'Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio' spotlights The King's Golden Age era

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Jack Kirby's work from the early 1960s on is so indelible and influential that the enormous amount of work he did with Joe Simon in the years prior often seems to take a back seat to his more recent work. As a result, it often appears as though several chapters in our appreciation of one Kirby's work and career are missing.

Thankfully, effort has been made lately to rectify that perception. Publishers like Titan Books and Fantagraphics have made an attempt to get some of these pre-code comics under readers' noses.

Now Abrams has jumped into the ring with The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio, a lavish, oversize compendium of stories and art (scanned from the original pages) offered in stores in time for the holiday rush.

By the way, the emphasis in that title should firmly be on the word studio. For while Simon and Kirby's art is well-represented here, editor Mark Evanier takes considerable care in highlighting stories by other artists who worked for the studio, most notably one Bill Draut, a clean-lined Milton Caniff-styled cartoonist whose work I was heretofore unaware of (other featured artists include Angelo Torres, George Tuska and Mort Meskin).

Still, this is Kirby and Simon's show, and it's great to see them strut their dynamic stuff, especially given the lavish production values this book displays. Seen in their original, black and white art, stories like "Hot Box" and "Mother Delilah" underscore the pair's skill and versatility in creating compelling melodrama regardless of genre.

As lovely as the art is, it does feel important (or at least useful) to note that the operative word with these stories is melodrama. Often operating on O. Henry-esque twists, and neutered of any tension in the post-code years, these tales, even the much-revered "Delilah," have a reliance on the hammy and sentimental.

That being said, this book remains a lovely looking book that will appeal to serious Kirby fans. As nice as the uber-expensive, IDW Artist Edition books (and their respective copy cats) are, it's nice to see a publisher attempt to offer a more affordable, and only slightly less lavish, version.

The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio Selected and edited by Mark Evanier Abrams Books, 384 pages, $60

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