Comic book veteran Joe Simon is responsible for some of the industry’s most indelible characters.
Simon recently published his autobiography, Joe Simon: My Life in Comics (Titan Books, $25). He spoke with American Way about his past, his present and, yes, even his future.
American Way: How have comic books changed since you started in 1938?
Joe Simon: Back then, publishers were crazy and didn’t really know anything about their material. Today, people seem to care much more about story quality. The biggest comics fans have grown up — now they’re middle-aged and concerned with the psychological motivations behind the characters.
2011 July 21–24
San Diego Convention Center
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AW: Your most popular character is Captain America; when he first appeared during World War II, the issues would instantly sell out. Is he still relevant today?
JS: More than ever. I realize I’d be a fool not to say that, but I really believe it. We’re so frustrated with terrorism that we need a fighter who won’t back down. Captain America was the first superhero to have his own comic book, and it wasn’t even so much because of the patriotism — he was just a big, beautiful, American guy who fought very weird villains.
AW: Was he your best creation, or did you have another favorite?
JS: Jack Kirby and I both loved our Western character, Bullseye. He was a frontier scout who peddled pots and pans from his covered wagon, but whenever he was challenged by Indians or gunfighters, he never missed a shot. Unfortunately, he also never got the recognition he deserved. The thing that made the most money was romance comics. In 1947, Jack and I came out with our first issue of Young Romance, and then about 400 others copied us.
AW: These days you earn commissions for cover drawings, and Titan Books is publishing lavish hardcover anthologies of your older work. What will you be doing for your 100th birthday?
JS: I just drew 20 new covers, and I’m doing around 10 different volumes of Simon-Kirby reprints. Three years from now, I’ll still be working.