Joe Simon, Captain America


Freedom and justice will never be the same.

Joe Simon, the comic-book pioneer best known for co-creating Marvel's patriotic superhero Captain America, has died at the age of 98.

According to a statement released by his family, Simon passed away Wednesday night in New York City following a brief illness.

But it was his good fortune to live long enough to see a major resurgence of the classic character with last summer's big-screen hit Captain America: The First Avenger, which not only raked in $369 million in worldwide ticket sales but reignited the Captain in the public imagination and introduced him to new generations of comic-book fans.

Simon dreamed up the idea for the star-spangled superhuman with partner Jack Kirby in 1941, with the intention of rallying Americans to fight the Nazis and the Axis powers during World War II. Timely Comics, Marvel's predecessor, released the first patriotic-themed issue, Captain America Comics #1, to newsstands nearly a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The character was an instant pulp hit, selling a million copies thanks to panels showing him punching Hitler in the jaw.

"Together, the team created Captain America as well as long list of characters, including the Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos," Simon's family said Thursday.

Simon wrote the stories for Captain America, while Kirby was credited with drawing and designing the energetic panels for which the comic was known.

The origin story he created followed a scrawny young man named Steve Rogers who is given an experimental serum that transforms him into a super soldier in peak physical condition with greatly enhanced strength, endurance and amazing martial-arts skills. He's also an expert in military strategy, espionage and defensive and offensive capabilities, whose unique choice of weapon was an indestructible disc-shaped shield that he used to battle his archenemy, the Nazi agent known as the Red Skull.

The success of Captain America made Simon and Kirby one of the decade's premiere comic-book duos who were known for employing innovative layouts and using varying perspectives heretofore unknown to the comic world to keep readers engrossed in the action.

After its success, the pair moved on to DC Comics, where they worked on The Boy Commandos and Sandman, but it was Captain America for which Simon's known best.

Unfortunately with the war coming to an end, during which time Simon served in the Coast Guard, the popularity of their ripped defender waned. Simon and Kirby soldiered on, writing other stories including Boys' Ranch and Black Magic, an early horror comic, before launching their own comics firm, Mainline Publications in 1953.

Two years later Simon left the comic-book industry, deciding to try his hand at advertising and commercial art.

Interest in Captain America returned, however, when Marvel hatched a strip featuring a squad of superheroes called The Avengers, who revived the liberty-lovin' icon from suspended animation during the Silver Age of Comics in the 1960s.

Around the same time, Simon and Kirby reunited on a few other occasions, producing works for Harvey Comics including Unearthly Adventures and Double-Dare Adventures. A decade later one of their last collaborations was on a new version of DC's Sandman.

Simon is survived by two sons, three daughters and eight grandchildren.

PICS: Celebrity Deaths: 2011's Fallen Stars

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share