Comic Book Fix: Joe Kubert, 1926 – 2012
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:11 Written by david golbitz Wednesday, 15 August 2012 02:11
I’ve gone to my fair share of comic book conventions over the years, from San Diego and San Francisco to Chicago and Boston. I’ve met a bunch of creators, from self-publishers like Jeff Smith (Bone) to comic book rock stars like Neil Gaiman and Jim Lee. I came thisclose to meeting the venerable Will Eisner at his last Comic-Con appearance in 2004; he died in January the following year. I was maybe 10 feet away from Eisner while he was being escorted across the convention hall, and I saw a few people who recognized him go up to him and chat and get an autograph. But not me. I didn’t know what to say to this amazing, transformative figure who literally changed the way comic books were written and illustrated. What could I say that he hadn’t already heard a thousand times before? So I stayed where I was, and I watched him shuffle down the aisle. And to this day I kick myself for not simply walking up to the man, shaking his hand and telling him how much his work has meant to me.
Which brings me to the passing of another industry icon, the legendary Joe Kubert, who died on Sunday, August 12 of multiple myeloma, three weeks shy of his 86th birthday.
Now, Joe Kubert I did meet, albeit briefly. I was attending last year’s Boston Comic Con, mainly so I could gather video for a grad school project, but also because there were a number of creators in attendance whom I either hadn’t met before, like Kubert, or whom I hadn’t seen for a few years, like David Mack, who attends more conventions each year than can be good for his health. I don’t know how he does it. But I digress.
Joe Kubert had been set up in the main hallway of the convention center, a little ways past the entrance into the convention hall itself, where the majority of creators and dealers had set up their tables. A little farther down the hall you had J. Scott Campbell (whose Danger Girl I will forever unabashedly love) and Adam Hughes, both of whom had long lines of fans for most of the weekend, and both of whom were very nice and cordial, despite the veritable throngs of people waiting for an autograph or a sketch. And yet, despite having to walk past him to get to those more recent superstars, the line for Joe Kubert was minimal. Practically non-existent.
Over the course of that weekend, I spoke to a great many creators. I mean, like, big name creators. Campbell and Hughes. David Mack. Frank Quitely. Dave Johnson. Tony Harris. And I had no problem talking with any of them. They’re just regular fellas who happen to have pretty cool jobs. But when I saw Joe Kubert sitting there, nary a soul near him, knowing that I could just walk up and gush to my heart’s content, I balked. I hesitated. It’s a rare thing to have an opportunity to meet your heroes. Comic book creators are the only pop culture creators who actually put time aside each year, put their work on hold, and trek around the country with the specific intention of meeting and interacting with fans. Conventions like the comic book industry has don’t exist in other media, or if they do, they exist on a much smaller scale. Even so, being able to meet certain creators is always a crapshoot. Most of the big name guys are swamped all weekend, between panel appearances and signing books for hundreds of fans, they rarely have time to eat a sandwich, let alone have a real discussion about their craft. And yet, there was Joe Kubert, sitting at a table bedecked with the logo of his school, with hardly anyone around him.
Eventually, I gathered up my courage, got the questions I wanted to ask him straight in my head, and sidled up to the front of his table. I opened my mouth and, were it not for the video I was shooting, I wouldn’t have a clue what I said to him. My mind went sort of blank for a moment. All the questions I had lined up mere moments, literally seconds earlier, were gone. What I remember most is his warm smile, like a grandfather you hadn’t seen for a while. This man, who had created or drawn pretty much every major Marvel and DC character in existence over his 70 years in the industry (yes, I said 70 years), he was just another guy like everyone else. He made me welcome and comfortable. He was patient with me as I stammered out question after question. And then it was over and was moving on. I didn’t want to take up too much of his time. I didn’t want to impose. But I’ll always be thankful to him for taking the time to talk with me about his life in comics.
Below, I’ve posted a couple minutes of my talk with Kubert. It’s not much, but, hey, I got an A in the class the project was for, so it must not be too bad. It’s going to take a while to get used to him not being around anymore. He was still working, up to the day he died. DC Comics had just announced a miniseries, Joe Kubert Presents, the first issue of which is scheduled to be in stores in October. It was going to be an anthology series, with stories and art by Kubert and other creators whom he had handpicked. It’s unclear how much work Kubert had finished before his death, but one thing is for certain. Whatever Kubert did create, it’s probably pretty great.Joe Kubert is survived by two sons, Andy and Adam, both of whom followed their father’s footsteps into the comic book business. And there’s his school, the Kubert School, which he started in 1976, and which to this day churns out polished, professional artists year after year. It is the lasting legacy of a man who stood as a giant among his peers. He will be missed, but he will certainly never be forgotten.
Picks of the Week
- Alabaster: Wolves #5 (Dark Horse), by Caitlin Kiernan and Steve Lieber (Lieber, incidentally, is a graduate of the Kubert School)
- Batwoman #12 (DC Comics), by W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III
- Everybody Loves Tank Girl #2 (Titan Comics), by Alan Martin and Jim Mahfood
- Fatale #7 (Image), by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
- Saga #6 (Image), by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Wonder Woman #12 (DC Comics), by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
- In Memoriam: Joe Kubert (1926-2012) (ifanboy.com)
- Legendary Artist Joe Kubert Passes Away At 85 (geek-news.mtv.com)
- Legendary Artist Joe Kubert Passes Away (ign.com)
- Joe Kubert R.i.p (1926-2012) (newsarama.com)
- Joe Kubert Passes Away, Aged 85 (comicsbeat.com)