Marvel Remembers Joe Simon

Looking back on the life and career of a comic book legend.
Posted Dec 15, 2011 6:35 pm
Updated Dec 15, 2011 7:06 pm

By Jim Beard

Marvel Comics notes the passing of comics legend Joe Simon, industry architect and co-creator of one of Marvel’s most exciting and enduring characters, Captain America. Simon passed away from natural causes in his home on Wednesday, December 14, 2011. He was 98 years old, and was surrounded by his family.

Joe Simon: My Life in Comics book cover

Newsprint flowed through Simon’s veins early in life as the newspapers provided the young artist-writer with his first, real job experience and avenues for future creative growth. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, he first worked on his high school newspaper as its art director, then graduated to several real-world papers. There, Simon handled not only production assignments, but also provided editorial cartoons throughout the 1930s.

Eventually drifting into freelance work, the young Simon found his way into the industry that he’d make his most important mark on when he went to work for Funnies, Inc., a company that provided comic stories to other publishers. There he created his first super hero, the Fiery Mask for Marvel’s predecessor Timely Comics, and met a fellow creator, one Jack Kirby.

Simon and Kirby hit it off and soon became an inseparable creative duo. Simon’s sense of business and design coupled with Kirby’s raw drawing talent created a team that could take on the world. After a few introductory comic book gigs together, the two young men made their way to Timely and there began to build what would become one of their signature creations: Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty.

Joe Simon, from Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades by Les Daniels

Simon, Timely’s very first editor, and Kirby, the company’s new art director, steered their patriotic hero through the first ten issues of his title, CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS, but Simon’s keen eye for business kept the team on the lookout for even more possibilities. Soon, Simon and Kirby left Timely for other companies, such as National, Harvey, Crestwood and their very own firm, Mainline Productions. World War II interrupted Simon’s creative flow for a while, but once he returned from service in the US Coast Guard – where he created an actual Coast Guard comic – the ambitious young man threw himself back into his work.

The 1950s changes in comic books meant the dissolution of the Simon and Kirby team, but Simon himself never stopped working. He focused on commercial art at first, but the siren call of comics brought him back into the industry where he spent many more years creating stories and characters for different publishers, and even re-teamed with his old partner Jack Kirby for a few more four-color adventures.

In more recent times, Simon thrilled to seeing his creation Captain America finally take his place among other Marvel heroes on the silver screen in 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” feature film. It stands as a proud moment that rounded out a lengthy and important career for the trail-blazing Joe Simon.

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