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 and her blog Time to Kvetch. Megan also has a Facebook page for Cigar Joe Designs, as well as an Etsy shop.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Squirrel Appreciation Day 2014!

I don't know what it is about squirrels, but they seem to pop up every now and again in the romance comics. Easy to draw? Symbolic in some way? Who knows the reason why, but they sure are a delight. Anyway, I used to celebrate these fuzzy little creatures in the spring, but I was recently made aware that January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day! To celebrate, here are a couple more squirrels I dug up from the pages of the romance comics!

"Secret Marriage"
Just Married #39
(December 1964)

"Appointment with Heartbreak"
Young Romance #170
(February/March 1971)

For my past posts on squirrels in romance comics, click here! I hope your week is off to a great start. Be sure to join me later in the week for a special guest post!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Win Mortimer Illustrated Tale from Marvel - "Back Street Affair!"

In a romance story, it may seem that a "happily ever after" ending can only come from the depiction of a successful romantic relationship. But what if a happily ever after doesn't come from a romantic source or at least not in the traditional sense? "Back Street Affair!" from My Love #33 (March 1975) (originally published in My Love #19 - September 1972) with pencils (and possibly inks, at least in places) by Win Mortimer is one such story.

Martha Tyler is a self-proclaimed "Miss Nobody" -- a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She is madly in love with Nick, the wealthiest and most popular guy in town. Their relationship is one that takes place in the hush of the night, when no one else is around to witness their affair.

Martha loves Nick, but she's sick and tired of just being his girl on the side. In an unexpected move, she tells Nick to hit the road until he is willing to see her in public.

After the confrontation, Martha lies in bed, surprised with her new found strength. She decides then and there that she cannot settle -- parking and necking just isn't for her. She wants all the other things that go along with being in love and in a relationship. Who can blame her?

Martha decides to take matters into her own hands and goes to speak her mind to Nick's father, Dr. Rolfe -- the wealthiest doctor in town. It does not go well. Dr. Rolfe calls poor Martha a "cheap little nobody" and tells her to get out of his son's life before she regrets ever knowing him. The day just keeps getting worse for Martha when she runs into Nick on her way out. He is not pleased that Martha spoke with his father, and Martha is not pleased that he is a huge jerk. A slap ensues.

Despite the heartbreak, Martha is not one of those girls who just sits around and waits for reconciliation. In the months that follow, Martha works on putting together a portfolio for a teen modeling contest and prepares for her high school graduation. On graduation day, her father gives her the good news that she has been selected as Miss Teenage Cover Girl. All her hard work and determination has paid off. Within a few months of promoting the magazine in New York City, she is offered jobs with not one but four top modeling agencies.

Before plunging into the world of elite big city modeling, Martha decides to take a quick trip home.

"But before I could accept anything,
I knew I had to go back home... just to be certain
I'd gotten the one bad thing in
my life out of my blood..." 

Martha is greeted at the airport by a throng of fans. Naturally, she wonders if (and hopes that) Nick will be in the crowd to greet her. Suddenly, Martha sees a figure running towards her and no doubt is internally satisfied that it is Nick. He puts his arms around Martha and tells her that now she is a famous model, his father approves of them being together.

And in what has to be one of the most gratifying endings in a romance story, Martha gives Nick the hand and a clear, "No dice, Nick!"

And so, Martha gets her "happily ever after" but not in the traditional sense. Though she is alone at the end of the story, Martha's ending is one of self-respect. It's a pretty darn good story, elevated by the fantastic art of Win Mortimer. In a genre where stories most often end with a woman being fulfilled in her life because of a man, "Back Street Affair!" is unique. Though it is true romance comics did most often times promote marriage as the be all and end all in a woman's life, they occasionally featured stories such as this that break the mold. Next time someone scoffs at the romance comics for sending a bad message to young women -- be sure to point this tale out to them!

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Typical Friday Night in the Romance Comics?

"I can't, I'm washing my hair tonight." Ah, that age old excuse -- sprinkled throughout popular culture certainly didn't allude the ladies of the romance comics. But the thing was, it wasn't always an excuse! Apparently three out of four ladies in the DC romance universe actually did have to wash her hair!

"The Wrong Party"
Falling in Love #63
(November 1963)

"When Dreams Come True"
Falling in Love #71
(November 1964)

"Gruesome Twosome"
Girls' Love Stories #158
(April 1971)

"Lying Lips!"
Girls' Love Stories #180 
(November/December 1973)

Have a wonderful weekend - washing your hair or otherwise!