Captain America Lives On: Remembering Joe Simon

By Megan Margulies

On April 4, Marvel will release Captain America: The Winter Soldier. These movies are not only a cause for celebration by comic book fans, but also for the artists who created the superhero decades ago. In 1941, Jack Kirby and my grandfather, Joe Simon, dreamt of Captain America in an attempt to keep their heads above the turbulent waters of the comic book industry. Much to their surprise and joy, the character went on to receive worldwide fame.

MeandDaddyJoe[Me and my grandfather after his book My Life in Comics was published]

I have this really bad habit, though I do it out of love and pride for my grandfather. Whenever I see someone wearing a Captain America t-shirt, I like to first compliment them on their stellar choice, and then I ask, “Do you know who created Captain America?” Answers have varied. Some may say they don’t know, few say Simon and Kirby, and many say Stan Lee.

It’s not surprising that most people think Stan Lee created Captain America, and I certainly don’t blame them for thinking this. Stan Lee has a very large presence in the Marvel world, and more effectively, in a number of Marvel movies. Lee is known to make appearances in movies based on characters he created or co-created, so to see him pop up in Captain America: The First Avenger may have led uninformed viewers to make a false connection. In reality, his appearance was based on the fact that he began his writing career under the wing of Simon and Kirby back in Cap’s heyday, and is responsible for reviving the character in the 60’s under Marvel’s employment.

I’ll admit that I am poorly educated in comic book history, especially for having such an icon as a grandfather, but I’m an expert on the level of pride that my grandfather had for his work. His apartment was filled with Captain America paraphernalia. Small statues, figurines, and bobble heads lined the filing cabinets of his apartment and piles of t-shirts sat in his dresser—he always made sure to wear one for special company. For his ninety-eighth birthday I had a round cake made that had Cap’s shield drawn with red, white, and blue icing. He loved to hand out sketches of Cap to anyone who visited his apartment. I often had him give me a small sketch to impress a guy here and there. He was always happy to do it, and his drawing hand never seemed to age.

98cake[Birthday cake for Joe’s 98th birthday]

After a lawsuit to obtain full copyright of Captain America was settled between Marvel and my grandfather, the character was officially out of Simon and Kirby’s ownership. While a settlement was made, the most meaningful and exciting moment came when Simon and Kirby’s names appeared at the beginning credits of any Captain America movie. A flash of names on a screen may not seem like much, but to Simon’s grandchildren who represented him at the 2011 Captain America movie premiere in LA, it meant the world. On the red carpet we called him and held up the cell phone so that he could hear the cheers of fans on the sidelines. We wanted him to soak up as much of the excitement as possible from his New York City studio apartment. We introduced ourselves to every actor that we met as “the grandchildren of the creator of Captain America,” not even sure if they knew who created this mega character.

Simongrandchildrenpremiere[Simon grandkids at the 2011 Captain America movie premiere]

My grandfather passed away on December 14, 2011, only months after the release of the first movie. Family members always say, “thank God he got to see the movie.”

My intent in writing this before the April release of The Winter Soldier is to ask that everyone keep him in their hearts and minds. Let us always remember Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, even if just for a quick moment as their names flash across the screen.

Megan Margulies is a freelance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. You can learn more at www.meganmargulies.com. She also run a facebook and etsy page for his work: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cigar-Joe-Designs/195028187253164?fref=ts

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