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!

Funnies: Book Review – Color Sundays (of) Mickey Mouse

I love reading about the history of things. When I was a kid, up until I was a young man, I collected comic books. Superhero stuff mainly but I always dabbled in comic strips as well. Sunday Funnies were a particular favorite and really the only part of the newspaper I ever read.

So when I saw this book entitled Color Sundays Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, I knew I had to buy it!

Funnies Book Cover

History and Funnies!

Publisher: Gary Groth & Kim Thompson (Distributed by others)

Type: Hardcover

Pages: 280

ISBN: 978-1-60699-686-7

Year: 2013

Floyd Gottfredson (May 5, 1905 – July 22, 1986) had a long association with the Disney company.  He was an American cartoonist best known for his defining work on the Mickey Mouse comic strip.

Funnies Floyd pic

He has probably had the same impact on the Mickey Mouse comics as Carl Barks had on the Donald Duck comics. Two decades after his death, his memory was honored with the Disney Legends citation in 2003 and induction into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006. Both well-deserved honors!

Color Sundays is the second volume to cover this talented mans contribution to Mickey’s Sunday outings. As such, it picks up from 1936 and covers until the end of his run as a substitute to the strips in 1961.

Funnies bio

The book is divided into too many sections to list in this review. To start though we are given a little history on the man and how he came to the assignment of the Sunday Funnies.

Next is the first section of actual strips:

Funnies rival

Guess who’s coming to dinner!

We start with Mickey as the plucky hero who has to fight against the bigger foe to win the day or the heart of his true love, Minnie. No matter how hard he tries, something always goes wrong!

Next is a Robin Hood adventure, a section focusing on gag strips with Goofy as the main guest star, Sheriff of Nugget Gulch which puts Mickey and Goofy into the Wild West, and then:

Funnies service

Service with a devious smile

Mickey starts to show his mischievous side in this section as he isn’t above a little skullduggery to get his way, as seen in the picture above! The book stops every now and then to give us a look at some miscellaneous examples of Gottfredson’s artwork:

Funnies Goofy inventions

Goofy’s Inventions

After the above look at a panel from Mickey Mouse Magazine #59 (1940) we go back to a section highlighting an adaption of one of Mickey’s most famous Shorts:

Funnies Brave Tailor

Next we have a section dedicated to Gottfredson’s later years when he was only filling in on the Sunday Funnies. It’s mainly a collection of short gag strips.

Gottfredson mainly focused his work on the adventures of Mickey Mouse, but he did handle a long list of guest stars as well, such as:

Funnies guest stars

Guest stars included Donald Duck, Lambert the Sheepish Lion, The Seven Dwarfs in a solo adventure, a Sleeping Beauty adaption, and a 101 Dalmatians tale (and yes, I did that on purpose).

Lastly we are treated to an archival section:

Funnies archives

This section treats us to some original concept artwork, original cover reproductions, full-page paintings, and:

Funnies Goof

Some very nice looks into some of the characters Gottfredson worked with. The book ends with a brief visit with the heir to Gottfredson’s work on the Sunday Funnies, namely, Manuel Gonzales.

COOL RATING: 5/5

As a huge fan of both Mickey Mouse and comic strips this publication was a welcomed addition to my library. The book has a nice balance between informative back story and just page after page of funnies.

It was enlightening to learn about another man behind the mouse!

I purchased this book for the purpose of this review

For more book reviews, please read  The Art of the Disney Golden Books and Hardcover Disney Books by Whitman. Enjoy!

Monday Topics: Disney Tutorial

W E E K     T W O

DISNEY TUTORIAL

Our friends over at Love Our Crazy Life have asked some of their blogging friends (like me) to participate in a Blogging Challenge. So for four weeks in April, on every Monday morning, I will be covering a different Disney-related topic. You can click the link above to find all of the other participants and their entries. Enjoy!

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Learn to Draw Mickey Mouse & Friends

A Book Review

Drawing MM & Friends 1

This great how-to book was published by Walter Foster in 2015 and was written by David Gerstein and illustrated by John Loter and the Disney storybook artists. If you’ve ever wanted to draw your favorite Disney characters for yourself, this book is for you!

Drawing MM & Friends 2

There are three main character designs featured as the book takes us on a journey through the decades. Early, or vintage. Classic. And Contemporary, or modern.

Early designs feature the look of the characters in the 1920’s.

Drawing Early Donald Body 2

Long-billed Donald Duck, primary shapes

Classic designs cover the years of the 1930’s to the 1980’s or so.

Drawing Beanstalk Mickey Body 4

Beanstock Mickey, roughed in

Contemporary designs feature the Disney characters as they appear today.

Drawing Contemporary Daisy Body 6

Daisy Duck, full rendering

The book also contains an Animation Timeline, Film Facts, the Inside Story for Disney’s most famous characters, and lots of drawing tips.

At 130 pages, this book is easy to read because it is mostly pictures, in keeping with the how-to theme. To conclude, here is the 6-step process for drawing the full body of Classic Mickey:

Drawing Classic Mickey Body 1     Drawing Classic Mickey Body 2

Drawing Classic Mickey Body 3     Drawing Classic Mickey Body 4

Drawing Classic Mickey Body 5     Drawing Classic Mickey Body 6

And… it’s just that simple!

This is a great book for the closet-animators among us. I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars. However, I thought the 6-step system was too minimal for someone to really learn how to draw a Disney character. More on the reasons for each step would have been nice. For example, every lesson starts with a basic shape featuring a guide line. Some explanation of why these shapes are used, and what a guide line is and why it is important, might have enabled a beginner to later draw these characters without having to look at the book, and copy.

Who would you like to draw?

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Be sure to check out all four of my posts in this series of Monday Topics:

Topic One – Disney Essentials

Topic Two – Disney Tutorial (You are here)

Topic Three – Best Of Disney

Topic Four – Looking Back at Disney (April 25)

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland – Big Golden Book

This over-sized wonder is a nice retelling of Lewis Carroll’s famous story of a little girl who falls into a rabbit hole and has some… pretty strange adventures.

Alice Big Golden Book 002

9 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ with 22 pages

We’ve all heard of the Little Golden Books. Published since 1942, the line originally featured standard themes like the alphabet, prayers, barnyard animals, and bedtime stories. Later the line branched out and started releasing stories based on licensed properties from companies like Disney.

Alice Big Golden Book 001

Back Cover

Undeniably the artwork is beautiful and is attributed to the Walt Disney Studio as adapted by Al Dempster from Disney’s motion picture version.

Alice Big Golden Book 003

It’s time to start the story! Let’s look at a few pages from the book:

Alice Big Golden Book 004

Alice Big Golden Book 005

Alice Big Golden Book 006

Walt Disney’s version of the story (1951) didn’t really work with audiences upon its theatrical release but has become more popular in recent times. Some even think that little Alice should be one of the Disney Princesses, but this wouldn’t make much sense, as she doesn’t come from or marry into royalty.

This Big Golden Book may have been more popular than the movie as the edition I have is the 29th printing as of 1976. And there is no denying that these books are popular overall, for at the time of the lines’ Golden Anniversary, Golden Books claimed that a billion and a half Little Golden Books had been sold!

I would give this book a 5 out of 5 stars, as it achieves all that a book of this kind, aimed at young children, would need to achieve. And really, how do you argue with the success of a book that has 29 or more printings to its credit?

Want more Alice? Check out my earlier post entitled Kathryn Beaumont Live-Action Film and see what the voice actress was up to before she fell into the rabbit hole for Disney.

Book Review: Walt Disney – An American Original

I love reading about all-things Disney! So naturally I have many books about Walt Disney himself, such as this one written by Bob Thomas:

Disney Books 013

Mr. Thomas had the privilege of interviewing Walt on several occasions, so this book contains what we could call ‘first-hand’ information. He also had access to family members and past and present employees to fill in the blanks, so to speak.

Disney Books 015

I didn’t find too many things in this book that I didn’t already know. When you’ve read as many biographies on Walt Disney as I have, it gets harder to find new points of interest! But Mr. Thomas covers all of the main history one would expect from a biography, not only of the man, but also of the company.

Some of the pictures contained herein claim to be unpublished, and very well they may have been back in 1976. But today, a viewer won’t find anything new, but the pictures are still awesome! Have a look:

Disney Books 017

Disney Books 018

Disney Books 019

I picked up this First Edition at a collectibles store on a day when all books were 50% off. I just seem to luck into these deals! So I was able to add this great edition to my Disney book collection for just $7.50 CAN.

For more book reviews, please check out Book Review: The Art of Disney and The Mickey Mouse Club Scrapbook or Book Review: Disneyland Releases. If that isn’t enough to get you thumbing though the pages, try these book reviews: Design – Just for Fun / Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South / Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men / Disney Trivia From the Vault and I thank you for your time!

Psst! There’s even more if you use the ‘search’ box!

Book Review: The Art of Disney

FROM MICKEY MOUSE TO THE MAGIC KINGDOM

First Edition – 1973

Disney Books 001

I was driving around Windsor, ON, recently looking for antique stores where I could find Disney collectibles. After leaving one we already knew about we drove past a used book store in an old house. Upon entering, the gentleman behind the counter told us it was his tenth anniversary in business and so everything in the store was 25% off. This was a good start!

He then notified us that the house had 12 rooms, each packed with books of every genre. He wasn’t kidding! But after a thorough search, I turned up nothing Disney. Until we were on our way out, and I spied this great book:

Disney Books 002

Without clear dust cover

Most have seen this book or may have a copy. Perhaps it is more likely that the copy one would have would be a second or later edition, although the first editions aren’t that rare if eBay is any indication! Later editions do not appear to be as elaborate as the First Edition, as the next picture will show:

Disney Books 003

Mickey is in 1/8″ relief

The Art of Walt Disney was first published in 1973 but obviously would need to be revised as the years passed and new movies and Theme Parks were created. Later editions had him simply printed on the cover (such as the 2004 edition), and the pose was changed. There was also a 1975 paperback edition. A major 2011 revision (which had some 50 percent of the text being new, with 200 new illustrations) carries the Disney story up to the current feature films of the day.

This is what one seller on eBay had to say about the 2011 edition:

First published in 1973, The Art of Walt Disney is one of the most successful and influential illustrated art books on American popular culture ever published. This book was the first to reveal the wealth of concept art, animation drawings, and archival material created in the course of animating films. In this newly revised edition, author Christopher Finch has thoroughly reworked every chapter to incorporate the vast achievements of The Walt Disney Company in filmmaking, theater, and theme parks, from Walt’s day to the present, including all-new exciting chapters on Pixar Animation Studio and Walt Disney Animation along with extensive interviews with their chief creative officer, John Lasseter, and president, Ed Catmull. Offering hundreds of new images and unparalleled access to leading filmmakers and artists at The Walt Disney Company, The Art of Walt Disney will once again capture the imaginations of animation fans young and old.

So enough with the words as we are reviewing an art book. It’s time to see some of the great artwork featured among its pages, especially the fold-outs:

Disney Books 004

Disney Books 005

Disney Books 006

Disney Books 007

Disney Books 008

Disney Books 009

Disney Books 010

Disney Books 011

Disney Books 012

Book measures 13.5″ H x 10.5″ W x 2.25″ D

With such a large format, some of the fold-out pictures are over 40″ long, such as the one above (fifth up from here) featuring Pinocchio’s village. The prices vary greatly for this book with some pricing on eBay being quite low, but watch out for that shipping charge! This book is heavy.

This is a wonderful visual history of the Walt Disney company’s creative output from the beginning to 1970 (ending coverage with The Aristocats).

Check out tomorrows post for another Book Review: Walt Disney – An American Original by Bob Thomas. The link will be live on March 7th at 7 am.

Book Review: Discovering German with Walt Disney

Guest Blogger: Nick Maglio


My wife spotted this at “The World’s Largest Garage Sale” at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Allentown, Pennsylvania recently for $3. It was published in 1992 by Harrap.

It contains 1000 German words illustrated!


It takes classic Disney comic strip illustrations, isolates just one panel, and identifies specific things in each image in both German and English.


As a bonus, it includes the complete strip the highlighted image is taken from, and presents it in German and English as well.


This has to be one of the most fun ways to learn a language ever devised! Having the comic strips included is a bonus indeed, making it feel like you’re not laboring to learn at all. So if your life-long dream has been to learn German, why not pick up your very own copy?

If you like Book Reviews, please check out our review of a children’s book all about the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair.

So being as our review is over, it’s time to say: Auf Wiedersehen!

Book Review: A Visit to the New York World’s Fair

Fans of all things Disney will no doubt know of the importance of the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair to Disney Theme Parks. It was at this fair, for which Disney created four shows, that the “Audio-Animatronics” and “People Mover” ride systems were designed and perfected.

So this children’s book is an interesting find. You may wonder if any of the Disney pavilions are included within its pages. Let’s have a look and see!

By Mary Pillsbury. Illustrated by Catherine Barnes

Published by Spertus Publishing Company in 1964

The book is filled with lovely illustrations but it doesn’t look like there are a lot of references to Disney right off.

But finally, as the pages are turned, a piece of Disney history is illustrated in this great book. Ford Motor Company presented “Ford’s Magic Skyway” (a WED, now Imagineering designed pavilion). It included an early prototype of what would become the People Mover ride system. The ride moved the audience through scenes featuring life-sized audio-animatronic Dinosaurs and cavemen.

Indeed, the book even refers to this as “a Walt Disney wonderland of Past, Present and Future“.

These same Dinos can still be seen today in Disneyland’s Railroad Primeval World diorama.

But wait, there’s more! Next came a look at “It’s a Small World”!

At the Pepsi Pavilion, “Pepsi Presents Walt Disney’s It’s a Small World – a Salute to UNICEF and the World’s Children” (whew!) was featured. I think we are all familiar with “It’s a Small World”, but if not, it features animated dolls representing the world’s children and animals, and a song by the Sherman Brothers which, if you’ve started to hum it, will be stuck in your head all day now.

Quote: “In each country they passed, thanks to Walt Disney, they saw animated figures of children dressed in picturesque costumes-and there were even the right animals for each country!”

And how much would you pay for this little “time machine”? It probably doesn’t matter as it is out of print and fairly rare to find, even on eBay or other Internet sites. But you got to preview right here!

See another unusual Book Review by clicking here. Teaser: Did you know Disney taught German?