Legendary comics writer, artist, editor and publisher Joe Simon, whose work included the co-creation of Captain America and other Golden Age icons, passed away Thursday at the age of 98.
A New York native who worked as an editorial cartoonist and art director from an early age, Simon landed in the comics industry in the 1930s and quickly became a prominent figure. It wasn't long before he met another young comics upstart, Jack Kirby, and began one of the most prolific and influential collaborations in comics history.
What began as a series of one-off gigs for comics producers soon became something more. The pair quickly caught the eye of Timely Comics, precursor to Marvel Comics, where they produced Captain America Comics #1 in 1941 featuring the iconic image of Cap decking Hitler across the jaw.
Simon rapidly rose through Timely's ranks and became the company's first editor-in-chief. He brought Kirby on board as his art director, but the pair soon became frustrated with their low pay and quietly made a deal to move to National Comics, which would later become DC. There, in the early '40s, they produced Boy Commandos, Sandman and another war-inspired hit, Newsboy Legion. The pair became known for their dynamic art and storytelling, filled with action-packed, dramatic panels. Simon would later describe it as a seamless collaboration.
"As soon as we started working together, he and I were determined that when we worked together on a story, you wouldn't be able to see where one of us left off and the other started," Simon told CBR earlier this year. "We worked so closely together that, after the war, we moved into the same town on Long Island. That way, all we had to do was cross the street to get to the other's studio."
Simon enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, putting his comics career on hold to serve his country. As superheroes waned after the war, he again teamed with Kirby to produce a number of genre comics, including the horror book Black Magic and one of the first romance comics titles, Young Romance.
In the '60s and '70s Simon busied himself with Harvey Comics, where he and Kirby again teamed up for superhero work and where Simon served as editor-in-chief. There he founded the magazine Sick, a competitor of MAD, and launched the superhero comic Unearthly Spectaculars.
Though his work output declined in later years, Simon remained a regular fixture at conventions, serving as a living embodiment of the Golden Age of Comics long after many of its other icons had passed on. He also gave numerous interviews reflecting on his characters, including one in 2007 in which he lamented the "death" of Captain America at the end of Marvel's Civil War event, saying: "It's a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now."
Simon's long history in comics was rewarded with the prestigious Inkpot Award from Comic-Con International in 1998 and an induction into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1999. Within minutes of the news of his passing breaking, others comics creators began paying tribute via Twitter.
Ed Brubaker, a longtime Captain America writer who wrote the Death of Captain America story in 2007, said: "RIP - Joe Simon. Thanks for Captain America and Prez, both of which helped my career immensely."
Comics writer Mark Waid, currently serving as Marvel's Daredevil scripter, said: "Condolences to the family of Joe Simon. He was a terrific guy and a giant in the comics industry his entire life."
Dan Slott, Marvel's current Amazing Spider-Man writer, also issued a tribute: "Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America, has passed away at 98 years of age, leaving us an incredible legacy of art, stories, & characters."
Our thoughts go out to Simon's family and to the world of comics.
(via Comics Beat)