Joe Kubert passed away yesterday, and it hit me like a truck.
(from 1974; click on images to enlarge)
I guess we all assumed he would live forever because Joe was bigger than life. Not an exaggeration. Joe Kubert was the closest--along with Kirby--comics ever had to a god. But he was also so great, and so prolific, he was easy to take for granted.
There are very few cartoonists who ever worked as long as Joe did--maybe Al Hirschfeld. From the age of 12, for god's sake. 69 years of drawing professionally.
And even fewer whose power is so evident in the slightest line.
And even fewer that had such an impact in every part of the profession, not just in his art, but in how many he inspired and, through the Kubert School, taught. Never did anything he made seem hacked out. Never did you see Joe as just more meat going through DC's grinder(though DC seems to have seen him that way, and that is all I will say on what you already know I mean). Joe was bigger than anyone he worked for and we all owe him everything, even in the indie world. There was love and brilliance in Joe and he did as he wished because you could not make him be other than what he was, and everything he drew was gold. Joe's blood was storytelling. Joe was living comics.
He may have been the earliest cartoonist I read whose work I could name, and identify by style. But really there was never mistaking his work for anyone's. This is the first comic I remember reading. I was 4. I still have it and will forever.
This too, though his art is only on the cover.
And who ever did more striking covers than Joe?
For some it was Sgt. Rock. For others Enemy Ace, for others Hawkman or any number of others Kubert worked on in his 69 years in the business, and I liked those too, as well as TOR, a character he also owned, a rare feat for a cartoonist of his generation who worked for the Big Two. For me personally though, Joe's work on Tarzan was very dear to me--though I never actually cared about the character as such in anyone else's hands. Joe made me care.
I mean...LOOK at that.
I can add nothing except to say when I look at Joe, along with Gene Colan, also dear to me as a kid but later, I look at whatever eventually led me to deciding comics was my medium.
Here is a cover that was my favorite as a kid, from DC's THE BIBLE, 1975. Another one I still own, and will never, ever part with. A labor of love for Joe.
Though inside, his only art was historical info pages between the stories Nestor Redondo drew(and very beautifully), somehow when I look at them I still see evidence of Kubert's layouts.
Here are some of those pages.
The Big Two were Joe Kubert and Jack Kirby. None else.
Here is Joe telling you what every single person drawing comics should know. And LOOK at that big beautiful board of his.
And here he is showing you his tools.
And here is a beautiful tribute from a major influence upon me and one of Joe's greatest students(ditto John Totleben; and consider this--without those two plus Alan Moore, mainstream comics would not be what it is today--no Joe, no Kubert School; no that, no them; no them, no most of the comics you may love now. Joe's shadow is huge and long), Steve Bissette, who says more than I ever could of his teacher, mentor and friend. I only read Kubert. Bissette was taught by the man himself in person, and that is...lucky as hell. Read it and try not to choke up. The warmth and greatness of Joe is reflected through every word.
But then, it was also glowing from every beautiful, graceful, dancing black line of his work.
Goodbye Joe. With you goes an entirely different world in comics we will all miss.
John Linton Roberson is very sad. Visit him at jlroberson.org.