In the vast history of comic books, few pairings have been as prolific as Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The ambitious duo are best remembered for creating Captain America in 1941, but their partnership yielded years of classic material. Despite the great success they found with superheros, they weren’t pigeonholed; they were able to explore a variety of genres.
Titan Books has spend the last several years compiling and releasing their works under the banner The Simon & Kirby Library. The previous collections include Superheroes (2010), Crime (2011) and Science Fiction (2103); now they’re back with the highly-anticipated The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror.
Simon and Kirby’s horror turn began in 1950 – around the same time as the rise in popularity of EC Comics – with Black Magic for Prize Comics. Celebrated for its reliance on atmosphere rather than gore, the anthology reads like a precursor to The Twilight Zone. Despite that, the series’ 29th issue was the subject of controversy when it was singled out in a hearing about horror comics’ “damage” on children’s minds (oh please!), which ultimately led to the creation of the dreaded Comics Code Authority.
The tome is largely composed of material from the classic Black Magic books – including the infamous Issue #29. Many of these stories (there are 45 in all) haven’t been available since their original runs, so to finally have them housed together is a real treat. The book also includes seven comics from the similarly-themed The Strange World of Your Dreams of the same era. It can be viewed as a spin-off from Black Magic with more leniency for the subject matter. Also included among the book’s pages are a nice little foreword by editor Steve Saffel, as well as an introduction to the material. It concludes with a gorgeous gallery of the comics’ original cover art.
The volume’s substantial physical presentation is as impressive as its content. The 320-page, hardcover book measures nearly a foot tall with a striking dust jacket that’s wonderfully representative of the content, making it a delightful coffee table piece. All of the comics have been digitally restored and authorized by Simon himself; the results appear as good as – if not better than – they did some 60 years ago upon their original publication.
If you’re a fan of classic comic books, The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror is simply a must-own. It came during the golden age of horror comics, raising the bar for the genre and the medium. They may be remembered for Captain America, but some of Simon and Kirby’s best work can be found on these pages.