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 Joe Kubert  (1926 - 2012)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey / Poland      Known for: comic book artist

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Ad Code: 3
Joe Kubert
from Auction House Records.
The Brave and the Bold #34 The Landmark First Silver Age Hawkman Cover Original Art (DC, 1961)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Joe Kubert was born in a "shtetl" called Yzeran, in southeast Poland.  He emigrated to Brooklyn, New York City, United States, at age two months with his parents and his two-and-a-half-year-old sister Ida.  Raised in the East New York neighborhood, the son of a kosher butcher, Kubert started drawing at an early age, encouraged by his parents.

In his introduction to his graphic novel Yossel, Kubert wrote, "I got my first paying job as a cartoonist for comic books when I was eleven-and-a-half or twelve years old.  Five dollars a page.  In 1938, that was a lot of money".  Another source, utilizing quotes from Kubert, says in 1938, a school friend who was related to Louis Silberkleit, a principal of MLJ Studios (the future Archie Comics), urged Kubert to visit the company, where he began an unofficial apprentice and at age 12 "was allowed to ink a rush job, the pencils of Bob Montana's [teen-humor feature] 'Archie'".

Author David Hajdu, who interviewed Kubert and other comics professionals for the book The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), reported, however, that: "Kubert has told varying versions of the story of his introduction to the comics business at age ten, sometimes setting it at the comics shop run by Harry "A" Chesler, sometimes at MLJ; however, MLJ did not start operation until 1939, when Kubert was thirteen".

Kubert attended Manhattan's High School of Music and Art.  During this time he and classmate Norman Maurer, a future collaborator, would sometimes skip school in order to see publishers.  Kubert began honing his craft at the quirkily named Harry "A" Chesler's studio, one of the comic-book "packagers" that had sprung up in the medium's early days to supply outsourced comics to publishers.  Kubert's first known professional job was penciling and inking the six-page story Black-Out, starring the character Volton, in Holyoke Publishing's Catman Comics #8 (March 1942; also listed as vol. 2, #13).  He would continuing drawing the feature for the next three issues, and was soon doing similar work for Fox Comics' Blue Beetle.  Branching into additional art skills, he began coloring the Quality Comics reprints of future industry legend Will Eisner's The Spirit, a seven-page comics feature that ran as part of a newspaper Sunday-supplement.

Kubert's first work for DC Comics, where he would spend much of his career and produce some of his most notable art, was penciling and inking the 50-page Seven Soldiers of Victory, superhero-team story in Leading Comics #8 (Fall 1943), published by a DC predecessor company, All-American Comics.  Through the decade, Kubert's art would also appear in comics from Fiction House and Harvey Comics, but he was otherwise worked exclusively for All-American and DC.

In the 1950s, he became managing editor of St. John Publications, where he, his old classmate Norman Maurer, and Norman's brother Leonard Maurer produced the first 3-D comic books, starting with Three Dimension Comics #1 (Sept. 1953 oversize format, Oct. 1953 standard-size reprint), featuring Mighty Mouse.  According to Kubert, it sold a remarkable 1.2 million copies at 25 cents apiece at a time when comics cost a dime.

At St. John, writer Norman Maurer and artist Kubert created the enduring character Tor, a prehistoric-human protagonist who debuted in the comic 1,000,000 Years Ago (Sept. 1953). Tor immediately went on to star in 3-D Comics #2-3 (Oct.-Nov. 1953), followed by a titular, traditionally 2-D comic-book series, written and drawn by Joe Kubert, that premiered with issue #3 (May 1954).  The character has gone on to appear in series from Eclipse Comics, Marvel Comics' Epic imprint, and DC Comics through at least the 1990s.  Kubert in the late 1950s unsuccessfully attempted to sell Tor as a newspaper comic strip.

Beginning with Our Army At War #32 (March 1955), Kubert began to freelance again for DC Comics, in addition to Lev Gleason Publications and Atlas Comics, the 1950s iteration of Marvel Comics.  By the end of the year he was drawing for DC exclusively, working on such characters as the medieval adventurer Viking Prince, the superhero Hawkman, which would become one of his signature efforts, and, in the war comic GI Combat, features starring Sgt. Rock and The Haunted Tank, two more signature strips.

From 1965 through 1967 he collaborated with author Robin Moore on the syndicated daily comic strip Tales of the Green Beret for the Chicago Tribune.

Kubert served as DC Comics' director of publications from 1967 to 1976.  During his tenure with DC, Kubert initiated titles based on such Edgar Rice Burroughs properties as Tarzan and Korak.  Kubert also supervised the production of the comic books Sgt. Rock, Ragman and Weird Worlds.  While performing supervisory duties, he continued to draw for some books, notably Tarzan from 1972 to 1975.  Kubert also did covers for Rima the Jungle Girl from 1974 to 1975.

In 1976, Joe and his wife Muriel founded the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey.

Kubert wrote and drew a collection of faith-based comic strips beginning in the late 1980s for Tzivos Hashem, the Lubavitch children's organization, and Moshiach Times magazine.  The stories, "The Adventures of Yaakov and Yosef", were based on biblical references, but were not Bible stories.  Many were based on stories of the Lubavitcher Rebbes and their disciples.

Kubert made a return to writing and drawing in 1991 with the Abraham Stone graphic novel Country Mouse, City Rat for Malibu Comics' Platinum Editions.  He returned to the character for two more stories, Radix Malorum and The Revolution published by Epic Comics in 1995.

Also for Epic Comics, he delivered the four-issue Tor miniseries in 1993.  1996 saw the publication of Fax from Sarajevo, initially released as a 207-page hardcover book and two years later as a 224-page trade paperback.  The non-fiction book originated as a series of faxes from European comics agent Ervin Rustemagic during the Serbian siege of Sarajevo.

Rustemagic and his family, whose home and possessions in suburban Dobrinja were destroyed, spent two-and-a-half years in a ruined building, communicating with the outside world via fax when they could.  Friend and client Kubert was one recipient.  Collaborating long-distance, they collected Rustemagic's account of life during wartime, with Kubert and editor Bob Cooper turning the raw faxes into a somber comics tale.

Kubert drew a pencil-illustrated graphic novels, Yossel: April 19, 1943 (2003) and Jew Gangster (2005) both from IBooks.  In 2003, Kubert returned to the Sgt. Rock character, illustrating Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place, a six-issue miniseries written by Brian Azarello and wrote and drew Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy, a six-issue miniseries in 2006.  2005 also saw the publication of Tex, The Lonesome Rider, written by Claudio Nizzi and published by SAF Comics.

As of the mid-2000s, Kubert is the artist for PS Magazine, a U.S. military magazine, with comic-book elements, that stresses the importance of preventive maintenance of vehicles, arms, and other ordnance.

In 2008, Kubert returned to his Tor character with a six-issue limited series published by DC Comics entitled Tor: A prehistoric Odyssey.  In 2009, Kubert contributed a new Sgt. Rock story for Wednesday Comics, published by DC.  His son, Adam, wrote the story, his first foray at scripting

Kubert's several awards and nominations include:
    •    the 1962 Alley Award for Best Single Comic Book Cover (The Brave and the Bold #42)
    •    a 1963 write-in Alley Award for "Artist Preferred on Sea Devils
    •    a special 1969 Alley Award "for the cinematic storytelling techniques and the exciting and dramatic style he has brought to the field of comic art"
    •    1974 and 1980 National Cartoonists Society Awards for best Story Comic Book, plus a 1997 nomination for Best Comic Book.
    •    The 1997 Eisner Award for "Best Graphic Album: New", for Fax from Sarajevo
    •    The 1997 Harvey Award for "Best Graphic Album of Original Work," for Fax from Sarajevo

Kubert was inducted into the Harvey Awards' Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1997, and Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998.

Wikipedia, Joe Kubert

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is the obituary of the artist, published August 13, 2012 in The New York Times.

Joe Kubert, a titan among comic-book artists whose work stretched from the Golden Age of the superhero to the gritty realism of the graphic novel, died on Sunday in Morristown, N.J.

He was 85.

The cause was multiple myeloma, his son Adam said.

Mr. Kubert, who first plied his trade as a teenager in the 1930s and continued drawing in the hospital during his final illness, was among the last of the generation of comic-book illustrators whose work helped define the genre in the years before World War II.

“He’s the longest-lived continuously important contributor to the field,” Paul Levitz, a former president of DC Comics, said in an interview on Monday. “There are two or three of the greats left, but he’s definitely one of the last.”

Mr. Kubert (pronounced CUE-bert) was most closely associated with DC, for whom he drew Sgt. Rock, a World War II infantryman he created with the writer Robert Kanigher, and Hawkman, an airborne crime fighter. He also created Tor, a prehistoric hero, and, with Mr. Kanigher, Enemy Ace, whose antihero is a German pilot. In addition, Mr. Kubert was considered one of the definitive interpreters of Tarzan.

Through the Kubert School, an academy in Dover, N.J., that he founded with his wife, Muriel, in 1976, Mr. Kubert helped train a generation of young colleagues. The country’s only accredited trade school for comic-book artists, it enrolls students from around the world in a three-year program; well-known graduates include Amanda Conner, Tom Mandrake, Rags Morales and Timothy Truman.

Mr. Kubert was often described as a war artist, but as he made clear in interviews and in his work, it was far more accurate to call him an antiwar artist. His distinctive visual style — raw, powerful and unstinting in emotional immediacy — was ideally suited to capturing the brutality of battle, and capture it he did, over more than a half-century.

Besides Sgt. Rock, whom he drew for decades, and Our Army at War, a DC series of the 1950s and afterward, Mr. Kubert explored war and violence in a series of graphic novels he wrote and illustrated in recent years: Fax From Sarajevo (1996), about the Bosnian civil war; Yossel (2003), about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; and Dong Xoai (2010), about the Vietnam War.

“For me,” Mr. Kubert told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland in 2003, explaining the lure of drawing combat, “it was not about war and fighting but about the people, the characters.”

Joseph Kubert was born on Sept. 18, 1926, in the shtetl of Yzeran (also known as Jezierzany), then in Poland and now in Ukraine. He came to the United States with his family as an infant and grew up in the East New York section of Brooklyn, where his father was a kosher butcher.

As a small child Joe loved to draw, and the sidewalks of New York became his canvas. “When I was 3 or 4, neighbors would buy boxes of penny chalk for me to draw pictures in the streets,” Mr. Kubert told The Jewish Week newspaper in 2003.

Drawing was a dubious way to make a living, his parents knew, but it was vastly preferable to the other calling into which East New York youths were inclined to fall: street-gang member.

His father bought him a drawing table, which cost about $10, a small fortune in the Depression. But with that, the boy’s future was secure.

At 11 or 12 Joe gamely rode the subway into Manhattan, drawings in hand, and landed an after-school job as an office boy for a comic-book publisher. By the time he was a teenager he had worked for Will Eisner and Harry Chesler, leading entrepreneurs of the comic-book world, sweeping up, erasing, inking (his early duties included Archie comics) and eventually drawing.

The first comic he illustrated himself, Volton, about a hero with electrical powers, was published when he was 16. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, Mr. Kubert served stateside in the Army before becoming a full-time artist.

In the early 1950s he helped develop the methods of drawing and reproduction that made possible the 3-D comic book, which had a considerable vogue in the years that followed. During his experiments he ran through quantities of lollipops: he needed the colored cellophane wrapping the lime and cherry ones to make the red-and-green glasses vital to his effort.

Mr. Kubert’s other work includes the mid-1960s newspaper comic strip Tales of the Green Beret, with the writer Robin Moore; the graphic novel Jew Gangster (2005), about the career path not taken; and a comic strip, The Adventures of Yaakov and Yosef, for The Moshiach Times, a children’s magazine published by the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement.

The recipient of exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the country, Mr. Kubert was the subject of a biography, Man of Rock, by Bill Schelly, published in 2008.

Mr. Kubert’s wife of 57 years, the former Muriel Fogelson, died in 2008. In addition to his son Adam, he is survived by three other sons, Andy, David and Danny; a daughter, Lisa Zangara; three sisters, Rosalind Krasilovsky, Sheila Dempster and Eva Cahn; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. His sons Adam and Andy are both well-known comic-book artists.

From 1967 to 1976 Mr. Kubert was DC’s director of publications, with duties that included overseeing the company’s line of war comics. He took the post when the Vietnam War was at its height, and under his supervision the company’s war comics reflected as much.

At the end of each comic Mr. Kubert directed the typesetter to add a four-word coda. It read, “Make War No More.”

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