“Captain America” co-creator Joe Simon tells life story in new book
The 97-year-old co-creator of Captain America tells his life story in “Joe Simon: My Life in Comics” by Titan Books.
There’s no better time than a long Independence Day weekend to celebrate the co-creator, with Jack Kirby, of the most All-American of heroes. The Chris Evans movie “Captain America: The First Avenger,” releasing July 22, has the World War II character at perhaps his highest profile since the 1940s.
In his book, Simon writes about how the character first came to life in 1940. Seeing what was going on in Europe, Simon felt the real-life villainy of Adolf Hitler deserved a heroic counterpoint. The United States wasn’t yet in the war, but Simon wrote that he was outraged by the Nazis.
“We thought it was a good time for a patriotic hero,” Simon writes in “My Life in Comics.” “I did a sketch of him with a chain mail tunic, and wings on the side of his mask like Mercury, the god from Roman mythology. I gave him a shield, like the ones the knights had carried.”
With “Captain America,” Simon and Kirby were so confident they had a hit on their hands, they began producing the comic before trying to sell it. When Martin Goodman, who owned Timely Comics, saw the pages, he brought Simon and Kirby on staff to oversee a line of comics.
“Captain America” No. 1, released in March 1941, became a huge hit, selling about a million copies.
“Nobody could match the thunder and lightning Jack Kirby brought to comic books,” Simon writes.
Over the course of the book, Simon has encounters with celebrities including writer Damon Runyon, prizefighter Jack Dempsey, Batman creator Bob Kane, comedian Sid Caesar and more.
Simon recounts his early days in newspapers during the Great Depression and his role in comics in wartime America. After the success of “Captain America,” Simon and Kirby moved to DC Comics, working on titles including “Boy Commandos” and “Sandman.” Before entering military service in 1943, Simon and Kirby stockpiled dozens of covers for “Boy Commandos” and “Star-Spangled Comics.”
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