Simple Simon

Personal Data

Simon Atwell

Residence: New York City
Occupation: Professional Criminal
First Appearance (Golden Age): Flash Comics #53 (May 1944)

History

    Simon Atwell was born in a poorer section of New York City in 1920's, where positive role models were few and far between.  Criminals such as bootleggers, gunman and mob bosses were the most affluent individuals in his society and he grew up idolizing these criminals with aspirations to become the greatest of them.  Over time, though, he was disappointed as his idols were arrested and sentenced to long terms in prison.  Reflecting, Atwell decided that the main reason organized criminals fail is that their operations are too complex, too many uncontrolled variables and too likely to attract the police.  Simplicity of crimes, with every day objects that cannot be easily tracked, was the answer.  In 1944, he pitched his idea to locals in the criminal community but was met with derision and labeled "Simple Simon". 

    Determined to prove his point, Simon planned a crime using a glass of beer and a hearing aid.  He wandered the streets in front of a bank, apparently inebriated, until he saw the bank guard.  He feigned to collapse into the shadows and cut himself on the glass and when the guard rushed to his aide, Simon subdued him. Using the hearing aid made the safe easy to crack and his returned with the loot to his colleagues, who decided that Simple Simon was the real deal.    Hawkman investigated the robbery, using the broken glass as a lead.  At one point he crosses paths with Simon, paying for a broke glass but thinks nothing of it.

    Simon's success attracted the attention of more senior criminals who wanted to co-opt his efforts.  Preferring to work alone, Simon dismissed them, saying he could rob a jewel store with a diamond ring (to cut the window), a wire and some chewing gum (to fish the gems from their cases).  His refusal inflames the criminals who plan to ambush him after he robs the jewels to teach him a lesson.  Simon had anticipated this and had set the theft up to draw them out.  They assaulted him just as Hawkman flew over and rescued the "innocent" Simon, carting his competitors off to jail.  He recognizes Simon but cannot place him until he reads that the jewelry theft was evidently carried out with simply untraceable materials and realizes that Simon's appearance near the jewel theft is not a coincidence.

    Free of interference, Simon plans his next crime with a bowling ball, a hairpin and a penny.  He uses the bowling ball to smash the doorknob off a bank door, the penny to short out the alarm and the hairpin to pick the drawers of the president's office to find the combination to the safe.  Meanwhile, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are aggressively patrolling the areas of recent robberies and find the smashed door, drawing Hawkman into combat with Atwell.  Simon uses the bowling ball to injury Hawkman's leg and attempts to escape but is captured by Hawkman in flight and hauled off to jail (Flash Comics #53).

    Atwell was promptly tried and sent to prison, where he became by all appearances, a model inmate.  He took to knitting and developed a relationship with a store in the city, producing sweaters and other woolen products for sale. Unappreciated by the warden was that Atwell was using his knitting to encode messages via Morse code into the knit to communicate with criminal agents on the outside.  Continuing his MO of making things simple and too obvious, he use knitting needles and thread for his henchmen to feed a master key and a gun into his jail cell, facilitating his escape.

For his first crime, he targeted the safe at a munitions factory, using the simple idea that he could blow the safe with whatever was there, leaving nothing to be traced back to him.  While his henchmen stood guard, he accessed the safe but the patrolling Hawkman and Hawkgirl happened by and quickly engaged them.  Hawkman burst in on Simon, who was eager for some payback after a year in jail and set the hero's wings on fire. While Hawkman aggressively doused himself to avoid setting off the surrounding munitions, Atwell and his henchmen escaped.

In the second case, Simple Simon had learned of the eccentric millionaire Ira Jenkins who had a great fear of being robbed and shot.  His simple tools for this job was some light bulbs and a large dictionary.  Dropping the bulbs outside the house made Jenkins think he was being shot at and dispatch his guards to investigate.  With no protection, the house was easy to enter and access the safe, which had a trick scale in the floor below the door that alerted the police if anyone too light or too heavy approached.  Simon had learned of this and used the dictionary to add the needed balance but he had lost some weight in prison and his calculations were off, alerting the police and the Hawks to his presence.  Hawkman led the charge and made short work of the gang and Simon was once again returned to prison (Flash Comics #65).

The activities of Simple Simon on Earth-2 after 1945 are unrevealed.

Multiversity

Prior Earth-0 = Simple Simon existed in the post-crisis realm and in all likelihood, his career was fairly similar to his Earth-2 counterpart.  In the early part of the 21st century, "Simple Simon" was the target of the Justice Society during a night of busy casework, though he was mentioned and not actually seen.  As Atwell would be nearly 100 years old by this point, it's not clear whether this was the somehow preserved original or an inheritor of his name and operations (JSA Vol. 1 #60).

Powers/Skills

Simple Simon was a highly skilled strategist with a extensive set on practical experiences that he applied to crimes.  He avoided high tech implements and was able to accomplish his ends with a wide array of ordinary objects.  In his hands, anything was a tool for crime.

Weaknesses/Limitations

Other than his wits, Simple Simon was not a particularly athletic individual and once cornered, little matched for heroic adversaries.

Appearances

Issue Comment Reprinted in
Flash Comics #53 First appearance and origin, vs. Hawkman of Earth-2  
Flash Comics #65 First appearance and origin, vs. Hawkman of Earth-2  
Active links are to online issues at www.comixology.com.

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