Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two of the Giants -- A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Welcome to the latest installment of Comical Wednesday, or, since I'm posting this on Thursday, perhaps I should steal a line from Pat Hatt, who called it "his Comical whenever he feels like posting it Wednesday." 

Originally, I had planned for this week's Comical Wednesday post to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of one of comic books' true legends, the incomparable Sheldon Mayer (1917-1991)... whom I mentioned in a previous Comical Wednesday post.

But then, a few days ago, one of comics' other legends, Joe Simon (1913-2011), died at the age of 98. Among many other things, Joe was the co-creator of one of my all-time favorite superheroes, Captain America!

So today, fellow babies, you get tributes to not one, but two industry greats. And in order to give you time to finish Christmas shopping this week, I'm gonna keep the words to a minimum. Well... For me, anyway.

*  *  *  *  *

Here's a nice 1930s illustration by the young Joe Simon.

Sometime soon after entering the comic book field, Joe Simon did the cover for 1940's Blue Bolt #1, and wrote & drew the Blue Bolt origin story in that issue as well. 

By the next issue, however, Simon had a partner, a guy named Jack Kirby, whom I've previously done a (two-part) tribute to, here and here! But they didn't share the art chores on a cover until Blue Bolt #3.

For the next couple of decades, the names of Simon & Kirby were linked in the minds of comic readers and professionals. Kinda like a Brad and Angelina thing, you know? Only nobody ever called the team "Kimon" or "Sirby," thankfully!

Common misconceptions among comic fans to this day are that Kirby penciled and Simon inked, or that Simon wrote and Kirby drew. Not so, to either one! Simon could write, pencil, ink, and letter. Kirby could write, pencil, ink, and letter!

Joe Simon's biggest achievement -- and there were several in a career that spanned almost eighty years -- was arguably the co-creation (with partner Kirby) of Captain America, as I stated above. In fact, here is Simon's first sketch of the Captain!

That shot was incorporated into the very first story of Captain America's adventures!


And after Captain America... Awww, I'm not even going to try to list the many accomplishments of Simon & Kirby, nor the many solo projects Simon worked on from the late 1950s until... well, shortly before his death! Nope, I'm just going to throw a few more illustrations at you, some with captions, and give your eyes somewhat of a break from my words until I get to the Sheldon Mayer section!

(Anyway, if you'd really like to know more about Joe Simon's career, there are plenty of places on the 'net that'll give you many more details than I did!)

After setting the comics world on its ear by dishing out superheroes at an alarming rate, the team of Simon & Kirby started a whole new genre... Romance comics!

They were early participants in the horror comics field...

...and Westerns...

And here's Simon and Kirby circa 1950! (That's Joe on the left, and Jack on the right!)

I was about nine years old when I saw this issue of Fighting American in 1966. Eschewing the text pages, I had no idea these were 1950s reprints, nor that the stories were drawn by the same guy that now was drawing so many of my favorite Marvel Comics...

... but they were! The original Fighting American title lasted seven issues in the mid-1950s. And while it started as something very similar to Captain America, it quickly grew into more of a superhero parody!

When they "killed off" Captain america a few short years ago -- but don't worry, these are comic books, so he's much better now -- Simon was inspired to paint his own version of "The Last Supper!"

And as a final shot of Joe, here he is with another recently-deceased comic book legend, Jerry Robinson.

Joe Simon, 1913-2011, R.I.P.

*  *  *  *  *

Sheldon Mayer, genius!

Twenty years ago, on December 21, 1991, Sheldon Mayer died.

(I'm going to take the liberty of quoting from or paraphrasing my earlier remarks about Mayer, at least in this first section.)

Starting in the mid-1930s, Sheldon Mayer worked for not one, but two fledgling comics companies in the 1930s. One was Dell, and the other was what would eventually become known as DC. While at Dell, he created a semi-autobiographical feature about a boy cartoonist named Scribbly Jibbet. The "Scribbly" feature appeared in both The Funnies and Popular Comics. Mayer ended up serving as a writer-artist and an editor at DC/All-American, and when he made that definitive move, he brought the "Scribbly" feature with him, where it found a home in All-American Comics.

It was also during the late 1930s that editor Mayer allegedly rescued a rejected comic book concept from the "slush pile" of unwanted submissions. Mayer liked it a lot, saw great potential, and recommended that DC use it in a new title they were about to start. This finally gave a home to a feature that had been refused by countless newspaper syndicates and comic book companies for about six years.

Maybe you've heard of it...

Yep, the original art for the cover of Superman's
very first appearance! And yes, I'd kill to own it!
(Well... almost...)

Scribbly ran in DC/All-American's All-American Comics frpm 1939 until 1944. The Scribbly feature introduced one of the first superhero parodies, the Red Tornado. The Red Tornado even showed up at the Justice Society of America's first meeting in All-Star Comics #3!

Scribbly returned to the comics in 1948, with his own title. The Scribbly character had aged a bit, because DC wanted at least one teen humor title to compete with the burgeoning Archie Comics line of characters. Mayer naturally gave Scribbly his own unique slant on the subject.

(Been there, done that...)

The Scribbly title lasted until the end of 1951. So, whatever became of Scribbly? Well, he didn't age well, to say the very least! Here he is, only nine years later!

Scribbly -- and Scribbly Junior -- appeared in the 30th issue of Mayer's incredibly imaginative Sugar and Spike series, which debuted in 1956 (as did I).

Sugar and Spike's concept was simple: All babies -- baby humans, baby dogs, baby tigers, baby aliens -- speak a universal language, baby talk. To adults, it's just "baby-jabber," of course, but no! It's a real language which we all automatically possess at birth, but it fades from memory as we age.

Kinda like the kids in Rugrats, only not as ugly.

(And ya wanna know somethin'? I think Mayer was right, at least where we humans are concerned! Ever see a one-year-old trying to tell someone something? The baby in question will repeat what -- to us adults -- seems like a nonsense syllable or two, but it will be the same "nonsense syllable!" The kid knows what he or she is saying!)

The stories in the series were told from the kids' point of view, which was often a bit different from the adults'. Sugar and Spike also had their own names for common objects, and even people who worked in various occupations. The telephone was the "yak-yak box." A camera was a "one-eyed box." Plumbers were the "ocean guys," meaning "the guys who always come when there's an ocean inna house."

I guess Mayer (and/or DC Comics) didn't think anyone who read the series would do that for more than a few years, so later issues saw a bit of recycling, as shown by the two covers below.

And now -- lucky you -- I'm finally gonna shut up and give you a few more Sugar and Spike covers to look at.

So... Thanks for your time.

Sheldon Mayer, 1917-1991, R.I.P.


  1. David I love, really love your Comical Wednesday post, but I want read all again to enoy(lol)

  2. Blue Bolt looks like the corniest hero ever haha.

  3. @Gloria: Maybe I'll make more sense the second time!

    @Sub-Radar-Mike: Allow me to excerpt some stuff from Don Markstein's Toonopedia: "Blue Bolt started out as a college football star named Fred Parrish, who... was struck by lightning during practice. Then he staggered into an airplane and flew off to get help, and got struck by lightning again. The plane crashed so hard, he wound up underground. Fortunately, a scientist named Bertoff... revived the young athlete by treating him with... radium. Back then, instead of causing cancerous lesions, pure, health-giving radiation was capable of bestowing super powers. Or maybe it was the lightning.

    Bertoff also supplied Fred with his superhero suit and a handy lightning gun. Then he turned the newly named Blue Bolt loose on the local super villain, The Green Sorceress, whose subterranean army occupied the hero's attention for almost a year. After defeating them, he looked in on the surface via Bertoff's handy Telescreen, and saw that World War II had started. So he did his patriotic duty and went topside to duke it out with Nazis... As superheroes fell out of favor with the comics-reading public, Blue Bolt metamorphosed into a plainclothes hero, with neither costume nor super powers."

    Or to put it another way, yeah, he was kind of a dork, haha!

  4. Blue Bolt might look corny, but he is wearing a cape. Captain America doesn't have one! I wonder why that is!

  5. @Betsy: Maybe some sexy lady swiped it for a souvenir, and he was in no... ummm... position to protest?

  6. maybe...

    I still think Batman has the most awesome-est cape. (ok, grammar nazi, let's see what you do with that word!)

  7. Geez a link from you and Betsy on the same day. I'm getting an over whelming ego boost at my bay..haha

    I never heard of most of those, Captian America aside of course.

    Love the pic of the last supper. If only it had Wolverine too. Prob wasn't made yet or something.

    Agree with Betsy, Batman has the best cape.

  8. oh dear
    Pat and I are thinking alike.
    Is he thinking like me or am I thinking like him? lol....

  9. @Pat: Joe Simon only did characters he'd worked on in that painting, so no Wolverine.

    @Betsy: Wanna hear something really scary? I agree with both of you about Batman's cape! Wonder if anyone ever stole it?

  10. I'm sure Wonder Woman at least borrowed it..or shared it....or something!

  11. @Betsy: Well, since she has no cape of her own...

  12. I love it that you understand who and whom. So rare. Really really like the post, as always.


  13. Yeah, and don't you think Batman would have shared? I'm thinking he'd want to keep her warm. :)

  14. @Lola: Thanks. And as for my knowing the difference between "who" and "whom," who'da thunk it, huh?

  15. @Betsy: I'm sure he would have. She must get cold, running around in that skimpy outfit.

  16. He could share the cape...and a coffee date. :) That should do the trick.

  17. dude you are giving me some cool flashbacks with these posts...i remember fighting american...though before my time i have seen a couple

  18. @Betsy: Yup, coffee and a cape ought to warm up anyone!

    @Brian: As I've said before, never let it be said that my blog does not provide a public service!

  19. I really love all but my favorites are Sugar and Spice (adorables) and Scribbly:))
    Those are my favorites (lol)

  20. Did you see David she said to Spike Naughty, naughty, and I love him:)
    wait a minut Santa or David these kids are exactly like were my twins, only Esperanza was Spike, she really was naugthy and adorable:))

  21. All three of us agreeing on one thing, hmmm that is one for the record books.

  22. Esperanza saw this post and she adore Sugar and Spice and she find has things of sugar and Spike , (lol)she ejoyed this post casu she love draw::)))

  23. @Gloria: Oh, good! Somebody read the second section of this post! Haha! Sugar was actually "naughty," and used to get Spike (whom she called "Doll-Boy) in all sorts of trouble!

  24. @Betsy: "Yepyepyep?" Oh, my! Aren't you agreeable! Oh, my!

  25. @Pat: "All three of us agreeing on one thing" either means that Batman's cape really is the coolest, or it's a sign of the Apocalypse!!!

  26. Let's go with the first one. The last thing we need to do is start up another end of the world type cult thing or conspiracy.

    LOL WV is marde, guess it thinks the world ending is strat too.

  27. @Pat: Yup. Agreed. No end-of-the-world conspiracy theories!


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