Joe Kubert has passed away.
Times like these, it becomes easy to revert back to a classic list of what a person accomplished during their life. As a writer, I will sit back, write something that sounds like a personalized task sheet and then add a few bits of wisdom or some profound lyric I wrote just for the occasion. I mean well, I do, but it doesn’t amount to much. Joe Kubert’s worth is not to be measured simply in what he’s done for us, the fans, and for the medium of comic books. It’s not something you can relate in a statement not much longer than the average email. Joe deserves better than that.
So how do we go about explaining the loss we as comic book lovers feel at this time? At first, I tried to get quotes from current comic book creators. I was essentially either blown off or told such and such was too busy to give a quote. That forced me to think about what I really wanted to say. Discussing Kubert’s work is the easy part. Beginning in the early 1930s, Kubert produced work for Fox Comics’ Blue Beetle, as well as doing coloring for Quality Comics property The Spirit. In short, Kubert worked for the man who basically started comics in the direction they exist in now, Will Eisner.
Kubert is well known for his work on Hawkman, he was instrumental in the first 3-D comics, and he was behind Tor as well as the iconic Sgt. Rock and the Haunted Tank. He served as DC Director Of Publications from 1967 to 1976 and also founded the Kubert School, which taught artists not only how to draw, but how to tell a story in sequential art.
All of that is extraordinary, but it doesn’t explain the true loss, because that’s personal to each of us. For me, it was Kubert’s love of chances. His devotion to bending the rules led to the release of Ragman, one of my favorite characters of all time. His school graduated Stephen R. Bissette, who went on to pencil the Alan Moore era of Swamp Thing, which is easily one of the greatest runs in comic books ever. Dave Dorman, the brilliant Star Wars artist, also graduated from the Kubert School.
Right there, those are two artists that have meant the world to me who found their way to comics through Joe Kubert’s decision to extend his expertise to the uneducated out there. There’s Ragman, plus my absolute love for war comics which started with The Haunted Tank and carried into Sgt Rock. Again, Kubert’s thought process and imagination added richness to my life.
What it all breaks down to is the movement we felt whenever Kubert took hold of a pen. His characters had their own life to them. No matter if it was wartime or superhero magic, you knew in your gut it was a Kubert drawing. The time any true comic book fan spent staring at his panels and wondering how he got the lines so bold, how he put so much weight behind every drawing, how his detail work got so good and so on – that’s what Joe Kubert did for us and we were damn lucky to get it.
We mourn the passing of Joe Kubert because he was a gifted talent with a family and friends who loved him. We also mourn his loss because a light has been snuffed out, one that kept us all awake at night reading comic books and seeing worlds that stretched as far as the imagination could take us. Our lives are better because Joe Kubert was in this world.
Thank you Joe, from the bottom of my heart, for everything.