Category Archives: 2012/02

Joe Simon’s Yearbook

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’.

Enlarged Image

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.

Class Acts

I am afraid I have been very busy helping the Simon family. I hope to resume normal posting soon. In the mean time there are some things I would like to share. Superheroes have not been high on my reading lists although at one time I closely followed Captain America. However I became disenchanted with the writing for that series after Captain America’s death. This is not a rant and I understand that changes will be made to a title from time to time. But I feel that if one is not happy with what he is reading then why read it anymore. There was one limited series that I had been following that seemingly gone into limbo some time ago. Recently The Twelve have been revived so I picked up a copy. While reading it I came across a rather unexpected surprise.

The Twelve #9

I believe this was a rather nice gesture by Marvel. The choice of image is appropriate because this drawing from the first Captain America issue was actually rendered by Joe Simon (although the Bucky figure was done by Jack Kirby). I became curious whether this gesture was present in any other comic book by Marvel. I checked out a Captain America comic book and found the following:

Captain America #8

I have always had a very favorable opinion of Tom Brevoort but now even more so. I get the impression that many fans believe that Joe Simon had an antagonistic relationship with Marvel. Yes Joe went into a legal battle with Marvel over Captain America copyrights not once but twice. But Joe was satisfied with the agreement he finally reached with Marvel. In fact Joe provided some nice statements to the media during Marvel’s death of Captain America event. He once again provided publicity for the recent blockbuster Captain America movie. That included an interview that can be found on the blue ray of the movie.

Captain America White by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Many comic book professionals had good things to say about Joe but some went a little further to show their appreciation. Among Joe’s possession was this copy of Captain America White signed by Tim Sale. I do not know how Mr. Sale got this copy to Joe but it is nice to see that he was willing to go through a little extra effort. This has special meaning for me because I am a big fan of Loeb and Sale’s work. While a number of writers and artists like to rewrite comic book history, I feel Loeb and Sale explore it.

So thank you Marvel, Tom Brevoort and Tim Sale for these class acts.