River Geek: Joe Kubert Dies at the Age of 85

This week’s River Geek was suppose to be about another topic, but word came today that the comic book world has lost one of its greatest creators. Joe Kubert is dead at the age of 85.

When I began reading comics in the early 80s, Kubert was already a legend. I would see advertisements in comics for the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and be amazed there was a school you could attend to become a comic book artist.

Joe began his career, according to legend, at the age of 12 or 13. But he began his serious work during the Golden Age of comics. As writer and artist he created the character Tor, a prehistoric caveman character originally published by St. John Publications. Joe owned the character and continued to publish it over the years at various publishers, including DC Comics.

It was at DC Joe made a name for himself when he began work on Sgt. Rock in 1955, a character he co-created. The gritty war stories were perfect for his style which was a revolution at the time. He was among a group of artists who brought about a more modern art style to comics. He would revist the character again and again throughout the years.

His other signature character was Hawkman. Although he didn’t create the character, he became known as the definitive Hawkman artist. His work on Tarzan, a property he brought to DC in the 1960s, is another well known creation.

He brought his style to other characters as well and has likely drawn every major character at DC.

Kubert was born in a part of the world that is now in Ukraine, but at the time was Poland, before his family immigrated to New York. His Jewish faith and background has influenced his work. He and writer Robert Kanigher created the cult favorite Ragman character, a Jewish resident of Gotham City with a suit made from the patches containing the souls of evil doers punished by Ragman.

Kubert drew the graphic novels Yossel: April 19, 1943 in 2003 and and Jew Gangster in 2005. Both were published by IBooks.

His contribution to comics went beyond just his work. His sons Adam and Andy became artists themselves, becoming fan favorites at both Marvel and DC. The current limited series Before Watchmen: Nite-Owl features Joe inking Andy’s pencils.

Kubert will be missed in the industry. The length of his career in an industry where art and writing styles change very generation is almost unheard of, especially on the art side. The talent of his sons, who will carry on his name, and the students who graduate from his school will carry on his legacy.

It is a legacy that includes some great works. I recommend checking them out. His graphic novels are available to order online or at the local book store, as are many collected works in DC collections.
The industry has lost a legend.