What can be said about Joe Simon and Jack Kirby that hasn't been said a thousand times over? Probably not much, but they're deserving of every bit of praise they get, and then some. It would be difficult to overestimate their impact on comics and the lasting effect of their work in the '40s and '50s is constantly felt today.
The Best of Simon and Kirby recaps the story of how these two titans met and began working together. Their creations helped launch Marvel Comics (they created Captain America, for example) and solidified DC (Sandman and Manhunter, while not exactly household names, are incredibly iconic characters). The pair produced much more, bouncing around as they did from title to title and genre to genre. The Best of Simon and Kirby helpfully divvies up their work into sections, grouping horror, science fiction, romance, war, crime, and superhero sections together.
The book opens with an introduction by Joe Simon, who explains what was going on at the time these comics were being produced and how he and Kirby (who died in 1994) worked together on some of the most enduring works in the format. Even the ones that might not be described as enduring made their mark in a huge way back then: As Simon points out, their romance works Young Love and Young Romance were the most succcesful comics of the 1940s.
Two romance stories are included, more representative of how we view romance comics now versus the reception they received back then. The more interesting work from a modern perspective, I think, are the superhero stories (Captain America, Sandman, and the Vision, among others, make appearances), and the war and crime tales, which are fascinating in their view of the world at large at the time, and still resonate today. Each section contains a very informative introduction written by another longtime comics legend (and friend and historian of Kirby's), Mark Evanier.
The Best of Simon and Kirby is done so well that it's easy to point to it as essential for collectors and fans and anyone interested in what exactly gave birth to the comics format as we know it today. (Oh, I could make one small quibble that the page numbers could be easier to find so various sections could be easily flipped to, but that's about it for the negatives). Even the stories that don't hold up retain their interest and their appeal in some way. The truth is, The Best of Simon and Kirby is done right; it's a gorgeous hardcover and full-color treatment of the work of two men who changed the industry forever. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by John Hogan on May 12, 2009
The Best of Simon and Kirby