Stars Wearing Stripes
The team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby launched Captain America in a comic dated March of 1941 which went on sale just before Christmas of 1940. The first patriotic super-hero to wear a facsimile of the American Flag? Nope. The Shield, published by the company later known as Archie Comics, debuted late in 1939.
There were threats of litigation before it was decided, somewhat gentlemanly, that both heroes could co-exist. I suspect that if anyone then had dreamed how valuable a property Captain America would turn out to be, it would not been so gentlemanly.
The Shield has come and gone from the newsstands more times than I can count. One time, it was even revived for the Archie company by Simon and Kirby. Anyway, that firm is about to bring out yet another new version and the cover, seen above at right, is a parody (that’s not quite the right word) of the cover of Captain America #1 seen at left.
I don’t see anything wrong with that except that — and you won’t be able to see this in the images above but trust me, it’s there — the artist for the Shield cover signed it “after Kirby.” That’s a way of saying, “Yes, I acknowledge I’m copying Jack Kirby.” And the problem there is that it’s really a cover by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
As you probably know, I knew Jack and worked with him…but I also knew Joe. Two of my favorite people. Their memories of who did what on some stories were not identical and then let’s add that scholars of their comics often debate if a given piece of work from the Simon-Kirby studio was mostly or all Simon or mostly or all Kirby.
Jack’s standard answer if you asked him who did what in that studio was “We both did everything.” They didn’t sign that first, iconic Captain America #1 cover but if they had, they would have signed it “Simon & Kirby.”
I also know Dan Parent, the fine artist who drew that new Shield cover. I don’t know if he’s the one who decided to omit Joe’s name but I’m sure no malice was intended. (John L. Goldwater who was the publisher at Archie Comics for many years was very fond of Joe.)
It’s easy to understand why Jack’s name may be more familiar to some people who came to comics after there was no Simon-Kirby team. Okay, fine, that’s not an excuse. Joe was a gifted and important maker of fine comic books. Let’s not cancel him out of his own history.