Titan Books has been working with Joe Simon in publishing The Simon and Kirby Library as a series of hardback volumes that will collect all of the legendary team’s non-Marvel and non-DC work. As part of that ongoing project, last year’s The Simon and Kirby Superheroes included all of the team’s stories starring Fighting American and his kid sidekick Speedboy. This new paperback edition reprints those same Fighting American stories at a more affordable price.
Most comic book aficionados know that Simon and Kirby created Captain America for Atlas Comics (now Marvel Comics) in 1941. However, they only stayed with their most famous co-creation through the first ten issues of his title before moving to National Comics (now DC) exactly one year later in 1942. Kirby, of course, would return to Captain America in the 1960s and 1970s, but Simon never would.
Fortunately, Simon and Kirby returned to their own Captain America analogue, Fighting American, in 1954 with seven issues published by Prize Comics. Rather than Captain America fighting Nazis, Fighting American went after Communists just as McCarthyism was beginning to fade in the United States. Of course, the shadow of the Red Menace would continue for three more decades after McCarthyism died, so these stories still tied in to the zeitgeist of the 1950s.
The stories from 1954 and 1955 are the best of Simon and Kirby’s Fighting American–deftly mixing Simon’s skill to tell a compelling story in seven to nine pages with Kirby’s art just as he was perfecting the illustration style that would establish him as the architect of the Marvel universe about six years later.
In 1966, no doubt due to Kirby’s success at Marvel, Harvey Comics brought Simon and Kirby together on new Fighting American stories. Intended as an ongoing series, only one issue was published and a second was prepared for publication.
Titan has reprinted all of the stories from those two Harvey Comics issues. They aren’t as good as the stories from 1954–being more humorous rather than adventurous, probably as a result of Harvey being a publisher of humor comics. Still, as a satire or parody of their earlier Fighting American strips (and Captain America, of course) the Harvey Comics stories are worthwhile as well.
Simon and Kirby completists should opt for Titan’s The Simon and Kirby Superheroes. However, anyone who is interested in a more affordable volume (or who is just interested in seeing what the creators might have done had they stayed with Captain America in the early 1940s), should definitely opt for Fighting American. I have both volumes, and am thrilled to own them both.