Tag Archives: Joe Simon

Speaking of Art, Joe Simon’s Hector Protector

Hector Protector was dressed all in green;
Hector Protector was sent to the Queen.
The Queen did not like him,
Nor more did the King;
So Hector Protector was sent back again.

This, Like so many other nursery rhymes, may seem like nonsensical verse. One theory is that Hector Protector was based on a Richard, Duke of York from 15th century England. I really cannot say how true that theory is but I can say that Joe Simon was aware of the nursery rhyme and based some of his advertisement work on Hector Protector. Joe once told me that he also called the character something like Forester Bill but whenever I found a name applied to the character it was always Hector Protector.

I had previously briefly discussed Hector Protector (Joe Simon’s Career in Advertising) where I provided some examples of layouts that Joe made in preparation for publication. The work Joe did was for Mechanics National Bank which I believe was located in New Jersey. I have never actually seen the published results but that is not too surprising because it would likely have been used as advertisements in small regional newspapers.

All the finished Hector Protector art was executed in color. This despite the fact that all the layouts I have seen made for black and white publications. At the time Joe had his own stat camera so that it was easy for him to prepare art for black and white publications but and color work had to be handled by others.

For the most part, Joe did not apply text to the actual artwork presumably as this allowed for repeated use of an image with different text. The art would be used to advertise a bank so it is not hard to imagine what sort of text might be applied to art like the one shown above. I am sure it would promote getting loans from Mechanics National Bank.

A chipmunk with all the nuts he saved was another natural image for use in a bank advertisement.

Others are a little harder to deduce what the accompanying text might be like. All the Hector Protector images share a similar sense of humor. Not sarcastic as Joe might use for Sick magazine but similar in other respects.

Perhaps my favorite of the Hector Protector art although I wonder if younger viewers would know about rabbit ear antennas. I am not sure if the Captain America image is was part of the original creation or added later. Today Marvel would not tolerate such a usage. I remember them successfully suing a restaurant from either Ireland or England that called itself Captain America. But Marvel was not so such a financial juggernaut when Joe was creating this art (probably in the 70’s) and the advertisement would have been very regional and therefore not likely to attract the attention of the Manhattan located comic book publisher.

New York Times Advertisement Section (November 27, 1966) by Joe Simon

It is a little bit out of place among the Hector Protector art, but I have one last example of Joe Simon’s advertisement work. This was the cover to an advertisement section of the New York Times. Joe used to have a framed example of the actual publication hanging up in his apartment but I do not believe I ever got a chance to scan the published version. However it was printed in color and except for the yellowing of the paper was a good match to the original art.

Joe’s Birthday

Birthdays are supposed to be occasions of celebration, but for me this one carries a sad undertone. Today, October 11, Joe Simon would have been 99 years old. But his was a good life and his work touched millions, so still there is also something to celebrate.

At 5:15 pm Friday, Oct 12, there will be a memorial panel for Joe at the New York Comic Con (location 1A01). Panelists will be Jim Simon, Paul Levitz, Mark Waid and Angelo Torres. Carmine Infantino is also listed but the last I heard it was uncertain if he would appear. I certainly hope he does because not only did Carmine work with Joe on a couple of occasions, they would frequently telephone one another right up to Joe’s passing.

Speaking of Art, Young Love #66

Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, inks by Bill Draut? and Jack Kirby

Joe Simon’s collection includes the original art for an unused cover. I do not believe that this cover art has every been made public before and once again I have permission from the Simon estate to do so here. Although subsequently crossed out, the notation in the upper left indicates it was initially intended for Young Love #66. This work was created during a difficult period for Simon and Kirby. Joe and Jack had launched their own publishing company, Mainline, with Bullseye #1 (cover date July 1954). But Mainline quickly became in trouble as its distributor, Leading News, entered into its own difficulties. By the time of Young Love #66 the former Mainline titles would be published by Charlton, notorious for their low payment to their artistic creators.

While previously Jack Kirby had provided the pencils for almost all the cover art for the titles that Simon and Kirby produced, his contributions during the Mainline and subsequent period was very limited. In particular the covers for the Prize romance titles were done by other artists such as Bill Draut, Mort Meskin, John Prentice and Bob McCarty. Joe Simon’s drawing of any comic book art was even more limited. Basically Joe and done no actual pencils since the Stuntman and Boy Explorers titles failed in 1946 except for 48 Famous Americans (a J.C. Penny giveaway from 1947). So Joe and Jack’s involvement in this cover is quite unusual.

Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils by Joe Simon, inks by Bill Draut?

The art is a bit of an construction on the illustration board that Simon and Kirby preferred. Only the foreground young couple were executed on the original illustration board. They were penciled by Joe Simon however the inking does not appear to be his. I am not certain but the brushwork looks like it was done by Bill Draut. The final results does look like a cross between the styles of the two artists.

Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955)

Another layer was added to the illustration board; a larger piece on the left side and a smaller one on the right together covering the former background. Unfortunately the larger piece has been almost completely covered up and cannot be examined. The smaller piece was also covered up but the glue (probably rubber cement) has subsequently failed. That is the part that is shown above. Regrettably it does not seem sufficient for determining of an attribution and I would not want to hazarded a guess.

Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955)

The third layer is also in two parts; a larger left piece and a smaller right that pretty much match the shape and size of the underlying pieces. However they two pieces are of different paper. The right piece seems to have been tracing paper with white-out applied to make it more opaque. The art work consists of little of a couple of pencil lines depicting drapery.

Young Love #66 unused cover (August 1955), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

The more substantial third layer from the left side was drawn and inked by Jack Kirby. Kirby is well known, and rightly so, for his action drawing but here we have as simple yet warm portrayal as one could hope to find.

It is simply no longer possible to determine what the background was for the initial work on the illustration board. A small area of white-out remains that covers some inking indicates that there was some sort of background. What little can be seen of the second layer suggests a poorly constructed fence, perhaps a street scene from a poor neighborhood. The final layer has hanging drapery, maybe a wedding chapel.

Young Love #66 (August 1955), pencils and inks by Mort Meskin

The back of the original art has two Comic Code Authority Approval Stamps; one dated March 2, 1955 and the other March 8. But note that both are approval stamps and  therefore the rework was not due to any rejection from the Comic Code. The changes appear to be an effort to improve the cover but in the end they decided to use a cover created by Mort Meskin. While I find the Simon and Kirby cover interesting I believe it was the correct decision. The Meskin cover is just a wonderful one with the contrast between the casually dressed teenager and the fancifully attired couple that she is daydreaming about.

Daring Disc

Daring Disk, pencils by Jack Kirby

Occasionally a title would be cancelled leaving Simon and Kirby with some unused art. Even then Joe and Jack would often rework the art so as not to waste the effort that went into it. In one case the work for the Fighting American #8 that was cancelled by Prize Comics in 1955 ended up being used in the comic published by Harvey in 1966. Because of the recycling there is only a limited amount of Simon and Kirby work that avoided publication until the more recent rise of reprint books. For most of the art that escaped being used there is ample evidence for what it was originally intended. All this makes the story Daring Disc is so unusual. It is a very early Simon and Kirby art that originally never got published and for which there is no firm evidence as to what title it was meant for and therefore exactly when it was created.

The art style is such that we can be pretty certain it was done early in the Simon and Kirby collaboration. But I would like to examine the evidence that the work provides that might narrow down when it was created.

I do not believe the inking helps much. It does not look to me like the inking that Kirby did on his own pencils in stories such as the Solar Legion that Jack did for Crash Comics (#1 to 3, May – July 1940). But Kirby was variable in the inking of his very early work (see A Brief Pause, Another Brief Pause and It Ain’t Soup ) so it hard to be sure whether this is his inking or not. It might have been inked by Joe Simon or someone else but that would hardly help in narrowing the time period.

“Daring Disk”, letters by an unidentified letterer

I believe better information can be obtained by the lettering. This is not a very professional letterer (many were not during those early days of comic books). His lettering can easily be distinguished from that by Jack Kirby, Joe Simon or Howard Ferguson, the most frequently used letterers for Simon and Kirby work from the early 40’s (see Chapter 5 of In the Beginning for examples of all three). This trio did most of the most of the lettering during the initial Simon and Kirby collaboration. Joe and Jack most frequently in the earliest period and Howard predominantly later. However other letterers were common during the period from July to September 1940. Sometimes another letterer was used later for example in the Vision story from Marvel Mystery Comics #17 but by then Kirby’s pencils were done in a style that does not match that found in Daring Disk and therefore can be discounted. So based on the use of an non-typical letterer and the art style July to September 1940 seems to be the most likely date* for Daring Disk.

Marvel Mystery #10 (August 1940) “The Human Torch”, letters by an unidentified letterer (from Marvel Masterworks)

While I cannot identify the letterer of Daring Disc his work looks very much like that found in the Human Torch story from Marvel Mystery #10 (August 1940). The lettering examples I provide for both the Daring Disk and MM #10 were derived from the speech balloons while the same type of lettering is found in the captions only it is slanted in both pieces. Further drop capitals** were not used in either work. Simon was the Timely editor so it is likely that he would have known and could supply work to the letterer from MM #10. MM #10 August cover date matches the July to September dates that I suggested above.

These is one other piece of evidence to consider the title of the piece. Why Daring Disc? Horrible Disc, Terrible Disc or something of that nature would seem more appropriate. But perhaps it was called Daring because it was meant for Daring Comics. A similar use of Daring in the title was used for Captain Daring by Jack Kirby (Daring Mysteries #6, September 1940). Simon’s work appeared in the early issues of Daring Mystery but Kirby’s first appeared in Daring Mystery #6 (September 1940) and later in DM #7 (April 1941) and #8 (January 1942). But again Kirby’s art had developed by DM #7 into a style that I do not think matches Daring Disk.

Granted this is not the greatest evidence but it seems the best available. so based largely on the use of a letterer other than Simon, Kirby or Ferguson I would suggest Daring Disk would cover date from July to September 1940. The particular letterer used and the title are even less firm evidence but they agree with those dates as well.


* These are cover dates, calendar dates would put the creation of the art 5 or 6 months early; January to April 1940.

** Drop capitals is the term I use for enlarged and sometimes shadowed first letter of the captions.

Harvey Horror: Alarming Tales #3

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958), pencils and inks by Joe Simon

For a long time this cover was considered the work of Jack Kirby but it was actually created by Joe Simon. This confusion is understandable because it is a swipe from an unpublished cover that Jack did (for a more complete discussion see Alternate Versions of the Alarming Tales #3 Cover, although I no longer believe Kirby was the inker on the unused cover).

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) content page, pencils and inks by Joe Simon

The contents page was used is an house advertisement in Black Cat Mystic #61.

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “This World Is Ours”, pencils by Jack Kirby

The inking of this story has in the past been attributed to Steve Ditko but I think we can confidently reject that claim. The figure in the lower right corner of the splash does look a little like Ditko’s work, however the blunt brushwork is nothing like Ditko’s inking at the time. One explanation could be that the inking of the splash was done by Mort Meskin whose work greatly influenced Ditko. Beyond the figure’s appearance, nothing in the brushwork suggests Meskin’s inking. Still I find it hard to believe that Kirby inked the splash either. The rest of the story does look very much like the inking of Kirby himself.

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “They Walked On Water”, pencils and inks by Doug Wildey

There is a lot of work by Doug Wildey in AT #3 and in fact he would be frequently used in later issues of Alarming Tales and Black Cat Mystic. Wildey was an accomplished artist but unfortunately sometimes worked in greater detail than the crude printing of Harvey comics could handle properly.

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “Get Lost”, pencils and inks by Ernest Schroeder?

I am really not that familiar with the artists from Harvey at this time and this attribution is from GCD. Ernest Schroeder is said to have worked for Simon and Kirby around 1954 (Who’s Who). I do not find him in my database but that just means that I have not identified his work not that he did not work for them. If he did work for Simon and Kirby he did not sign his efforts. “Get Lost” has some interesting art, particularly the way Schroeder uses lighting to provide dramatic effects.

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) house advertisement, pencils and inks by Joe Simon?

The art for this house ad was used as the contents page for Black Cat Mystic #61. Someone commented in my post of that issue that Nostrand was no longer working for Harvey at that time. IF that is true it may be that this content page/ad was done by Joe Simon swiping from an earlier Nostrand piece.

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “The Strange One”, pencils and inks by Doug Wildey

I have to admit I am not a great fan of all the Harvey stories particularly those from after the Comic Code came into effect. While I like the Wildey’s art work for “The Strange One” the story is a bit contrived for my tastes.

Alarming Tales #3 (January 1958) “The Man Who Never Lived”, pencils and inks by Doug Wildey

It appears to me that Wildey often worked from photographs. That is not to say that all his drawings were done based on photos but that some were. “The Man Who Never Lived” seems to have a larger than normal amount of drawing from photographs.

Harvey Horror: Alarming Tales #1

Harvey released a new title, Alarming Tales, with a cover date of September 1957. This is the same month that Black Cat Mystic #59 was released. Both titles covered the same genre, horror and science fiction. In fact the cover story for Alarming Tales #1 (“Donnegan’s Daffy Chair”) was originally intended to be used in Black Cat Mystic #59 (as shown by the original art for an used cover). Since both titles were bimonthly publications, it was unusual that they would have the same schedule. Normally such similar comics would alternate months (such as Simon and Kirby’s Young Romance and Young Love did). The original art for the unused cover of Black Cat Mystery #59 has a July cover date so perhaps the original intent was for alternating months but something delayed it.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

I had previously credit the cover art for AT #1 to Joe Simon alone but I now realize that the art is a “Frankenstein” made from different pieces of art. It was not that unusual for Joe to piece together different art (see Cover for Alarming Tales #2, My Third Attribution Attempt). In this case that lower portion came from art that Jack Kirby drew while the upper portion was done by Simon. I suspect that the original art that Kirby made included a figure in a fly chair very much like the one in the actual story. That is the way that the unused cover for BCM #59 was done. That included goggles that covered the figure’s eyes. Such an depiction would fit the story but Joe probably felt (and I agree) that the cover would be more dramatic with the full face exposed. The portion of the art that Simon did was done on a craft tint board with irregularly shaped dots that sometimes is referred to as a mezzotint pattern. Lines were then “inked” over this with a pen to provide interesting dotted lines.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Contents”, pencils by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

It appears that except for the lettering the contents page was created entirely by stats from parts of the book. Simon and Kirby did not do use stats to create comic pages very often while they had their own studio but apparently Harvey either had a stat camera or used a service bureau to provide copies. I love the way the images of Donnegan’s chair are woven through the contents page.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Cadmus Seed”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Scientifically engineered humans sounds like something out of more recent newspapers. However the Simon and Kirby story never mentions DNA or cloning. The structure of DNA had been discovered by this time and it’s importance was well known in the scientific world. But science fiction had not yet caught up with science fact. Nonetheless “The Cadmus Seed” is a delightful story with a mildly humorous ending.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Logan’s Next Life”, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

“Logan’s Next Life” is the only story in AT #1 that could be describe as belonging to the horror genre. Since is consisted of only two pages it was not that much of a contribution to AT #1. Most of the stories from the Alarming Tales and it’s companion title Black Cat Mystic could best be described as science fiction. But despite being in the minority horror stories would still play a significant part of these titles.

The art for “Logan’s Next Life” was based on an earlier story named “When I Live Again” that had appeared in Black Magic #13 (June 1952, see Little Shop of Horrors, Chapter 5). The original story was penciled and inked by Bill Draut. While Kirby was known to do an occasional swipe, such extensive swiping for a single story would be rare. One example would be “Invisible Irving” from Fighting American #5 (December 1954, see A Simon and Kirby Swipe). Another example of an extensive Simon and Kirby swipe appears to be “Deadly Doolittle from Fighting American #6 (February 1955, see Fighting American, Jumping the Shark) but in that case it was Joe Simon doing the swiping.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Fourth Dimension Is A Many Splattered Thing”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

This story was included in a recent post concerning Kirby’s use of extra-dimensional traveling (Jack Kirby’s Trips to the Fourth Dimension).

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “The Last Enemy”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

This story has longed been recognized as a prototype for Kamandi title that Kirby did for DC from 1972 until 1976. The most significant change is that while except for the protagonist, humans were completely absent from “The Last Enemy” they were present in Kamandi but usually as nothing more than speechless animals. But otherwise the theme of talking animals taking over the world was common to both. Frankly I do not recall how this change was explained in Kamandi, but in “The Last Enemy” it was the results of an atomic war. While that is a perfectly understandable explanation for the lack of humans it is not clear how the change in animals occurred.

Alarming Tales #1 (September 1957) “Donnegan’s Daffy Chair”, pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Oddly the story featured on the cover of AT #1 was the second shortest in the book. Stories from Black Cat Mystic and Alarming Tales were pretty consistently five pages long but “Donnegan’s Daffy Chair” was only four.

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.

Blue Bolt Covers

Blue Bolt #1 (June 1940), art by unidentified artist

As previously discussed, Joe Simon’s creation of the feature Blue Bolt occurred somewhat earlier than the cover date of Blue Bolt #1 would suggest. Joe supplied it to Funnies Inc. a shop run by Lloyd Jacquet that put together comic books for other publishers. Blue Bolt was just one of a number of features that Simon created for the shop. But apparently Jacquet and Novelty Press must have seen some special potential in Blue Bolt and used it as the title feature for a new comic book. Had that had been the intention all along it would be expected that Simon would do the cover art but since that was not the case we cannot assume he drew the cover. There are reasons to believe that Simon was not the cover artist and little to suggest he was. To my knowledge only the eyes of the Green Sorceress look like they might have been done by Simon. However many comic book artists found difficulty in getting eyes to sit properly on a face viewed from an angle. Otherwise none of the figures look like any other art that we can more confidently attribute to Joe. The Green Sorceress’ hair seems tamed in comparison to Simon’s depiction in the story. The dragon does not resemble the monsters in the story either. Blue Bolt’s cape lacks the distinct zigzag contour found in the story although Simon would abandon this device in future issues. Blue Bolt’s helmet includes a lightning bolt emblem that is missing from the story art. The gloves and boots have a three dimensional presence that Simon generally avoided and specifically did not use for Blue Bolt. Finally the composition is very untypical of Simon particularly the lack of any background elements causing Blue Bolt to float. It is hard to escape the conclusion that despite what some have claimed the cover art for Blue Bolt #1 was not done by Joe Simon.

Jacquet’s shop had a number of comic book artist which could have been called upon to draw the cover. Perhaps the most famous were Carl Burgos and Bill Everett but I think it can safely be said that the style of the cover art does not match either of these two artists.

Blue Bolt #2 (July 1940), art by W. E. Rowland

Fortunately the next Blue Bolt cover was signed so there can be no question that it was drawn by William E. Rowland. The cover art for BB #2 shares some features with that for BB #1. In particular the more three dimensional aspects of the gloves and boots as well as the lightning bolt design on the helmet. I feel that the Blue Bolt’s face looks similar in the two covers. However Rowland goes even further in giving the gloves and boots a real physical presence. Further he has added details to the gloves that were missing from the BB #1 cover such as the lightning bolt and small circular shapes and lines that border the opening of the glove. While I would not rule out that Rowland was the cover artist for BB #1, I do not find the similarities strong enough to convince me that he was.

Blue Bolt #1 (June 1940) “Page Parks”, art by W. E. Rowland

The signature on the cover of BB #2 is particularly valuable because I doubt that Rowland would otherwise have been credited for the art. Apparently Rowland only worked on comic books for a few years (1939 to 1942) and even during that period he did not seem to do a lot of work. I have discussed one story by Rowland from Prize Comics #7 (December 1940) previously (Ted O’Neil). Frankly it was a rather unfair comparison of his take on the feature with Simon and Kirby’s. The purpose of the post was to highlight how radical Simon and Kirby’s work was compared to the work by more typical comic book artists even at this early stage in their career. Blue Bolt #1 also has a story drawn by Rowland and a scan of a page is provided above. Rowland is a good comic book artist, better than most contemporaries, but judging from the work I have seen so far it is hard to understand why he would have been selected to provide cover art. Whatever the basis for that decision it turned out to be a good one because Rowland’s cover art is rather nice and far superior to his story art.

Blue Bolt #3 (August 1940), pencils and inks by Joe Simon

It was only with the third issue that Simon had his single chance to provide the cover art for Blue Bolt. Much could be said about the technical problems with the art. The cloth folds are a confusing mess and the perspective of the forward leg is not quite accurate. But these and others faults are nothing more than nick-picking that do not significantly distract from the cover’s impact. The figure of Blue Bolt was swiped from Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon (see Art by Joe Simon, Chapter 4, Footnote) but Joe has infused the figure with excitement. Simon also uses a low viewing angle so that Blue Bolt can tower over his supporting soldiers. It is a effective depiction of an attaching force coming through some mountainous pass.

There was a time that some attributed this cover art to Jack Kirby but nowadays there is general agreement that Simon drew the cover. Perhaps the most convincing evidence that Kirby did not draw the figure is the somewhat problematic nature of the perspective of Blue Bolt’s leg, Kirby’s use of perspective was always very convincing. While it is now known that Kirby did sometimes use swipes I have never seen an example of Jack swiping from the same source more than once. However this twice use of Raymond’s Flash Gordon running figure would not be unusual for Simon.

Blue Bolt #5 (October 1940), art by W. E. Rowland

Blue Bolt did not appear on every cover of the comic that bore his name. The next appearance of Blue Bolt was for issue #5 and once again Rowland has the honors. While this cover shares some stylistic features with the one Rowland did for BB #2 there have been important advances as well. Blue Bolt’s glove and boots have an even more exaggerated three dimensional look. The figures have become more massive and muscular and the inking finer and more detailed. While Rowland did a good job on the cover for BB #2, this one is a masterpiece.

Blue Bolt #7 (December 1940), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Simon

Issue #7 marked Blue Bolt’s final cover appearance during the Simon and Kirby run. It would be Jack Kirby’s only Blue Bolt cover. While not a bad cover it was not one of Jack’s finest either. I feel much of the blame comes from the action portrayed. Jumping out of a plane just does not have the impact of, for example, attempting to stop a bomb from exploding (as seen in the cover for Champion #10, August 1940). The rather unimpressive aircraft do not help either. I am not sure what they are meant to be since they lack propellers or jet engines. Rocket planes?

Joe’s Dedications

I believe that I was digitally restoring comic book art before anyone else. I say that because I began when consumer scanners first became available. Having my own personal scanner opened up new possibilities. Previously I had used Photoshop to work on my fine arts printmaking. I would have to take my photographic slides to a commercial lab for scanning. It was inconvenient and expensive. After a week or so I would get back a Photo CD. These were special CDs for storing the scans, at the time there were no drives that could burn a standard CD. This was fine for slides, especially since I had no other choice, but having old comic books scanned by a commercial lab was completely out of the question. But when scanners became available to consumers I quickly realized their potential for comic book art restoration. Printers were a different problem as there were few color printers available and they way too expensive. Even the black and white laser printer I bought was a huge investment. But once I assembled these devices I began working on how to use Photoshop to restore the line art from the scans.

After some of what I would describe as trial work I started an ambitious project, to restore the line art for all the Simon and Kirby covers. When I look back I cannot believe decided to do that project. Not only would it require an incredible amount of work but also I did not have all the comics in my collection. It took a long time but I persevered. When I had restored all the covers I bound them by hand into books another time consuming project. In the end I had 24 sets of books (each set consisting of two volumes). Half of these went to Joe Simon for the help he supplied and because, well he was Joe Simon. Some sets went to various people for the scans they provided and a few went out as gifts. A lot of the covers were under copyright protection so it was never my plan to sell any copies and I might add I never have. I have no idea what these books are worth on the market because apparently the recipients valued them so much that none of the books have ever been offered for sale.

With those volumes completed I began to think of my next project. I was a little unhappy about only restoring the line art because comic books were meant to have color, or at least the comics during the period that Simon and Kirby were producing them. Fortunately by then color printers had become affordable. So I decided to begin restoring Simon and Kirby work in full color. This time restoring all the Simon and Kirby stories was not considered an option. It would be great if I succeeded in restoring everything but that would be way too many pages to accomplish in any reasonable amount of time. Once again I would hand bind restorations into books. The books would serve more than a personal purpose, we would use them to show publishers what could be done in the way of reprinting Simon and Kirby. This time I would only make two copies of whatever I restored, one for Joe and one for me. In exchange for his copy Joe would provide mine with some art. This was done on the end paper of the book. Now if Joe had just added pencil sketches there would be no problems since mistakes could be erased. But Joe liked to work in color which meant there was little that could be done with any errors.

Bullseye volume

What I expected Joe to provide would be the standard character sketches that comic book artists do all the time. Joe did just that sort of thing for the Bullseye book basing his piece on a drawing that Jack Kirby had done.

Boy Commandos volume

While the Bullseye was a more traditional character drawing, all the others that Joe did incorporated elements of humor. Not necessarily of the side-splitting variety but you can tell he just was not satisfied with just providing a sketch.

Manhunter volume

Surprisingly Joe drew Sandman in a book of Manhunter stories. The accompanying texts suggest that this was not an accident.

Sandman volume

With Sandman appearing in the Manhunter book it is not too surprising that Manhunter appeared in the Sandman book. Once again the text indicates this was deliberately done.

Foxhole volume

A soldier appears in the Foxhole volume but the text imply that this is not just any soldier but is meant to be Jack Kirby. All of Joe’s sketches were done on the end paper at the front of the book except this one which was done on the inside cover.

Foxhole volume

The Foxhole contained two sketches; a colored one on the inside cover (shown earlier) and a pencil sketch on the opposite end paper. This was the only book that got this double treatment as well as the only one dated. Usually Joe got the spelling of my name correctly but here he adds an extra ‘c’.

Duke of Broadway and the Vagabond Prince volume

Years before the current debate about growing disparity between the rich and the 99%, Joe provided his irreverent solution, “Eat the Rich” indeed.

Newsboy Legion volume

Joe sometimes commented about how one youthful character would with minor changes be transformed into another.

Headline volume

I am not sure why Joe put Captain America in a book of crime stories. Perhaps he felt that his humor was not appropriate for the crime genre? But I am not one to complain about getting Captain America art from one of his creators.

Stuntman and Boy Explorers volume

I inadvertently put the cover on upside down for one of Stuntman and Boy Explorer books. Needless to say I was very annoyed at myself about this but there was no way I was going to give the flawed volume to Joe. With his art Joe turned this defective book into something special.

Win A Prize volume

Uncle Giveaway offered prizes to the readers of Win A Prize Comics. Here Joe jokes that money is just paper but there was none left because it all went to Iraq. Joe was a lifelong Republican but he did not like Bush and he felt the Iraq war was a mistake. I believe Joe was still the kind of Republican that was not that unusual when he was younger but today is pretty much extinct, a least on the national level, that is a moderate Republican. Joe was very proud of the work he did to support John D. Rockefeller and similar Republicans.

Alarming Tales volume

A personal favorite because here I am depicted in the company of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Black Magic volume

Nobody would describe Joe as little and nobody that actually knew him would call him nasty. I never met Jack but nasty does not seem appropriate for him either. While not literally a portrait as far as I know this was the last time Joe drew himself with his old partner Jack.

I made a few more reprint volumes that Joe never added art to. I do not remember why that was but I am sure it was not due to any reluctance on Joe’s part. These final volumes were made about the time that negotiations had begun with Titan to reprint Simon and Kirby material. I think we both had other things on our minds. Now I treasure the volumes that Joe did provide his art and humor.

My Joe

New York Comic Con 2008

There already are numerous essays about Joe Simon’s life on the Internet written by people much more talented than me. The biggest problem for me is how to condense such a productive live into a article short enough that people would actually read without leaving too many important things out. Perhaps I will give it a try later but I thought instead that I would provide a more personal narrative about Joe.

I don’t count the time when I had him sign a Fighting American page of original art as the first time I met Joe Simon. That was at a Big Apple Con when it was held in the basement of St. Paul’s church. The noise level was so high and Joe’s hearing so poor that you could not have any real conversation with him. Still Joe was very kind to me and the other fans even though he was not making any money from us for his signings nor was he selling anything.

For me the first time I really got to meet Joe was at another Big Apple Con this time held at a convention room where you could actually have conversations. I was a big Simon and Kirby fan and had recently embarked on a project to digitally restore the line art to all the Simon and Kirby covers. It was an ambitious project to say the least and at that time I only had completed maybe fifty covers. I decided to make 11 by 14 inch prints of the three Champion covers for Joe and bring along the notebook of the rest of what I had done to show him. Hey what can I tell you, I was and still am a fanboy. When I gave him the Champion prints he stopped, looked at me and said “I am not mad or anything, but how did you manage to get a copy of my restoration of this cover, I just did it a couple of weeks ago”? I tried to explain that they were my own restorations and how I did it, but he was unconvinced and calmly repeated his question. We went around and around on this a couple more times with Carmine Infantino stepping in to try to explain to Joe what I was saying. But it was only when Joe began to notice the small differences between his recreation techniques and mine that he began to realize that it was just a coincidence. But during this whole exchange Joe was calm and friendly, I doubt I would have been if I had been convinced that someone had gotten a hold of my private work. Joe was interested in my project and I offered to give him copies of my restorations. Periodic visits to Joe’s apartment followed as I continued to do line art restorations of Simon and Kirby covers.

Joe with Mark Evanier signing Mark’s book “Kirby: King of Comics”

Joe was not anything like I expected him to be. If I were to condense the stories I had previously heard it would come down to that Joe was always claiming credit for what others, usually Jack Kirby, had done. All I can say is that this is not the Joe I came to know. For my visits I always brought Joe copies of my latest restorations. I was very interested in what Joe would have to say about them. You could tell Joe enjoyed viewing them very much. He would often make comments like “I had forgotten about that cover”. During the viewings Joe would frequently remark on how talented Jack Kirby was. But it was rare for Joe to say that he, not Jack, had done a particular cover. My experience was that when he took credit for some work he was almost always right. During this time Joe became involved in a lawsuit with Marvel over Captain America copyrights. On the Internet comic fans were often very critical of Joe for doing this, saying that Joe was unfairly trying to exclude Kirby from any credit. However I remember a diner I had with Joe and Carmine Infantino. Joe would not go into any details about any possible settlement with Marvel, but he did say that as part of any agreement Marvel would have to add to the Captain America comics a “created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby” byline. The details of his settlement that eventually was reached with Marvel were kept confidential but I do not think it was a coincidence that shortly afterwards Marvel began to include creator credits to Simon and Kirby in their Captain America comics.

Dick Ayers with Joe and New York Comic Con 2008

I have rarely read an interview of Joe Simon that I thought was any good. Not only were Joe’s answers generally not very informative but they also did not seem to lead the interview along. The Joe presented by these interviews turned out to be another example that was very different from the Joe I got to know from my visits. In this case I feel I understand why the interviews were so unsuccessful. During my initial visits I would ask Joe questions about specific covers or about other detailed issues that I as a fanboy was interested in. But Joe never seemed able to provide answers. The problem was not that Joe was trying to conceal anything nor did he have a bad memory. In fact I found his memory to be quite excellent. Joe could remember the address of the various places he worked. He could even remember the address of a store he used to buy his cigars back in the 50’s. However Joe’s memory was good for the things he was interested and that generally was not the same as the things that a comic aficionado wanted to know. I soon found that I learned more if I just provided copies of work and just let Joe respond as he wanted. When I asked questions I would keep them general. Not that it always worked, but sometimes it would get Joe into telling stories. Joe was a natural, he told great stories. Carmine Infantino once said to me that Joe was one of the best comic book writers, he just did not get the credit for it that he deserved. If you never had the opportunity to hear Joe telling stories then I suggest reading his book “The Comic Book Makers” or the more recent “My Life In Comics”. But do not read like a comic fan for its history, read it for what it is, a collection of stories. Do not look for what you want instead just follow Joe’s tales. That is not to say that there is not a wealth of information in these stories. However I will say that if you try to mine his stories for information you should remember one of Joe’s sayings, “never let facts get in the way of a good story”.

There was one glaring exception to all too often poor interviews of Joe, the one done by Jim Amash for Alter Ego #76. Now much can be said about what a great interviewer Jim is. Amash has many qualities that help to make his work with Joe and other comic artists so successful. His wide knowledge of the subject and experience from years of conducting interviews to name just two. But Jim also had a something special going for him, he was Joe’s friend. During many hours over the telephone Joe opened up to Jim in a way that he only would with a friend. Joe would often grumble to me about how much time he was spending on this interview with Jim but that was all bluff. I could tell how much Joe was enjoying it and Joe never did anything he did not want to. If you want to get some idea about what Joe was really like I can think of no better source than Amash’s interview.

Jerry Robison greeting Joe at New York Comic Con of 2005

Some consider Joe more that of a businessman then as an artist. When I was first getting to know him I sometimes felt that he wanted to believe that also. But even if he did it still was not true. Joe’s response to the cover restorations were always artistic. Sometimes he would suggest ways that the cover could be improved. A figure should placed further from the motorcycle it was leaping from. A different color should have been used in a particular spot. Sometimes Joe would make copies of original art in sections that he would then have to recombine. I watched him once start to use acrylic paint to retouch one of these to hide the edges between the sections. That is what he started to do but Joe ended up redoing much of the art itself. Joe had intended to make a reduced size copy of the original art and ended making a new version of it. One time Joe copied a piece of original art from his old magazine Sick. The art showed a giraffe with rabbit ear antennas coming out of its head. Joe was concerned that today few would know what the rabbit ears were so he retouched it replacing them with a satellite dish antenna. When I arrived once for a visit Joe told me that recently he had been taking xerox copies of one of his drawings of Captain America and hand painting them. Joe said that somehow he found this very relaxing. Sure enough I was able to look through a pile of these Cap pieces, all the same yet each one unique.

Tom Morehouse and Joe with the original cover art for Police Trap #2

I helped Joe at a number of comic conventions which gave me an opportunity to see Joe interact with comic book fans. At one Joe walked around the tables talking with various comic book artists. He was always quick to provide complements when he saw anything he liked. But even though some were showing pieces of Captain America, I got the feeling that none recognized who they were talking to. At the next show Joe did a similar tour of the artists but this time the artists would often realize at some point who Joe was. It was always amusing to see a comic artist turn from being a professional to just another fanboy. If they had a camera, they always wanted their photograph to be taken with Joe. He treated regular fans well also. At the shows Joe was promoting his reprinted edition of “The Comic Book Makers”. Joe would prepare some copies with a full color work of Captain America inside that would be sold at the show. Joe would also do quick sketches of Cap in books at the show. Yes Joe made money for this work but many of them immediately ended up on eBay where they were sold for up to twice what Joe charged. Joe was well aware of this but it did not bother him at all. Like most artists Joe was happy to sign what ever the fans brought. One fan had an unfinished drawing with a large stain on it. Joe said he remembered it but that he threw it away uncompleted because he spilled coffee over it. Someone had fished it out of the garbage and sold it on eBay. Joe chuckled about what had occurred, was a bit surprised that anyone would value such a damaged and unfinished piece, but he was happy to signed it.

J. David Spurlock, Joe and Roy Thomas at the 2005 Big Apple Con

Joe had a certain irrelevant humor about comics and even himself. When a major comic publisher sent him a royalty check for fifty cents, Joe framed it with a doctored picture of himself. To the picture Joe added a cup, scruffy hair and an eye patch transforming himself into a street beggar. During one of his legal battles over Captain America copyrights Marvel threaten to kill off the character. Joe proceeded with the help of his daughter Gail to paint a version of Leonardo’s Last Supper replacing Jesus with Captain America and the disciples with various super heroes. The meal itself was populated with numerous modern products. Joe had a penchant for cutting off pieces of his hair, adding them to a photograph of himself and then making from this a xerox. He would say he wanted to improve the look of his hair, but you could tell he knew full well how ridiculous the final results looked.

Joe and Stan Lee at the 2008 New York Comic Con

I only got to know Joe during the final years of his life but I did get to see at first hand a change in how Joe was perceived by the public. Earlier it often seemed that when Joe was not being ignored by comic fans, he was being abused by them. Joe once commented about a Kirby list on the Internet was that “they all hate me”. While that was not strictly true it was not all that far off from the mark either. Our attempts to get a publisher interested in reprinting Simon and Kirby work all seemed to fail, they just were not interested enough. When Joe was remembered by comic book fans at all, they usually viewed him as the one who handled all the business while Kirby took care of all the art. Over the years and little by little this neglect by the public began to change. I like to think I played my small part in making that change happen. Joe lived to hear Stan Lee describe seeing him draw Captain America alongside Jack Kirby, what a wonderful artist he was and how Joe was his mentor. And to read Neil Gaiman praising him as a great writer in the introduction to the Superheroes volume of Titan’s Simon and Kirby Library. Joe never made a big deal about these and other praise that he began to receive but I could tell it was very gratifying to him. Finally a publisher, Titan, was found with the foresight to begin reprinting some of the Simon and Kirby work. I saw first hand how excited he was to see the initial volumes that have been released by Titan. Unfortunately there was a negative consequence to this change as Joe lived to see others rush to reprint material before Titan could get it out so that once again Simon and Kirby would be exploited by a publisher. I will say that once Joe realized that this publisher would not be swayed by appeals to fairness he became very philosophical about the matter and did not let himself be upset about it. His final year was a particularly good one for Joe. During that time he saw the publication of his autobiography “My Life In Comics” and the release of the Captain America movie. Both of these gave him much pleasure.

Steve Saffel, Joe and two grand-daughters at 2011 New York Comic Con

I could go on writing about Joe Simon. After all I have been writing about Simon and Kirby in this blog for almost six years. But I fear I have already been rambling too long in this post. Joe was important figure in the history of comic books, truly a legend. It has been my great fortune to have been able to get to know the man behind that legend, to work with him and to be his friend.

Jerry Robinson and Joe at the 2008 New York Comic Con