Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and sixty-fourth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
As always, there will be three different posts for each legend this week!
Joe Simon originally named Captain America something else entirely.
I’m Going With True
The early 1940s were a fascinating time. The comic book superhero boom was well under way, and comic book publishers were fighting each other to get to the next great superhero idea. The top creators in the industry were suddenly very hot commodities, as everyone wanted to get a piece of the next great idea that, say, Will Eisner came up with (actually, by early 1941, Will Eisner was in SUCH high demand that he was able to leave the normal comic book industry entirely to launch a new character, the Spirit, as a newspaper supplement).
Logically, then, it was a good time for people to pair up as content deliverers, and that is just what artist/editor/writer Joe Simon did with Jack Kirby, one of the most promising new artist talents in the industry. Simon quickly paired up with Kirby and they began developing new ideas.
People sometimes forget that Joe Simon was an artist, as well. Obviously, he soon left most of the art duties on their breakout character to Jack Kirby, but Simon was an artist, also, and it was actually Simon who would come up with the initial design for their star character – the character that would change their careers dramatically over the next few years – Captain America!
Here’s the original sketch that Simon did of the character that he then pitched to Timely Comics publisher Martin Goodman…
To say that people at this time were trodding a lot of the same ground would be a HUGE understatement, as whenever someone had a new idea, five other publishers would try to knock it off. Patriotic superheroes were suddenly very hot and MLJ (now Archie Comics) got ahead of everyone with The Shield…
But now Simon and Kirby were right there with them with a new creation, who was an instant success when he came out at the end of 1940.
The sketch was even worked into the first page of the comic (which was mostly drawn by Kirby)…
However, originally, Simon had a whole other idea of where to go with the character.
He later recalled, “I wrote the name ‘Super American’ at the bottom of the page,” but he then reconsidered, noting, “No, it didn’t work. There were too many ‘Supers’ around. ‘Captain America’ had a good sound to it. There weren’t a lot of captains in comics. It was as easy as that.”
Of course, one of the hottest superheroes around at the time WAS a Captain, though, Captain Marvel, so that likely was not a coincidence.
Amusingly enough, six months later, a comic book company came out with, sure enough, Super American!!
He did not last as long as Captain America did, oddly enough.
Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:
Check back 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!
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