Kirby and Simon

3 replies [Last post]
patrick ford
patrick ford's picture
Joined: September 2, 2010

As most people know Joe Simon and Jack Kirby tell very different versions of how their partnership worked in the 40's and 50's.
One example is both men say they wrote the stories. I've seen very little which would cause me to think Simon wrote the stories where Kirby is the pencil artist. Golden Age pages often show traces of KIrby's hand lettered captions and dialogue, and unpublished work still in the pencil stage shows it's Kirby who is penciling in the dialogue, and captions, with occasional notes or additions from Joe Simon.
There is even a complete unpublished story not penciled by Kirby where it's clear Kirby has penciled in the captions and dialogue.
In addition based on comments from Walter Geier, and Kim Aamodt, in interviews with Jim Amash, it's apparent Kirby primarily the head of the S&K story department generating plots for the writers working at the studio in the 50's.

Aamodt:Well Simon and Kirby wrote the plots. They sat there and wrote them, and that’s what we followed.
Aamodt: Jack did more of the plotting than Joe. Jack’s face looked so energized when he was plotting that it seemed as if sparks were flying off him.
Aamodt: I remember Jack Kirby was very good at making up titles. I remember giving him a lame title, and Jack said,” No. We’re going to call it ‘Under the Knife.’ ” It was a surgical story. I was impressed that Jack came up with titles so quickly.
Aamodt: I really sweated out plots, unlike Jack Kirby. Jack just ignited and came out with ideas, and Joe’d just kind of nod his head in agreement.
Aamodt: Joe was on the ground, and Jack was on cloud nine. Jack was more of the artist type; he had great instincts..
Geier: Every time I went up there I saw both of them(Simon and Kirby). And they always gave the writers the plots. Jack Kirby was great about that; he always came up with the plots. Jack had a fertile mind.
Geier: Joe used to sit there when the writers came in for conferences. They sat there and made up the plots for the writers. Jack did most of that. Joe would say something once in a while, but Jack was the idea man.
Geier: Joe didn’t talk much. He could come up with decent plots, but it was usually very sketchy stuff. A lot of times Joe would say, ” Awww…you figure out the ending.” Jack would give me the ending, because he was good at figuring out stories. It was not hard to work with Jack.
Geier: They were Jack’s plots. I just supplied the dialogue.

patrick ford
patrick ford's picture
Joined: September 2, 2010

Thanks Tom, I do want to mention that there is some hyperbole in the quotes.
Gil Kane says Charles Nicholas inked everything not inked by Kirby or Simon. That's wrong there were other inkers at Timely and DC. Further Kirby did not pencil "everything." Simon penciled pages are common up until the early 50's even on stories where Kirby did most of the penciling. Simon also on occasion penciled complete stories. For example the "Vagabond Prince" stories are almost all Simon. In fact the very few places where it looks like KIrby may have contributed to the Vagabond Prince stories might well be Simon swiping from Kirby.
The S&K studio artists often swiped from or imitated Kirby. The first page of the "Boy Heroes" story
is signed by Al Avison, and is in the style of Kirby, but the pencils clearly aren't by Kirby. Not only has Avison signed the splash page, but the faces aren't right. Seeing as the lettering is clearly by Kirby, it's likely Kirby provided layouts which have been tightened up by Avison.
Kane also says that Simon didn't write. That's also an exaggeration.
My observations based on studying the stories, the art of Simon where we know it's a Joe Simon solo story, and stories where we know it's all Kirby tell me Simon did pencil, he did write, and he did ink, but he didn't do much of any of those things compared to Kirby, and in the early 50's I think Simon and Kirby were working mostly independently from one another.

Tom Kraft
Tom Kraft's picture
Joined: June 16, 2010
Great information

Thank you Patrick for posting this great information and quotes that I feel will prove helpful in assessing S&K credits.

patrick ford
patrick ford's picture
Joined: September 2, 2010
KIrby and Simon inking

Kirby inked all his own early work, and as can be seen in the very early “Lone Rider” strip done before Kirby met Simon Kirby as a kid was already at the top of the field producing superb writing, pencils, inks, and slick letting.
During the early Simon and Kirby partnership Kirby continued to ink many stories including most of the Vision stories done for Timely, and almost all of the Captain America splash pages.
At DC Kirby inked very few complete stories but continued to ink covers and splash pages.
Kirby not only created his own stories he was in essence the art director and studio boss at S&K in the 50′s.
Kirby worked with the other artists often redrawing panels or whole pages , and retouching inked pages.
Jack Katz, Gil Kane, and Pete Morisi have all commented on Kirby’s inking.
Jim Amash: Did Jack talk about line weight?
Jack Katz: Yes, he did. He showed me how to apply all of that to figures and objects. He said, “You have to make it three-dimensional. What you do is, make sure you have black areas behind a line, always a dark behind a line. It could be feathered.
If you bring the light in on the right hand side, you have to make sure the opposite side is carefully outlined. If you want to show real drama, you have a light source from the top, so the eyes and mouth are in shadow, If you want to make a real ghoul”
Katz: “and he turned the page over, and drew a face, he showed me how the light from underneath highlights the bone structure. He showed me how to vary textures, he’d say “curtains should look delicate.” He showed me how to do that with a brush.
Jack knew I loved Lou Fine, everybody did. He took some of Lou’s work, and said, “Look at these delicate lines, and look at the reproduction. Nothing came out.”
Then he showed me Hal Foster and said, “Look at the economy of line, and yet it does everything it needs to do.”
Then I said to him, “inking is problem solving.” He said, “No drawing and inking are decision making. The problem-solving, you do that in your head, but when you put down a line, you’ve made a decision.”
Katz: "Jack would work at his own desk there and Joe would come in during the morning and subtly stare at us. Jack would go for lunch, and when he came back Joe would leave for the day. Jack would get in early, he was always there before I came in. He left late. Jack wrote as he drew, he also worked from scripts, but he would use them as a template."

Pete (PAM) Morisi: “I spoke to Joe Simon once and asked him who inked Kirby years ago.
Joe said he was involved with everything.. .which means I didn’t get a straight answer.”

Stan Lee: "Generally, Jack would be sitting at the drawing board drawing and chewing his
cigar, muttering to himself. Joe would be walking around, chewing his cigar and mumbling, and also handling whatever business there was to handle under Martin Goodman."

Gil Kane: "Simon was business-like. He did all the handling, all the talking, he did all the standing. Jack was always sitting and working. Jack would take the scripts and he’d either write them or re-write them. Jack was simply a workhorse who never sweated. It just came to him. Simon was a nice guy who was much more realistically attuned to the world.
Joe was involved in the creative process and he was the one who made all the deals.
He didn’t write-it was Jack who wrote. Jack would either write a script or get one and adjust it as he saw."

GROTH: One other question about Simon: He was an artist too, and he always maintained that his and Kirby’s collaboration was 50/50.
KANE: No, that’s absolutely untrue. First of all there was a guy named Charles Nicholas, who used to do all of the inking that Jack and Simon didn’t do. We know that Jack penciled every single thing they did. Simon only inked a fraction of what they did. Jack was his own best inker, he was superb. He did most of the Captain America splashes.