Happy 98th Birthday Joe Simon!

Did you know that yesterday was comic creator Joe Simon’s 98th birthday? This legendary writer/artist/editor is most known for the creation of Captain America with his longtime collaborator Jack Kirby, but that only scratches the surface of his career.

Here are some Joe Simon facts that you may (or may not) know about!

  1. Joe was the first head editor of Timely Comics, which evolved into what we now call Marvel Comics!
  2. Joe and Jack at one point were neighbors, living across the street from each other out on Long Island!
  3. Joe’s wife Harriet also had a career in the comics industry as well; she worked as a secretary for Al Harvey (founder of Harvey Comics)!
  4. Joe was an influential force in the development of both romance and horror comics!
You can learn more about his career and the Gold and Silver Ages of comics in the recently released Joe Simon: My Life in Comics. He will also be appearing at this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

WWE and Comics: Perfect Together

Let’s face it; professional wrestling and comic books are very thematically similar. Pro wrestling is a lot like comics coming to life, filled with heroes and villains (clad in over the top costumes) battling for supremacy. Even their fanbases overlap; they’re both constantly criticized for liking something many disregard as something you should have given up by the time you turn seven.

Over the years, comics and wrestlers have crossed over many times. Some of today’s best grapplers, guys like AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe and Shane Helms, are all devoted comic readers. Wrestlers like Rey Mysterio and Nova have worn many comic inspired outfits to the ring. ECW’s Raven and the Sandman spent the majority of the 1990s wearing t-shirts featuring art from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Even Hulk Hogan’s name is a reference to a certain gamma powered monster…

Anyway, it’s no surprise that the professional wrestling world would be represented at Comic Con last week. Both WWE and Impact Wrestling were out in full force. But WWE took it one step further, expanding one of their angles (wrestling speak for “storyline”) during one of their panel presentations.

During the presentation, wrestler HHH (who now runs the WWE in story) gets interrupted by WWE champion CM Punk, who himself is an avid comic book fan.

In the WWE storyline, Punk won their championship on his last night wrestling for the company and is keeping the title high-jacked. The question is when—or will—he return to the WWE, and by having him harass it’s on-screen chairman only keeps this moving. It was a nice little way to make those in attendance feel like they’re part of the story.

30 Things I Like About Comics–#23 Death: The High Cost of Living

Death: The High Cost of Living

Neil Gaiman’s epic dark fantasy The Sandman is considered to be one of the higher points in comics history. To oversimplify the series, it was about a family about godlike beings called the Endless, each of whom embody a cosmic force/principal, and how they interact with each other and mortals. In particular, the series focused on Dream, the guardian of imagination, dreams and inspiration.

Just as popular as Dream was his older sister, Death. Gaiman’s take on Death was something completely different. Most people personify death as a skeleton or a grim reaper archetype. Instead, Death is an attractive young woman, clad in all black. She looks more like someone who would be scouring a record store for Bauhaus and Depeche Mode albums then the grim reaper. She is also very nice and kind. This version of Death isn’t as much a representation of the end, but someone who guides the recently deceased into the next phase of their existence.

Death’s popularity warranted a mini-series in 1993 called Death: The High Cost of Living, by Gaiman with art by Chris Bachalo.

The basis of the story is very simple. Once a century, Death gets to spend a day among the living in order to better understand humanity. This is a lot like the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. In The High Cost of Living, Death takes her “vacation” in 1990s Manhattan, starting out with her saving the life of a possibly-suicidal young man named Sexton.

The pair winds up spending the day together, talking about the meaning of life and death, as well as interacting with some earthbound characters from the Sandman series. Ultimately, they grow quite fond of each other, although Sexton does not believe that Death is really, well, death incarnate.

The story ends with Death’s physical form dying after telling Sexton how much she enjoyed their time together. Sexton as a character changed over the course of the three issues, as he seemed to gain a bit more confidence in himself as well as some optimism. He was smitten by Death.

Sexton learned from her the importance of life, and ends the book hoping to see Death again. But not too soon; he has his whole life ahead of him.

What we take away from this story is that life is important and it is never that bad. Death shows us how truly enjoyable and exciting the human experience is, and how much we take it for granted. If she is excited about going out for hot dogs and bagels, we should be too.

This blending of serious concepts with lightheadedness is one of Gaiman’s strengths as a writer. As for the art side of the book, Bachalo’s pencils remind me a lot of Jaime Hernandez’s work in Love and Rockets, but with a touch more photo realism. Mark Buckinghams’ inking helps create a dark mood from time to time, only enhancing some of the more serious moments.

Who thought a book about Death could be so much fun?

DC/Vertigo has the first issue available for download here FOR FREE. Check it out…you won’t be sorry!