Joe Simon: My Life in Comics (3 stars)

Joe Simon: My Life in Comics


This autobiography written by one of the founding fathers of the American comic books hits the bookshelves a fortnight ahead of the release of the latest Hollywood blockbuster adaptation of a superhero strip, Captain America, which star-spangled patriot was dreamed up by Simon and artist Jack Kirby way back before his country entered World War II. Simon was born in 1913, began working in comics the year after Superman hits the news stands, became the first editor of the company that later became publishing giant Marvel Comics (giving Stan Lee his first job) and has been working ever since. His memoirs span a full ten decades, from his childhood growing up in Rochester, through his service during WWII to his battle with Marvel at the end of the last century to regain copyright of Captain America. Simon was born before comics, spent his whole life creating them and still doesn’t have a bad word to say about them. So, in a sense, Simon is comics. That’s born out in his book, which not unsurprisingly reads like a history of the medium in America. It lacks the critical analysis of a warts ‘n’ all socio-historical account of the medium such as Gerard Jones’ excellent Men of Tomorrow, but it does work well as a personal account of the history of American comics. And the old-school Jewish-American vernacular is great: ‘Artist-shmartist,’ Simon recalls as his mother’s reaction to his proposed career. How wrong Mrs Simon was.

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