I just read the new Simon and Kirby Library Crime Comics and I enjoyed it.
First off, it is in the perfect size for me to read and enjoy. Not the huge size of the first Simon and Kirby book was for Titan, but the “Omnibus size” with pages closer to the size of their original publication. It is on good white paper, not glossy, which makes it easy to read. It is also about 320 pages so it is not very heavy.
All but two of the stories are from 1947-8, with one from ’49 and one from ’55. The stories are nicely, if not perfectly, reprinted from Clue Comics, Headline Comics, Justice Traps the Guilty and Real Clue Comics. It is very good reproduction. I have grown to dislike reprint books that scan pages and give us bad coloring.
In the good, but brief, introduction Max Allen Collins credits the beginnings of the Crime Comics with Gleason’s Crime Does Not Pay. Well, it paid well for Gleason! A new collection of those comics appeared this year, but I enjoyed the Simon/Kirby book more. The best for me, however, is still the Shock Suspense Stories and the Crime Suspense Stories from EC. Collins also mentions how close “In The Days of the Mob” fits this genre, and it does. But creativity Kirby never left lower Manhattan. Many of Kirby’s 1960s characters: “The Thunder God and the Thug” The Wrecker, Crusher Creel all came out of the same mix. Kirby dealt with Mobsters and Gods all the time.
While many of the stories claim to be true, these stales seem right out of the pulps. They have the same type of “pulp” pacing. The stories are longer, in many cases, that the ones in Gleason’s book or the ECs. There is even a long continued story. Another similarities with the pulps is that the characters are quickly presented, nor really developed and there is an ending but not a “shock” like at EC. In most cases, the criminals story is told and in the last panel or two, he discovered that , well crime does not pay. Again, the pacing is very different from a Simon and Kirby superhero book. There is also more violence and a touch of gore, something I am not used to in a Simon/Kirby production. Unusual for this team there is nothing really innovative or distinctive about these stories.
There are familiar characters. That is, you catch glimpses of characters that Kirby will make famous. In the story, “Let Me Play your Murder” there is a mustached character that could be Dum Dum Dugan, complete with the same hat. Look alikes of Sharon Carter (or is that Sue Storm?) makes a few appearances
Grade: I give this volume a B. I enjoyed it, but it is best to read over a few weeks so the stories don’t blend together.
Who should read this book: Certainly those people interested in the history of comics, especially crime comics, or the history of Kirby should get this book. But I suspect, readers who only collect and enjoy the comics of the last decade or so might see this book as an antique. But If you reads the EC books and liked them, you’ll like this too.