Thursday, May 31, 2012

Original Art Stories: Jack Kirby & Joe Simon's Stuntman #4 Cover Art

Now this is a definite find - the original, unpublished, cover art to Stuntman #4, as drawn by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1946, which was rediscovered and subsequently inked and coloured by Simon in 2000, or so the story goes.  There are those who question Kirby's involvement in this art, but I'll leave that to others to debate it's veracity in that department and to make that judgement call as to if Joe Simon lied in his resulting affidavit.  The art is up for auction at the moment, complete with Simon's affidavit about the history of the piece and his disappointment at the original selling price that he gained back in the early 2000s.  It appears that when the piece didn't raise what Simon thought was a fair price, he considered suing (Simon was nothing if not litigious) only to find that the buyer was his own lawyer, who subsequently refused to sue the auction house.  The documentation completes the package really, and the end result is a very desirable item.  Simon also stated that it was the last piece of 'new' art to emerge from the Simon & Kirby Studio, which makes it's historical value worth a lot.  The only downside is that Simon chose to colour the original art itself - he'd have been better served inking the line-art, making a copy and colouring that.  In that way he could have sold two pieces of art instead of the one, with both being as equally desirable as each other, but I guess Simon did what he thought was best.  

Stuntman featured some of the most unique examples of Golden Age cover art.  The series ran for three issues, with the last issue being mailed to subscribers.  The covers were fascinating and showed Simon and Kirby at their most imaginative - instead of straight images, the covers were designed to showcase the comics as being books, complete with spines.  This approach was ground-breaking in it's day and the concept is only just being caught up with in recent times.  However the strength of the cover also led to it's weakness - by pretending to be a book, and not a straight comic book, it would have confused everyone, hence it's short run.  In all honesty, Simon and Kirby cover art never really got any better than this, and it was done in the mid 1940s (according to Joe Simon).  If I had the money spare, I'd be making a serious run for this art.  After all, a genuine Golden Age unpublished cover, by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, drawn in 1946?  Forget paying five or six figure sums for art done in the last twenty years, this is pure history.

UPDATE:   "I ran an inked copy of this (cover) in THE COMPLETE JACK KIRBY. It was inked and looked nothing like this. Bogus." -- Greg Theakston

So, is the art that Joe Simon sold real or a recreation?  There's those who believe it's the latter, and if this is the case, did Joe Simon then lie in his affidavit?  If he did recreate the art from scratch then the answer must surely be yes.  The differences between the coloured cover that Joe Simon sold as being the original Jack Kirby penciled cover that he inked, and the cover that Greg Theakston showcased in The Complete Jack Kirby #3 (which you can see on this page) are very clear to be seen.  And if two covers exist for this, then one must surely be a fake, or a recreation, if the other is genuine.  Which is which?

This is the art that Joe Simon sold and signed the following affidavit for.  According to Simon, this art is genuine - it is Jack Kirby pencils and Joe Simon inks/colours

According to Greg Theakston, this is the actual Stuntman #4 unpublished cover - notice the differences between this cover and the one that Joe Simon claimed in his affidavit as being the 'real' version


Daniel Best said...

Bruce Simon has asked me to post this comment: "I'm curious to know if anyone has seen a scan of the pencils for the STUNTMAN piece? If I believe I've seen it, maybe someone else recalls where."


mr ed said...

How could the pencils exist when the original cover art (with pencils clearly still on the page) is known to exist?
Bruce might be thinking of one of the unpublished Stuntman stories still in pencil form?
BTW: Notice that as is the norm with S&K studio work Kirby has written this page as his penciled lettering is on the art board. This is but one of dozens of examples of S&K studio work where Kirby is obviously the man putting the writing on the page.

FULL OF FUN said...