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Captain American: Sentinel of Rochester (and Beyond)

Captain American: Sentinel of Rochester (and Beyond)

Written by: Sara Rising

As the Fourth of July quickly approaches, we would be remiss not to recognize one of Rochester’s most patriotic sons, the one and only Captain America.  The patriotic super soldier was born in 1940 from the creative conscious of Rochester native, Joe Simon.

Captain America creator Joe Simon was born in Rochester in 1913 to parents Harry and Rose Simon. His father, Harry, was a tailor during the heydays of Rochester’s clothing manufacturing boom. Joe attended Benjamin Franklin High School where he was the art editor for both the school’s newspaper, The Clarion, and the school’s yearbook, The Key. The high-school, which closed its doors in 1976, was located on the corner of Norton Street and Hudson Avenue. 

After graduating in 1932, Simon was hired by the Rochester Journal-American as an assistant to art director, Adolph Edler. Newsprint gave the young artist-writer his first professional experience and outlet for creative growth. Between production duties, Simon got his feet wet by contributing the occasional sports and editorial cartoons. Two years later, he left for an art job at the Syracuse Herald where he continued writing and drawing for editorials. The paper ceased production a few years later, and at the age of 23 Simon moved to New York City.

He soon began working as freelance artist for the Funnies, Inc., a company that delivered comic stories to other newspapers and publishers. It was during this time that Simon created his first super hero, the Fiery Mask for Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics) and met fellow artist, Jack Kirby. 

The two hit it off immediately. They teamed up and created a few introductory comic books before making their way to Timely where they began to build what would be one their greatest conceptions: Captain America, Sentinel of Liberty. The first edition went on sale in December 1940 (the issue dated March 1941), one year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

As described by Simon, Captain America came only after he and Kirby found their narrative’s ultimate evil force: Hitler. “Let’s get a real villain,” Simon thought, and what better choice for the time than Hitler.  Thus, a superhero was born. The alter ego of a meek soldier, Steve Rogers, is transformed by an experimental serum into the peak of human strength and athleticism.  Steely, masked and clad in red, white and blue, Captain American was not possessed with explicit superpowers, but rather used his shield as a weapon to defend honor. On the cover of the comic’s first release, Captain America does just that by slugging Adolf Hitler with a right cross. 

Simon and Kirbey produced 10 issues of the comic, selling millions, before leaving Timley over a disagreement on royalties. The duo went on to eventually start their own company, Mainline Publications, and produce several other comics together. In 1960, Simon founded the satirical publication, Sick as a rival to the famous Mad magazine.  He continued living in New York City and was active in drawing and publishing until his death in 2011.

Simon penned an autobiography during the last year of his life in which he describes life growing up in Rochester in the early 1900’s. An original Captain America art work was donated in 2009 to the Strong National Museum of Play right here in Rochester as part of the "American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good vs. Evil" exhibit. The artwork’s caption is a perfect tribute to Simon’s roots – he created Rochester’s very own superhero.


Marvel Comics. Marvel Remembers Joe Simon.
Democrat & Chronicle. Captain America co-creator Joe Simon had Rochester roots.
Wikipedia. Captain America.
NY Times. Joe Simon, a Creator of Captain America, Is Dead at 98.

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