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.

Classic Movie References in Disney Movies

Disney filmmakers are notorious for slipping old movie references, in-jokes, and running gags into their projects. Most times even the avid viewer would never pick up on them, especially the younger ones, nor would the casual movie-goer.

So this post contains three of the best ones I have seen to date. We’ll start with the most obvious one first, and then move on to the most obscure.

R E F E R E N C E    O N E

Wall-E: Hello, Dolly!

We all saw the film clips (via hi-tech VCR tape) that Wall-E played again and again of the man and woman who make a connection by holding hands. This becomes pivotal to his romance with Eve:

Wall-E and Eve

The film clips were from the blockbuster movie Hello, Dolly! starring Barbara Streisand, and the man who taught Wall-E to hold hands was Michael Crawford (the Phantom of the Opera). The movie is a 1969 romantic comedy musical. It follows the story of Dolly Levi (a strong-willed matchmaker), as she travels to Yonkers, New York, to find a match for the miserly “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder. In doing so she convinces his niece, his niece’s intended, and Horace’s two clerks to travel to New York City.

But did you know that these two clerks, Cornelius (Crawford, below far right) and his friend Barnaby (below far left) weren’t interested in holding hands? In the song “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” (the first song you hear on Wall-E’s tape) the boys sing about visiting New York City, and they vow not to return until they kiss a girl. So although Cornelius does eventually hold hands with his lady fair (below, second from right), he succeeded in his mission only after he kissed her.

I guess the makers thought it would be easier to show robots holding ‘hands’ than to have them kiss without lips.

Hello Dolly Cast

FUN FACT: “It Only Takes a Moment” is the second song from Hello, Dolly! that you hear on Wall-E’s vintage tape.

R E F E R E N C E    T W O

The Emperor’s New Groove: The Fly

This movie reference is indeed classic, going all the way back to 1958 to the Vincent Price film The Fly. In this movie, an earnest scientist, intent on creating the first working teleportation device, gets over-confident and turns himself into a monster with a large fly head and one fly arm. In the process, he also creates a small fly with his head and arm on it. You can’t make this stuff up, folks!

The iconic scene from the film happens near the end when the scientist, now a fly, is trapped in a spider’s web. As the spider inches closer and closer, you can hear the famous “Help me! Help me!” plea that chilled audiences to the bone back in 1958. And it’s still one of the creepiest moments in film history today! If you dare, see it for yourself:

Help Me the Fly

In The Emperor’s New Groove, Kuzco is lost in the woods and getting more creeped out by the minute, when he too comes across a spider’s web. He hears the famous “Help me! Help me!” line before witnessing, and hearing, the crunch of the fly’s demise. Ick. Want to see that too?

Help Me Emporer

For the full impact, please pop in your copy of The Emperor’s New Groove. It really is more chilling if you hear the plea for help and the crunch!

FUN FACT: A theory about this moment in the film surfaced on Facebook. The writer postulates that the fly who dies in this scene must have been a human at one point in the film, and thus this was actually equivalent to watching a murder. He supposes that only animals that were once human talk in the film, like Kuzco (Llama), Yzma (kitten), and the guards (“Hey, I’ve been turned into a cow. May I go home?”). So if the fly is talking, it too must have been a human at one time. The writer goes even further to assume that it would be the old guy that Kuzco had thrown out the window earlier in the film (but that guy is seen by Pacha soon after, and returns in the end scenes).

Obviously, this theory is wrong, and the scene of the spider and the fly was only an homage.

R E F E R E N C E    T H R E E

The Muppets: The Fork Dance

For this last example, we have to go back to the silent era of film, to 1925 to be exact. The movie is Gold Rush and it stars the immortal Charlie Chaplin. One of the signature comedy gags in the film is the famous ‘Fork Dance’, pictured below:

Chaplin Fork Dance

These dancing ‘feet’ become one of the funniest moments in silent film history! Have a look for yourself:

It’s a small moment in the movie, The Muppets, but Amy Adams rocks this homage to Chaplin during her duet with Miss Piggy called “Me Party”:

Me Party Form Dance

Again, this moment in the musical number goes by pretty fast, but it is very funny and stuck out in my mind, but perhaps only because I’m such a huge Chaplin fan and remembered the iconic scene from Gold Rush.

FUN FACT: Although Chaplin is accredited by many as using potatoes for his ‘feet’, Adams definitely uses bread rolls.

By now, I think it goes without saying, that we all need to pay close attention while watching Disney movies! Did you catch these brilliant homages to earlier classic films? Do you have a favorite that you like to point out to family and friends? If so, please leave it in the comments below and we’ll all look out for it the next time we watch a Disney classic!