R.I.P. Joe Kubert
Joe Kubert Dies at 85; Influential Comic-Book Artist
MARGALIT FOX - NEW YORK TIMES
Joe Kubert, a titan among comic-book artists whose work stretched from the Golden Age of the superhero to the gritty realism of the graphic novel, died on Sunday in Morristown, N.J. He was 85.
The cause was multiple myeloma, his son Adam said.
Mr. Kubert, who first plied his trade as a teenager in the 1930s and continued drawing in the hospital during his final illness, was among the last of the generation of comic-book illustrators whose work helped define the genre in the years before World War II.
“He’s the longest-lived continuously important contributor to the field,” Paul Levitz, a former president of DC Comics, said in an interview on Monday. “There are two or three of the greats left, but he’s definitely one of the last.”
Mr. Kubert (pronounced KYOO-bert) was most closely associated with DC, for whom he drew Sgt. Rock, a World War II infantryman he created with the writer Robert Kanigher, and Hawkman, an airborne crime fighter. He also created Tor, a prehistoric hero, and, with Mr. Kanigher, Enemy Ace, whose antihero is a German pilot. In addition, Mr. Kubert was considered one of the definitive interpreters of Tarzan.
Through the Kubert School, an academy in Dover, N.J., he founded with his wife in 1976, Mr. Kubert helped train a generation of young colleagues. The country’s only accredited trade school for comic-book artists, it enrolls students from around the world in a three-year program; well-known graduates include Amanda Conner, Tom Mandrake, Rags Morales and Timothy Truman.
Mr. Kubert was often described as a war artist, but as he made clear in interviews and in his work itself, it was far more accurate to call him an antiwar artist. His distinctive visual style — raw, powerful and unstinting in emotional immediacy — was ideally suited to capturing the brutality of battle, and capture it he did, over more than half a century.
Besides Sgt. Rock, whom he drew for decades, and Our Army at War, a DC series of the 1950s and afterward, Mr. Kubert explored war and violence in a series of graphic novels he wrote and illustrated in recent years: “Fax From Sarajevo” (1996), about the Bosnian civil war; “Yossel” (2003), about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; and “Dong Xoai” (2010), about the Vietnam War.
“For me,” Mr. Kubert told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland in 2003, explaining the lure of drawing combat, “it was not about war and fighting but about the people, the characters.”
Joseph Kubert was born on Sept. 18, 1926, in the shtetl of Yzeran (also known as Jezierzany), then in Poland and now in Ukraine. He came to the United States with his family as an infant and was reared in the East New York section of Brooklyn, where his father was a kosher butcher.
As a small child, Joe loved to draw, and the sidewalks of New York became his canvas. “When I was 3 or 4, neighbors would buy boxes of penny chalk for me to draw pictures in the streets,” Mr. Kubert told the newspaper The Jewish Week in 2003.
Drawing pictures was a dubious way to make a living, his parents knew, but it was vastly preferable to the other calling into which East New York youths were inclined to fall: street gang member. His father bought him a drawing table, which cost about 10 dollars, a small fortune in the Depression. But with that, the boy’s future was secure.
At 11 or 12, Joe gamely rode the subway into Manhattan, drawings in hand, and landed an after-school job as an office boy for a comic-book publisher. By the time he was a teenager, he had worked for Will Eisner and Harry Chesler, two leading entrepreneurs of the comic-book world — sweeping up, erasing, inking (his early duties included Archie comics) and eventually drawing.
The first comic he illustrated himself, Volton, about a hero with electrical powers, was published when he was 16. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, Mr. Kubert served stateside in the Army before becoming a full-time artist.
In the early 1950s he helped develop the methods of drawing and reproduction that made possible the 3-D comic book, which had a considerable vogue in the years that followed. In the course of his experiments he ran through quantities of lollipops: he needed the colored cellophane in which the lime and cherry ones were wrapped to make the red-and-green glasses vital to his effort.
Mr. Kubert’s other work includes the mid-1960s newspaper comic strip “Tales of the Green Beret,” with the writer Robin Moore; the graphic novel “Jew Gangster” (2005), about the career path not taken; and a comic strip, “The Adventures of Yaakov and Yosef,” for The Moshiach Times, a children’s magazine published by the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement.
The recipient of exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the country, Mr. Kubert was the subject of a biography, “Man of Rock,” by Bill Schelly, published in 2008.
Mr. Kubert’s wife of 57 years, the former Muriel Fogelson, died in 2008. In addition to his son Adam, he is survived by three other sons, Andy, David and Danny a daughter, Lisa Zangara; three sisters, Rosalind Krasilovsky, Sheila Dempster and Eva Cahn; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. His sons Adam and Andy are both well-known comic-book artists.
From 1967 to 1976, Mr. Kubert was DC’s director of publications, with duties that included overseeing the company’s line of war comics. When he took the post, the Vietnam War was at its height, and under his supervision the company’s war comics reflected as much.
At the end of each comic, Mr. Kubert directed the typesetter to add a four-word coda. It read, “Make War No More.”
Joe Kubert, Comic Artist Who Returned to Roots
Rafael Medoff - The Jewish Daily Forward
Iconic comic book artist and writer Joe Kubert spent most of his life drawing brawny superheroes, lionhearted jungle men and rampaging dinosaurs. But at age 75, Kubert began a journey back to his roots, leading him to illustrate Warsaw Ghetto fighters and Holocaust survivors, as well as ethical mini-lessons for the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. Kubert, who passed away August 12 in New Jersey at the age of 85, left behind an enormous fan base in the comic book world, as well as a growing audience of admirers in the Jewish community.
“I’ve known and interviewed many older comic book artists, and I usually find that their abilities diminish after a certain age,” comics historian and publisher Craig Yoe said. “But the amazing thing about Joe was that in his 70s and 80s he was at the top of his game, still constantly and passionately drawing new comics and graphic novels of the highest caliber.”
Kubert’s most recent phase was his immersion in his Jewish roots. He helped design “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust: Art in the Service of Humanity” for the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a traveling exhibit of 1940s political cartoons from American newspapers about the Jews in Nazi Europe. For the Lubavitch magazine the Moshiach Times, he drew a series of two-page adventures with moral lessons, called “The Adventures of Yaakov and Isaac.” He also wrote and illustrated “Jew Gangster,” a graphic novel about the Jewish underworld figures of yesteryear.
The Jewish project that attracted the most attention was his 2003 graphic novel, “Yossel: APRIL 19, 1943.” Comic book fans who were used to Kubert drawing the likes of Hawkman were startled to find their favorite artist re-creating the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. In real life, Kubert’s family came to the United States from Poland in 1924 when he was a small child; in the book, the family stays in Poland, and young Joe — Yossel — is a budding teenage cartoonist when the Germans invade and World War II begins. Yossel’s cartoons come to the attention of the Nazi authorities, who spare his life because his artwork amuses them. Ultimately, Yossel chooses to join the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Kubert was more than a little surprised when I called him in 2006 to tell him about Dina Babbitt, a cartoonist and illustrator who, like the Yossel character, was spared because of her art: Josef Mengele needed her to paint portraits of victims of his experiments in Auschwitz. “I had never heard of a real-life example of that [when I wrote ‘Yossel’] — I just imagined that it could have happened,” Kubert told me.
Kubert became one of the leaders of a campaign by the Wyman Institute to persuade the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, in Poland, to return to Babbitt eight of her paintings. Four hundred and fifty comic book creators from around the world signed a petition and drew international attention to Babbitt’s cause.
J. David Spurlock, publisher of several books of Kubert’s art and formerly an instructor at The Kubert School, formerly known as The Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art, in Dover, N.J., worked with Kubert on the Babbitt campaign. “Joe entertained entire generations of young Americans with his tales of the good guys beating the bad guys,” Spurlock said. “But he also knew when it was time to step into the real world and be one of the good guys, trying to help an elderly Holocaust survivor recover her property. That’s what my Jewish friends call ‘a mensch.’”
Comics Legend Joe Kubert, 1926-2012: An Appreciation
Glen Weldon - Monkey See
Cover of 1969's DC Special #5, featuring Joe Kubert
Yesterday morning the comics medium lost one of its greatest creators, and one of its most influential teachers, with the passing of Joe Kubert.
Comics historian Mark Evanier posted a remembrance that highlights how warmly the man was regarded in the comics community — and how astonishgly quickly he worked. http://www.newsfromme.com/2012/08/12/joe-kubert-r-i-p/
Comic Book Resources has posted 25 of his classic comic covers; go look. http://goodcomics.comicbookresources...kubert-covers/
Kubert's comic book career began just a few years after comics did; he was 11 years old when he got his start as an apprentice at a comics publisher in 1937.
In the days when comics were considered dismissible and even disreputable junk, Kubert was a stylist who invested his panels with a painstaking visual heft. He used shadows to bring his colorful heroes into sharper relief — they stood out against backgrounds dark with crosshatched detail, their faces lined with an achingly human worry.
A Kubert cover presents you with the gooniest flight of comic-book absurdity — a shirtless space cop with wings and a beak, say, or a machine-gun toting gorilla — and imbues it with a steadfastness, a permanence, an indelible and uncomplicated truth that defies logic.
Sgt. Rock and Easy Company
He favored darker, heavier linework than most of his contemporaries, but he never let it weigh down his action. Instead, his figures were always dynamic, surprising, charged with urgency and danger. Every time his world-weary Sgt. Rock led Easy Company into another Sisyphean battle, you could practically smell smoke rising from the page.
His Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in New Jersey has produced several generations of comics creators (including his own sons, Andy and Adam Kubert) who have gone on to make their own, widely varied, contributions to the field: Amanda Connor, Rick Veitch, Eric Shanower, Steve Lieber, Scott Kolins, and many more.
In his later years, Kubert produced highly personal and moving graphic novels like "Yossel: April 19, 1943" (which imagines what would have happened to his family had they not fled Poland when they did) and the non-fiction "Fax from Sarajevo," an illustrated account of communiques from a friend trapped in Bosnia during the 1992-95 War in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The comics medium has finally come into its own as a viable means for telling many different kinds of stories; Joe Kubert was a catalyst for that change. His was the kind of serious talent that demands, with quiet conviction that cannot be ignored, to be taken seriously.
Last edited by Number 47; 08.16.12 at 09:45 AM.
Sad to see such a talented person go. I have a Sgt. Rock compilation book and have always admired the artwork in comic books, especially Mr. Kubert's work.
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