Captain America started during the World War II era and has gained new popularity through a 2011 action movie.

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Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America, dies at 98

Character has been a mainstay since the 1940s

Simon and Jack Kirby made comic books different from comic strips

CNN  — 

Joe Simon, the co-creator of star-spangled comic book hero Captain America, has died at 98, his family announced.

Simon, a writer, editor and artist, passed away late Wednesday in New York after a short illness.

Simon and artist Jack Kirby, who ran a studio, developed the character in the early 1940s and worked outside the box to develop a distinct design.

“Together, the team created Captain America as well as long list of characters, including The Newsboy Legion and The Boy Commandos,” a statement Thursday from Simon’s family said.

A Marvel Comics website provides a summary of Captain America and his superhero quest.

“In World War II, patriotic soldier Steve Rogers, recipient of the ‘Super Soldier Serum,’ became the living symbol of freedom, Captain America. Left for dead while frozen in ice, the star-spangled hero with an indestructible shield awoke years later to continue his never-ending battle for liberty.”

The movie “Captain America: The First Avenger” was released this year. Chris Evans, in the title role, went up against villain Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving.

Kirby and Simon created Captain America for Timely Comics, Marvel’s predecessor. The comic was a huge hit during World War II.

With Captain America came some of Kirby’s comic book innovations, Mark Evanier, author of the book “Kirby: King of Comics,” told CNN in 2008.

Comic books, which had started as reprints of newspaper comic strips, had adhered to that form’s look of repetitious boxes. Kirby and Simon used different-sized panels, varying shapes, even full pages.

“They kind of invented things that made comic books different than strips,” Evanier said. They realized they “had the whole page to play with. … They’d take three or four pages for a single action scene.”

The popular genres after the war were crime and horror comics, and Simon and Kirby created a handful, including the dramatically named “Justice Traps the Guilty.” They also pioneered the romance genre, juxtaposing Kirby’s innately thrilling style with primly dressed women and men in neat suits and sweaters.

Simon served a few stints at DC Comics.

“Joe Simon was a true legend in the comic book industry. So much of what we are today is owed to him and his amazing creativity,” said Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Entertainment. “In addition to one of the great writers of the Golden Age, he was also an editor at DC Comics. We appreciate all of his contributions to DC Comics and the industry as a whole, both on the page and behind the scenes.”

The writer’s passing came a week after the death of cartoonist Jerry Robinson, who worked on the earliest Batman comics and claimed credit for creating the super-villain The Joker. Robinson was 89.

Simon is survived by two sons, three daughters and eight grandchildren.

CNN’s Todd Leopold contributed to this report.