Walter "Walt" Simonson (born September 2 1946) is an American comic book writer and artist. After studying geology at Amherst College, he transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1972. His thesis project there was The Star Slammers, which was published as a black and white promotional comic book for the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington, D.C. (DisCon II). Some years later, he produced another version of the story in graphic novel form for Epic Comics, the Marvel Comics imprint that was a response to creator-owned lines of the early eighties. Simonson continued the adventures of the Star Slammers in a limited series in the mid-1990s as one of the founders of Malibu Comics’ short-lived Bravura label.
Simonson's earliest published art is believed to be in the early 60s comic Magnus, Robot Fighter, in the fan letters page.
Simonson's first professional comic book work was producing war stories for DC Comics
and other publishers. He also did a number of illustrations for the Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
edition of The Hobbit
, including the title page drawing for Chapter 3, “A Short Rest.” The book was largely illustrated using stills from the Rankin-Bass
television special adaptation, which featured character designs by his friend Lester Abrams. Gray Morrow
also did illustrations for that edition, as did Charles Vess
. Simonson’s breakthrough illustration job was “Manhunter
,” a backup feature in DC’s Detective Comics
written by Archie Goodwin
. Simonson was the first artist of the 1970s revival of Metal Men
, and in 1979 drew an adaptation of the movie Alien
, also in collaboration with Goodwin. He collaborated again with Goodwin when the latter, who was editing Star Wars
for Marvel Comics, asked Simonson to take over art duties from Al Williamson
and Carmine Infantino
He is best known for his work on Marvel Comics titles in the 1980s and 1990s such as The Mighty Thor
(the latter being a collaboration with his wife Louise Simonson
in particular is often cited as a classic, as Simonson took nearly complete control of the series and produced epic, operatic stories that rivaled Jack Kirby
’s best work and displayed an in-depth knowledge of Norse mythology
. He also famously transformed Thor into a frog
for three issues and introduced the popular supporting character, Beta Ray Bill
, a monstrous alien warrior who unexpectedly proved worthy to wield Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir
. He started as writer & artist with issue #337 (Nov. 1983). Simonson's run as writer-artist lasted until #367 (May 1986), although he continued to write – and occasionally draw – the book until issue #382 (Aug. 1987). Upstart Associates
In the late 1970s, Simonson, Howard Chaykin
, Val Mayerik
, and Jim Starlin
formed Upstart Associates, a shared studio space on West 29th Street in New York City. The membership changed over time: Mayerik left to move back to Ohio, and Jim Sherman
took his place. Then Jim Starlin moved upstate, and Frank Miller
replaced him. That group remained stable for several years, until Miller left in the early 80s. During this period, Dean Haspiel
, while still in high school, served as Chaykin's assistant on American Flagg!
, occasionally helping Simonson on Thor
as well. Chaykin moved out to the West Coast in c. 1986, leaving Simonson to close Upstart Associates a few years later.
He also took over as writer and artist on the Fantastic Four
series for the next year-and-a-half from 1990-1991. He started as writer with issue #334 (Dec. 1989), and three issues later began pencilling and inking as well (#337, ironically the same issue number he started as writer & artist of Thor
). With brief inking exceptions, and one fill-in issue, he remained in all three positions through issue #354 (July 1991).
From 2000 to 2002, he wrote and illustrated Orion
for DC. He also wrote Wonder Woman
(vol. 2) #189-194 in 2003, with artist Jerry Ordway
providing art. In 2002, he contributed an interview to Panel Discussions,
book about the developing movement in sequential art
and narrative literature, along with Durwin Talon
, Will Eisner
, Mike Mignola
and Mark Schultz
From 2003 to 2006, he drew the four issue prestige mini-series Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer, written by Elric's creator, Michael Moorcock. The four issues were published as a 192 page graphic novel in 2007 by DC. He continued to work for DC in 2006 writing Hawkgirl, with pencillers Howard Chaykin, Joe Bennett, and Renato Arlum.
Recent work includes World of Warcraft, for Wildstorm, based on the Warcraft universe.
Simonson has received generous recognition in the American comics industry for his work. His awards include Shazam Awards
for Outstanding New Talent in 1973, for Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic) in 1973 for “The Himalayan Incident” in Detective Comics
#437 (with Archie Goodwin), and the same award in 1974 for “Cathedral Perilous” in Detective Comics
#441 (again with Archie Goodwin). Simonson and Goodwin also won the Shazam Award for Best Individual Story (Dramatic) in 1974 for “Gotterdammerung” in Detective Comics
#443. All three winning stories were a part of the Manhunter saga.
Simonson's distinctive signature
consists of his last name, distorted to resemble a Brontosaurus