Monday, August 13, 2012

Joe Kubert, 1926 - 2012

Artist and Educator Joe Kubert 

During my abortive career as an artist and illustrator, I had only two memorable moments.
One was when I dated and slept with one of the nude models in my life-drawing class.

The other was having my artwork corrected by the great Joe Kubert.

Kubert, who died yesterday at the age of 85, was one of the giants of the comic book industry.  The son of a Kosher butcher, he wandered into a studio of comic book artists at the tender age of 11.  It took him a year before he could sell any of his artwork.  By his own admission, his early work wasn't very good - but in what is now known as the Golden Age of Comics, anything went.  Entrepreneurs were grinding out comics as quickly as they could, and many of them made fortunes.

Joe Kubert's artwork improved.  He developed a distinctive style, with fluid, heavy inks.  Not only did he become very good indeed, he became very fast.  His speed was the envy of his contemporaries.

He helped create the military comic Sgt. Rock, and was noted for his early work on Hawkman.  (Winged characters are not easy to draw.  How many feathers do you delineate on a hero with a 15-foot wingspan?  Kubert made it look effortless.)

After fifty years in comics, Joe and his late wife Muriel started the first full-time school of comic art.  The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art was founded in 1976.  Today, the Dover, NJ, school has taken over a three-story building which once housed the Dover High School.  His students come from all over the world.  The school offers a three year course of instruction.

It was at his school, where I attended summer art classes, that I had the privilege of having Joe Kubert instruct me.  And, on one occasion, he took pen in hand and drew over one of my drawings, showing me how it should be done.

It was the highlight of my artistic career.  Joe Kubert touched my art!  He DREW on it!

Eventually, I found that I was a much better writer than artist, and gave up my artistic ambitions.  Since I now suffer from tendinitis in my hands, it turned out to be a wise decision.

As for Kubert, both his artwork and his school continue to influence thousands of artists.  He managed all this while remaining one of the best-liked artists in the industry. 

'Bye, Joe.  We'll miss you.  Thanks for everything.

Below: Cover of the 1969 comic "DC Special," featuring the work of Joe Kubert.  
He was the only artist so honored.

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