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.

Book Review: Stan Lee – Stan Lee’ss Marvelous Memoir

AMAZING     FANTASTIC     INCREDIBLE

Book

A Marvelous Memoir

For those unfamiliar with Stan Lee, all three of you, this is called a ‘marvelous memoir’ because Stan the Man brought a comic book company named Marvel to fame and prominence while doing quite well for himself along the way. He created, along with a team of talented artists, heroes like Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and at least a few others.

If you attend super hero movies then probably you know him as the man who shows up in a cameo role. He looks like Hugh Hefner. He’s always smiling. He pretends to be full of himself. And he is one of the truest characters left in entertainment today.

Front Cover          Back Cover

Front and back sleeve art

This book is kind of his life story so far rendered as a comic book. Funny that a real comic book is actually a magazine and this memoir is actually a comic book. But I digress. But so does Stan in his memoir, so I feel justified!

This book sold for $30 US or $36.99 CAN but I got it for just $10 CAN on clearance which should in no way reflect on its quality and value unless you’re a nit picker and consider the fact that the book only came out on November 3rd of 2015 and thusly it is a bit early for such a deep discount. But I digress. But so does Stan in his memoir, so I feel justified!

As I said, this book is presented in comic book form:

Pages 2

Pages 1

It starts with Stan appearing at a convention to tell his life story. He does so in his signature bombastic style with lots of dramatics and regressions. So he digresses. But so do I in this post, so he’s justified!

The artwork is entertaining without being too realistic, or realistic at all. It harkens back to a simpler time when comic art had energy and pizzazz in every panel.

The book is definitely a highlights-only volume with no new insights offered. We’ll probably have to wait until The National Enquirer does an expose to learn the real truth about this comic book icon. Did you know that Stan has also penned stories for Marvel’s arch rival company DC Comics? Did you know that ‘DC’ stands for ‘Detective Comics’ so when you say ‘DC Comics’ you’re actually saying ‘Detective Comics Comics’? But I digress. But so does Stan in his memoir, so I feel justified!

Stan Lee

What Stan Lee really looks like

I’d give this memoir a 3 out of 5 Stars for the general public as they are unlikely to appreciate or understand Stan’s writing style and self-aggrandizing fakery. But for die-hard Marvel Comics fans I would give it a 5 out of 5 Stars and say that if you are one of them and haven’t bought and loved this book yet then you should turn in both your MMMS membership card and every issue of FOOM magazine that you have.

E X C E L S I O R !

‘Nuff Said!

Disney’s Top Five Best Decisions of All Time

Recently I listed what I thought Disney’s Top Five Worst Decisions were and so in the interest of fairness I now present my Top 5 List of Disney’s best decisions:

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   FIVE

Live-action Versions of Animated Classics

Jungle Book Posters

So although these aren’t my cup of tea the general Disney fan/public has embraced these ‘remakes’ with a passion! Cinderella did very well and the latest, The Jungle Book, also did a brisk business. And the upcoming Beauty and the Beast practically has people frothing at the mouth in anticipation.

While these are obvious attempts at recycling ideas and extending profits from established franchises, one can’t argue that they are beautifully done. My main complaint is that they haven’t strayed much from the original animated source material so there aren’t any surprises or new interpretations.

Maybe the live-action Beauty and the Beast will break out of this provincial approach and break new ground.

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   FOUR

Promoting John Lasseter

John Lasseter

I just love this guy! From his early antics on the Pixar DVD releases to his many appearances to promote new productions in both Pixar and Disney studios, you can just feel his enthusiasm for both animation and the Disney legacy.

With Walt gone and no more Disney family members stepping up to fill the void, Lasseter is the next best thing. That doesn’t sound too complimentary until you realize whose shoes he is basically filling!

I hope to see him grow with the company for many years to come, but do wonder just who could fill his shoes when the time comes for him to step down?

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   THREE

World Showcase Ethnic Casting

World Showcase CM

The best part of World Showcase in Epcot at Walt Disney World is the Cast Member interaction. And the fact that each pavilion has CM’s from the actual country being presented is a brilliant stroke of casting!

And so many benefit! Young people from around the world get to have an experience that they will never forget. The guests get to meet them and learn first hand about the culture and activities of all eleven countries represented in World Showcase. And those of us who are not American get to visit the country of our origin (if represented) and unite with a fellow countryman.

It’s win-win all around and I hope Disney never abandons this decision!

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   TWO

Acquiring Marvel/Lucas Film

Marvel Comics Logo     Lucas Film Logo

As I stated in my post about the worst decisions Disney has made they should never have acquired Pixar. I feel it ruined the creativity of that company. But as it comes to Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. I think Disney has only helped to grow these companies.

Largely by leaving them alone, Disney has given the people at Marvel full support to continue to develop the MU in a very interesting and profitable way. The acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. is too new to really tell how things are going to turn out, but if the first Star Wars film under the Disney banner is any indication, it’s not going to badly.

Maybe Disney has learned that putting up the money and just a little creative input is the way to acquisition success?

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   ONE

Keeping Vintage Attractions

Carousel of Progress Signage

This is a highly debatable decision but I put it in the number one spot for a reason. Walt was all about nostalgia. And nothing sparks nostalgia like the original attractions that were in the parks when they opened. Or that came soon after.

Rides from the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair like The Carousel of Progress and It’s a Small World still interest park goers today just as they did in the past. And the fact that Disney fans mourn each time a beloved attraction is demolished confirms this as truth!

While other parks continue to focus on thrill rides Disney wisely nurtures its attraction heritage of dark rides and corny shows. Hey, if it works…

Conclusion: For every bad decision there is a good decision. And given the success of the multi-billion dollar business that is Disney, one would have to believe that the good decisions are outweighing the bad!