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R.I.P. Joe Simon: Remembering One of Comics’ Most Iconic Creators

Joe Simon, the comic book writer, artist and editor best-known as the co-creator of Captain America, died yesterday at the age of 98.

The Rochester, New York-born Simon began working in the just-emerging field of comic books in 1939, the dawn of the Golden Age, after first working for several New York newspapers and for Paramount Pictures in New York. He began freelancing with Fox and Funnies Inc, and was soon made the very first editor of the new publisher Timely Comics, which would eventually become Marvel Comics. That was where he first met Jack Kirby, beginning one of the most creatively fruitful partnerships in comics.In 1941 they created Captain America, the star-spangled, shield-wielding super-soldier who punched out Adolf Hitler on the cover of his first issue — well before Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered the second world war. Seven decades later, Captain America remains one of Marvel’s most iconic characters.

The Simon/Kirby team next moved to National Comics, where they created Manhunter, The Sandman, The Guardian and The Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos, none of which were quite as popular as Cap, but were nevertheless characters and trademarks that DC Comics has continued to exploit with various levels of success into the 21st century.

The superhero genre began to wane in popularity after World War II, during which time Simon served in the Coast Guard, but the Simon/Kirby team were able to anticipate changing tastes and, to a certain degree, change them themselves. In addition to horror, crime, war and humor comics, the pair produced Young Romance in 1947, for which they are widely credited with creating the romance comic, a popular genre in the 1950s.

The pair drifted apart during comics’ Silver Age, during which Kirby would team with Stan Lee, whom Simon had hired during his time at Timely, to create the bulk of the Marvel Universe. Simon meanwhile worked in commercial art and edited Mad-like magazine entitled Sick. Simon and Kirby would periodically re-team to work on Archie Comics superheroes The Shield and The Fly (the latter of which Simon created), Harvey Comics’ The Fighting American and DC’s Sandman.

Other characters Simon created or co-created include Bucky, The Red Skull, Blue Bolt, The Fiery Mask, Dan Turpin, The Vision, Brother Power the Geek, Prez and The Green Team.

During the last few years, Simon appeared at several comics conventions and in several media reports of Captain America’s “death.” This past year was an especially significant one for Simon’s legacy, as it saw the July release of a blockbuster film Captain America: The First Avenger, another wave of mainstream media attention paid him resulting from the film and the publication of his autobiography Joe Simon: My Life in Comics.

He is survived by five children, eight grandchildern, scores of characters, an industry and art form he was instrumental in founding and forging, and countless fans.

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