The news that Joe Kubert had passed away caught me at just after I finished last week’s blog. I was tempted to dive in and rush a last minute tribute in an effort to be timely but I have too much respect for the man and all that he did for comics. I chose to digest the incredible loss to his family, his school and the entire the comics community so that I could write a memorial deserved of a man of his stature.
Whenever I think of Joe Kubert the first thing that comes to my mind is a cover image of Tarzan, knife in hand, battling a savagely maned lion that struck fear in my heart as a young comic reader. The ferocity of the glare in the lion’s eyes, the sinewy muscles of Tarzan, and the dynamic gesture of every appendage on the page (right down to Tarzan’s toes!) captivated my attention in a way that few comics did or could. Joe was capable of creating something primal on a page with lines so kinetic that the images leapt from the page into the deepest, darkest part of the imagination.
The name Joe Kubert captured my imagination again with a simple ad for The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art that ran in the back of every comic book in the late seventies. Though I couldn’t convince my parents to let me go to a school that promoted itself in a comic book, the idea of studying art for the purpose of creating comics became my goal. A few years later, as a publisher at Comico, I was offering small scholarships to students at Joe’s school in Dover, NJ hoping to encourage the incredible young talent that was being cultivated there to want to work for Comico. The gesture paid off when we had the opportunity to work with Joe’s sons, Adam and Andy on our JONNY QUEST series.
Joe Kubert visited our modest offices at Comico once when we were first developing our relationship. Our Studio, as we called it, was half a duplex in the middle of blue-collared Norristown, PA. It was a humble creative space littered with art supplies, drawing boards, decrepit furniture and dated, orange shag wall-to-wall carpet. Joe loved it! There was a gleam in his eye as he looked around that space and at us young guys, full of enthusiasm about making comics. He told us stories of how he was reminded him of his early days, holed up in a small room with a bunch of other young writers and artists cramming out entire issues over night in a frantic effort to meet a deadline.
Joe was an infectiously dynamic person with a passion for comics that he was always excited to share and teach. He was the ultimate father figure that commanded respect and returned it when you earned it. That day he visited Comico, without intending to and unknowingly, he ordained us as professional comic creators with his glowing approval.
Similarly, Joe’s impact on the comic industry can never be measured. He has influenced and educated so many comic professionals that it would be impossible to imagine what the industry would have been like without him, his family, or his school.
Bill Cucinotta, the extended CO2 Comics family of creators, and I extend our very heartfelt condolences to the entire Kubert family and to everyone that loved and respected Joe Kubert, one of the very great men to have ever professed to making comics.
We at CO2 Comics have a long relationship with a former Kubert School student, Chris Kalnick, who worked as an inker on ROBOTECH when we published it as Comico. His comics NON the Transcendental Extraterrestrial and Depth Charge are regular features on the CO2 Comics site. At our request he has offered his own remarks regarding Joe Kubert:
It’s funny how sometimes you don’t realize how much someone has impacted your life until you hear of their passing. This was definitely the case with me regarding Joe Kubert.
35 years ago, fresh on the heels of its groundbreaking first year class, I was one of the second year students who attended The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. The school was small compared to today’s incarnation. There were something like 25-30 students returning from the first year, and Joe only accepted around 50 of us for its incoming second year class. The students ran the spectrum from the intensely-focused-and disciplined-artist/storyteller to the recent goofy-high-school-graduate-not-really-knowing-what-the-hell-they-wanted. A lot of us fell in between.
I don’t need to expound on how amazing the school was, its atmosphere, its creative energy, etc… suffice to say, there was nothing like it at the time. Plenty has been written about the school over the years. Even if it wasn’t your intention, you were bound to learn some amount of craft there… not only from Joe and the teachers, but from the other students as well. Everyone ate, drank, and breathed comic art. The place swam in it. Those who were there know what I’m talking about. Their life experience and their art is a little richer for it.
There are many more XQBs than I who have had longer, deeper, more extended relationships with Joe, and they have their stories to tell and their feelings to share. My relationship with him was somewhat brief, but what I can tell you about Joe is that he was no-nonsense. He shot from the hip. You knew if he liked something or felt it worked… and you knew if he didn’t. He commanded respect, personal and professional. My personal talks with him were few, but they definitely left an impression. As I’m sure his conversations did with the majority of his students. My last conversation with Joe is forever etched in my mind, for it was sad in nature. It was about my leaving the school, and Joe expressed his disappointment. For a cartoonist… not an easy moment to shake.
Joe opened his unique school and by doing so, opened the doors for a tremendous amount of artists who may not have otherwise had the opportunity, support, and camaraderie to develop their craft. If it wasn’t for Joe, I wouldn’t have developed my craft or the sense of identity that I have today. I wouldn’t have made the professional friends I have now. And my youngest daughter wouldn’t have grown up in my studio to become an accomplished young artist herself. Joe passed away the day after my daughter left home to attend Ringling College of Art and Design as an illustration major. The coincidence of it is not lost on me… and his legacy seems so much more poignant, his influence so much more obvious.
You are respected, Joe. I know for a fact that you will be missed. Thank you.