Joe Kubert ~ Reflecting On The Loss Of An Old Friend I Didn't Know
When a man like Joe Kubert passes away, it's the kind of death where most will ask "Who's Joe Kubert?" but many, who never met him, will feel a great sense of loss. Joe Kubert died yesterday, August 12th, and I feel a great sense of loss.
Joe Kubert was one of the great comic book artist of the Silver Age of comic books . . . and, comic books are one of only two authentic American art forms. Because we are a melting pot, because our culture has largely been transplanted here from other nations, our art (literature, painting, etc) is almost exclusively derivative of other culture's art forms. The only two art forms that are commonly recognized to be authentic American art forms, art that started here and went out to the rest of the world rather than art that came from the rest of the world here to us, are comic books and Blues (which became Rock & Roll) music.
Joe Kubert helped define American comic book art, he was one of the great influences of today's generation of gifted artists. The Silver Age (when he established himself as one of the greats) was, basically, the 60s, the 'baby boomer' era of great Superhero and SciFi comic books . . . but Joe Kubert is undoubtedly most associated with and remembered for his army/war comics, and most particularly, for 'Sgt.Rock'.
Kubert was an artist, had a style, that you could see his work . . . I mean, his panels looked like someone started with a blank page, sketched-out a scene, and then refined it. His characters looked like someone drew them. That might seem a redundant observation, but I was particularly fond of the work of Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, and their work was quite different. They all worked for DC comics, so any of them might, on occasion, draw Superman, Batman, Hawkman, etc . . . but Infantino & Anderson's art had a clean line, polished, pristine look to it, you couldn't so instantly or easily visualize someone actually drawing their panels - but Kubert's work, though just as good, looked like pencil lines and shading, his work always looked like someone actually drew that scene . . . and eventually, it became easy to tell that Joe Kubert drew 'that' scene.
Imagine tuning in 'Star Wars' on tv and seeing the Millennium Falcon, light sabers, etc, etc, it IS 'Star Wars' - but suddenly you recognize Nicholas Cage is playing Luke Skywalker!? Nicholas Cage is fine, I like a good number of his films - but he's not Luke Skywalker! That's what it would be like when you were 10 or 12 years old in 1965 and you got the latest 'Hawkman" comic, and this issue wasn't drawn but Joe Kubert. Hawkman was another character associated with Kubert, which meant that Hawkman looked like Kubert drew him, he seemed to move like Kubert positioned him, the whole comic book looked like a Joe Kubert comic book - so, when someone else was assigned to a particular issue, little boys noticed.
Another comic Kubert will long be remembered for is "Tor", a kind of prehistoric Tarzan character. With these comics we got to see landscapes and creatures not common to the Army & superhero comics . . . and we got to see just how brilliant Joe Kubert was.
Years ago, on my oldest son's 12th birthday, I picked-out 12 great, classic comics from my own collection, and gave them to him as gifts - he gently wept as he flipped through them because he knew how much they meant to me, and that I was giving them to him. His favorite comic book series and character became Hawkman - and it is such a delight to see his genuine appreciation of something I have such respect for. They are comic books, for kids, action drawings not fine art - but look at them, they're beautiful, they tell a story, and they feed the imagination. And Joe Kubert was one of the best . . . thanks Joe, you've meant a lot to a kid, a dad, and his own kids - now, let's go capture the hearts & minds of the grandkids.
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