Jerry Robinson last week, and now two more. Wow, that smarts.
Kirby was King of comics. Stan was the Man, and Joe Simon was comics’ beloved Uncle.
Of course, he was Marvel Comics’ first editor back in the Golden Age, back when Stan Lee was literally sweeping up and going out for bagels. And yes, along with his partner Jack Kirby, Joe gave the world some very popular characters: Captain America, The Boy Commandos, the Sandman…
But it’s Joe’s later career that made me love him. First off, there was this:
The Sixties and Seventies had a lot of great satire magazines on the stands. Mad, Cracked, Trump, Humbug, Car-toons, Crazy, Not Brand Ecch!, National Lampoon…and Joe Simon’s SICK.
Sick was hard to find, but a treasure when I could snag one. It was a typical black and white satire mag of the time, the format was identical amongst all of the different titles…but what I loved most about SICK magazine, was that it knew darn well it was an imitator of Mad Magazine, and had joyous fun with the shamelessness of it all. Their slogan was “We’re Number Two because we don’t try so hard” and they had a mascot that was Alfred E. Neuman’s twin brother in shabbier clothes. Damn, I loved the balls of that.
And SICK gets extra points for occasionally running articles by Lenny Bruce. How often did Mad Magazine do THAT?
But let’s talk about Simon’s masterpiece (and, no I’m not kidding).
With a cabinet made up of Hippies and “Injuns” and Black Chicks and Teen-Agers and whatever other liberal nightmare Joe Simon could dream up, PREZ was Simon’s Seventies satire genius. It was his Little Annie Fannie, only without tits, and that meant I could read it when I was twelve years old, and that’s the age I was when it came out.
There are people who don’t get this comic book, who don’t see the raw-staring-into-the-sun glory of this utterly unfettered series, and I pity them. Joe Simon and artist Jerry Grandenetti created in Prez, a comic where ANYTHING could happen, where suspension of disbelief was an Olympic sport. That’s my bread and butter when I want to be entertained. The phrase “well worn cliche” did not apply to the work of Joe Simon and bless him for that.
Add to this, The GREEN TEAM, BROTHER POWER the GEEK, The OUTSIDERS, the FIGHTING AMERICAN, The STUNTMAN, The NEWSBOY LEGION, MANHUNTER, The FLY, the Boy’s Ranch, Foxhole, Justice, and a pretty strange version of CAPTAIN MARVEL, and it adds up to a body of work to drop your jaw.
I never got to meet Joe Simon, but his daughter once emailed me that Joe had read and enjoyed an article I’d written about him. It made me beam for a week to know he’d read it.
You literally did it all, Joe. Built the world of comics and shaped a corner of my sky.
Eduardo Barreto: The artist’s artist.
Eduardo Barreto was one of those guys that made other comic artists make noises when we saw his work. It was like eating chocolate, or getting a foot rub seeing his art. Barreto’s work was so pretty, I actually made noises. To fandom at large, he was probably best known for his DC work on Wonder Woman, Justice League, the Teen Titans and Superman.
But I’ll always remember Eduardo for his astoundingly beautiful 30s period work on such projects as UNION STATION and THE SHADOW STRIKES. These stories, all taking place in a depression era alleyway populated by thugs, rats and bullets, were brought to life by Barretto’s hand with what seemed like effortless grace.
A big part of my life-long fandom of the Shadow is because of Barreto’s mind-boggling work on this book. The attention to detail, the sense of costume, décor, body language, character, lighting, mood, brushwork. It was magnificent to look at AND great comics to read.
And if you haven’t read this overlooked Ed Barreto gem: track it down. I promise you’ll love it.
Fifty-seven years old is way too young to lose him. He was still creating beautiful work up until Meningitis got to him last year.
My thoughts go out to the families of BOTH of these marvelous men who gave me so much pleasure over the years. Your contributions to the world will be long celebrated.
You did good.
Ty the Guy OUT!
For your BONUS Joe Simon Moment: GO HERE.