Thursday, January 23, 2014

Guest Post - Megan Margulies Remembers Her Grandfather, Joe Simon

Young Romance #2
(November/December 1947)
Image from the Grand Comics Database 

As we all know, the internet is a very special place. Not only am I able to bring you tons of romance comic book history and tidbits because of it, the internet is also an amazing tool for connecting with people. And sometimes it gives us an opportunity to connect with people we didn't even know were out there. A couple of months ago I received an unexpected email from a woman named Megan Margulies letting me know about her new endeavor, Cigar Joe Designs -- both an Etsy shop and a memorial for her grandfather. And who is her grandfather? None other than Joe Simon -- one of the reasons why we are even gathered here at Sequential Crush in the first place. After many childhood years spent running around hotels and convention halls with only my annoying (I mean delightful) siblings, wondering where the other grandchildren of comic book creators were, the internet has brought us together. Today, in a very special guest post, Megan tells us about her grandfather -- Daddy Joe. 


Megan with her grandfather
Photo from Time to Kvetch

Many people know Joe Simon as a cartoonist—the man responsible for Captain America, the Fly, Sick Magazine, and romance comics. Most people remember him as a true comics legend.

Joe Simon, to me, was Daddy Joe—my grandfather. The man with thick-framed glasses and an affinity for smoking cigars and watching Syracuse sports.

After I was born at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, my parents took me straight to his apartment to introduce him to his first grandchild. There is a black and white photo of my father holding me in the palms of his hands, almost as if I were an offering to Daddy Joe. This was the beginning of a thirty-year relationship that I hold dear to my heart.

Megan as a kid with Daddy Joe
Photo from Megan's collection

The family joked that we were like an old married couple. It all came naturally to us. As much as I loved my grandfather, I always knew his one true love was Harriet Feldman, my grandmother. I would never have the chance to meet her, but she was still a huge presence in his studio apartment. There was a blown up photo of her brushing her hair in front of the bathroom mirror taped to his filing cabinet and countless old photographs in worn albums. I would sort through those photos, staring at pictures of her, trying to pick apart every detail of her face.

“Do I look like her?” I would ask him, looking up from the photograph.

“Not really.” He would say, and my heart would drop. I wanted some sort of connection to her. “You do have the same exact hair color as her though.” He added, and I would smile, looking back down at the black and white photo, trying to imagine my hair color on her.

Daddy Joe and Harriet had five children—three of them girls. When I look through the romance comics he created with Jack Kirby, I can only imagine my mom and two aunts having Joe Simon, author of romance and dating stories, as a father during their boy crazy days.

Pencils and Inks by Joe Simon
Young Hearts in Love #17 (1963)
Image from the Grand Comics Database

He was a protective father and always made sure that the guys romancing his daughters knew that they were being watched. Without fail, every time a boy dropped one of the girls home, the three Great Danes bounded toward the car—an alarm system that Daddy Joe used to know when to flip on the floodlights that washed over the entire property. His eldest, Melissa, remembers the first time her now husband dropped her off. Instead of relying on the floodlights, Daddy Joe greeted them with a two-foot-long flashlight—first shining it through the windshield onto his embarrassed daughter and her new crush, and then fixing the light on his grinning face.

But my mom insists he was never mean to their suitors. He would watch football with them and when one of his daughters was fighting with her boyfriend, he would pull the guy aside and tell him, “Women are strange little creatures.”

Harriet was very proud of Daddy Joe and always found a way to brag about his accomplishments. In his book, My Life in Comics, Daddy Joe tells the story of spending an afternoon reading at the local library. Harriet was home and needed him for some reason or another, so she decided to call the library. “Hello,” she said. “I’m looking for Joe Simon—creator of Captain America.”

Joe Simon with Harriet
Photo from Megan's collection

I guess, in a way, my grandmother and I are very similar. Along with having her hair color, I have her desire to brag about Joe Simon—to make sure the world never forgets him. I created Cigar Joe Designs back in late 2011 after seeing all the wonderful artwork that Daddy Joe had in his possession. They were scanned and sitting in a folder. “These need to be out in the world,” I told him. Daddy Joe happily let me scour the work and design a couple of t-shirts from his Young Romance and Young Love collection.

Daddy Joe passed away on December 14, 2011, one day after I got the t-shirts up onto Etsy. I wish that he could have had the chance to see them.

My mission with Cigar Joe Designs is to not only keep his memory alive to the world, but to also keep his spirit alive. Every time I mock up a Young Romance poster or t-shirt, I feel as though he is sitting beside me—maybe even smoking a cigar and working on a new comic legend.


Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Megan! To read more of her writing, visit her website at meganmargulies.com and her blog Time to Kvetch. Megan also has a Facebook page for Cigar Joe Designs, as well as an Etsy shop.

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful. Thanks for posting this, Jacque, and thanks Megan for sharing the story and photos.

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  2. interesting stuff, thanks

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  3. Great stuff. This may be an awesome new ongoing bit for Sequential crush: Relatives etc. Huge fan of Joe Simon, a true Pioneer.

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    1. I think so too, Lysdexicuss! A few relatives have been in touch with me over the years and hopefully they will continue to contact me. I would love to be a touch point for the sharing of stories of relatives when it comes to the romance comics and their creators.

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  4. Megan has written a heartfelt and touching account of "Daddy Joe". I had the pleasure of visiting Joe at his studio some years ago and it was a memorable day. Joe was full of stories and enthusiasm. Some time later Joe made an appearance at a New York Comic Convention. He was such a trooper that although the elevators were not working he made his way down a stairway to the room he was to be interviewed. Doc V and I helped him maneuver back up the stairs afterward, but Joe was not only a comic book pioneer, but a fine person as well.

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  5. What a beautiful post - thank you, Jacque!

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this, Jacque. It's wonderful to get to know a bit about the lives of comics creators--the people whose creativity and talent have brought us all so much joy.

    Joe Simon sounds like a wonderful person to have known!

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  7. Thank you so much everyone for taking the time to read Megan's wonderful piece. I'm so glad you all enjoyed it! Thank you again Megan for sharing with us!

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  8. I read so many stories of creators or performers who are horrible to their families. It's lovely to read ones that aren't.

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