Kirby’s Golden Age Captain by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment


In a recent post for the Kirby Kinetics blog that I write regularly on the Jack Kirby museum page, I discussed one of my enduring obsessions. Over the years, I find myself continually returning to a subject that has fascinated me since I was twelve, when I saw my first sample of Golden Age Captain America, ostensibly drawn by the creative team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The artwork had been used as a faded backdrop for a photograph of the version of Captain America that had appeared in the 1944 Republic Pictures film serial. The photo- montage was from an article in a 1964 issue of Screen Thrills Illustrated, a magazine devoted to old action-adventure films and serials, which featured an article about the on-screen Captain America. The star-spangled hero was suddenly hot again because Marvel Comic’s Stan Lee and Cap’s original co-creator/artist, Jack Kirby, had just revived him. I of course had been fascinated with Kirby’s work since I’d seen his Rawhide Kid art around 1961 at nine years old. I did not hear of Joe Simon until the day I read that issue of Screen Thrills Illustrated. I took me several years to realize that Kirby and Simon not only worked together, but also had a stable of artists to assist them. On the 1940’s Captain America #1-10 pages, the mix of artists is so jumbled across the pages that it has stumped many an expert art spotter.

The team of Simon and Kirby featured Jack as the primary artist/writer, while Simon did writing, layouts, some drawing and inking but primarily functioned in an editorial capacity. It is fairly certain that Kirby always penciled and inked the majority of the splash pages, which graduated to double page spreads on some stories by issue #7

The image above is Kirby’s double page splash for Captain America #8’s story, “The Black Witch”. Kirby inked the page either completely or perhaps with Simon, and it is an excellent example to measure against any other S&K Captain America pages.

The page below, which was used in the previously mentioned Screen Thrills montage, was partially drawn by S&K studio assistant Al Avison. There are certain aspects of this drawing that say Avison to me, such as the pronounced nose and jaw of the first gunman in panel one and the distinctive way the artist has rendered Cap’s knees. However, the poses themselves, as well as the architectural structures supporting the dynamism of the figures proclaim Kirby. The hero’s three-quarter back shot in panel two strikes me as far too complex for Avison’s abilities at this stage of his development. In my opinion, Kirby laid out these pages with nearly complete figure work and then Avison tightened them up, adding his own individual flourishes. The inks are credited to George Klein.

In 1965, soon after seeing the Screen Thrills issue, I purchased my first Golden age comic, Captain America #17 which was drawn in its entirety by Avison as shown in the signature in the splash page below. I quickly grew familiar with Avison’s distinctive style and he quickly became one of my favorite golden age artists. I see no trace of his style in Captain America until the Unholy Legion story in issue #4.

As a member of Mike Vassallo’s Timely/Atlas list, I engaged several of the posters in a discussion on the profusion of inkers on the S&K Cap 1-10 run. While looking at the pages in Cap#8, Jim Vadeboncoeur, in reference to page #6 stated, “ STRONG Avison pencils here, probably over rough JK breakdowns. He’s really evident on Cap, Bucky, the Witch, and Steve Rogers. Touches of E.H. Hart in panel 3.”

This was a name that I’d never heard in relation to the Simon & Kirby studio, so I asked who he was. Mike replied as follows. (quote edited)

“By 1942 Hart becomes a mainstay in the Timely humor books starting with the very first issue of JOKER COMICS #1.

He draws the “Victory Boys” feature in USA #5 (Summer/42) and then COMEDY COMICS #10 (June/42)

Hart also is present in Chapter 2 of YOUNG ALLIES #2 (Winter 41-42), putting him back into that Cap #8 era, which is where he seemed to be prior to busting out in the humor books.”

A splash panel from Hart’s “Victory Boys” from Comedy Comics#10 shows us some boyish faces that strongly resemble drawings of Bucky in the Cap #8 pages, so Mike’s ID of the artist is a distinct possibility.

I can clearly see the Avison-like nose, lower lip and jaw of the Witch in panel 5.

One can also observe in panel 4 of the Cap page 6 a particular style of cross-hatching behind the figure of the Witch. This I am told is a strong indication of the presence of George Klein in much of the inking. Klein has recently been identified as the mystery inker over Kirby in Fantastic Four#1, where that same style of cross-hatching can be seen.

I will be quite curious to see the response to this blog, both from the posters there and from other interested parties. I invite all opinions, contrary or supportive. The investigation continues.

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Posted January 1, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

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