Observations: Marvel at the return of the comic-strip superheroes

Tim Walker@timwalker
Friday 29 November 2013 05:31

In March 1941, a whole nine months prior to Pearl Harbor, Marvel (then known as Timely) Comics' newest superhero appeared on the cover of his first issue, socking Adolf Hitler on the jaw. A prophetic call to arms, Captain America was the creation of writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, two young men whose work would change comics forever.

"When I first saw their Captain America," said Stan Lee, who later created Iron Man, X-Men, Hulk and the Fantastic Four with Kirby, "I thought he was the handsomest, most exciting character I'd ever seen."

Simon and Kirby popularised a new sort of comic, one whose characters weren't confined to a series of uniform boxes, whose action spilled across the page, and whose every issue raced from the newsstands. Their titles had an impact on popular culture beyond comics, and the patriotic Captain America survived 66 years until his alter ego, Steve Rogers, was killed in 2007.

This month, readers can return to that first issue with the publication of The Best of Simon and Kirby, a book celebrating the many creations of this dynamic duo, with an introduction and insights from Simon himself, now 95.

Simon and Kirby were both the sons of tailors, New York natives who first met as part of the Fox Comics stable in 1939. After moving to Timely and creating war hero Captain America, both served in World War Two: Simon in the Coast Guard, and Kirby in the army under Patton. Reunited after 1945, the pair produced hugely successful and influential comics together until the late 1950s.

Their varied output was not limited to superheroes. They also contributed to the eras other popular comic genres: sci-fi, war, Western and crime. The collection even contains a story from the industry's first ever romance comic, Young Romance, which was born in 1947 to attract female readers and excite an audience that had briefly tired of superheroes.

'The Best of Simon and Kirby' is published by Titan Books, £24.99

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