Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kirby Analyzes Your Dreams

Strange World of Your Dreams 1--Julie Pendleton
The Strange World of Your Dreams is a short-lived companion to Black Magic from Prize; Simon & Kirby are doing romance and crime comics for the company at this time as well. Dream analysis is an esoteric subject indeed (and in my opinion, the longer pieces here that use it in story plots work better than the short analysis-only ones.)

Jack Kirby's distinctive writing style is a little subtler than it will be twenty years in the future, but there's no mistaking him on most of these stories. There are few quoted words, but there are some. He emphasizes words that other writers probably would not, but at this point in his career most notably he emphasize entire sentences—generally final ones in long captions.

In the tiers comparing "Send Us Your Dreams [Julie Pendleton]" (SWOYD 1) and "X-Pit" (Mister Miracle 2, May-June/71, DC), note the triples: It was strange! Unexpected! Humiliating!; Explosion! Shock! Flame! Those were what made me take these as examples, but then I noticed these commas after conjunctions: "And, I thought I liked her!"; Then, the panic of aftermath!

SWOYD 1 tier and Mister Miracle 2 tier
If other writers submitted scripts rewritten by Kirby, or coplotted, I don't see any way of telling. Jack Oleck had some scripts published without rewriting at Prize (easier to find in Black Magic); Kirby doesn't script all the S&K stories, just the great majority—other artists' as well as the ones he draws. I'll emphasize that I'm IDing only the final script as used in the comic book.

On the art side, it would take a better eye than mine to point out specifics of Joe Simon's work, if any, here. I'm not very sure of the inks on Kirby's pencils or on Mort Meskin's, but I wonder if George Roussos inks a number of stories.

“The Dreaming Tower” in #1 takes H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” (uncredited) and makes a rather different story out of it; Lovecraft’s shock ending becomes a throwaway plot point on the comic book story’s second-to-last page.

The Strange World of Your Dreams

Aug/52 #1  I Talked with My Dead Wife w: Jack Kirby  p: Kirby
    You Sent Us This Dream [unnamed] w: Kirby  p: Mort Meskin
    Don't Wake the Sleeper w: Kirby  a: Bill Draut
    Send Us Your Dreams [Julie Pendleton] w: Kirby  p: Kirby
    The Dreaming Tower w: Kirby  p: Meskin
S-O/    #2  The Girl in the Grave w: Kirby  p: Kirby
    You Sent Us This Dream [Betty L.] w: Kirby  a: Bob McCarty
    You Sent Us This Dream [Ellen K.] w: Kirby  p: Kirby
    I Lived 200 Years Ago w: Kirby  p: Meskin
    Send Us Your Dreams [Walter W.] w: Kirby  p: Kirby
    A Dream Saved His Life w: Kirby  a: ?
N-D/    #3  The Woman in the Tower w: Kirby  p: Kirby
    Send Us Your Dreams [Edith Beck] w: Kirby  a: Draut
    Edge of Madness w: Kirby  p: Meskin
    You Sent Us This Dream [Patricia S.] w: Kirby  a: George Roussos
    You Sent Us This Dream [Thomas R.] w: Kirby  p: Kirby  i: Roussos?
    You Sent Us This Dream [John W.] w: Kirby  a: McCarty
J-F/53  #4  Show Us Your Face w: Kirby  p: Meskin
    The Moon and You * w: Jack Oleck?  a: McCarty
    Romance in the Stars * w: ? a: McCarty
    Send Us Your Dreams [many readers] w: Kirby  a: ?
    The Skeleton in Your Closet * w: ? a: McCarty
    You Sent Us This Dream [Paul R.] w: Kirby?  a: ?
    4L-523 w: Oleck?  a: ?
         * Special Horoscope Featurette


  1. It looks line most of the stories were also laid out by Kirby, even if he didn't do full pencils on them.
    For example, comparing Mort Meskin here and on his Spark Comics or later DC Comics work (which is much less "Kirbyesque") shows an entirely-different feel in terms of storytelling, composition, pacing, and lighting.

  2. I sidestepped the question of layouts in the index, but I agree. In the first Meskin page in the first issue, a woman is holding her hands to her face in exactly the way so many Kirby women do. Meskin probably lets the Kirby details show through more than Draut or, on Black Magic, Bruno Premiani does. I think laying-out was just the natural way for Jack Kirby to script; I don't picture him pecking at a typewriter.

  3. Hi Martin, I think it's great that you are posting about Kirby's writing and discerning which stories were his. However I disagree about Kirby laying out those Meskin stories. If you compare Kirby's page design with Meskin there's actually little resemblance. Meskin's POV is often at an odd angle, lot's of proscenium looking up views, the panels are cramped where Kirby's have air, and I've never seen a Kirby story composed from the figure's back like "The Dreaming Tower." The series was Meskin's idea according to Kirby and therefore he was listed as Associate Editor, the only such credit S&K ever gave. I'm not suggesting Meskin wrote those stories, but certainly he did the layouts and pencils. Comparing his 40s and 60s work to this is the same as comparing Jack's 40's and 60s work. Both artists change their styles as time went on.

  4. I'll split the difference between Steven and Martin/Britt. I think it's very possible Kirby gave the artists a script on the art board with balloons and captions, and with VERY rough layouts. Not the kind of rough pencils most people think of as layouts, but more like what Kirby was doing at Marvel in the early '60s for people like Werner Roth. Very vague indications which were little more than stick figures and which might easily be completely ignored. Even if an artist retained a suggested Kirby closeup, medium, or long shot, the angle or POV could be very different, or ignored completely.
    I think Martin is 100% correct Kirby wrote almost all his own scripts, and wrote, or contributed to scripts for other S&K artists.
    This post, along with a new post by Nick Caputo at his own blog, draw attention to the fact Kirby's writing style (like it or not, and I like it) was as highly individualistic as his artwork, and in fact hard to miss. The man was in every way a stylist in the most obvious way.
    To be honest I don't know how people can read the old stories and not see Kirby's voice in the words.

    Patrick Ford

  5. Oh, and on the art side. Most stories completely penciled by Kirby at this time (really from around 1949 until the end of the partnership) are inked by Kirby as well. The illustration in the article above is a good example of Kirby writing, penciling, and inking. Joe Simon never did much inking on Kirby's pencils. Simon inked Kirby fairly often before they hooked up with Martin Goodman at Timely, but then did very little inking on Kirby's pencils at Timely and DC. After the war Simon did a good bit of inking in 46-48 on things like Stuntman (not the great splash pages though, those were all Kirby).

    Patrick Ford

  6. I agree with Patrick. I think it entirely plausible that Kirby did rough breakdowns for the artists. I just disagree that Meskin's printed layouts look like Kirby's. More than anything I think Meskin and Marvin Stein were best at following the "house style" but to me the differences are clear.

    But I digress: again, great job of detective work identifying Kirby's writing.

  7. For example Kirby layouts for George Tuska and Tuska's finished art.

  8. Thanks for more discussion, Steven and Patrick. I think the "surprise" in "The Dreaming Tower" forced the choice of showing the main character from the back. As I start looking at Black Magic I find, as I mentioned, very obvious Kirby poses in its early Meskin stories but not in the Draut or Premiani ones. This is why I don't expect to see a computer program able to identify art--the process is not only subjective but intuitive.

  9. Hi Martin, rather than highjack your important posting about Kirby's writing, I'd like to invite to join my Meskin Yahoo group, if you are interested in furthering this conversation.

    I'd love to discuss these layouts and poses with you.


  10. I always enjoy well-reasoned speculation on Kirby's contributions to comics. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Bill, thank you.

    Steven, you can see by the length of time between my replies that without Internet access at home I wouldn't do well with discussion groups now (I've gone practically non-existent at Kindle Boards). I've looked an issue further into Black Magic, and after seeing Kirby poses in the Meskin stories in the first issue, see Meskin pretty much on his own, as you say, in #2.

  12. Hey, thanks for the reply. And keep up the good work. I'm now checking in regularly. All the best for the new year.

  13. Writers who use layouts in their scripts always present a problem to indexers. Most of those writers wrote on regular paper (Harvey Comics even provided special ruled typing paper for writers to "draw" their scripts on). Certainly some more recent writers who wrote using sketches now claim to have drawn their stories, even though they got no extra pay, or the artists less pay, than those writers with a typewritten script. For the comics where some reprint royalties is possible, this remains more than an academic issue.

  14. Here's a good example of the way Kirby worked.
    It's a complete BOY HEROES story still in pencil form which is signed on the first page by Al Avison.
    The splash is the only page where the lettering has been inked.
    If you examine the penciled lettering on the following pages it's clearly done by Kirby. It's likely Kirby supplied layouts for the story which would have varied from something close to complete pencils, to very rough indications.

    Patrick Ford

  15. I know Arnold Drake said he was happy to be allowed to submit his Little Lulu stories as thumbnail sketches instead of typescripts. As I understand it, SangorShop, Harvey wasn't just supplying that paper on request, they insisted the writers use that method. Somehow it comes across differently from Kirby or Drake or others like Jim Shooter sketching their scripts; Harvey made it seem as if the artists couldn't interpret stage directions--which was obviously not the case.

    Patrick, it's good to see examples of Kirby layouts from the earlier decades; thanks for tracking them down.

  16. Martin, I just happened to notice there was a text feature called "Is There A World Outside The One We Know" intended for Spirit World #2 which was written by Woolfolk. Unfortunately the recent DC reprint didn't include Woolfolk's piece or the collage Kirby created to illustrate it. The article and collage did appear in FORBIDDEN TALES OF DARK MANSION #6.

    Patrick Ford

  17. Patrick, I'll look up the DARK MANSION issue. I wonder if the article came from the earlier era of SPACE WORLD and the other magazines Woolfolk published between comics and television?

  18. Martin, There is no credit in the comic book, but the JACK KIRBY CHECKLIST GOLD EDITION (pg. 32) credits Woolfolk: "Text feature by Woolfolk. 1 pg Kirby art (collage)."
    The article begins: "The world we know comes to us through our five senses. We believe in what we can see, hear, touch, and smell."

  19. The DARK MANSION comic was edited by Dorothy Woolfolk. She took a collage border that was done for SPIRIT WORLD (not by Jack but by me) and inserted some new text into it. I believe Jack had me put that together as the border for the table of contents page that would have run in SPIRIT WORLD #2. There is nothing by Jack on that page in DARK MANSION, nor is there anything by William Woolfolk...if that's what anyone was thinking.

  20. Mark and Patrick, that shows a good reason to list people's first names in checklists--although it looks like an assumption to begin with (as with the art credit) that the text is even Dorothy Woolfolk's and not, say, assistant editor Ethan C. Mordden's.

  21. Hi, Martin,

    Thanks for a great post!

    It's interesting - and a little amusing - to me that you mention those 'triples' in the two tiers from two decades apart, as what struck me as most Kirbyesque about the SWoYD extract was the use of a 'double' in the caption: 'The laughter rose to a loud and cruel pitch!' I suspect that ijn the 'seventies Kirby would have emboldened the word 'cruel' there.

  22. Exactly so! And on the panel of Julie balancing on the bicycle handlebars, in the Seventies he would have written "The experience was NOT embarrassing," but even without the emphasis, it's not quite the way anyone else would put it.