|Joe Kubert photo by Luigi Novi|
Photo by Luigi Novi
By Jim Beard
Marvel Comics notes with sadness and significance the passing of the legendary Joe Kubert, but also remembers with fondness and awe his incredible career and indelible mark on the comics industry as a whole. Artist, illustrator, educator, husband and father, the man’s legacy stands as a testament to perseverance and a belief in quality of design and draftsmanship.
Like many of his generation, Kubert sought work at an early age to help support his family and to make his own way in the larger world. After being born in Poland in 1926, the young artist emigrated to the United States with his family and wasted no time seeking entry into the art world. By the age of 13, he found himself immersed in the business of comic books and cartooning with such seminal companies as MLJ Studios and the Chesler Studio.
At the Holyoke Publishing firm he saw his first professional credit; the story featured a super hero, Volton. Several other companies gave the young Kubert work in these early days, such as Fox Comics, Quality, and, most significantly, All-American Comics. There, in the early 1940’s and working with such important figures as editor Shelly Mayer, he came into contact with characters that would form the foundation for his true comics education: the Seven Soldiers of Victory, The Flash, and Hawkman.
The 1950’s brought Kubert to a new level in his career, that of editor for St. John Publications. Together with a group of like-minded creators, he forwarded the advance of 3-D comics and also began the adventures of one of the first of his famous creations, Tor the prehistoric man.
At the same time that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby strived to fundamentally change the nature of super hero comics with the nascent Marvel Universe, Joe Kubert plunged into a series of characters and strips at DC Comics during the Silver Age of Comics that would become signatures of his unique style and eye for design. Brilliant stories of The Viking Prince, Sgt. Rock and Hawkman soon came to represent Kubert’s vision for what comics could be, and how they could amaze and excite the eye.
Later, the 1970’s saw the beginning of another of the artist’s dreams: the Joe Kubert School. There, eager young illustrators could hone their craft in a nurturing environment that derived its principles from the man who’d become a giant in the industry through hard work and diligence to his beliefs. Today, the school boasts graduates who’ve filtered out into the comics industry and changed it for the better.
Kubert’s later years saw him producing more introspective works through the growing medium of graphic novels. There he explored such themes as the Jewish condition and the ravages of war, all the time buoyed by his expressive art and attention to detail. During the 1990’s, Joe would contribute his first work to Marvel Comics, with a six-issue run on PUNISHER WAR ZONE as well as contributions to GHOST RIDER, WOLVERINE and CAPTAIN AMERICA. He continued to produce new works, including memorable covers for CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN and more, right up until the time of his death in August of 2012.
Joe Kubert’s incredible legacy continues to this day not only in the work of the Kubert School, its many graduates and his own large body of publications, but in the form of his two sons Andy and Adam. Both have proven themselves chips off the Kubert block with artistic talent, blazing their own trails among the industry’s top tier of talent.
The comics world will not soon see another talent and pathfinder the likes of Joe Kubert again. Forged in a different era, his artistic creativity stands as a testament to his own will as well as a drive to better himself and never rest on his laurels. He will be missed.