Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm sorry to say I don't really know all that much about Joe Simon

I only know the basics about Joe Simon, who passed away Wednesday at the amazing age of 98. He came up with Captain America with his partner Jack Kirby, then the two of them went on to invent romance comics. How many people can say they created an entire genre?

Other than that, I'm most familiar with Joe Simon as the co-creator of the Boy Commandos, one of any number of "kid gang" comics he and Kirby produced in the 1940s and 1950s. A group of boys from each of the major allied nations of WWII, the Boy Commandos took their orders from Captain Rip Carter, but guff from no one. Not even Hitler, whose ass I feel certain they must have personally kicked at some point.

And I only know this because I own the hardcover America at War:  The Best of DC's War Comics, the Michael Uslan-edited book full of amazing tales from the 40s to the 70s starring characters like Sgt. Rock, Gunner and Sarge, the Haunted Tank, Enemy Ace and the Unknown Soldier-- it includes Simon and Kirby's "The Romance of Rip Carter," (Detective Comics #82, December 1943), where Carter takes the boys on a mission behind enemy lines (is there any other kind for comic book commandos?) aboard a B-17 named the "Rosalind K." after Kirby's wife. Simon and Kirby turn the bomber into a character in its own right, personifying it effectively without resorting to anything like overt anthropomorphism. It's actually pretty touching, mixed in as it is with all the slam-bang punch-the-Ratzis-in-the-face action.

Because I didn't read any of their adventures until they showed up in Jimmy Olsen, I tended to associate the Newsboy Legion more with Kirby solo.  Not really fair.  I wish I'd done my homework on Joe Simon, his life and his career.  He's another of those legendary figures we have too few of these days-- Jerry Robinson having recently passed as well.  As comic book aficionados we have to treasure these men and women while they're still with us.  They've provided us with a lifetime of knockabout entertainment, some of it even thought-provoking to go along with the fun.

A very belated thank you, Mr. Simon, on a job well done and a life well lived.

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