Remembering Joe Simon, Jerry Robinson & Ed Barreto

This has been a lousy week or so for comic book professionals and fans alike. In a very short span of time, we have lost of our earliest pioneers in the field and another fine artist, who I personally enjoyed working with.

Joe Simon was there pretty much at the beginning of the comic book industry. His collaboration with Jack Kirby made the pair stars and perhaps the first creators to be wooed from one company to another with their names emblazoned on covers. Simon was editing Timely’s comic line when he and Kirby created Captain America and created a sensation. DC wooed them away and they leapt after publisher Martin Goodman reneged over promises. They were better treated at DC but even so, they wanted to be their own masters and set out to do comic on their own. As a result, they created the romance comic genre. Simon on his own continued to write, draw and edit for numerous publishers, helping create the only competitor to Mad that had staying power. When he returned to DC in the late 160s and again in the early 1970s, his stuff was distinctive although it finally appeared to be a little out of touch with the current readership.

Simon has never shied away from continuing to mentor others and produce new works, writing no less than autobiographies that shine a light on those early days. That Titan is collecting the Simon & Kirby works is a testament to their variety and creativity.

I personally met Joe on a few occasions but never really got to know him or do any work with him but his loss is still keenly felt.

Jerry Robinson, though, I did meet more than once and we got to know one another during the production of Batman Cover to Cover. He was warm and gracious, willing to tell me stories he’s told countless times before. His work with international cartoonists and fighting to protect their freedom to publish their works is perhaps the least recognized accomplishment in an illustrious career, but could also be considered more significantly than creating the Joker.  Again, this is a man whose career is more than any one character or publisher. Like Simon, his life story was recently recounted for posterity while his history of the field has been rightly republished. He was a gentle giant of a creator, preserving the field’s early days and passing the knowledge forward.

Eduardo Barreto’s passing can easily be eclipsed by Simon’s but he should be remembered. The artist came from Uruguay and brought a smooth line to DC Comics in the early 1980s. I still recall watching him come in with two or three fully rendered cover sketches, using bright color markers and impressing one and all. When he finally moved from covers to interiors, he brought a fresh look to his titles. Often he followed the brilliant Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on books such as Atari Force, since they were similarly trained. I first worked with him on a fill-in issue of Star Trek and coupled with Ricardo Villagran’s inks, it was a refreshing take on the characters. He was also grateful for the work and friendly to a fault. We lost touch after our paths diverged but I enjoyed following his efforts as he moved from comic books to comic strips, where his style seemed better suited as comic book reader tastes changed. His strips were clean and well composed, even as illness complicating his ability to produce regular work.

All three men leave the field far poorer.

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