Joe Simon graduated Benjamin Franklin High School of Rochester N.Y. in 1932. Like most American high schools, the graduating class had a year book.
Joe’s artistry was recognized in his yearbook entry along with a fair list his activities. His entry was large enough that it extended into that for the person below. While this was not that unusual it did mean that there were other students who had a smaller entries (otherwise there would not be enough room on the page).
Joe was on the yearbook staff as well. That is him second from the right in the bottom row.
A page was devoted to class prophecy, of which I only show the first paragraph. There he is right at the top of the list. To my knowledge Joe never selected anyone as the prettiest model in New York but he did become a renowned artist. The comic book industry had not started at this time so the art career that he eventually became famous for was not considered.
A page in the back of the yearbook titled Rogue’s Gallery was devoted to small photographs of students when they were very young. Joe’s parents were be no means rich (actually rather poor) so this was not Joe’s personal pony. Rather the pony belonged to the photographer who charged to take such photos. There is no question that this is Joe Simon as he was the only Joseph of the graduating class whose last name began with a ‘S’.
It is obvious from his yearbook entry that Joe did quite a lot of artwork while in high school. His family still possess some examples of this work. However Joe’s earliest published cartoon appeared in the back of his yearbook. The original art for this work still exists in Joe’s art collection but the image above is from the yearbook. The individuals depicted (obviously not portraits) are all members of the graduating class. Perhaps these were personal friends of Joe’s because most do not seem to have a prominent roll in the graduating class. In particular, Sidney Yates entry is the yearbook is rather short. The one exception is Wayne Boniface who was the class president.
The different sections of the yearbook were opened with a page containing an illustration executed by Joe. The art was influenced by the Art Deco movement popular in the not too distant past. All the art is in shades of gray and the forms are all simple. Much effort was made by Joe to provide interesting compositions. While the art may appear very different than what Simon would produce years later for comic books, already present was an emphasis on interesting layouts. The printer liked the art so much that he paid Joe for its use in other yearbooks.