Simon and Kirby Strike Again!

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From the very beginning in the late 1930s, Simon and Kirby produced the finest stories around, creating dramatic new super-heroes (Captain America, Blue Bolt, Fighting American, The Fly), western action (Boy’s Ranch), gruesome horror (Black Magic), explosive detective fiction (Justice Traps the Guilty), and the very first romance comics (Young Romance). They were the dream team of comics.

While justice traps the guilty, Simon & Kirby trap the manic energy of comic books. The dream team of comic books was formed with the realisation of Captain America for Timely comics. From then onward, a companionship was formed that lasted until the mid-Fifties, coming together only once more after that in 1966 for a special issue of Fighting American for publisher Harvey. The Best of ... covers a wide range of comics from their comics of the Forties and Fifties from as diverse a publisher as Timely (aka Marvel Comics), DC, Archie, Harvey, Hillman and Prize. One publisher more known than the others but all serve up a perfect Simon & Kirby yarn.

What immediately comes to the front is the impeccable design sense that permeates the volume. From its exploding Fighting American front montage to the inner pages, everything is perfectly laid out in an orderly manner but still capturing the energy of Kirby & Simon. Blow ups, details, comic covers, big spreads, Kirby motifs in the background in a lighter blue-tone ... it's all there. Even losing the dust cover reveals another beautiful Kirby spread of Stuntman in full Robin Hood outfit instead of the usual textured one color front and back that lurks behind the dust cover.


But what about the stories!? They certainly are entertaining and as a piece of comics history, it's great to see the rapid learning curve of the dynamic duo in action. I also found myself pleasantly surprised by the fact that most of the tales are not quite as wordy as I expected. Often the problem with reading older comics in the present is the exuberant wordiness of captions but Simon often keeps everything pretty terse. The only exception to this are the romance and dream comics. You will find your reading pace suddenly dropped to the speed of a public bus at five in the afternoon. Though the romance comics still contain a certain flair and are notable for almost never having seen the light of reprint day, the dream / horror comics are a chore to wade through, being nothing more than (sometimes fake) retellings of people's dreams, coupled with amateurish dream interpretation and psychology reduced to a comics selling shtick. But that's only towards the end, before you reached the horror section, you will have passed by such notable stops as Boy Commandos, Boy's Ranch, the first appearance of gangster Thor, Bullseye and the manic Stuntman.

The book in all contains some 25 comics stories divided among the chapters specified earlier. It allows you to pick and choose which is a smart move. Another smart marketing move is that it also functions of a sampler of the up and coming Titan books of the creators, having published their intentions of putting the complete Simon and Kirby oeuvre into print. It gives the reader a taste of things to come, for me personally it whets my appetite and makes me drool ('give me a bucket, dear!'). A seven-books deal is already in place with the first book being the Simon and Kirby Superheroes.

Important to note is that the book carries the mighty stamp of approval of both Joe Simon - who handpicked the stories - and the Kirby estate. Further establishing its status in the annals of Kirby history is Kirbyconnoisseur Mark Evanier who introduces each genre, firmly placing the stories in its historical context, adding personal anecdotes and tidbits to an already interesting tale.

Printed on a heavy slightly off white non-shiny paper stock with beautiful restoration by Simon and Kirby specialist Harry Mendryk from the online Jack Kirby museum and it is a hardback to boot, The Best of Simon and Kirby is a class act from design to comic book storytelling. History oozes from these pages and you will find yourself immersed in a bygone age that still resonates in these modern times thanks to the immense talents of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby whose energy reverberates across space and time.


The Best of Simon and Kirby is published by Titan Books and is a 320 pages, full colour hardcover. It retails for $ 39.95 and is available at comic shops and finer bookstores internationally.

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