ArtSKSImages © Estates of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

I had a great time looking at all the original art in this book, a few hundred pages. Much of it is by Jack Kirby with Joe Simon and others, but at least a third is by other artists who worked in their studio, a wide variety of talents. What’s missing here is their output for Marvel and DC, including their most famous work like CAPTAIN AMERICA for Marvel and THE BOY COMMANDOS for DC, but they were prolific, so that leaves lots of fine comics like BOY’S RANCH, the romance and crime comics, and THE FLY and THE SHIELD for Archie, as well as many things I’d barely heard of. The book is large, and the reproductions from the art collection of Joe Simon and others is top-notch, as you would expect from publisher Abrams. I found most of the stories hard to read, though, often florid, and over-written with plots that are simplistic and predictable. There are surprises, like two stories written for POLICE TRAP with second person narration, a tough thing to pull off, but they worked for me.

FergusonLettersI particularly enjoyed the chance to study the work of the studio’s first staff letterer, Howard Ferguson, as in the BLACK CAT story above. I’ve already written a blog post about Ferguson HERE, but the work in this book, and especially seeing it reproduced so well, gave me a new appreciation of his talent. He may have been the best letterer in comics in the 1940s, I’m now prepared to say.

PvtStrong“The Double Life of Private Strong” made an impact on me when I first read it around 1960. He was one of the heroes Simon and Kirby did for Archie Comics in the late 50s, their version of THE SHIELD. Rereading it, I wasn’t impressed by the story, but the art is terrific. (I suspect it may also have made an impression on Alan Moore, some elements of the character’s origin are echoed in that of his TOM STRONG.)

Mark Evanier’s historical overview is informative and thorough, and the afterward by Joe Simon’s son Jim adds personal memories that bring a human connection to the men involved, well done both.

In all, a fine book and highly recommended.

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