My Life in Comics
written by Joe Simon
Along with Jack Kirby, we have Joe Simon to thank for Captain America, one of the truly great comics characters of all time. (As friend of the site Torsten Adair pointed out to me one time, “His power is courage.” Ever since then, I can’t help but feel an immense love for Cap.) Joe Simon’s power, it seems, would be charm—he simply has it (and wit) to spare, as this compellingly readable memoir proves.
Starting with his humble roots as the son of a tailor (who, against Simon’s mother’s wishes or knowledge named him Hymie, the name on Simon’s birth certificate but not the one that anyone ever calls him). Showing an early knack for illustrating, Simon goes to work in newspapers but eventually gets a job in the burgeoning comics industry. He takes to it immediately and soon becomes one of the industry’s most prolific creators, helping to bring about such classics as Captain America, the Boy Commandos, and the Newsboy Legion.
Born out of a world at war, the works still manage to speak of a more innocent time, at least for the fictional characters. For their creators, the times were anything but simple, as evidenced by the fight for creative rights and recognition that Simon would later spend years fighting (his legal battles with Marvel over Captain America are openly dealt with here, although they certainly don’t overpower the more important and fun story of a life in comics). Along the way of spending decades creating comics, Simon had his ups and downs in his personal life as well, much of which is covered here, including marrying the girl of his dreams, raising a family, and losing his beloved wife at far too young an age. At the same time, Simon deals with the inner workings of the industry in an open and honest way.
It’s a lovely memoir, often funny, sometimes thought-provoking, and never ostentatious. It’s a true pleasure to read.