Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review of The Best of Kirby and Simon

Book #48. The Best of Simon & Kirby, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Hardcover collection.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are two of the true legends from the early days of comic books. Their careers began in the early 1940s, and both continued to work in the industry after their service in World War II. They worked together for nearly two decades, at a range of comic book companies, including a few that they founded themselves. Generally speaking, Jack was more of an artist and Joe was more of a writer, but in practice both men did everything.

Titan Books has produced a number of collections of their work, usually based on specific genres, such as crime, horror and science fiction. I reviewed the “superheroes” voume here. This collection was for the generalist, containing stories from all of the genres that Simon & Kirby worked in. The vast majority of the stories in this collection were originally published in the 1940s or 1950s.

Appropriately enough, superhero stories were most represented in this collection, the six stories in this genre taking up 62 pages. There were three war and adventure stories, and three crime stories, including a terrific dramatization of the life of Ma Barker, “The Mother of Crime.” The strength of this volume is its diversity, as it includes three westerns, as well as a pair of romance stories, one of which (“Wedding at Red Rock”) ended with a very nice twist.

The sections in the volume are each introduced by Mark Evanier, a comic book professional who worked closely with Jack Kirby towards the end of Kirby’s career. These brief essays add context for the particular genre, as well as telling a continuing narrative of their long partnership.

On a side note, as a result of recent lawsuit settlement, Jack Kirby has begun to receive official credit as a co-creator (with Stan Lee) of many Marvel comic books characters, including X-Men and Fantastic Four. 

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