Jewish comic book great Joe Kubert, who worked on acclaimed series such as Tor, Tales of the Green Beret, Sgt. Rock and Tarzan, died Aug. 12
at age 85 from multiple myeloma in Morristown, NJ.
At the tender age of 12, Kubert broke into the comic book business in a rather brash way: He just showed up.
“I didn’t even know what kind of materials to use,” Kubert said in an interview with JNS.org last year in Israel. “I drew on the paper bags from my father’s [butcher] shop. And I brought those drawings [to Manhattan] to show them what I could do. And they gave me paper. They gave me pencils. They gave me brushes. I never had known that they used those kinds of materials. The guys in the business just gave it to me because they recognized in me a heavy desire to do this work.”
While perhaps less recognized by the general public than Spiderman writer Stan Lee, Kubert’s impact on the world of comics and American culture may be longer lasting. That influence is due in no small part to the Kubert School, which he established in 1976 in Dover, NJ.
“He’s the longest-lived continuously important contributor to the field,” Paul Levitz, a former president of DC Comics, told the New York Times Aug. 13. “There are two or three of the greats left, but he’s definitely one of the last.”
Less than a year before his death, Kubert had taken his first and only trip to Israel to display some of the original artwork and pages from his graphic novel Yossel for a special exhibit of his and his sons’ contributions to the world of comics at the Israeli Cartoon Museum in Holon.
“The Kuberts are responsible for some of the iconic figures of American culture,” said United States Embassy press attaché Kurt Hoyer at the time. “The Kuberts have worked on every comic I have ever read.”
In addition to the comic books series that the elder Kubert worked on, his sons Adam and Andy earned their own reputations in the industry working on the X-Men and Superman series and X-Men and Batman, respectively.
Hoyer added, “The clarity of the drawing [in Joe Kubert’s work] and the way the colors grip you, really takes you back to a youthful outlook on life as a battle between good and evil.”
Neal Adams, who shook up the comics industry in the 1960s with his own drawing style, shared Hoyer’s assessment.
“Joe, in his way, was a primitive, he drew from his gut,” Adams was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. ”Joe, because of his gritty style, because of his down-in-the-dirt approach, mixed the heroic with the terribleness of war… He never made it seem appealing, but, to men, the nature of war is that you can be a hero.”
The Kubert School, now run by Joe’s family, is the first and still only accredited school that focuses exclusively on the art of cartoon drawing. In his later years, Joe helped oversee the overall management and course development at the school, while his sons Adam and Andy work as teachers there.
Since its inception, the school has produced generations of successful alumni, many of whom now inhabit the distant corners of the comic book industry, having worked on such diverse projects as Spongebob Squarepants, Swamp Thing, Spiderman, Daredevil, Hellboy, Scooby Doo, the Archie Comics, and Conan the Barbarian.
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