Friday, November 07, 2008

Go West, Young Harvey

Friday Comic Book Day

Because Harry Mendrick is giving some extra attention to the Prize Comic Western series over on his Simon and Kirby blog at the Jack Kirby Museum, I got out some of my issues of that comic from the late fifties. In it, I found a four page story that is usually attributed to John severin, that seemed to me to look as it it could have been inked by Harvey Kurzman. Here it is, fresh from the pages of PCW #79.

Unfortunately, if I have learned one thing in all my years of collecting and art-spotting it's this: if a piece of art looks as if it could have been done by a certain artist, it usually isn't. Art styles are much more individual than you might think and once you have learned to identify an artist's style you'll be certain if you see it. Any hesitation is a sign there is something wrong.

In this case it ise ven more complicated, because there is another Kurtzman story in the same book. This stoy is signed (sort~) of and it is much more clearly the work of Kurtzman. Here it is, seven pages from the same issue of PCW.

Compare the two stories to see the differences. The second story is attributed to Harvey Kurtzman, the first one isn't. But as I said, it is more complicated than that. Ther second story is not signed by Kurtzman, wlthough it does have his name (or half of it) on a crate on the splash page. The splash page and most of page five looks like the solo work of Kurtzman. But there are a couple of typical John Severin faces and poses in this story as well. Look at the first face on the third panel of page four. Kurtzman and Severin worked together at least once more, when they did two pages for a proposed give-away for an unknown factory. John Benson showed the second page of this aborted project in a recent issue of Squa Tront devoted to the work of John Severin. Benson believes this project was done for the commercial department of EC. The same department that had Harvey Kurtzman produced the anti-VD comic Lucky as his first assignment for that company. The two page project could als have been part of a portfolio Kurtzman and Severin. John also has the first of these two pages, which he sent me privately a year ago. I hope to be able to show you this too, as soon as I have contacted John.

all in all, I don't think it is unlikely that John Severin assisted Kurtzman in 'his' story in PCW #79, just as Kurtzman may have helped Severin on 'his' story. In either or both of the cases it id also possible that Kurtzman layed outr the stoy, Severin pencilled it and Kurtzman did the final inking, adepting the figures to his style more and more.

Later in the fifties, Kurtzman became more and more critical of the work of Severin, calling his inking to 'easy' and thin. Theywere two parts of a commercial company in the late forties and at least did a lot of commercial work together. How close they did work together is still a mystery.


Harry Mendryk said...

Wow, I missed that entirely, great spotting.

Harry Mendryk

Smurfswacker said...

I'd say your analysis is accurate. The first story was definitely pencilled by Severin and the inks look like Kurtzman's from the second story. It's always hard to keep in mind how often people pitch in on others' jobs. Even when the job is signed...there is a EC New Trend spy story signed by and credited to Severin that is unmistakably pencilled by Gene Colan.

Booksteve said...

The hair on the arms in both stories also give the Kurtzman look to both. It would have been unusual for Harvey to ink Severin, though, wouldn't it? More likely the other way around. And also, to me anyway, the obvious Severin parts in the 1st one look more like PURE Severin. Perhaps he simply assisted. I mean, that man's pose on the first page of the first story doesn;'t look like a Severin pose to me but very much like a Kurtzman pose.