When the global pandemic hit right before her first book was about to be released, Newton resident Megan Margulies knew the launch of her coming-of-age memoir would not go as planned. There wouldn’t be people lined up for book signings, community members gathering to hear readings, or the irreplaceable personal connections at local bookstores.
“In the grand scheme of things there’s bigger problems in the world, but it is disappointing that it’s not going to look how I thought it would,” Margulies said. “There’s no book touring, there’s no reading in person at my favorite book stores — Newtonville Books, Brookline Booksmith, Harvard Book Store.”
Now she is launching her memoir over Zoom, where she said she feels fortunate to be able to do virtual readings at local bookstores.
“I guess the positive spin on that is that family in New York and people who aren’t in the Boston area can attend,” Margulies said.
Margulies is a New York City native, mother of two, and her new book “My Captain America: A Granddaughter’s Memoir of a Legendary Comic Book Artist” was released Aug. 4 . The memoir follows her relationship with her grandfather, famous comic book artist Joe Simon, who co-created Captain America.
Growing up in busy New York City, Margulies said in an interview, she found her grandfather –– known as “Daddy Joe” to family members –– gave a sense of peace and comfort.
“The main thread of the book is obviously my relationship with my grandfather, but there’s also the sub themes of my childhood in New York City and how he saved me from feeling overwhelmed from the city in the ’80s and ’90s,” Margulies said.
Simon worked alongside Jack Kirby to help create the foundations of what is now the Marvel franchise. While he is most famous for his work in the comic book industry, he also helped create advertisements.
To Margulies, he was just Daddy Joe — the “hysterical” and “welcoming” grandfather who she said was happy as long as he was drawing. She said he was always drawing personal sketches for her and her friends.
“On grandparents day in grade school I would bring him in and he would just steal the show,” Margulies said. “As I got older and I started wanting a boyfriend, I would totally use him as bait.”
Margulies said Simon’s grandchildren all played a significant role in his life. He was alive when the first Captain America movie was released, and while he was unable to attend the premiere in Los Angeles, he did send his grandchildren while he attended a screening in New York City.
Simon died in 2011, and Margulies said at first it was hard to see Captain America pictures.
“It would break my heart,” she said. But now, she said she is grateful to see Captain America popping up.
Jesse Simon, the youngest of Joe Simon’s grandchildren, runs a Facebook group dedicated to his grandfather and works to continue his legacy. Known as one of the “Joe Simon experts” in the family, Jesse said Margulies, the oldest of the eight grandchildren, had a special relationship with their grandfather.
“Megan was very close with Joe — there was something special there,” Jesse Simon said. “There have been books about Joe, his time, history in general, but her story lets fans see the family side of him.”
While Margulies said she hopes to show comic book fans a side of her grandfather that they might not know, she said she also hopes people outside of the Marvel world also will enjoy the coming-of-age story.
“There’s comic books and history in there,” Margulies said. “There’s also marriage and love and miscarraige and childbirth, and I really hope that people keep an open mind about what the book can mean and what they can get out of it. They don’t have to be comic book fans to get something out of the book.”
Margulies said the idea of her book did not originally appeal to everyone.
“The idea of the book was a tough sell,” Margulies said. “I think if I were a man writing about my relationship with my cartoonist grandfather, I think the response from publishers would have been a lot better.”
Katie McGuire, comic book fan and editor at Pegasus Books, said she picked up Margulies’ proposal a year ago. McGuire said she was originally drawn to her story because of the comic book history. After reading it, she agrees it’s for everyone.
“The words Captain and America caught me right off the bat,” McGuire said. “Then getting to read more about Megan’s coming of age and growing up in New York in what sounded like such a turbulent time.”
McGuire said the memoir is a great way to get insight into the famous cartoonist’s life.
“I loved getting to see that other side, getting to see Joe Simon from her eyes, rather than just what is out on the internet or Wikipedia,” McGuire said. “It is so great to get a different side of a person or character that you think you know already.”
Margulies said this story of Captain America can mean something different to everybody.
“There’s a nice connection there, with it being so focused on Captain America when America is going through hell right now,” Margulies said. “The beautiful thing about Captain America right now is that everyone makes him mean something to themselves, their own personal ideology. He means something different to everyone.”
Mia McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.