Joe Simon: 1913 – 2011

Captain America co-creator and comic book legend Joe Simon has passed away today at the age of 98.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Joe Simon

Sad news to report:  Joe Simon, the legendary collaborator of Jack Kirby and co-creator of Captain America, has died today at the age of 98. 

Simon was a force to be reckoned with in the early days of comics, a talented and prolific writer as well as an editor who worked in all sorts of genres to really help forge the Golden Age of comic books.  CBR has a great write-up of the man and his life

He was born Hymie Simon in 1913 in Rochester, New York as the son of a tailor, found his way into art through his high school yearbook, and got his first job doing editorial cartoons for the Rochester Journal-American, before eventually moving to New York City in the 1930s.  He worked for Marvel's precursor TImely Comics, and the first superhero he created for them was Fiery Mask, who has recently been revived in the J. Michael Straczynski series The Twelve

Soon after, he met and started working with Jack Kirby, and the pair co-created Captain America in 1941, striking a chord with the public.  Two Jewish creators showing an American soldier punching Adolf Hitler in the face before the United States had even entered World War II (a war both Simon and Kirby would serve in) made a pretty strong statement in the guise of being entertainment.  The popularity of Captain America Comics helped Simon become editor-in-chief of Timely, but soon realized that the company he worked for wasn't giving their creators their just due, so he and Kirby soon moved over to DC Comics, creating more characters like the Newsboy Legion, Fighting American, and Manhunter and did a lot of work with Sandman.  Not to mention the Blue Bolt and the first ever full comic featuring Captain Marvel.

Simon and Kirby worked together for about 25 years.  In that time, they worked in many different genres like horror, war, romance and crime, as superheroes fell out of favor after the war.  See our in-depth review of the Simon & Kirby Crime comic collection that was released a few months ago for more on that.  Around 1955, Simon left comics – an industry in trouble – to try to do some other things, like advertising art, although he still dabbled in comics here and there throughout the Silver Age of the 1960s and 1970s, including the creation of hippie-muse Brother Power The Geek and starting a MAD Magazine comepetitor called Sick.

Simon had a contentious relationship with Marvel Comics, and he settled a lawsuit out of court with them over the rights to Captain America in 1969.  He also tried to wrest those rights back after the Copyright Act of 1976 changed the game, but the long, drawn-out legal battle eventually landed in favor of Marvel. 

Back in 2007, when Marvel killed off Captain America as a publicity stunt, Simon made the wry comment that "It's a hell of a time for him to go, We really need him now."

Even at age 98, it's still a hell of a time for Joe Simon to go, too.