Captain America co-creator Joe Simon has died. The legendary Simon, who collaborated with Jack Kirby on other characters as well, died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness. He was 98. Athough Simon was a successful artist and editor in his own right, he remains best known for his partnership with Kirby. The duo worked hand-in-glove for years and from their fertile imaginations flowed a trove of characters, heroes, villains and misfits in the Golden Age of comic books during the 1940s. They worked for Timely, the forerunner of Marvel Comics; National Periodicals, the forerunner of DC and home of Superman; and Fawcett, among others. Their partnership led to additional creations the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos and many others including Blue Bolt. Simon and Kirby’s work was known for its dynamism and ingenuity. Interrupted by service during World War II, they resumed their collaboration afterward, including the first romance comics in Young Love for Crestwood Publications and horror series Black Magic and the political satire Fighting American. They were never able, however, to break free from working for other publishers. In the late ’50s they went their separate ways. Simon attempted to regain his and Kirby’s rights to Captain America from Marvel but despite a significant appellate court victory he settled with Marvel and did not regain the rights. Simon is survived by two sons, three daughters and eight grandchildren.
EXCLUSIVE: Intellectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff has a winning track record when he goes after Hollywood studios on behalf of rightsholders. But not today. I’ve just learned that he lost big in Federal Court for the Southern District Of New York after suing Disney/Marvel for the Jack Kirby Estate. The federal judge not only granted the studio motions for summary judgment but also denied the Toberoff/Kirby’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The ruling revolved around the fact that Kirby was a freelance writer and did work-for-hire and so didn’t retain the copyright. Well, you win some and you lose some. But all the Hollywood studios are chortling because they now see Toberoff as vulnerable and not invincible. “This is just the beginning,” Toberoff just told me, noting that, after the Kirby Estate exercised their termination rights under the Copyright Act, Marvel (backed by Disney) was in the middle of settlement negotiations in December 2009 and sued the Kirbys on January 8, 2010 in NY to benefit from that state’s more favorable work-for-hire case law. UPDATE: The
Walt Disney Companyissued this statement regarding the Marvel Worldwide Inc. v. Kirby ruling: “We are pleased that in this case, the judge has confirmed Marvel’s ownership rights.”
Specifically, the estate of comic book superhero legend Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Thor, sent notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. Normally these kinds of lawsuits are run of the mill for Hollywood. But not when they’re litigated by Toberoff, who is the bane of Big Media.