February 22, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Mort Meskin

"Mort Meskin was a consummate professional, dedicated to his work. A great talent." -- Jack Kirby

"Meskin was fabulous, I couldn't believe the ease with which he drew: strong compositions, loose pencils, yet complete; detail without clutter. I loved his stuff" -- Steve Ditko

Morton "Mort" Meskin was another of the true professionals of the Golden Age comics, i.e., the foundation/backbone of an entire industry.  Like many others entering comics in the late thirties/forties, Meskin was a scrappy New York kid (Brooklyn-born, in 1916), who grew up reading the pulps, The Shadow being a favorite, and scribbling exciting adventures incessantly.   After graduating from high school, Meskin attended the Art Students League of New York and the Pratt Institute. In 1938, he started drawing for the Will Eisner/Jerry Iger shop, with Sheena of the Jungle in Jumbo Comics.
Meskin then went on to do work for MLJ and D.C./National. While at D.C., Mort was given the artistic chores on Vigilante, a back-up feature on Superman's flagship title, Action Comics. After showing his proficiency as a story-teller, he was also handed responsibility for Johnny Quick in More Fun Comics. Meskin also did work on Starman and Wildcat during this time period. A clean line, kinetic, lithe, athletic figures, artistic experimentation, and solid story structure are what differentiated him from the majority of fellow artists.  Meskin has commented that Citizen Kane had a positive effect on his storytelling approach, and cinematic techniques in storyboarding appear throughout his output.

After World War II, Meskin left D.C., and with Jerry Robinson (of Batman fame -- creator of the Joker, among other achievements) opened up their own studio.  Together they created heroes for Spark Publications (Atoman and Golden Lad), Standard (Fighting Yank and Black Terror) and horror stories for Marvel (working with a young Stan Lee at the time).   In 1949, Meskin joined the studio of comics greats Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (creators of Captain America, among a virtual host of other properties), and produced the series Boys' Ranch for Harvey Comics, and Black Magic for Crestwood Publications.  In 1956, with the resurgence of new heroes and a comic book renaissance, Meskin returned to D.C. and created hundreds of stories, including war, science fiction, horror and romance until the mid-sixties.   During this time, he often inked his own work.  Mark Merlin is noted as a successful feature created and cultivated by Meskin.  Again, his clutter-free panels and crisp linework define his artwork during this period.   There are reports of issues with nerves and a chaotic relationship with editor Mort Weisenger, but Meskin was prolific and dutily handled every assignment, if not directly celebrated through the choice of high profile characters to draw.  

In 1965, Mort Meskin left the world of comics behind, and became a successful illustrator and art director at one of the large national advertising firms, doing layouts, storyboards and artwork for major consumer ad campaigns.   He continued to paint for the rest of his life, and was by all accounts a loving, generous man devoted to volunteerism and providing for his family.  He passed away in April of 1995 at the age of 78. 

Sorry these are but covers and not the interior linework.  I hope to present more complete stories by artists in the future.   Enjoy!

Thanks to my brother, Will, who suggested this artist spotlight.


  1. Quite a few Golden Age artists were educated at Pratt!

    I like the House of Mystery and Golden Lad covers.

  2. I'm going to call you Golden Age Bear now, by the way.

  3. As you may already know - I'm just nuts for Meskin!

    The lack of Johnny Quick and Vigilante archives are two of the greatest holes in DC's publishing history.

    Meskin's splash pages are also amazing - just as good as his covers.

    Great stuff, Ray!

  4. Thanks for the comments. Really appreciate the feedback. Meskin is a relatively new discovery for me, so learning more about him has been a nice journey.