Like many of you, I’ve been a fan of Jack Kirby’s artwork for most of my life. The man is the King of Comics, after all, the creative force from which so many great comics flowed out into the world, like beings spring from the skull of Athena. Heck, he’s such a larger-than-life person that this is the second time he’s featured in one of our Top 10 lists.
Titan Books’ The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror brings yet another side of Kirby’s long career to life, joining the romance, science fiction and crime books on my shelf, again from the long period when he was in collaboration with his close friend and business partner Joe Simon. The book is a magnificent collection, gorgeously reproduced and wonderfully curated, and, you know, you don’t need to hear me babble on and on about this book. Instead, how about if I show rather than tell, and you can see why this book is so special.
So here are my favorite aspects of these stories…
10. Everybody wears hats
Men in fedoras and cowboy hats, women in those giant contraptions that always seem to appear in old movies and which always seem completely improbable – I love all the headwear on display in these tales.
9. The splash pages are amazing
While Simon and Kirby didn’t draw every page of story in this book (much was drawn by the great Mort Meskin and a veritably army of assistants), they did draw every splash page. And look at the gorgeous and compelling work that they do on these pages. How can you not want to read these stories? (By the way, for the purposes of this visual essay I’m going to assume that S&K drew every page – apologies for any mis-attrbution.)
8. The way they draw faces is incredible
Just look at the weathered torment that these people feel, manifested in the sorts of images that could only work on comics pages.
7. The creatures they draw are crazy
There’s a wild sense that the team are one-upping each other with their creatures, who seem to be improvised, drawn shorthand on the page. There’s a freshness and wonder to the world that they create, which is fun and refreshing.
6. The coloring is so “off” – but so awesome
At times the often rushed coloring, highlighting single colors on single figures, accentuates the drama of the stories beautifully.
5. They sell the hell out of these stories
Speaking of accentuating the drama, look at the way that S&K construct these scenes to emphasize the crazy tales that they’re telling. This is master storytelling that shows their long experience in the comics medium.
4. The “dream” stories are amazing
In 1953, Mort Meskin suggested that his bosses create a new comic called The Secret World of Your Dreams, presenting nightmares that Meskin himself had – as Kirby remembered, “Mort had great nightmares.” As part of his psychoanalysis, Meskin was encouraged to explore his dreams, and what was created was one of the most memorable comics ever created – and a wonderful collection of tales to rediscover.
3. Their layouts are brilliant
Just look at the energy and smarts that Simon and Kirby apply to their story pages. As I mentioned before, there’s a wonderful combination of casual intensity and raw power to the work that they present. People don’t generally think about page layouts when they talk about Kirby, but that’s well on display in this book.
2. The twist endings are so very delicious
If it’s a horror story, it’s gotta have a twist ending, and some of the endings that Simon & Kirby present in this book are worthy of Rod Serling.
1. The eyes. The amazing way they draw eyes
God, just look at those terrible eyes. You can stare into them forever and see nothing but horror.