America wasn’t in World War II when Joe Simon created Captain America, but it was close.
And with that, his popular comic book hero would serve as a mascot for freedom and ingenuity, leading to a blockbuster film earlier this year, and inclusion in the highly anticipated “The Avengers” film next year.
Simon, who was a part of Marvel even before it was Marvel, died Thursday. He was 98.
The first cover of Captain America for Timely Comics featured the hero Simon created with Jack Kirby pounding Adolf Hitler in the face. The war in Europe had been going on for some time in March 1941, and the United States was doing what it could to stay out of the conflict. Then Pearl Harbor happened, and the rest is history.
Interestingly enough, while Captain America would become a staple of Marvel Comics, Simon was not. He left Timely Comics after 1 million issues of his first comic of Captain America sold over what The Hollywood Reporter described as a pay dispute, and would spend the rest of his pre-war years with DC Comics forerunner National Comics. There, Simon would continue his partnership with Kirby to create other characters.
Kirby, who died in 1994, would later team with Stan Lee at Marvel to create a number of characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Hulk.
Simon and Kirby tried to create comic books through their own company, Mainline Publications, in 1953. However, that venture ceased in 1956. The 1950s was a turbulent time for comics, with government leaders working to link comics with juvenile delinquency, and as a result, drying up a lot of the comics market.
Simon would later pioneer the fight between artists and comic book companies to claim ownership of the characters they created. He sued Marvel for the rights unsuccessfully, but was able to pick up rights to other characters he created.
His Captain America was the first comic book character to move to other media, with a film serial created in 1944 at the height of World War II.
Chris Evans would play the title character in this year’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which grossed $176.6 million domestically on a $140 million budget.
Simon’s last public appearance was in October at New York Comic-Con. There, he shared many stories that he said were left out of his autobiography, according to MTV, including one story where he met a Civil War veteran while in elementary school, and got to shake the same hand that shook Abraham Lincoln’s.
“Comics in those days came out of a mold,” he told the crowd. “DC Comics were made like a cake from a recipe, formulaic. We came out with something different.”
He was born Hymie Simon on Oct. 11, 1913 in Rochester, N.Y.
“We lost another of the titans this week,” said DC co-publisher Jim Lee in a statement. “A creative virtuoso, Joe Simon will be best known for co-creating Captain America with legendary artist Jack Kirby, but his many contributions to DV Comics, both as a writer and an editor, are legion and will continue to be cherished by longtime fans, this one included.”