Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and twenty-eighth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the weekly three legends.
One of the owners of MLJ Comics let Joe Simon and Jack Kirby know that they were being taken advantage of by Timely Comics on Captain America Comics' royalties.
One of the things that you have to keep in mind about the early days of comic books is that most of the comic book companies at the time were very familiar with each other because almost all of the major comic book companies were originally pulp magazine companies who then got into comics, as well.
Few things made it more clear just how interwoven the lives of these companies were than the fact that Maurice Coyne, one of the three men who got together to form MLJ Comics (based on the first initial of each of their names: Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John L. Goldwater) continued to do the books for Martin Goodman on Goodman's comic book line even after Coyne was one of the owners of a rival comic book company. That's just how these guys rolled back then. It's similar to how National Comics (now DC) allowed Marvel to distribute their comics through DC's distribution system in the late 1950s after Marvle's distributor went out of business.
However, while they would help each other out, they were all still actively business rivals. One of the ways that this was often expressed was through threatened lawsuits with each other.
For instance, MLJ had introduced the first patriotic-thmeed superhero with the Shield in Pep Comics #1...
When Martin Goodman's comic book company put out Captain America Comics #1...
MLJ threatened to sue over Cap's shield being similar to the Shield's costume, so Joe Simon and Jack Kirby moved to a circular shield....
Later, MLJ also took issue with Simon and Kirby coming up with a villain known as the Hangman...
when MLJ had a superhero with that name...
At one of these meetings to discuss their concerns (either the first one or the later one over Hangman), MLJ's John Goldwater tried to get Simon and Kirby to come work for them at MLJ. Goodman did not like that one bit.
In any event, one of the problems with Simon and Kirby on Captain America Comics was that Goodman had promised them sizable royalties on the sales of Captain America Comics, but a year in and they weren't seeing said royalties even though the title was one of the most popular ones in the industry.
It was Coyne, then, who ended up telling Simon that Goodman was using "Hollywood arithmetic" to make Captain America Comics look like it was not turning a profit. You know, using Captain America Comics' sales to pay off various other company expenses so that it looked like the title was not making any actual money.
Coyne's motives in telling Simon this are lost to history. Simon wasn't even sure himself when he wrote about the event in his 2011 biography, My Life in Comics. He noted that Coyne was a nice guy, but he also theorized whether Coyne was trying to get Simon and Kirby to be angry enough at Goodman that they would work for MLJ.
Instead, Simon and Kirby took a gig at the top company in the industry, National Comics (now DC) doing, among other things, the best-selling Boy Commandoes franchise...
The odds were that Simon and Kirby were too big to ever avoid going to another comic book company (National paid them much more than they were making with Goodman), but it is still interesting to wonder what would have happened had Coyne not told them of Goodman's financial shenanigans.
Thanks to the late Joe Simon for the information!
Check out some other entertainment and sports legends from Legends Revealed:
Check back later on Saturday for part 2 of this week's legends!
And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com!