fawcett’s.
Less familiar are the issues prior to #3. I guess once DC had published Archive Editions containing every issue from All Star #3 forward, it was decided that they probably should complete the set and put out an Archive collecting the first two issues, before the title became about the Justice Society. Hence volume #0.
On a recent reread of that volume, I was struck by the cover of All Star #1. The published cover seemed an afterthought: using existing art photostatted from previous stories and pasted up, the characters looking tiny and constricted in the layout. Maybe the issue was running close to the deadline when they realized they still needed a cover. I started to think, “What might it have looked like if they’d had more time to put it together?”
And as mentioned up top, the idea stuck, and the only way to get it out of my head was to actually do it! So here’s my take on it.
I discovered just before the start of this month that there’s something of a social media thing going on at the moment with Big Bang Comics characters. #BigBangTober apparently. As an early contributor to Big Bang (early and often, in a variety of ways), I felt like maybe I should contribute to the cause. So over on LinkedIn, I’ve been posting a number of my old Big Bang pieces.
The attached is one I always wanted to color, but never had the chance to, until now. It’s a faux Golden Age cover, done as one of many for one of the “Big Bang History of Comics” issues. Modeled after The Steranko History of Comics books, Gary Carlson needed a lot of covers to fill out the pages. This was one I came up with. Pencils, lettering (and of course, coloring) are mine. Inks were by Jeff Meyer, who did a great job of helping further the H.G. Peter art look I was going for here. (I came up with the name “P.G.Harris” as kind of Big Bang’s H.G. Peter equivalent).
Recent visitors to my site in August will know that I was doing the online Jack Kirby Tribute every day, the brainchild of Howard Simpson. it was a blast participating, refreshing my appreciation all over again for all the great work Kirby did over the years.
I stuck to a very specific format with all of these: portraits in a small square, colored with the limited palette used in the old comics most of these characters originally appeared in, even down to the dot patterns. And I had in mind that the end goal was to be able to assemble them all into one composite image. I wasn’t sure how that would work out, but here’s how it did!
This was kind of just a personal challenge/exercise in taking the Tribute a step further. Not sure what happens with it beyond this point.
It’s the 28th Day of our month-long online Jack Kirby Tribute, suggested/sponsored by Howard Simpson. You can find the work on your favorite social media platforms by the hashtag #KirbyArtTributes.
Today’s prompt is supposed to be Jack’s Silver Star character, but I’m taking the liberty of shifting things around a little bit. Instead, I’m doing tomorrow’s prompt: “Jack Kirby portrait— Draw a portrait of Jack Kirby himself.” My reasoning is because today is actually Jack Kirby’s birthday! Born in 1917, this would be his 106th birthday today (if my math is right). So I feel like posting the portrait today is appropriate. A confession: I’m not really a portrait kind of artist. It took some work to get this to where I felt comfortable with it, but I did get there.
The King’s legacy lives on in all the great work he left us, and all the creative inspiration he’s provided. There are some artists who make you feel like giving up, breaking your pencils and walking away, because you’ll never be as good as they are. But then there are artists like Kirby who, although you know you can’t do what he did, there’s something in the work that fires you up and inspires you to go and create!
I hope you like my attempt at portraiture here, and tune in again tomorrow to see my shot at Silver Star.
It’s Day 26 of the Kirby Art Tribute, suggested/sponsored by Howard Simpson. You can find the work of those participating on your social media platform of choice by using the hashtag #KirbyArtTributes.
Today’s prompt is Captain America and Bucky. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Timely (Marvel) back in the Golden Age, they had a huge hit on their hands. While Captain America and Bucky are mostly thought of as being patriotic heroes who fought the Axis, I discovered something interesting on re-reading their early tales: with all the monsters etc. they went up against, Cap and Bucky’s stories seem to be very much inspired by the “weird menace” pulp genre. If you think about it, the Red Skull and how they wrote him at that point would’ve fit in very well in a “weird menace” pulp story. Which is why I opted to make this a night scene.
Joe and Jack only did the first ten issues of Captain America Comics, after which they left Timely. They believed that publisher Martin Goodman was not living up to their profit-sharing agreement, so they jumped over to DC where they created a slew of characters like Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos, and their versions of Manhunter and Sandman.
Jack had two other runs with Captain America. The second one was in the ’60s, after Timely had turned into Marvel and “StanandJack” was often treated as if it was one word. That run had something of a James Bond/secret agent feel, having Cap working closely with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. Jack’s third run was when he returned to Marvel in the mid-’70s, and that was him working solo that time.
An aside: Captain America wasn’t Joe and Jack’s only shot at a patriotic hero. In the ’50s, they also did Fighting American and his sidekick, Speedboy. An interesting aspect of that strip is that it started off as a straight anti-communist superhero adventure, but then pivoted fairly rapidly into a very funny superhero satire, pre-dating the camp craze of the ’60s.
That’s it for today. Feel free to pop by again tomorrow!
We’re now on Day 8 of Howard Simpson’s month-long Jack Kirby celebration! Open to all creatives, you should be able to find the work of participants on your favorite social media platforms by the hashtag #KirbyArtTribute.
Today’s prompt is less specific than those we’ve had thus far. It’s “Romance Comics.” If you don’t already know it, you may be surprised to hear that the genre of romance comics was created and pioneered by none other than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby! So it’s no head-scratcher that Howard chose this as a prompt. S&K came up with the very first romance comic, Young Romance, and sold the concept to Crestwood Publications. The comic was a huge hit on newsstands, selling 92% of its print run! Of course, sales success like that breeds imitators, which soon followed from the other publishers. But the original S&K stories had a lot more substance going for them, the imitators mostly pale and inferior in comparison.
My choice to represent romance comics was to depict the one character S&K told more than one story about. Toni Benson first appeared in Young Romance #1, in the story “I Was a Pick-up.” Apparently they liked her character well enough that they thought it was worth revisiting her in a second tale, “The Town and Toni Benson,” in Young Romance #10.
It’s now Day 7 of Howard Simpson’s month-long online Kirby Celebration! It’s open to all creatives. You should be able to find the work on your favorite social media platforms by the hashtag #KirbyArtTribute.
Today’s prompt is comics’ original Manhunter! Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for DC Comics back in the Golden Age. Though DC had Paul Kirk as a non-costumed character previously, Simon and Kirby reinvented him as a superhero. They had the character put his previous skills as a game hunter to work now hunting criminals (many of which were creatively animal-themed). Starting in Adventure Comics #73 in 1942, S&K did a total of eight installments. It was popular enough that it continued beyond that in other hands for quite awhile, but it wasn’t the same.
Kirby took a shot at a revived version of Manhunter when he returned to DC in the early ’70s, in a First Issue Special (Kirby did a few of those, debuting new concepts that unfortunately didn’t go any further).
DC apparently liked the Manhunter name, because periodically they dusted it off and did other things with it. One of the more notable of them tied into Simon and Kirby’s Paul Kirk Manhunter: a strip created by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson (his first work that put him on the map with most fans). It ran as a backup story in Detective Comics, which Goodwin was editing at the time. Well worth checking out, it’s been collected a number of times if you haven’t seen it.
But this is about the S&K Golden Age original! Hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned!
We’re at Day 6 of Howard Simpson’s month-long Jack Kirby celebration online, in honor of Jack’s birthday. It’s open to all creatives, and you should be able to find any posts on your favorite social media platform via the hashtag #KirbyArtTributes.
Today’s prompt is Sandman and Sandy. Sandman was actually not a Simon and Kirby creation! Originally created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Bert Christman for DC back in the Golden Age, he had more of a pulp character appearance, running around in a suit and hat, wearing a gas mask and gassing crooks with his gas gun. He pre-dated many other superheroes, first appearing in 1939 in Adventure Comics #40 and The New York World’s Fair Comics #1.
By 1941, it was apparently felt he was out of step with what was going on with DC’s other characters, so Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris gave him his new purple and yellow superhero togs, and added Sandy as a sidekick. Simon and Kirby picked up the baton from Weisinger and Norris later that year, most definitely putting their stamp on the character! They dumped the cape that Norris had initially given him (making him look more like an S&K creation), and played around with stories about sleep and dreaming.
Hope you liked my little tribute to the Simon and Kirby version of Sandman and Sandy, and tune in again tomorrow!
We’ve reached the fifth day of Howard Simpson’s month-long celebration of Jack Kirby! Open to all creatives, you can find the work on your favorite social media platforms by the hashtag #KirbyArtTributes.
Today’s prompt is Simon and Kirby’s Stuntman. So far, all the characters have been ones created for either DC or Timely (Marvel). S&K created Stuntman for Harvey Comics!
It was a fun concept. Along with Fred Drake as Stuntman, you had lookalike actor Don Daring, who fancied himself something of a detective, but had a way of getting in over his head. He offered some comic relief in the strip. Meanwhile, Fred Drake as Stuntman handled all the real heavy lifting in solving the cases. And then you also had a romantic triangle with Don Daring’s costar, Sandra Sylvan, who didn’t know Fred even existed.
The strip was quality, like everything Simon and Kirby tackled, but it came out at a bad time. Post-WWII, there was apparently less interest in superheroes, and with all the paper rationing no longer in place, there was a glut of titles on the stands. So the sad thing was that they only got three issues out before the plug had to be pulled.
I tried an idea for my Stuntman portrait that I thought might be a little different and interesting, depicting him in mid-stunt. Hope you enjoy, and see you again tomorrow!
It’s now Day 4 of Howard Simpson’s month-long celebration of Jack Kirby! Open to all creatives, you can find the work on all social media platforms hashtagged #KirbyArtTributes.
Today’s prompt is the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion! They’re another Simon and Kirby creation which clicked with fans, running from their debut in Star-Spangled Comics #7, all the way through issue #64.
The Newsboys were a group of orphans who lived in Suicide Slum. Officer Jim Harper became their legal guardian. Frustrated with red tape, Harper also adopted the identity of the Guardian to fight crime off-duty in more direct ways than he could while on-duty. You can’t see much of it here, but the Guardian had a shield shaped like a badge, which he made very effective use of.
Clockwise from the Guardian centered at the top are Big Words (in the glasses), Scrapper (in the cap), Gabby, and Tommy Tompkins.
Hope you enjoy, and maybe we’ll see you again here tomorrow!