Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Complete Detective Cases, December 1940 / Joseph Simon Art Director

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Complete Detective Cases v02n06 (1940-12.Postal) (Dregs, P.I.)
Get the scan here.

Let's step back a couple of years tonight to the very beginning of the 40s with a look at an early issue of Complete Detective Cases, which I believe was Martin Goodman's first foray in the true crime format. Shortly after would come Amazing Detective Cases and National Detective Cases, and some of these early issue list Joe Simon as Art Director. Goodman had spent his career thus far in pulps, and the early 40s show him branching out into some fresh ground with comics, a number of joke magazines, these detective mags, and who knows what else. Always one willing to follow a trend, I wonder if there was some sort of upsurge in the popularity of these magazines at the time. He must have sold a good number, because they certainly aren't scarce on ebay or anything. The covers tend to be black and white (with red or green) at this point, and some of them like this one have a nice noir-thing going. Others leave less to the imagination and feature bound women up front and stories revolving around sex are picked for cover items.

Contents. Not a very interesting contents layout at this point. But here we see Joe Simon, Art Director:

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I knew that Simon was involved in the layout and art for Goodman's pulps at the time (I'm thinking Marvel Stories) but was surprised to learn he was doing the layout and some illustration for these true crime publications. In scouting about for this post, I was pleased to find a couple of excellent pages on the subject at kirbymuseum.org. I shouldn't be surprised that acolytes of The King have chased this stuff down, he has some truly devoted fans.

This page introduces the subject and shows a number of pages of art. I love the last image from Joe Simon, it's very cool to see golden age artists working with washes and in some other mediums that you don't see in the comic work.

This page gets into the way the photo splashes are laid out and suggests that this work might have led Joe into some more dynamic layouts in his comic work. Indeed, the way splashes are arranged in these old photo-magazines is an art unto itself, the way photos and illustration and text are layered to make the eye move across the page is great magazine craft and I think Simon showed a real penchant for it.

The mag leads with "Love Monster," a good choice, the effect of the horned shadow is awesome. Look at how much is going on on this page, 3 photos, 2 of which blend into each other as they fade behind the text. The portrait might have been airbrushed? I've wondered looking at some of the pics in here if they are artist renditions or just touched up.

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Another nice layout that keeps the eye moving, this time with a spot illustration thrown in. Is this Kirby? I'm not very good at artist identification (and honestly haven't given much attention to early work from these two), so I'm only venturing a guess. Some of the spot illustrations are cool, but some of the illustration is awkward. Undoubtedly, though, there are some cool illustrations to be rediscovered in these magazines.

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One of the primitive illos I'm referring to. The eyes are odd on a couple of these peeps

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I like this one though

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I read this story last night and had it pegged for a fabrication. I thought it was just told too well and that some of the details were fishy (making your father-in-law live out back in a shed?!?), but indeed this is a true story of murder from 20 years earlier, I thought the execution (cough, of the story) was well done. A couple of links I found at the NYT that show the story's veracity and perhaps how the writer bent the details.

Police hold husband and father, hunt brother 1922/12/21

A second one, won't describe. no spoilers! read the mag first.

McCoy tells me he's looked up a few of these before and found them all to be true. It makes for some fun internet sleuthing. You, too, can be a detective.

I leave with another fun posed photo. I've heard that bachelor life can get a little hairy. Dating is dangerous!

Crime Never Sleeps, next time on darwin scans - a look at my absolute favorite true crime mag, Women in Crime, hot damn.


Unknown said...

What I love about this issue and several others in the "Detective Cases" line (i.e. Amazing and National) is the Jack Kirby artwork such as the spectral figure dragging the sleigh. Goodman also published a line of humor magazines called SNAP which, although not credited (nor is anyone else), seems to have a connection perhaps editorially with Joe Simon. Have you seen any of those from the same time period?

darwination said...

Hey Tom,

I have come across SNAP but did not realize it was a Goodman publication. It shares the same editorial address as this ish of Complete Detective (340 W. 42nd NY, NY). My pal McCoy happens to have scanned an issue from 1941 that I'm sure he wont mind me sharing, thanks McCoy! Format is the oversized 32 page pin-up like Spot and others that were popular right then.

cover image here:

Snap v01n05 (1941-04)

I don't notice any Kirby artwork but it's possible it's a Simon design. My cover scans files show me I've got v01n01 from 1940 in my boxes somewhere, so I will take a look next time I'm rooting around and see if I can find any artwork from Timely-Atlas guys in it and throw it on my slowly moving scan pile.

Later this year I know Doc V. has a book coming out on the subject which I'm eager to check out: