Comic books weren’t always such a big deal. Back in pre-war America, comics and their characters were produced by the dozen, each hoping to capitalize on some zeitgeist or current of interest to make its company some money before moving onto the next potential concept. When Joe Simon co-created Captain America in 1940, literally no one could have seen where the comic book industry would eventually find itself — and that 71 years later, his patriotic creation would see the silver screen en route to a larger “Avengers” film.
According to Newsarama and confirmed by Marvel Comics, Simon passed away yesterday at the age of 98, from unknown causes. Despite his age, Simon had remained a vital figure in the comics world — this year, he released an autobiography, “My Life in Comics,” and was active from the sidelines in supporting the Captain America film.
“The people out in Hollywood know what they’re doing, and what they got from me and [Jack Kirby] is the most important part—the origin story and the comic books we produced,” he told the AV Club in July. “Marvel sent a crew to interview me, and I’m sure everyone will see that before long, but otherwise, I’m happy to let them do their thing.”
It’s impossible to understate Simon’s impact on the comics industry and its rippling effect to the superhero movies we watch today. The original Captain America comics, produced during wartime, are a mix of overt patriotism and stylized action — a style that carried over to “Captain America: The First Avenger.” All of director Joe Johnston’s smoky retro tones can be directly traced to those comics, which boosted local and overseas morale for the war — a fact that’s nodded to in the film when a comic chronicling Cap’s actions is released after his unveiling to the American public.
Without Simon, there’s no Cap, no Marvel Universe as we know it, no Chris Evans on screen, no “Avengers” film, none of the comics pioneering from a legendary creator. Simon follows Joker creator Jerry Robinson who passed away last week, cutting off another link to the Golden Age past. We’d like to see explicit dedications to those creators when “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” come out next year.
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