Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Classics - Joe Kubert

Sad to hear the news this week of the passing of the living legend, Joe Kubert.

In the pantheon of all-time great artists, writers and editors, Kubert definitely belongs in the top ten, along with Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Gil Kane, Stan Lee, Joe Simon, Steve Ditko and Carmine Infantino (to name a few).

Kubert famously started working in comics while just a teenager (and maybe even before that), and he carved out a spot as a powerful storyteller. And he just got better as the years passed.

He started out in the superhero ghetto, but soon made his lasting mark on DC's war comics, most famously co-creating that company's most iconic character, Sgt. Rock. But he also drew the occasional superhero, including the first appearances of the Silver Age Hawkman.

He eventually became editor of the war comics, and he also took over the adventures of the beloved Edgar Rice Burroughs character, Tarzan, in 1972. He did it all in that series - writing, drawing and editing - and it was that work that opened my eyes and made me a fan of Kubert, as I wrote in this "Classics" review in 2010:
It's interesting to look back and realize how tastes can change in the blink of an eye.

For example, Joe Kubert's art never really appealed to me when I was young, although my only exposure to it was in the pages of of the '60s version of Hawkman.

At DC Comics, I much preferred the "cleaner" art of Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane or Carmine Infantino. (I should add that I never read many war comics, so I sadly missed out on untold years of great Sgt. Rock stories. Thank goodness for DC Showcase reprints!)

But then I picked up this, the first DC issue of Tarzan (which continued the numbering from the previous publisher - this issued is cover dated April 1972).

The issue was edited and drawn (and presumably adapted by) Joe Kubert, and what a revelation! Here was an incredible depiction of the first Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novel, drawn with amazing skill and power. Here was a master at work, with lush jungle vistas, raw emotions on display, vivid animal life, life-and-death battles and amazing heroic (and villainous) figures.

How could I have overlooked a talent like this? Kubert's style was perfectly suited to Tarzan's adventures, and from that day forward I avidly sought out every comic Kubert worked on.

So my apologies to Joe for ever doubting his talent - hey, I was just a dumb kid! I'm glad to say I've learned the error of my ways.

Grade: A+
And at that point (40 years ago!!), Joe was just getting warmed up.

He did work most comics fans never saw, as he took over the production of the U.S. Army's PS Magazine, which focuses on - of all things - proper equipment maintenance.

He'd go on to create countless comics and graphic novels, he'd start the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art and Graphic Art that has graduated a small army of creators now crafting the future of the industry - and his legacy continues through his incredibly talented sons, Adam and Andy.

He isn't really gone, of course - his work will continue to entertain as long as comics endure - but it's sad to lose him at the age of 85, when he was still creating stunning work - easily visible in the latest Before Watchmen: Nite Owl series - and he'll be terribly missed by comics fans all over the world.

A job well done, Joe, and a career for the record books.


-> Ray said...

I'd add Wally Wood and Carl Barks to complete your top ten.

Chuck said...

Ray, I can't argue with that!