Stuf’ Said p 6: Always the consummate businessman, Simon was more renowned for his deals than his creative work, although he was a very adept artist in his own right. But Kirby tended to get the lion’s share of the creativity credit in their relationship, while Simon steered the duo’s financial boat with a steady hand from one company to another. He had a flair for coming up with concepts and gimmicks that would stand out from the crowd, and he always looked out for Kirby’s best interests as well as his own.
“adept artist”? No. A perhaps competent artist who employed ghosts and whose credited work is so varied in style that it is impossible to know whether the work is by Simon or one of his hired hands. Like someone else we know, he “had a flair” for putting his name on Kirby’s work.
Simon “looked out” for his own interests. The failure of Mainline left him in substantially better straits than the Kirbys (see p 12, below).
Jim Amash, Kirby-L, 29 January 2000: “You’re right about Roz not wanting to show Jack the Simon book. As a matter of fact, Roz even told me not to tell Jack I had read or even knew about it. That book really upset her.
“Another thought. Dan Barry and Charles Paris both told me that they remembered Jack sitting in the DC bullpen writing and drawing stories at the same time. In fact, Dan’s comment was (censored for language), ‘I don’t know how Kirby could write and draw 5 pages a day but I used to see him do it.’
“I think we have to give weight to the fact that Kirby sat down alone in Thousand Oaks and wrote and drew his own stories without Simon or Lee. So there’s little doubt that Jack could do it. The question how often did he do it when he worked with Joe Simon. It seems to me that there was more than one way Jack did stories back then and that we’ve about mentioned them all by now.
“Joe Simon has been known to embellish facts also. He claimed he laid out and had lettered the 1970’s Sandman story by Simon-Kirby. When I pointed out to him that Royer did the lettering and that penciled pages showed Jack’s drawing and handwriting and nothing of Simon’s, he backed off that claim. Until his next interview.”
Rodrigo Baeza, 2013: Steranko had the following to say about Joe Simon yesterday on Twitter…
‘I had to fight to get paid for characters I created & wrote for him. He kept my presentation art without paying me, and later sold the material and kept the $$$. I once offered to pencil a series starring one of my characters and, in his infinite wisdom, he said, “YOU CAN’T DRAW!” Bottom line: swindler. Don’t believe me? Ask Kirby’s wife Roz!’
9: “We created Captain America… Jack and I turned out so much stuff that we had many work methods. At the beginning, I would write the story right on the art board, making very rough layouts. Then Jack would tighten up the drawing, and if he had to, help with the story. We were both prolific writers. Then I would ink it. That was the true Simon and Kirby stuff.”
This interview was recorded in 1990, the year of publication of the first edition of The Comic Book Makers, the book that had upset Roz Kirby. Simon couldn’t keep his story straight. Here’s one of his embellishments, told to Jim Amash, printed in 2008. 41
JA: Did Jack occasionally write his own stories?
SIMON: I didn’t let him write a story when I was with him, but he worked with the scripts. He was a good editor. He’d put some nice phrases in there, but his stories were all fragmented.
On closer examination it can be seen that stories pencilled and inked by Kirby since his return from the war were also written by Kirby, and many of the books produced by the studio feature a solo Kirby lead story (writing, pencils, inks). In TJKC #25, Morrow reprinted what he introduced as a “revealing interview with the King” by James Van Hise… 42
VAN HISE: How much of your own writing were you doing then?
KIRBY: All of it. I’ve always done my own writing. When I got into comic books I began needing people like Joe Simon, and finally Joe and I got together to do Captain America. We were both professionals, and we were both capable of writing the stuff, but Joe did most of the business. He was a big guy, six foot three, very impressive, and he had college experience which I didn’t have—but I had a unique storytelling ability, so although he was quite capable of doing so, he never had to write the stories. I’d write the stories on Captain America or whatever we’d be working on and Joe did business with the publisher because he could meet the publisher on an equal footing. I was younger and I was the kid with the turtleneck sweater who was always working.
VAN HISE: What was the actual breakdown of work between you and Joe Simon on Captain America as far as penciling, inking, etc.?
KIRBY: Well, I did most of it because I had the time. I was constantly working. Joe had duties as an editor and he might be an editor in the publishing house and he’d be having contacts with the publisher that I didn’t.
Kirby’s answers call to mind the reflections of Jack Katz on working in the S&K studio a number of years later… 43
KATZ: Jack would work at his own desk there, and Joe would come in during the morning, and subtly stare at us. Then Jack would go to lunch, and when he came back, Joe would leave for the day. I think he was looking for financing, I’m not sure…
JA: How many hours a day do you figure Kirby was working?
KATZ: I left late. He would get in early. He was always there before I came in. I used to come in at nine. Joe was there quite often. But then he’d take off, and he would take some pages with him.
S&K studio writers Kim Aamodt and Walter Geier spoke to Amash for Alter Ego #30 (November 2003)…
AAMODT: Well Simon and Kirby wrote the plots. They sat there and wrote them, and that’s what we followed… Jack did more of the plotting than Joe. Jack’s face looked so energized when he was plotting that it seemed as if sparks were flying from him… Joe was good, but not as creative as Jack was… I remember Jack Kirby was very good about making up titles. I remember giving him a lame title, and Jack said, “No. We’re going to call it ‘Under the Knife.’” It was a surgical story. I was impressed that Jack came up with titles so quickly… I really sweated out plots, unlike Jack Kirby. Jack just ignited and came out with ideas, and Joe’d just kind of nod his head in agreement.
JA: Do you think Joe did much writing?
AAMODT: I really don’t know. I always just thought of him as being a counterpart to Kirby. I just saw him handle the business end. I always said, “Joe was on the ground and Jack was on cloud nine.” Jack was more the artist type; he had great instincts.
GEIER: Every time I went up there, I saw both of them [Simon and Kirby]. And they always gave the writers the plots. Jack Kirby was great about that; he always came up with the plots…
JA: What did you think of Simon and Kirby?
GEIER: I liked them. They were real characters. They were kind of like street guys. Joe Simon was not what I’d call “Ivy league.” Joe used to sit there when the writers came in for conferences. They sat there and made up the plots for the writers. Jack did most of that. Joe would say something once in a while, but Jack was the idea man.
10: Before completing their work on Captain America Comics #10, Timely’s accountant reveals to Kirby and Simon that they are being cheated out of promised profits from the title as originally negotiated with Goodman.
Simon’s explanation may be “commonly known” but requires confirmation independent of Simon.
12: Simon & Kirby’s own comics company Mainline goes out of business, resulting in lean times and the pair parting ways. Kirby goes looking for other work, mainly from DC Comics. Why exactly do Simon and Kirby stop working together? Kirby is hesitant to share too many details about it…
It was “lean times” for the Kirbys (see p 159 under Just Plain Wrong). Simon seems to have done well, moving into an oceanfront mansion, and in possession of what would eventually prove to be a small fortune in original art (from inside and outside the studio).
Kirby’s reticence is not unlike how one would act under threat of legal action by, say, the famously litigious Simon.
13: The remaining finished Mainline material goes to Charlton Comics to be published.
Simon also used the material, and the intellectual property, to make deals behind Kirby’s back.
Mark Evanier, EC Yahoo Group (8 March 2004): “My understanding is that the Charlton deal was a partnership. Simon and Kirby had finished most of two issues of each of their existing Mainline comics (IN LOVE, FOXHOLE, POLICE TRAP and BULLSEYE) and two issues of two new books (WIN-A-PRIZE and a new, as yet unnamed humor comic). They had a lot of money and time invested in the leftover material and wanted to get it into print quickly to recoup their money.
“George Dougherty suggested Charlton. They made a deal where Simon and Kirby would supply the contents and Charlton printed and distributed. The gross was to be split on some sort of formula and the idea was that once they had some idea of how the books were selling, they might negotiate an ongoing relationship to keep doing them. Simon and Kirby retained ownership of the material and magazines. (The material for their humor comic wound up in Charlton’s FROM HERE TO INSANITY on some sort of separate deal.)
“Even before they got any sales reports, Joe and Jack had soured on Charlton and gone off looking for other venues in which to work. Then the hurricane hit Charlton and Joe and Jack never got any sales figures, and Jack thought they never even received any money beyond a modest advance Charlton had given them. There was no further talk of Simon and Kirby doing stuff with Charlton.
“I am at a loss to explain why there was a FOXHOLE #7 done by Charlton writers and artists. When I asked Jack about it, he said there was no such comic; that Charlton would have had no right to do that. Then I showed it to him and he was baffled how it could have come about. Simon didn’t recall, either, but said that maybe (because the company was in dire straits due to the flood) they gave permission to use the title…or something.”
Similarly, Kirby was not consulted when a deal was made with Skywald for reprinting his Bullseye material (Sundance Kid #s 1 and 2), as noted by Bruce Hamilton. 44
97: Martin Goodman had, in 1966, convinced Kirby that he’s being left out by Simon, and to sign a deposition describing the creation of Captain America in terms favorable to Marvel, with the understanding that Kirby will receive a payment equal to whatever Simon receives. As Joe would reveal decades later in his book The Comic Book Makers, Goodman paid most of Simon’s settlement directly to Simon’s attorney to shortchange Kirby, by paying him only the same smaller $3750 amount that Simon directly received.
Simon’s book definitely needs to be experienced, but the book and his interviews should not be taken as a recounting of facts. This is a good place to mention Simon’s dealings with Goodman in the 1960s…
Patrick Ford, Marvel Method group, 1 February 2019: “It’s sad how common it is to see people say that Kirby sided with Marvel against Simon. Kirby’s story, the one he always told, was that he and Simon were on staff at Timely and were charged with creating super heroes to populate Goodman’s publications.
“Simon’s story completely cuts Kirby out of the creation of the character Captain America and also marginalizes Kirby’s contribution to the ten issues of CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS. As Simon describes it Kirby was nothing more than a penciler who tightened up Simon’s layouts. As there were at least ten creators who wrote, penciled, inked and lettered CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #’s 1-10 Kirby was just one of them.
“Why would Kirby have sided with Simon? In his book Simon claims that Kirby ‘bristled’ in 1965 when Goodman told Kirby that Simon was ‘trying to cut Kirby out.’ Aside from the obvious fact that Simon would not have been present in any meeting between Goodman and Kirby in 1965 the fact is that Simon WAS cutting Kirby out.”
104: Kirby pushes for the payment due him from Marvel, equal to what Joe Simon received in November 1969 for settling the Captain America suit. On June 29, Marvel sends a letter confirming Kirby will sign a release form like the one Simon signed, and in return Kirby will receive $2535 (the same $3750 amount Simon received directly, less the $1000 balance that remains on his 1968 loan, plus interest). But Kirby doesn’t sign the release and get his payment, for a full two years.
This story may originate with Simon. The part about the secret payment through his lawyer needs to be independently confirmed. See p 97 above.
145: [Chronological recap.]
A nice summary. Again, watch out for Simon statements taken literally.
back 41 Joe Simon interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego #76, 2008.
back 42 “Jack Kirby in the Golden Age,” originally published in Golden Age of Comics #6, November 1983, and reprinted in The Jack Kirby Collector #25.
back 43 Jack Katz interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego #92, March 2010.
back 44 Kirby interviewed by Bruce Hamilton in Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #81, April 1971, reprinted in TJKC #18, January 1998.