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.

Or if you want to stay right here (which I would certainly appreciate!), please check out my book reviews on Stan Lee’s Marvelous Memoir and Color Sundays of Mickey Mouse and The Art of the Disney Golden Books. For another related review, check out Toy Wars, depicting the battle between Mattel and Hasbro for toy supremacy. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a grudge match between Barbie and G.I. Joe!

Goodbye Disney Bear

Poor Duffy! Outside of Japan, he just didn’t get the love that almost automatically goes to other Disney characters. When we were last at Disney California Adventure, we stopped and took the time to pose with this neglected meet-and-greet character.

But we didn’t have to wait in line. In fact, we were the only people even interested in posing with him. Every time we went by, this is what we saw:

CA 234

He stands alone

I decided to watch for a while and see if it was just a lull in the crowds, but eventually, Duffy just went inside the store and sat down on a box… and waited.

I always feel sorry for the CM in the suit when the hard work and sweat aren’t appreciated. So I’d like to say thank you to ‘Duffy’ for making a fuss over us!

CA 237

The rumor is that Duffy has to go to make money available to pay for the new Oswald meet-and-greet coming soon to the Disneyland Resort. I’m thrilled that Oswald is coming, but still feel it’s a shame that Duffy will become a casualty.

Will you miss Duffy, the Disney Bear?

Disney Store Graphics

Karen and I have taken a few Disney Store road trips over the years and have always been excited to see what’s new to buy. But also we like to see if the stores themselves have done any new decorating, or put up any new promotional materials.

With that in mind, during our 2012 road trip, we came across these interesting wall murals:

DS Displays 9

DS Displays 10     DS Displays 11

The shadows on these scenes would move!

This represents some pretty simple technology, but still gives a decent thrill. It’s touches like this that make Disney stand out in the crowded retail market.

My favorite guest appearance by a character was Eve from Wall-E:

Eve over the plushes

And in color too!

Eve flew in from the side and hovered and laughed and then flew on. She would return from time to time. A really nice touch!

So what is your favorite part of visiting a Disney Store?

 

Jungle Book Vulture Vinylmations

Wow, that’s a mouthful! Anyway, I picked these up during my last Disney Store Roadtrip:

Disney Store Road Trip 009

“What do you want to do?” “I dunno, what do you want to do?”

Well, let’s not start that again! Instead, did you know that these four vultures from Disney’s The Jungle Book were loosely patterned after a certain musical foursome from Liverpool, England? Yes, some similarities can be seen to the Beatles, but stopping just short of a copyright infringement!

These are from the Jungle Book Vinylmation series, but the vultures were the only one of the set I wanted. So I determined that if I shook the box, the vultures would be too light to rattle, and that they would also be lighter than a full figure Vinylmation. Turns out I was right and the one blind box I bought did indeed contain my favorites!

Sorry Disney, I deeked you out this time around!

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!

Disney’s California Adventure: Characters

We finally made our first pilgrimage to Walt’s original Park, Disneyland, in 2013. It was a memorable time! I never thought I’d make the trip because of the cost-to-value quotient in comparison with Walt Disney World, but things fell into place and off we went.

Now I would like to go back again, even though it did cost quite a bit more than any WDW vacation we’ve been on.

I’d like to share our character interactions from DCA:

CA 36 CA 178 + Mater and Baby Tractor

Lookin’ good in red  CA 49 CA 160

Red and Lightning McQueen

Of course, there were more characters than just the residents of Radiator Springs:

CA 81 Flik

Duffy CA 237 CA 258 Jake

CA 231     Sailor Donald Duck

And the chip off the ol’ Goof – Max     CA 253

As you can tell from our clothes, we got all of these shots over two days. My clothes and poses stayed pretty much the same throughout!

Have you visited Disneyland? And if so, who have you posed with that we missed?

Disney Cruise Ship: Dream

For our 25th Wedding Anniversary (coming to a blog near you in early 2015) we are hoping to take our first Disney Cruise! So while we were in Florida earlier this year, we TRIED to gain access to the Disney Dream.

today 044

Recognize those stacks?

It was exciting and cool to see the ship from the highway and watch it get bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer! I tried to take a few shots while driving but had to pull over for some of the best shots. And then we arrived at the parking lot for the terminal where we learned you can’t visit the terminal unless you’re cruising.

today 048 today 052

So close, yet so far away!

today 049

Ah, watching the fun from behind a chain-link fence… not quite the same.

We hope to do the 10-day cruise to Spain but aren’t sure if we’ll leave from Florida and fly back from Spain, or leave from Spain and end up in Orlando for a few days at WDW. What would you do?

If you’ve taken a Disney Cruise, please give us your tips in the comments section below and help to make our first time something to truly remember!

Disney Dreams Are Best Shared

For a parent to see their child have a magical moment is a priceless part of any Disney vacation! Although we don’t have children of our own, it’s always heartwarming for Karen and I to see moments like these:

EPCOT 102 +     EPCOT 118

One-on-one with Mary Poppins and Alice

Imagine how this little girl must feel to be holding Mary Poppins’ umbrella! And a curb-side chat with Alice? Nothing like it! So the next time you’re in line waiting to pose with a favorite character or Princess, pass the time by watching the reactions of others ahead of you. Sharing in Disney magic is a great way to make the time fly!

Disney Characters: Animatronic

As promised, today I continue with my search for Disney Characters at Walt Disney World. Many attractions have an abundance of moving, or animatronic, characters. I’ve assembled some of my favorites:

Magic 123 +     Who can resist a cheesy lounge singer?

And who doesn’t like to sing like the birdies sing?     Magic 95 +

Magic 106 +

Magic 107 +  Magic 108 +

Max, Buff, and Melvin ham it up Country-style!

One of my favorite comedians is Don Rickles who just happens to voice the character of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies. And of course he can also be found in animatronic form as a carnival barker in the queue of Toy Story Midway Mania:

Vacation 30 +

And he interacts with you directly!

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the animatronic opportunities for meeting Disney characters. Perhaps you have a favorite that I left out? Please let me know your favorite one, and where it is, in the comments section!

Disney Characters: Props

Apart from the costumed characters that pose at meet-and-greets, there are so many other places to find your favorite Disney characters. For instance, in almost every store you can find them in the form of a prop:

90  Magic 88 +

Vacation 48 +  Magic 100 +

You just never know who you’ll encounter!

Vacation 109     Vacation 111 +

You’ll find Mickey almost everywhere

Disney goes to great lengths to create an environment that instantly impresses you and then continues to engage you for minutes or hours, and for many visits to come.

Magic 176 +

One of my favorites

This mechanized paper boy/vending machine actually has a readable paper inside with a cover story about Stitch. You can’t get a more reliable source for news than Robo-Newz!

Disney characters also come in the animatronic variety, as I’ll explore with you tomorrow.