The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio

BOOK REVIEW

Simon and Kirby Cover

Publisher: Abrams Comicarts

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1160-2

Type: Hardcover

Pages: 382

Date: 2014

Price: $60.00 US / $69.00 CAN

Simon and Kirby Back Cover

I have followed the work of Jack Kirby for years and thought of him only in terms of his career with Marvel Comics, and somewhat with his brief work for DC Comics. But I never realized that those times weren’t the beginning of his story. Enter Joe Simon and the Simon and Kirby Studio.

Simon and Kirby Portrait

I’ll leave the details of how these two creative geniuses met for when you read the book, but safe to say it is one of those ‘meant-to-be’ stories! They started out in the 1930’s and definitely left their mark.

The Simon and Kirby Studio was prolific, employing many artists as needed, and covering such material as:

Simon and Kirby Space

Space Epics

Simon and Kirby Love

Love Stories

Simon and Kirby Crime

Crime Stories

Simon and Kirby Western

Westerns

Simon and Kirby Superhero

Superheroes (The Fly, pictured above)

I learned that Simon would go out and get jobs for the studio by promising any kind of story that was needed to fill publications at the time. They were primarily a studio-for-hire at this point. Then Kirby would burn the midnight oil to churn out the images. Although Simon was more of a writer and business man, he also did artwork and other duties. In fact, everyone at the studio was expected to do whatever it took to meet a deadline!

Simon and Kirby Sandman

The Sandman

Superheroes are probably what most readers buying this book will know Jack Kirby for. Perhaps thinking of Captain America or the later characters co-created by Stan Lee, like The Mighty Thor, among others. But in the early days it was The Sandman, Fighting American, and The Fly.

This book is mostly a reprinting of classic Simon and Kirby stories, in part or in their entirety. The book starts with a brief introduction by Mark Evanier and concludes with an even briefer afterward by Jim Simon.

COOL FACTOR: 3.5/5

I was expecting more of an in-depth look at the men and the studio they created, but instead got over 300 pages of comic strip panels. The artwork was amazing (if you appreciate the drawing style of Jack Kirby, as I do) but most of the stories were very dated. I didn’t know most of the characters, as they came from the 30’s and 40’s, so this too was a bit disappointing.

The Cool Factor will be much higher for diehard Kirby fans, and completests, but for the average comic book fan, it may not be what is expected.

For more on Jack Kirby, check out this blog entitled the Jack Kirby Museum. The curator has stopped posting new material, but it is still filled with many posts that delve into Kirby’s life and art.

Would Walt Disney Approve of Modern Disney?

I don’t really know how many times I’ve heard a Disney employee say: “I think Walt would have liked this (or that)!” But I think it’s safe to say that it happens often. A new Promotion comes along, and it’s just what Walt would have thought up. A new Attraction is built, and it’s just what Walt would have designed. A new balloon color is chosen, and all of a sudden, it’s Walt’s favorite color!

Walt and Mickey 2

Top Executives and Imagineers alike are apt to claim that they are certain that they have Walt’s stamp of approval. But if Walt Disney were here today, would he approve of the Modern Disney?

To answer that, we need to look at another question: Did Walt Disney approve of everything in his day? After reading more books on the man than I can remember, I feel safe in saying ‘No’.

Starting in the early 1930’s, Walt always argued with his brother Roy about how to build their fledgling company. And almost always got his way. On into the 1940’s, Walt pushed the boundaries of Animation his way, often against the will of his staff. Many of these early Animators claim that the only way to get your idea approved was to make Walt think that it was actually his idea. On into the 1950’s and television, Walt reinvented the medium to reflect his vision of what it could be. And then went on to reinvent the Amusement Park, turning it into his own thing: The Theme Park.

I think we get the idea!

Walt Disney did things his own way. So if he walked down Main Street at Walt Disney World (which he never got to do as he died in 1966, with the Park opening in 1971) one must believe that the first thing he would do would be to notice some little thing that should have been ‘plussed’. Then he would likely launch into an elaborate description of what the whole thing could, or should, be!

Does this mean that Walt would disapprove of the Modern Disney?

He definitely hated corporate structure, even in his day. So it is likely that he wouldn’t enjoy how involved the Hierarchy of his company has become. But I believe that as he would look at the overall results of his legacy, he would be proud of how it has all turned out. But would he be satisfied?

He might look at Soarin’ and say: “Why not have it fly over the world?” He might look at Splash Mountain and ask: “Where’s Uncle Remus?” He might look at… just about anything and say: “We can make that better!” And knowing him, he could! So the good thing about worrying if Walt would approve is that the final product is bound to be the best it can be, without Walt’s direct supervision. But can we ever claim that Walt would approve, without even one suggestion to improve it?

No. But kudos to the Modern Disney for trying to gain Walt’s approval anyway!