NEW YORK (JTA) — Joe Simon, the co-creator of Captain America and a leading figure during the golden age of comic books, has died at 98.
Simon’s family announced his death Thursday on Facebook, and told The Associated Press that Simon had died Wednesday night in New York following a brief illness.
Born Hymie Simon in Rochester, N.Y., in 1913, Simon grew up above his father’s tailor shop. After stints as an editorial cartoonist, he moved to New York City at 23 and eventually was hired as an editor of the now-defunct Fox Comics.
At Fox, Simon met illustrator Jack Kirby, and the two formed what would become one of the greatest creative partnerships in comics. For 25 years they advanced the emerging art form, created many of its greatest pop works and cast an influential shadow on peers and those that followed.
When Simon was hired by the nascent Timely Comics as editor in chief, he brought Kirby with him as director. At Timely, Simon and Kirby created the beloved Captain America, whose iconic first issue in March 1941 featured the star-spangled hero punching Adolf Hitler in the jaw on the cover nearly a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The image, aside from causing the issue to sell an unprecedented million copies, was deliberately political for the two Jewish artists.
“The opponents to the war were all quite well organized,” Simon told a biographer. “We wanted to have our say, too.”
The partnership was stalled temporarily as both served during World War II — Kirby overseas and Simon with the Coast Guard — but the duo reunited in the late 1940s to create romance, horror and satirical comics. Simon later described that work as a high point, as they pair were able to negotiate rights to half of their creative properties.
Timely’s successor Marvel Comics temporarily killed Captain America in a 2007 story line, leading Simon to say that “This is a time we need Captain America more than ever.”