Tag Archives: Joe Simon and Jerry Robinson

Dead Folks 2011: Cartoonists

Dead Folks 2011: Cartoonists


January 26, 2012

Joe Simon and Jerry Robinson

After working as an illustrator and art director for various small newspapers and comic publications during the early years of the Great Depression, Joe Simon moved to Manhattan and began doing freelance work with Jack Kirby, an artist at Fox Feature Syndicate. In 1940, the two artists wound up at Timely Comics, which would eventually become Marvel. That first year, Simon (as editor) and Kirby created a decidedly patriotic super hero who was taking on Hitler several months before America entered WWII. The first issue sold close to one million copies. The superhero was called Captain America. Simon continued a very lucrative and creative career at National Comics (later D.C.), and in 1960 created Sick, a satirical magazine competing with MAD. (98)

Jerry Robinson began work in comics when Batman creator Bob Kane hired him to ink and letter panels for the series. Within two years Robinson was a regular staffer at Detective Comics, working in the same office with the creators of Superman. Robinson thought a sidekick for Batman might provide a welcome addition to the team’s stable of superheroes, and so Robin was created (not short for Robinson, by the way, but inspired by N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations for Robin Hood). Later, Robinson and colleague Bill Finger added a villain to the series, based on Conrad Veidt’s grotesque grimace in the horror classic The Man Who Laughs. Batman’s arch nemesis was called The Joker. (89) —DP

Bil Keane

Most modern cartoonists would have considered it a travesty that Bil Keane was still alive. His long-running single-frame comic “Family Circus” was easily considered the most uncool comic to still be taking up valuable space on the pages of American newspapers. Younger cartoonists didn’t even care that Keane was rivaled only by Hank Ketcham when it came to drawing hair. Instead, there was always a parade of hacks thinking they were the first comic geniuses to parody a “Family Circus” panel by adding an obscene caption. Keane probably never cared. He got plenty of recognition from his actual peers, and even contributed to a “Family Circus” cameo that popped up in Bill Griffith’s “Zippy the Pinhead” daily strip. Among wiser artsy types, Keane stepped in to replace “Nancy” creator Ernie Bushmiller as the most surreal daily comics creator around. “Family Circus” is now helmed by Bil’s son Jeff, and will continue to offend a new generation of irreverent hicks who can’t grasp the Bil Keane comic tradition. (89, congestive heart failure) —JRT