Steve Saffel on The Best of Simon and Kirby
By Avi Weinryb May 15, 2009 - 17:25
Steve Saffel knows comics. As a huge Spider-Man fan, he has an enormous collection of memorabilia, containing many items which appeared in the Saffel authored Spider-Man: The Icon from Titan Books. But his passion does not stop at the feet of the 1960s Spider-Man creation. It goes back further. To the two men responsible for many of the innovations celebrated in comics today. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are synonymous with excellence in storytelling and illustration. They are and forever will be comics, and a lovingly crafted collection of some of their work has just hit stores. Editor Steve Saffel was kind enough to take some time to discuss The Best of Simon and Kirby with Comic Book Bin.
CBB: How did you get involved with this project?
involvement with Joe Simon goes back to the days when I was working at
Marvel, and I commissioned Joe's inking on a Captain America magazine
cover. Over the years Joe and I became friends, and I offered to use my
publishing experience to help him find a home for some new projects.
Proposals went out, publishers responded, and Titan's owners Nick
Landau and Vivian Cheung set up a meeting with Joe on one of their
trips from London to New York. As an agreement was reached and the
projects took shape, my relationship with Joe and familiarity with his
work caused them to tag me as the editor.
CBB: Was it a difficult process to get a variety of publishers, including DC Comics and Marvel Comics to allow their material to appear in the book?
of the material in the book belongs to Joe or to Simon and Kirby, but
when we wanted to include something like the Captain America story or
the Boy Commandos adventure, we simply contacted folks like Paul Levitz
over at DC and David Bogart at Marvel. Both were hugely supportive in
allowing us access to their stories, and it was their respect for Joe
Simon that made all the difference.
CBB: What challenges, if any, did you encounter when editing this book?
greatest challenge was in choosing what to call "the best." Frankly,
"The Best of Simon and Kirby" could be a multi-book project, and no one
would ever agree on what to include 100 percent of the time.
Ultimately, the top priority was the reader's experience--the
opportunity to read some of the most action-packed, brilliantly
illustrated comic book stories in history. I know readers who have
already pored over the book time and again, each time spotting
something new and entertaining. (For example, Joe and Jack appear in
the Boy Commandos story, and on their office door is the sign, "New
Characters Interviewed from 9 to 12." Brilliant!)
Harry Mendryk did a fantastic job on the restorations, and Mark Evanier
supplied terrific introductions to each section. For them, I was more
cheerleader than editor.
CBB: Why does the work of Simon and Kirby continue to resonate so strongly with comic fans?
SS: Simon and Kirby were the best of the best, and that resonates across the years. From the early days of Blue Bolt it was obvious that the team was firing on all cylinders, and as of Captain America Comics they were selling a million copies a month. Their next million-seller wasn't superhero, but a war title (Boy Commandos),
and their next blockbuster shook up the entire industry when they
created the romance comic, and set the bar for quality. Each time the
readers reacted by buying millions of comics, and the reason was sheer
storytelling brilliance combined with action that exploded off of the
CBB: From what I understand, this volume is the first
in a series – What factors determine the content of future volumes? Are you
attempting to collect all the shared work of Simon and Kirby?
has a seven-book deal with Titan that includes the Simon and Kirby
Superheroes, the detective stories, the horror stories, and the
romance, as well as the definitive Joe Simon autobiography. We're about
to make an announcement concerning the superheroes book, and the others
will follow as regularly as we can release them. The initial focus is
on the collaboration between Joe and Jack, which is what grabs so many
legions of fans, but if the library is as successful as we hope, we
might end up publishing everything that ever came out of the Simon and
CBB: Your previous book ‘Spider-Man: The
Icon’ was extremely well received. Is there anything you learned when
assembling that book which came in handy when you edited ‘The Best of Simon and
been in publishing for more than 20 years, and every book teaches me
something. I think the Spider-Man book gave me real insight into the
way the Titan team works, and made me realize how lucky I am to be
associated with such an amazing group of people. As Joe said when he
first saw a finished copy of THE BEST OF SIMON AND KIRBY, "there's love
in there," and it's true. From editorial to production to sales,
marketing, and publicity, Titan has an amazing team.
CBB: There are a lot of reprinted comic collections on the market these days - What makes this book a 'must-have' for comic fans?
BEST OF SIMON AND KIRBY is more than a collection of comic book
stories. It's an example of how to lead the pack in innovation and pure
slam-bang action. It's a chronicle of the American experience, from
World War II through the McCarthy hearings and the Cold War. Black
Magic is for the Twilight Zone and Fringe crowd, while Justice Traps the Guilty will resonate with the Untouchables and Sopranos
fans. It's the best of every genre, and as such you don't need to love
long-underwear heroes or blood and gore to be entertained for hours on
end. This is the sort of book you can read over and over, and show to
anyone who enjoys brilliant storytelling.
CBB: Amazon.ca lists a book titled ‘The Simon and
Kirby Superheroes’, edited by you, with a release date of Dec 31 2035. Is this some kind of mistake, or do you really
intend on sharing your love of Simon and Kirby with readers for the many years
we certainly plan to get the Simon and Kirby Superheroes out before
2035, but we might be publishing these volumes until then. When we
added it up, Joe and Jack themselves produced more than a thousand
romance pages, and something like seven hundred detective pages (please
don't hold me to that number until I check). When you add it all
together, the best bet might be to plan on buying a new bookshelf as
soon as you can.
The Best of Simon and Kirby is published by Titan Books and is available in bookstores now.