Joe Simon: My Life in Comics. Book Review


Titan Books h/b £17.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

This timely book reminds us that the late Joe Simon (died 14th December 2011) is definitely one of the greats of the comics world – even if his name isn’t as familiar as Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, or Stan Lee. Throughout his decades-spanning career Simon created dozens of comic book characters – some more lasting than others – usually alongside his sparring partner Jack Kirby: Manhunter, the Fighting American, the Boy Commandos, Stuntman, Lancelot Strong, and, of course, Captain America. As well as working on company-owned titles such as Blue Beetle, The Sandman and The Fly he even wrote and drew romance, crime, westerns and espionage comics. Well, when he started it was the time of the Great Depression and habits like chasing any work going aren’t easily forgotten.

The book’s title is too modest, it’s not just about Simon’s work in comics but the man’s life: from the day he was born as Hymie Simon to exalted old age with a family of his own. His friends, colleagues (those he got on with, and others not so much); as well as the evolution of comic books themselves. His style is chatty, relaxed, and very easy to read. It’s almost like he’s in the room with you. He’s also remarkably sanguine about the prejudice that was so common in the 1930s and 40s it could pass unnoticed. “It happened.” Even in the big melting pot ofNew York- where Jew, Irish and Italian might work side by side – at the end of the day they still went home to their own neighbourhoods. And if you were Black…

Working both as biography and a history of US comics, this book is a must-read for anyone with a real interest in how the industry began – when it was little more than a cottage industry run from tiny offices inNew York; and the people who drove it.

A perfect companion-piece to The Simon and Kirby Superheroes, also published by Titan Books.