Analysis: Thinkin’ of Meskin

June 5, 2011
Mort Meskin Inking
By Frank Fosco

UPDATED, JUNE 6, 2011. Recently on WiK there has been a debate over who inked the splash page to Black Magic, issue 3, volume 1, page 1. WiK member, Frank Fosco took the time to research this page and originally thought it was primarily inked by Mort Meskin (Who is Mort Meskin?). The initial publishing of the post included comparisons to reflect his research however after closer investigation Frank determined that the page was not inked by Mort. Mort was an important addition to the studio, below is Frank's description of Mort's inking, the S&K studios and samples of Mort's inking. Also see the comments for more information.

First off, back in those days not every man got the credit for the work he did in those books. It simply said “Produced by Simon and Kirby” which was the way it was done then – but the assumption makes it seem like Jack Kirby penciled and Joe Simons inked, and there may have been some help with the inks assisting Joe. 

Let's say inking chores were shared – doesn’t mean each guy could execute exactly the same as the other guy. Especially when it comes to shading and spotting in blacks, line weights and variance of thickness. There are always differences between the talents and how each man approaches the work. What was going on in those pages was the finishes of one man. When you look at those pages you see a signature style that is distinctive as Joe Sinnott, Mike Royer and even Vince Colletta for that matter. The work is too consistent to be more than one man. Joe may have gone back to the page to do some touch-up, or spot-in a few more blacks, but I don’t think there was much messing around with this page after Meskin messed with it. 

At the bottom is some Meskin work sprinkled in with what I believe to be Kirby/Meskin. There’s a certain look that keeps me thinking Mort had a big part inking Kirby in the early 1950s. A certain thickness of line and approach, with the cross hatching and shading and such that you see in Mort’s work, you can see carried over to the Kirby pages. There may have been a couple of inkers on each page of Jack's work, but I believe the finishing touches were by Mort. I think Kirby’s stuff turned a corner and got better in the 50s when Mort became a part of their studio.

Simon and Kirby Studio

Looking at the studio picture (right) of those guys back then, how many of those guys were inking? Three, maybe four out of the six were artists. The other two or three guys were letterers and production. Joe most likely did the contour line, outlining the pencil in ink with a dead line weight, then passed the page to the next inker for spotting in the blacks and shading. If Jack did any inking, he did very little; he was a penciling machine and wouldn’t do much more than that except maybe script a bit and move on to the next project. 

I heard, like Jack, Mort was pretty fast himself and took on a lot of the workload. And if it is Mort's work and the result was those beautiful inks on Jack's pencils, why would anyone want to pull the brush out of Mort’s hand when the thrill was to see what he was doing with that brush (See all WiK Mort Meskin art »).

About Frank Fosco
Frank Fosco is a penciler/inker who started off as a fill in artist at DC but is most notably known for his 23 issue run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Image Comics. Has done work for Marvel on the World's Greatest Comic Magazine and back up stories in Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon. Currently Frank is working on a Vanguard series which will appear in Savage Dragon.

Below are other samples of Meskin's inking: Click on any page to view them larger as a slideshow.

Frank Fosco's picture
Posted by: Frank Fosco | June 8, 2011

Meskin inking

Thanks, Steven. Yeah--we know there are a couple of Kirby pages up there--the thinking was to compare the inks. Now I'm wondering if Jack and Joe inked Meskin. I'm sure they all took turns inking each other as we seem to be finding out.

Steven Brower's picture
Posted by: Steven Brower (not verified) | June 8, 2011

Meskin inking

Hi Frank,

Just to clarify about the pages you have up as examples of Meskin's inking. I defer to Harry as to whether he inked these pages, but indeed most of these stories are penciled by Mort: "Faithless!", "Girls Like Her!" , "The Man I Couldn't Have!", "Outcast!", "Loving Sister" are all Meskin pencils. Two others are pencils by Kirby and I am not certain of the inks, although if I had to guess I would say it was Jack himself: "Big Baby!" and "The Heartbreaker!"

Frank Fosco's picture
Posted by: Frank Fosco | June 8, 2011

Black Magic inking

This "inking style" predated Mort working for them--which would be before 1949. I know Mort was with the studio when this page was inked in 1951.

Frank Fosco's picture
Posted by: Frank Fosco | June 8, 2011

Black Magic Inking

Thanks for your insight Harry--I was trying to stir the pot a bit to see who did what. Did Jack really do that much inking back then? The way the figures are inked with the technique that was being used, is that Jack? Did Joe ink figures the same way? Because if that's strictly Jack and his style, then Jack inked a lot more then we come to realize.

Harry Mendryk's picture
Posted by: Harry Mendryk (not verified) | June 7, 2011

Black Magic Inking

I read with interest Franks comments about the inking for the splash of "A Silver Bullet For Your Heart" from Black Magic #3. Inking of Kirby pieces in the Simon and Kirby studio was often a joint effort or as Joe Simon describes it an assembly line process. Keeping that in mind I would not be certain about the background inking but the figures seem to be largely Jack's own inking.

Since real credits were not supplied, inking attributions are always a matter of opinion. Although I disagree with you I would not let the fact that Meskin was not in the studio this time make you change your mind, Mort was in fact in the studio when this page was inked.

I would like to clarify what seems like a common misconception. The "Produced by Simon and Kirby" was not meant to suggest the piece was created by Jack and Joe. It is even found on splashes not drawn by Kirby and in some cases even signed by another artist. This statement is found on the first page of comics produced by Simon and Kirby. Joe and Jack did not only create art for these books but produced them as well, assigning work to artists and writers and paying them as well.

As for your question about how many of the guys in the photo were inking? Two to none at the time the photo was taken. I did the restoration of the photos correcting some real serious flaws. This has given me a chance to examine it in detail. On the left is Joe Genalo who did not actually work for S&K but for Prize Comics. Here he is coloring a Prize Western Comics cover. Next is Joe Simon who sits in front of two chariactures that look like his work. Next is Jack Kirby but unfortunately we cannot see what he is working on so he might or might not have been inking. Next comes Mort Meskin and we can see what he is working and he is penciling his own work. Next comes Jimmy Infantino. We cannot see what he is doing but he was a studio assistant and could have been doing inking chores. But if so it was probably limited to outline inking. Jimmy was not that great an artist or inker at this time. Finally comes Ben Oda who work was limited to lettering.

Frank Fosco's picture
Posted by: Frank Fosco | June 8, 2011

Inkers in question

Upon further research, I may have spoke too soon. This inking style does predate Mort Meskin's arrival to the Simon and Kirby studios--and guess by whom? Joe Simon. So all this thinkin' Meskin may be way off base. Sorry Joe. So if anyone wants to sling mud at me, have at it.

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