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  • Writer's pictureTom Tennant

March 10th: Louise Simonson

Legendary careers are full of legendary characters. For comics powerhouse Louise Simonson, those characters include the X-Men, Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Teen Titans, the Fantastic Four, and many more.  

Simonson did more than work with legends. She created them. When offered the opportunity to write the X-Men spinoff X-Factor, Simonson introduced Apocalypse in her very first issue. Co-created with artist Jackson "Butch" Guice, Apocalypse has become one of the X-Men’s most inspired villains, on par with Magneto.

But her comic creations are more than mutant mammoths. Simonson, along with illustrator June Brigman, introduced comics fans to Power Pack, superpowered siblings Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie Power. Published in the mid-1980s, stories about the super sibs ran for 60 issues - Simonson writing more than 40 - and the characters continue to wow fans in issues of the Fantastic Four and Runaways. In 2024, Simonson returned to tell new tales of the Power family in Power Pack: Into the Storm.   

Simonson’s Origin Story

Mary Louise Alexander was born in Atlanta, on Sept. 26, 1946. She grew up in Georgia, and attended Georgia State College. There, she met the artist Jeffrey C. Jones, they married in 1966 and moved to New York City after graduation. Early work by Simonson carries her married name, Louise Jones, a surname she kept after she parted ways with Jeffrey Jones in the early 1970s. 

In 1974, Simonson joined the staff at Warren, a boutique publisher of comics and magazines. First on the production team, Simonson soon advanced to an editorial position at the company, managing writers and artists. Word got out about Simonson’s skills, and Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter convinced her to move to Marvel Comics. 

Unleashing Apocalypse

Almost every woman on Marvel’s staff at the time did administrative work. There was “no chance she could edit the titles that the company valued most,” Simonson told Vulture in 2016

“There were people who were appalled at the idea of me getting anywhere near the real Marvel books: the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, that stuff,” she says in the interview. “I know of one or two people who just didn’t think women belonged anywhere near the core titles.”

Simonson could edit second-tier titles, however, and in the early 1980s those B-list characters included the X-Men. Simonson was a key component of now-classic storylines like The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past

When she transitioned from editor to writer with X-Factor, Simonson quickly decided to kick X-Factor’s then-current villain, The Owl, to the curb, instead introducing a Darwinian villain, as she described Apocalypse. Someone who could foretell the rise of homo superior and would prepare for the eventuality by eliminating the weak and making the strong even stronger.

“The Owl just didn’t strike me as the kind of bad guy I wanted to have,” she explained to Vulture. “So I asked X-Factor editor Bob Harras if we could substitute him with a bad guy I wanted.” With that, Apocalypse was born.

9 More Things You Should Know about Louise Simonson

  1. Joined DC Comics in 1991 and launched Superman: The Man of Steel, a book tasked with modernizing Superman.

  2. Helped develop and create Doomsday, perhaps Superman’s most formidable opponent, and the massively successful Death of Superman storyline.

  3. Met Walt Simonson, a fellow comic book writer and artist, in 1973. The two married in 1980. The pair collaborated on X-Factor for more than three years in the late 1980s. 

  4. Known by the nickname Weezie.

  5. Edited Conan the Barbarian, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, for Marvel during her time there

  6. Collaborated with Walt on a contribution to Operation USA’s benefit anthology, Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds for IDW.

  7. Wrote nearly a dozen young adult novels featuring DC characters.

  8. Won the Eagle Award for Power Pack and the Comics Buyer’s Guide award for Death of Superman.

  9. Won the Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comic Arts in 1992.

Simonson's contributions to the comic book industry and pop culture are undeniable, and she continues to shape the comic book landscape. And maybe more than anything, Simonson’s story reminds us that perseverance is key to achieving your goals. 

Further reading:

X-Factor Epic Collection: Judgement War (TPB) by Louise Simonson/Walter Simonson

by Bob Proehl, guest contribution to The Ithaca Voice

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