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A Talk With Joe Simon,
one of the great innovators
from the Golden Age of comic books
Interviewed by Dan Whitehead, The Web magazine
What was your involvement with the creation of Spiderman?
There's an interesting story behind Spiderman. I don't want to go into it fully here, but I can tell you that back in 1953 I created a superhero, a young man with spider-like qualities. I put the character in a presentation for a publisher and entitled it Spiderman. I designed the Spiderman logo. I had Clarence Beck do the penciled sketches. He was the predominant artist for Captain Marvel, the man who gave Captain Marvel its special comic style, and I believe he came out of semi-retirement to work with me on this. At the last minute, I changed the name from Spiderman to the Silver Spider. I thought at the time there were just too many 'man' titles around,-Superman, Batman, that stuff. I took the presentation up to Harvey Comics where it languished. I kind of forgot about it after a while. I was onto new projects. I wasn't looking back; there was no time to look back. You went on; you created.
In the late 1950s, Archie Comics asked me to create a new line of superheroes. I gave the Silver Spider sketches to Jack Kirby and I changed the name again, this time to The Fly. Jack held onto the sketches and when Stan Lee asked Jack for new ideas, Jack brought the original Spiderman pages to Marvel Comics. Jack was busy with other work so Stan handed the pages over to Steve Ditko. Ditko, on first seeing those pages, commented, "This is Joe Simon's Fly." Steve Ditko worked up his own version of the character's costume. The comic that was published was called Spider-man. Marvel had stuck a hyphen in between the Spider and the man, for trademark reasons I suppose. Jack told me this years later. A few years before he passed on, he sent me back my original Spiderman logo. WebMaster's Note: Jack Kirby's admission is printed in Will Eisner's Spirit Magazine. Steve Ditko's "eye-witness" account is printed in Comic Book Artist/Alter Ego, Winter, 1999; Jon Morrow, Publisher and Roy Thomas/Jon B. Cook, Editors, courtesy of Robin Snyder's History of the Comics
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Joe Simons original Spiderman sketch
Joe Simon prototyped the Silver Spider in the early 1950s. The Silver Spider was Tommy Troy, a young boy who morphs into a full-grown superhero after wishing on a spiderweb-covered mystical ring that he finds in the attic of an old house. Note that the sketch you are viewing has been dithered and altered so as not to be reproduced. The original is in our library. Joe Simon plans to do a reproduction of this historic character, this time in full color!
The curious lineage of The Silver Spider, The Fly, and Spider-Man makes for a mysterious thread of comic book history, weaving among the talents of Joe Simon, CC. Beck, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. For the full story on the Silver Spider and the birth of Spider-Man, see The Comic Book Makers as well as Jack Kirby's interview in Will Eisner's Spirit magazine.