Sid Jacobson, Comic Book Writer With Range, Dies at 92
Sid Jacobson, a veteran comic book writer and editor whose work took him from the opulent, fanciful world of Richie Rich to the real-life terrorist attacks of 9/11, died on July 23 in San Francisco. He was 92.
His death, in hospice, was caused by a stroke following a case of the coronavirus, his family said in a statement.
From 1952 to 1982, when the company went out of business, Mr. Jacobson was a writer and editor at Harvey Comics in New York, which published the adventures of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich and Wendy the Good Little Witch, as well as crime, horror and romance comics.
At Harvey he met the artist Ernie Colón, who became a frequent collaborator. “Wherever I worked as an editor, I always hired him,” Mr. Jacobson said in an interview after Mr. Colón’s death in 2019. “We were very close. We were like brothers.”
The two teamed up to tell a graphic-novel version of the 9/11 Commission’s report, which examined the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The report, the result of a government study headed by Thomas H. Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, became a best seller, if a dense one, in 2004. So did “9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation,” published in 2006. Mr. Jacobson called the effort “graphic journalism.”
The adaptation “packs a great deal of information within a vibrantly accessible format,” Julia Keller noted in a review in The Chicago Tribune.
“Particularly striking,” she added, “is the point at which the authors create a series of pages tracing the fate of all four planes, moment by moment, in a horizontal grid that makes the frenetic pace of the unfolding horror suddenly comprehensible.”
Mr. Jacobson and Mr. Colón would go on to create other graphic nonfiction books: one about America’s fight against terrorism, in 2008; biographies of Che Guevara (2009) and Anne Frank (2010); and, in 2017, “The Torture Report: A Graphic Adaptation,” which presented the findings of a Senate select committee’s investigation into the torture of terrorist suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sidney Jacobson was born on Oct. 20, 1929, in Brooklyn, one of two children of Reuben and Beatrice (Edelman) Jacobson. His father worked in the garment district in Manhattan, and his mother was a homemaker.
He is survived by his son, Seth; his daughter, Kathy Battat; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Jacobson studied journalism at New York University and graduated in 1950. Two years later, his sister, Shirley, was dating someone who worked for Harvey Comics. He used the connection to get his foot in the door and eventually became the company’s editor in chief.
“It was called Harvey Comics, but he pretty much ran the company,” Angelo DeCesare, a writer and artist who got his start at the company in 1978, said of Mr. Jacobson. “Everything flowed through him.”
Mr. Jacobson was involved in the plots and writing of Richie Rich stories at the peak of the character’s popularity, when he appeared in several different books.
“They came out with Richie Riches like they were printing money,” said Jonny Harvey, a grandson of Leon Harvey, whose twin brother, Alfred, founded the company. (Leon their older brother, Robert, became executives there.) He added: “They had to come up with so many gags about Richie involving money. Sid would work with the writers and go back and forth. It was pretty collaborative.” (Jonny Harvey is the director of “Ghost Empire,” a forthcoming documentary about Harvey Comics.)
After Harvey Comics folded, Mr. Jacobson found work at Marvel, where he became the editor of Star Comics, an imprint for younger readers that began in 1984. Star produced a mix of licensed characters, like the Ewoks and Muppet Babies, and original series like Planet Terry, a space adventure about a boy trying to reunite with his parents, and Royal Roy, about a rich prince. But Harvey Comics felt that Royal Roy was too close in theme to Richie Rich and sued. (Royal Roy ended after six issues, and the lawsuit was dropped.)
In addition to writing and editing comics, Mr. Jacobson wrote novels and songs. “Streets of Gold,” a fictionalized version of his family’s Russian-Jewish immigration story, was published in 1985; “Another Time,” a novel set during the Depression, was published in 1989. He also wrote “Pete Reiser: The Rough-and-Tumble Career of the Perfect Ballplayer” (2004), a biography of an often-injured major league outfielder of the 1940s and ’50s noted for playing with reckless abandon.
Mr. Jacobson’s songwriting had a special place in his heart. “He was so proud of the hit that he had called ‘The End,’” Mr. DeCesare said. Mr. Jacobson once told him about being on a cruise ship when some passengers found out that he had written the lyrics to the song, which was released in 1958 as a single by Earl Grant.
“They all treated him like royalty,” Mr. DeCesare said.
Mr. Jacobson’s children said he had written about 100 published songs, mostly love songs but also some novelty tunes, including “Yen Yet” — which they fondly remembered hearing on the “Captain Kangaroo” TV show.