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An Appreciation of Joe Kubert: Eight Pages

As noted in the press and the social media sites we lost a giant in the comic book industry, Joe Kubert.

Who was Kubert? Kubert was a writer, artist, letterer, inker, innovator and ...teacher. He did it all. He lives on in the work but also in the hearts and training of so many who called him teacher, mentor and friend.

Much is being said and far better than I can do on the man and his career and I recommend you check out Mark Evanier and Stephen Bissette's remembrances for a sense of the person and the huge shadow he cast on the art of comics during his 70 year career. He started as a teen in the early years of comic books and was able to remain ever at the top of his game until the very end.

Many wonderful creators have long careers but few, if any, retain their full power until the very last line is applied to paper. Joe Kubert loved drawing and telling stories as only a true artist can. We who know his work are so lucky that he brought such passion, knowledge and respect to every panel he applied his measure to. We've been spoiled but we have also been graced to have his standards become a part of our own.

If you study the work of Joe Kubert you are struck by many things. His draftsmanship is admired across the spectrum of artists. Kubert strives less for a heroic ideal in the human form than for a human vitality reflected in the hearts of his characters.

Yes, his men and women could be strong and alluring as heroes but they never seemed overly-muscled and always appeared as genuine trained athletes like you could see in the Olympics, not gods from the stars. His "common" folks of all types were drawn with such careful attention to the details of their lives. Skinny, fat, short or tall they walked, ran, fell, stumbled and relaxed with real weight and their faces reflected the lives they lived. Kubert never turned away from showing the wrinkles and lines that formed the roadmap of a soul. Truth was etched from the tip of his pens in every character he created.

As terrific as Kubert was as an illustrator he was first and foremost a storyteller. I think this is his greatest trait as an artist and I wish more in the industry would take his dedication to heart. Comic books are not just pretty pictures (despite what passes for such today). Every panel and page by Kubert was an exercise in distilling the story down to its essence.

I could write for pages on what this means and how beautiful and knowing every panel and line was designed but ...here is Kubert on exactly what he brought to telling THE STORY.

To illustrate what Kubert maintains in that interview I'm posting eight pages from the TEX graphic novel, "The Lonesome Rider," which Kubert drew for writer Claudio Nizzi as his valentine to the popular Italian cowboy series (and something I hope you are not as familiar with as Kubert's more famous work).

Observe how each panel is superbly drawn and expertly designed to move you from each to each in perfect order and across the page and to the next. Take in how Kubert succinctly creates the tension, mood and atmosphere. You can feel the electricity in the air and the cold downpour on your back. You smell the mud and feel the humidity clings to your lungs while the raindrops pelt at your hat. The charging horses jar your guts and spine along the ride and it is hard to make out all the shapes in the rain. It is a bleak night for a reckoning. Some are going to die. Rough hardened men square off in the darkness and they are willing to do what it takes to win.

Joe Kubert shows us what it takes to tell every moment with just the right clarity of draftsmanship combined with an emotional grace that elevates this episode far beyond its pages to a place that is heart-breaking epic and even has us feeling pain for the "bad guys."

If everyone cared as much as Kubert did, there would be no mediocre comic books. Thank you, Joe Kubert, for all your passion and respect for the medium and for loving to teach us about it.

artwork Copyright © 2005 by Bonelli / SAF


Sam F. Park is a long-time educator, writer and West Coast editor of Monsterverse Comics.

Sam F. Park

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