We here at Midtown Comics are sad to hear that comic book legend Joe Kubert passed away at the age of 85. Joe is one of the many great pillars of comics, along with Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Joe Siegel, Jerry Shuster, Will Eisner and many, many others who helped make comics great. His distinctive style and large body of work are a legacy few people can match.
Joe was born on September 18th, 1926 in Poland. His family emigrated when he was a baby, and settled into Brooklyn, New York. Joe started working as a cartoonist in 1942, working on a 6 page story in Catman Comics #8. He also worked on major characters like Blue Beetle and the Spirit, but it wasn’t until he started working at National (Now DC Comics) that his career really took off.
It was at DC that Joe started a signature run on Hawkman, as well as his best known works: GI Combat, which featured World War II era mainstays Sgt. Rock, who he created, and The Haunted Tank. He also created the prehistoric character Tor, and also pioneered 3-D comics with childhood friend Norman Maurer. For the most part, Kubert’s legacy is in these works: whenever people think of war comics, they think of Joe Kubert, who in fact became an editor during his run with Sgt. Rock. As great as all of this work is, however, the previously mentioned Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art is one of his grandest achievements.
Founded in Dover, NJ by Joe and his wife Muriel, the Kubert school is a three year technical school dedicated to teaching sequential art and commercial illustration. It’s a school that is known to be very intense with it’s coursework, with a dropout rate of 30%. There a great number of professionals who have come out of that school, including Joe’s sons Adam and Andy Kubert. A lot of professionals who graduate also end up teaching at the school, and Joe even had his studio within the building.
Looking at Mr. Kubert’s life, you can clearly see that he loved comics. He’s given the world a legacy of powerful art, two sons who work as artists, and a school to educate those that dream about working in comics. If you’ve never read any of Joe’s work, we would like to recommend these to get you started:
Yossel: April 19, 1943: Yossel is sort of a “What-If” tale: what if the Kuberts DIDN’T move from Poland before the Germans invaded? It’s a very personal work, and it sends chills down your spine as Kubert explores this dark, tragic alternate take on his life.
How to Draw From Life: For a man who spent a great deal of his life teaching how to draw, it’s appropriate that this book should be here. If you’re an aspiring artist, Kubert’s book is definitely a good source to look at. Filled with Joe’s years of experience, you learn not only how to draw figures, but how lighting works and proper anatomy, among other things. A great pick-up for the prospective artist.
Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey: One of Kubert’s signature works, Tor is the name of the main character, a man living in prehistoric times. His adventures in a time where dinosaurs rule and humans are at the lower end of the food chain are exciting, classic fun.
Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years: Kubert was a huge Tarzan fan, and in his Tarzan work, the love really shows. The Dark Horse recoloring of the series brings the art to another level. Tarzan is one of the most iconic characters in modern fiction, and Joe Kubert’s work on him really stands out.
Sgt Rock: Arguably Joe’s signature character, Sgt. Rock leads his men, the Easy Company, into war against Nazis and all other menaces to America. Frank Rock represents the Greatest Generation with pride and vigor, as he never gives up the seemingly never-ending war (His battles lasted almost until the end of the COLD War in realtime) against tyranny and oppression. War comics may not be a major genre nowadays, but these comics are true classics, and you should give one of the collections a read through. Check out Joe’s return to his signature character in 2003’s Sgt Rock Between Hell and a Hard Place.
As someone who loves comics, I can only say that I envy Joe Kubert and the life he led, and I and the rest of us here at Midtown offer our condolences to Mr. Kubert’s family. Until next time friends.