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Best of Simon and Kirby

Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2009
By: Thom Young

Joe Simon and Mark Evanier
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Titan Books
Apparently, Joe Simon is working with Titan Books in the UK to publish a series of oversized books under the banner of The Simon and Kirby Library, and the initial volume is The Best of Simon and Kirby, which is due in stores today. This book is exactly why coffee table volumes are needed. It reprints entire stories from eight comic book genres that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby worked in during the 1940s and 1950s:
  • Superheroes,

  • Science Fiction,

  • War Comics,

  • Romance Comics,

  • Crime Comics,

  • Westerns,

  • Horror, and

  • Humor.
It's an amazing body of work, and it's interesting to see how adept the duo were in all of these various forms--though they didn't do much work in humor comics.

Each of the eight sections is introduced with a minor essay by Mark Evanier in which he relates historical tidbits and amusing anecdotes concerning Simon and Kirby's work in that particular form. While these introductions are a pleasure to read, the real stars of the book are the actual comics by Simon and Kirby.

I don't know how many (if any) of the stories were produced from the original art boards or printer's plates (I would suspect none of it), but the oversized pages still provide a lot for the eye to take in even if all of the work was reproduced from the smaller-sized pages of the printed comics from the respective periods.

This volume is, of course, an important addition to any comic book fans library due purely to its historical merits. However, the stories are also greatly entertaining--otherwise it wouldn't be much of a "Best of," would it?

Some of the earliest work is obviously primitive and simplistic, but even those stories show the energy and imagination that Simon and Kirby are noted for. The works that were originally published after World War II are easily the best of the offerings.

Particular interest should be placed on the Romance Comics, Crime Comics, and Horror Comics--which are clearly some of the duo's best work, and which display much of the conventions that Kirby would later use in creating the Silver Age Marvel universe and the Fourth World Saga for DC Comics.

Both Marvel and DC are to be commended for allowing Joe Simon and Titan Books to reprint stories that those companies clearly own. The proposed Simon and Kirby Library wouldn't be much of a collection if all Titan Books was allowed to publish are the public domain stories or the ones that Simon and Kirby actually own the rights to.

The title page indicates that there are five more volumes planned for The Simon and Kirby Library:
  • The Superheroes, volume 1;

  • Romance;

  • Horror;

  • Crime; and

  • The Superheroes, volume 2.
It doesn't surprise me that Humor isn't on that list since Simon and Kirby didn't do much work in that genre. However, I'm a bit concerned that Science Fiction, War Comics, and Westerns aren't on the schedule at this point.

I hope that those genres will eventually be covered as well. I was hoping that "The Last Enemy" was going to be included in this current volume as one of Simon and Kirby's "best science fiction stories." That tale was first published in Alarming Tales #1 in 1957, and it is considered the prototype for Kirby's later Kamandi series at DC in the 1970s.

Alas, that story didn't make the cut (though it's mentioned in a caption to Evanier's introduction on page 76). It's because of that story especially that I really hope Titan Books will get around to publishing The Simon and Kirby Library: Science Fiction in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime, this current volume is an excellent book to add to your library.



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