Originally published in December 1999. Joe Simon was the first golden age creator I interviewed. Being a comics historian I was happy to have interviewed him. He was able to clear up a question I had regarding Kirby’s claim of Spider-Man’s co-creation. I did this interview via fax machine, which was a mistake. I sent a list of questions and Joe wrote brief answers in whatever space there was between the questions and sent it back. With one exception (Dave Sim) I never did another interview via fax machine again.
An Interview With Joe Simon
Hello everyone. I’m back and this month I have an interview with Joe Simon! For those that don’t know, Joe Simon is one of the Golden Age creators that laid the foundation of the comic book industry. He is the co-creator of Captain America and *many* other hot selling titles and characters in the Golden Age. The amount of successful comics he did with and without partner Jack Kirby would take up a monster amount of space. You’ll just have to trust me when I say he’s done some good comics. Anyway, most of these responses were given to us via fax machine. Enjoy!
Jamie: Two years ago, the wife and daughter of Jerry Siegel filed copyright papers to get Jerry Siegel’s half of the copyright back in regards to Superman and related characters. In April of this year the copyright office awarded the Siegel heirs, saying they now regain their half of Superman, meaning profits from all new Superman products should be split 50/50 between Time Warner (DC Comics) and the Siegel heirs. As a golden age creator, what is your opinion on this?
Joe Simon: Good for the Siegels!
Jamie: Apparently the copyright law for cases like the Siegel heirs are for characters that were created before they began freelancing with a publisher. How often was it that a freelancer created a character and “shopped around” to find a publisher for it?
Joe Simon: I can’t speak for other creators. No one ever offered such a project to me – None that was credible, anyway –
Jamie: There seems to be a long standing dispute about you and Jack Kirby getting released as Editors at Marvel back in the 40’s. Has either Stan Lee or Martin Goodman fessed up to how Goodman found out you were working for DC on the side?
Joe Simon: Not that I know of – This was over 55 years ago, Stan told me he can’t remember last week.
Jamie: Which editors did you enjoy working with the most over the years?
Joe Simon: Which editor? I can’t think of one editor I worked with as an editor. The various companies did have editors but we always acted as our own editor, so the question has no answer.
Jamie: Do editors still ask you to do fill in stories for them?
Joe Simon: No. I get many requests to do articles + reminiscences – I’ve been too busy –
Jamie: Today your involved with licensing characters you created. How did you manage to get ownership of these characters considering the time period they were created in?
Joe Simon: Through contractual agreements
Jamie: The most famous licensing agreement you have is over Fighting American, which Rob Liefeld uses for his Awesome Comics line. Have you read the Fighting American comics he’s produced and what do you think of them?
Joe Simon: They are pretty exciting, graphically – Nicely printed. Great coloring
Jamie: Do you have any other characters licensed out? If so which ones and where to?
Joe Simon: Yes. Several Including the Fly to Batfilms
Jamie: What is Batfilms and how will the characters be used?
Joe Simon: Batfilm Productions are executive producers for the Batman films. The Fly is expected to be used as he was in the comic books.
Jamie: What is the craziest character you created?
Joe Simon: Craziest character? Jamie, they were all crazy. Who else would fly around in colored underwear? I think the cutest was Angel in Boys Ranch. Did you know that we never got around to revealing or determining the real name of Speedboy in Fighting American. I like The Geek, a rag-doll pretending to be human. The Prez, an adolescent in the White House, just like the current occupant.
Jamie: Do you know why Captain America became so successful when the Shield, a similar character appeared first?
Joe Simon: In my opinion, Cap was far superior
Jamie: Have you been reading Captain America comics over the years? If so which writer/artists team is your favorite?
Joe Simon: No – Sorry I haven’t been reading them –
Jamie: On your webpage, Simoncomics.com you say you created the original Spider Man which was then used by Jack Kirby, and later re-done by Steve Ditko into the character we know today. Can you explain how all this happened?
Joe Simon: It’s in the website. Click on Web Magazine
Jamie: Do you believe that Jack Kirby pitched the idea of Spider Man to Stan Lee?
Joe Simon: Yes. He admitted to it – Ditko confirmed it.
Jamie: Today comic fans are learning about the behind the scenes politics and editorial/writer/artist disagreements within comic companies, and how they are affecting stories. Was that present back in the golden age as well?
Joe Simon: Constantly.
Jamie: In a book called Comics: Between the Panels they have a quote from you where you say all History of Comics are crap. Can you explain why?
Joe Simon: I don’t believe I said that. What I meant was they’re all derived from hearsay and old clippings –
Jamie: The Comic Book Makers seemed to be a big success for you and your son Jim. Do you plan on doing any more comic history books?
Joe Simon: Possibly. We may do a second version.
Jamie: here are a number of comics with a “Suggested for Mature Readers” label on them, telling non-typical types of stories in them. Do you think this is a good thing?
Joe Simon: We did it first with Young Romance – But it was just a cover gimmick to entice buyers. The contents were very tame –
Jamie: What do you think is missing from today’s comics that would really entertain the readers?
Joe Simon: I haven’t read them. Haven’t seen any for years. DC and Marvel stopped sending them.