Unfortunately, that post never got underway and now today, December 15th, comes the sad news that Joe Simon has "also" passed on. I now realize what I captured last year is simply priceless.
Both creators are due their own blog posts in the future. Today I want to just show them together, two giants of the industry and the medium, both there at the very beginning and fortunate enough to live long, happy lives, seeing their creations, co-creations and their very artform flourish 70 years into a new century and beyond. Their talents have saturated popular culture, the silver screen and the very consciousness of the entertainment world.
So today I'm putting aside the data and statistics, just preferring to be an ordinary fan, thankful for what they gave us.
The very first time I met Joe Simon was back in 1990. I was attending a Fred Greenberg show in New York and Joe was set up in the corner near the entrance with his son Jim, selling just published copies of the first printing of The Comic Book Makers.
|Joe Simon with J. David Spurlock|
|National Detective Cases Vol 1, #1 (Mar/41)|
|Vol 2, #3 (Nov/40), cover by J.W. Scott|
Here is a short video clip taken while Joe signed the pulp above:
But that wasn't all. Joe was to give a panel discussion that day moderated by Spurlock. The panel rooms were in the basement of the hotel and we made our way with Joe down the large escalator to the ground floor, looking for the elevator to the basement. Guess what? The elevator was out of order! The only way down were two very long flights of steep stairs. Folks were very angry over this development and the panel was in immediate danger of being cancelled as Joe, then about 91 years old, was not expected to walk down two long flights of stone stairs.
With chaos about to ensue, I asked Joe whether he thought he could make it down if two people helped him. Joe's answer was "Easy!", so Nick Caputo and I got on both sides of him for support and slowly we walked him down the stairs one slow step at a time. The panel was a hit with Joe telling stories and answering questions. Then we reversed the process and walked him right back upstairs!
| Joe Simon and me on April 3, 2004|
I met Jerry Robinson for the first time in 1999. He was going to be at a New York show so I took the opportunity to photocopy every story he had ever done for Timely, secure it into a bound volume, and present it to him, hoping to glean some recollections. Jerry was very happy to see the stories and immediately called over a young woman with him at his table, Marisa Furtado, a Brazilian documentary maker visiting New York to gather interviews and background for a documentary on Jerry ultimately to be titled Jerry Robinson em Profissao Cartunista - A Vida Apos Batman, or roughly translated from Portuguese, Jerry Robinson : Professional Cartoonist - Life After Batman.
Directed by Marisa Furtado and Paulo Serran, it traces Jerry's life and career from comic books to political cartoons and beyond. Interviews seen run from Stan Lee, Carmine Infantino and Mark Evanier (filmed at the 2000 White Plains Convention, I believe) to Jules Feiffer and many, many others. Jerry is interviewed extensively and older vintage interviews are also shown as well as tons of vintage photos from comics history.
Marisa was extremely happy to see so much rare Robinson material all in one place and asked me to make cleaner copies and send them to her in Brazil. From a comic book standpoint, what I had showed her was quite literally what Jerry did "after Batman"! It's quite funny to see how she animated, yes "animated", photocopied panels from my Robinson Timely crime comics! The effect is akin to the Marvel Superhero animated cartoons of 1966. While I don't know when the documentary debuted, I did receive a copy of it from Marisa. The interviews are in English with Portuguese subtitles and the narration is in Portuguese with English sub-titles! It really is a great film filled with vintage creators, all coming together to honor Jerry.
Here below is a 4 minute clip about the documentary from Youtube. At 1:57 you can see one of my actual photocopies being animated after an intro by Stan Lee:
Which brings us to 2010. Let me set this up correctly....
On Saturday, October 9, 2010, I attended the New York Comicon with my friends Barry Pearl, Nick Caputo, John Caputo and Mike DeLisa.
|Nick Caputo, Mike Delisa, Barry Pearl|
We made the usual rounds, saw and talked to Irwin Hasen, there promoting his documentary Irwin: A New York Story. I always want to pick the brain and memories of golden-age artists whenever there's a chance so I presented him with a complete set of his Ferret stories from the early issues of Marvel Mystery Comics, stories he hadn't seen in decades. Hasen related that he'd done these stories as a freelancer through the Lloyd Jacquet shop and never actually been on staff at the shop.
|Irwin Hasen (on the right)|
Next I spent some time talking to Al Jaffee, promoting his new biography Al Jaffee's Mad Life.
Syd Shores' daughter Nancy was also at the show and I introduced Nancy to Al, knowing Al was an old colleague and friend of Syd's while on the staff at Timely. Nancy and I then spent time talking to Stan Goldberg for a while, another friend of Syd's, before saying our goodbyes and parting.
|Stan Goldberg and Nancy Shores|
Here is photo from 2009 of Nancy with her dad's old boss!
|A Simon & Shores reunion! (February, 2009)|
I then stopped by Jerry Robinson's table and chatted a bit about his new biography, Jerry Robinson - Ambassador of Comics. I had done a small bit of Timely Comics help in both Jerry's and Jaffee's books above, and was thrilled they were finally in print.
I had one last stop to make. Across the aisle from Jerry Robinson was Joe Simon, holding court among piles of the just released Simon and Kirby Superheroes, a massive tome of some of the greatest hero comics of all time.
As the end of the show loomed, I approached Joe with my freshly purchased copy and Joe was more than happy to sign it for me. I slid the book across the table and he opened it up, uncapping a pen.
Just then there was a commotion as a small scooter approached Joe's table. It was Jerry Robinson. Jerry proceeded to get out of his conveyance and carefully made his way through a narrow space between tables, greeting Joe with a big hug.
Jerry greeting Joe
He then sat down next to Joe and they chatted as I used two hands to simultaneously photograph, videotape with a camcorder and even take video clips with a digital camera.
Below are two short video clips from that day. One captures Jerry arriving and greeting Joe. The other has them briefly chatting and comparing their relative ages! Sorry about the quality, this was not recorded in HD video.
At some point Jerry looked down at my book and asked Joe whether he was going to sign it. Joe placed his signature on the first page and passed the book over to Jerry, who added his own signature above Joe's.
Jerry watching Joe sign his name
Joe passing the pen to Jerry
Jerry looking at the page
Jerry adding his signature to the book
I was in awe. Two of the grandmasters of the medium had converged on my book and I realized that what I had witnessed was something very special.
- All photographic images (except Nancy Shores with Joe Simon and 2008 image above) and video copyright Dr. Michael J. Vassallo
- Last photo above from Allen Bellman via Nancy Shores