Joe Kubert 1926 – 2012

Mere days after my last post I got the news of Joe Kubert‘s passing. I’ll be honest: it stung a bit. Joe was an incredible artist capable of conveying more truth in a single, crooked line than most artists can with hundreds of clean ones. His impact on the comics medium is practically immeasurable, and in many ways he was more influential than even Jack Kirby. He taught a generation of artists in the 1970s (Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Tim Truman, Rick Veitch, Thomas Yeates) who would help shape the industry in the 80s by seeding the Vertigo line and pollinating the golden age of independent and self-publishing, not only for themselves but for many others –just the way their mentor Joe Kubert had done for them.

Joe will be forever associated with his war comics, which he would be quick to term, “Anti-War Comics,” and one of the first comic books I ever bought at a newsstand was a STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES starring the Unknown Soldier. In an age of Hogan’s Heroes reruns, the gritty and seemingly endless World War II of SGT. ROCK and THE LOSERS was a disturbing dose of reality (especially to a seven year old INCREDIBLE HULK fan). I had a chance to buy the cover to the UNKNOWN SOLDIER’s origin issue last year at Comicon, and it’s now one of those missed opportunities that will haunt me to my grave. It was (and is) as beautiful to me as one of Leonardo DaVinci‘s frescos. It encapsulated for me in a single page, all the horrors and sleepless nights of those brave men and women who have volunteered more than will ever be asked of me in defense of my freedom. Kubert did a greater service to veterans via his reverent depictions of armed conflict than many past administrations have done compensatorily. Superhero fans will miss his scratchy HAWKMAN, an oft misused hero who just doesn’t look right to me as a polished, cleanly rendered Justice Leaguer.

I was not a fan of his NITE OWL collaboration with sons Adam and Andy (though I adored their WEDNESDAY’S COMICS’ Sgt. Rock strip), but my deepest, most heart-felt sympathies are with those boys and their brothers and sister. I miss Joe as a fan, but they have lost not only their mentor and teacher, they’ve lost their father. They are fabulous artists in their own right and I hope each shares their pop’s longevity not only in comics but in life.

No comic creator before or since has left a finer legacy than the Kubert School, and few have saved their swansong for last, but Kubert’s DONG XAOI, VIETNAM 1965 is quite possibly his finest work. If you haven’t done so already, run out and buy a copy. It’s a great companion to 1996’s FAX FROM SARAJEVO, his other Harvey and Eisner Award winning graphic novel, and a great reminder that “War: No More!” should be society’s one and only goal.