Monday, October 30, 2017

The Worlds of Joe Kubert: Three Books by Bill Schelly

I have read many biographies and reprint volumes of comic book creators and often have been disappointed. Many bios do not have enough illustrations to demonstrate the talent of their subject.  Often, reprint volumes do not discuss the reasons for their selections, making one suspect that they only printed what they could get their hands on.

Bill Schelly comes through again.  Bill has authored great books on Comic Fandom and bios of great men in comics including John Stanley, Harvey Kurtzman..   He does a totally enjoyable and thorough job with Joe Kubert.  




Bill is smart and knew that one book could not contain everything, so he authored three all published by Fantagraphics:

Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert "(2008)



The Art of Joe Kubert” (2011) 

Weird Horrors & Daring Adventures: The Joe Kubert Archives" (2013)



I am writing this blog simply because I enjoyed these books so much and learned so much and thought you might, too.

Often when books on famous artists are published. Often, they reprint stories with no reason given why that story is published.  I have learned, in many cases, it is because the “editor” did not select the stories, they were the only ones he could find. As mentioned frequently  bios do not have enough images that relate to the text. And finally, many reproductions of art are poor. Thank Gosh! None of that is the case here!!!!! I have compared these images to others that have been reproduced (and will show comparisons to some below). They are wonderful here.

Please beg, buy or borrow The Art of Joe Kubert to see what I mean. Kubert is most renowned for drawing the Hawkman comics of both the Golden and Silver Age and for his war comics, most legendarily that of Sgt. Rock. That’s why the title, “Man of Rock” fits so well.

I did NOT want to write a blog with me paraphrasing and condensing what Bill wrote, so I will have some fun quoting others and give a brief tour of the incredible journeys Joe Kubert has taken us on throughout the years.

When the best artists of the Silver Age and the years just prior to that era are discussed, you’ll always find the names Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood and Jim Steranko discussed.  Joe Kubert (September 18, 1926 – August 12, 2012) is often, sadly, not mentioned.  I can think of four reasons:
  1. Kubert mainly drew for DC in the sixties. Because Marvel routinely listed credits long before DC made that a standard procedure, fans were more aquatinted with their artists.
  2. DC insisted (or demanded?) on a stronger house style and the artists’ different styles were not as distinctive.
  3. DC’s audience was slightly younger who was less interested in the creators and more interested in the comic.
  4. Finally, while Joe Kubert had done stories for so many genres, he was not dominant in the super-hero line, he was most famous for his war stories.  Although these comics sold very well, and were frequently best sellers, comic book fandom in the 1960as through the early 1970s gave most of their attention to the super-hero artists.



Roy Thomas for this blog: “Joe Kubert has been my favorite comic book artist since 1945.  He's probably one of the first comics creators I knew by name, since his signature was on many of the Hawkman stories I loved and continue to love.  He had a flair for dramatic layouts that was influenced by early Mort Meskin and, for me, rivaled the excitement of stories produced by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby in that period.  To me, his best work was in the TOR series he wrote and drew for St. John in the first half of the 1950s, but there's never been a Kubert job whose art didn't appeal to me... although, not being a fan of war comics, I rarely bought the Sgt. Rock and related material.  Joe was also a nice guy, and I'll never forget his friendliness to me the day I spoke with him at DC during my first week there.  One of the most treasured pieces of artwork in my collection is a 1946 Hawkman page he drew.”

I usually follow Lewis Carroll’s advice: start at the beginning and continue to the end and then stop.  But here, I want to begin with the points I made above and that Bill addresses so well in his books. For example, why Kubert did so little work for Marvel:

Bill writes:“…the new brass at DC (after Carmine Infantino left) were enamored with Kubert's work. Also, other publishers would have been more than happy to leap into the breach. According to Roy Thomas, who had succeeded Stan Lee as editor-in-chief of Marvel, "Stan once told me he'd love to have Joe Kubert come over from DC [to Marvel]. But he wanted to have Joe inked by another artist. I told Joe about that years later, and he said ‘What?!?' I can understand Stan's viewpoint. He liked Joe's structure and storytelling and dramatics, but Joe has a sort of sketchy, impressionistic inking style, and Stan always preferred tighter inking. He was thinking that, if he could get that pow­erful penciling but just tighten up the inking.... The problem is, with Joe, all you'd have as pencils is scribbles, since so much of his artwork is in his inking. Still, I'm sure Joe would've worked out well at Marvel then, as he did when he did a bit of work there years later. Of all the artists I most wanted to work with and didn't get a chance to, at the top of the list was Joe. But DC was still giving Joe plenty of work."'

As for his war stories:
Roy Thomas, quoted in Man of Rock … asked Kubert the following "what if" question: "I've wondered this for years; by the time Hawkman finally got a regular series in Mystery in Space after the second Brave & Bold tryout, you were too busy doing war stories and the like to be the artist [and Murphy Anderson was given the assignment]. But what if Hawkman had become a regular book a bit earlier? What if, instead of drawing B&B #42-44 as a second tryout, you'd have been drawing Hawkman #1-3—with #4 definitely scheduled for two months later, with no interruption in your schedule? Do you think it's more likely you'd have remained as Hawkman artist?"


Kubert answered, "I don't know. I might have. It would all have depended on my schedule at the time. But maybe then I'd have gotten busy doing Hawkman every two months, and I might not have been available for as much war work. It's hard to say. You know the reason I started doing all that work for Bob Kanigher on the war comics wasn't really because I loved war comics."




Bill continues, While it's true that Kubert had been the right artist for Hawkman in the 1940s, his artwork had changed so much that it was almost impossible to believe the new adventures of the Winged Wonders were drawn by the same person. This was partly the result of the evolution of a highly personal style, which he came up with outside the superhero genre. When Sgt. Rock came along, Kubert applied himself artwise to the nature and character of the strip; he developed a dark, gritty, impressionistic, somewhat illustrative approach that fit the war comic-book genre perfectly.
Kubert's lack of acceptance on a superhero feature highlighted how far his work had come, and how the change took him to an area not appreciated by a large portion of the comic-buying public. The evolved style that had partly come from an adaptation to the genres that dominated the 1950s began to show a downside when the heroes came roaring back in the Silver Age.

Schelly’s book begins where so many other books on famous comic creators do: Jewish immigrants settle in New York. Joe Kubert was born Yosaif Kubert in Ozeryany, Poland, in 1926,in an area that today is part of the Ukraine.

Kubert says, "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."

Bill writes: Some confusion exists with regard to the exact time frame of these early events. It has been thought that Kubert first appeared in the Harry "A" Chesler comic book production shop in the summer of 1938, not long after Action Comics #1 introduced Superman to the world. He would have been eleven years old, just finished with sixth grade. Kubert himself has often dated his first trip to Manhattan (for this purpose) in that year, at that age. However, in other accounts, he has stated with certainty that his first visit was to the offices of MLJ Publications, at the behest of a young relative of one of the firm's owners. His memories of that initial visit are clear and detailed. But if that was really his first such visit, then it had to be in 1939 when he was twelve years old, because MLJ didn't publish its first comic books until the latter part of that year. Moreover, the first MLJ comics were products of the Chesler shop, rather than being written and drawn by MLJ's own hired hands; it was only later, after a pay dispute, that much of Chesler's staff moved to MLJ to form an in-house bullpen. It seems most likely that Joe first got to Manhattan in 1939—not 1938—and upon showing up at the MLJ office, he was referred to Harry "A" Chesler where "their staff" was ensconced (though they were still working for Chesler). This squares best with Kubert's memory and the facts of the day, meaning he entered the industry only a year later than has been previously supposed. The date may never be able to be pinned down with a hundred percent certainty.
 


Certainly Kubert's first stint in a comics shop was with Harry Chesler, though it only amounted to being paid to sit at a table in the large studio and practice. For this, Chesler paid Kubert $5 a week.

Man of Rock, the carefully researched biography, provides details of Kubert’s life. One point that comes up frequently is how Kubert’s art evolved over the years. Kubert was influenced by the “Big Three” of American illustrators: Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond and Hal Foster, the latter making the biggest impression. Schelly explains and demonstrates Kubert’s evolution in Man of Rock and gives some black and white examples. The chapters are chronological order. The “big” illustrated book, The Art of Joe Kubert, divides his life into chronological art stages and shows wonderful representations of his different “periods.”

I asked Bill about doing three separate books. “When I was writing Man of Rock, Fantagraphics was publishing nice books reprinting Steve Ditko's stories from the Charlton comics of the 1950s. They were doing such a nice job restoring and presenting them, that I got the idea to suggest a similar archive of Kubert's pre-code work. Thus, we did Weird Horrors and Daring Adventures. As for The Art of Joe Kubert, I just felt that such a coffee table book should exist. So did Gary Groth, who was my editor as well as publisher. I felt it should have a substantial text, but not go over the same ground that I did in Man of Rock. Instead, I wrote 40,000 words tracing Kubert's artistic evolution: his influences, the reasons why his style changed over the years. We presented the artwork in roughly sequential order, with the most recent stuff toward the back of the book. I thought it worked out well.

Student Artist
Earliest Know work by Kubert, 1938 

Journeyman:

Several famous DC characters didn’t start out to be DC characters.  Many came from Max Gaines’ All–American Comics, later bought by DC, including the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and, of course, Hawkman. Because Hawkman, drawn by Sheldon Moldoff often looked so much like the Hawkmen that Alex Raymond had created for Flash Gordon, the editor at All–American, Sheldon Mayer, was looking for a new artist. Moldoff had also borrowed scenes from Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant. For a tryout script, Mayer gave Kubert a Dr. Fate story by Gardner Fox entitled “The Man Who Relived His Life.” It was for All-Star Comics #2 (Summer 1944). Liking the artwork from the almost eighteen-year old, Mayer then gave him a Hawkman story that would appear in the upcoming big All-American comic. It was called “A Hot Time in the Old Town.” Kubert earned Mayer’s approval and he was given the job of drawing Hawkman regularly in both Flash Comics and in All-Star Comics. What Shelly does so brilliantly here is discuss the artistic influences on Kubert’s life, including Mort Meskin and, believe it or not, Carl Barks in the Donald Duck stories in Walt Disney comics.





Neal Adams: "Joe's drawings seemed, from the very first, to come from a very primitive place. Like Frazetta, he ignored the boring and mundane and went directly to the powerful and dramatic. As Joe matured, he never lost that gut-level powerful style. In a world of technically proficient artists, Joe's gristle stands out and hits you in the face. My own style gains its grit almost totally from Joe Kubert."

Entrepreneur

One  may discuss the changes in Kubert’s style as other authors have and perhaps show an illustration or two, but Schelly gives us a beautiful book, The Art of Joe Kubert, and you can see this art for yourself, it’s wonderful.

“Kubert's subsequent stint as a comic book entrepreneur, mainly in conjunction with the pub­lisher Archer St. John, highlights another facet of his approach to the medium: The romantic, color­ful side of his creative personality. Also evident is the innovative spirit that led to the introduction of 3-D comic books, and the creative intelligence that resulted in Tor the Hunter, his caveman with a con­science, which showed what Kubert could do when he was both writing and drawing.
Then follows the great variety of genres Kubert handled in the mid-to-late 1950s after the 3-D experiment crashed and burned. With his auteurist aspirations now on hold, how would his art develop as he toiled for a variety of publishers, all of whose editors had different requirements and expectations? Kubert shuttled among many of them, including Harvey Kurtzman at EC, Stan Lee at Atlas, Charles Biro on the last issues of Crime Does Not Pay, and Robert Kanigher on the DC war comics. Having achieved a reputation for professionalism, versatility, and unstinting commitment to the work, Kubert unsurprisingly became one of DC's top-tier artists by the decade's end.”


                              Auteur and Tor

The Auteur section really belongs to Kubert’s Tor, which first appeared in 1953. Schelly proposes that this idea probably evolved from the sketches of dinosaurs and monsters which Kubert had done on the covers of Flash Comics, with inspiration from the Tarzan comics. Hal Roach’s One Million B.C., was a popular 1939 movie that also seems to be an inspiration.

Kubert wrote how “Tor” differs physically from his modern counterparts. “Note the heavy brow and strong jaw. I envisioned him as a skilled hunter whose broad nose is highly adapted to pick up a scent.  Short hair in front does not obstruct his sight while the hair in back protects his neck. Forearm lizard skin protects his wrists, torso and legs. He is heavily muscled, but success in his daily life depends on a combination of brain and brawn.”






Tor Artist Edition

Here is what Mark Hanerfeld wrote in Alter Ego #10, 1969:
You know the line. I mean the one about how comic-books can't really be art because so many people are involved in the production of the thing. And how there are different pencilers, and inkers and colorists. and how most of the stories are written by other people anyhow! … You almost always get it   from the ones who like their opinions … predigested (although, at times I have gotten it from people who should have known better). Whenever I get any of these people. I usually sit them down in a comfortable chair, and hit them with something I call the Tor Gambit…. That's when I hit them with the clincher. I double back to their original qualifications and tell them all about Tor.
It goes something like this: Back around 1953, there was this enterprising comics group called the St. John Publishing Co. whose publisher, Archer St. John, had the foresight and daring to allow an artist to edit, write, pencil, letter, ink, color, and even own the rights to his own character. Why, the artist even got to share in the magazine's profits! Unheard of!! The comic book was called Tor, and the artist was Joe Kubert. Tor was a caveman adventure strip set in the world of one million years ago, and although the ecological balance was a bit jumbled for story's sake, the strip had an air of reality about it that grew out of the powerfully-drawn characters and settings. Even though later issues occasionally employed the writing talents of Bob Bernstein and the inking talents of Bob Bean, the strip still bore the distinctive stamp of a Joe Kubert creation; the product of one man’ s thought and imagination.
From Alter Ego #10



By the time I've finished haranguing my poor victim with words and with illustrations if I have my copies of the magazines handy), he is customarily ready to grudgingly admit that, yes, some comic-books can be art. No mean accomplishment, I assure you. But chances are, if you're reading this, you already know all that because you already are a comics fan. However, if you're a new fan, you may not have heard of, let alone actually seen Tor. Well, let's remedy that situation here and now!

Tor’s premier appearance was in the September 1953 issue of a comic entitled  on the cover as “1,000,000 YEARS AGO!” Eventually the book would be retitled “Tor In The World of 1 Million Years Ago.” However the book was first conceived as a multiple feature magazine, and contents of the first issue included a one-page introduction by co-creators and longtime friends Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer; an 11-page Tor origin tale by Kubert, a six-page caveman humor feature called “The Wizard of Ugghh” by Maurer, and seven pages of “Danny Dreams,” a strip by Kubert that was destined to be a co-feature in all future Tor issues.

Don Glut “Thanks to the work and obvious love that went into the series what might have become a standard adventure strip, with a man battling monsters within the usual prehistoric world settings and situation, was elevated to art.”

Tor was to appear and reappear many times throughout Kubert’s career. And at different companies, including Marvel and DC.


The 1950s:

Three from Atlas/Marvel:


Battle #37, 1955 (Thanks to Michael J. Vassallo, Y.S.G.)

Uncanny Tales #26, 1955

Marines in Battle #7, 1955

The 1950s was a difficult time for comics. Declining sales were caused by the new TV programs, the comic book reader becoming older, and loss of sales to the military which had been huge during World War II. As we all know, crime and horror comics seemed to be what everyone wanted to read. One of the things I like about Bill Schelly’s books is that he assumes you know about the Comics Code and how it started in 1955 and does not spend a lot of time on it, although it is always summarized. In Weird Horrors and Daring Adventures, Schelly reprints 33 Kubert stories from 1944 to 1955. “Free from the conservative constraints of DC comics where he cut his teeth on Hawkman in Flash Comics one can sense the visceral joy that he felt as he tackled the pulpy, punchy scripts that came his way.” Instead of single panels, we get over thirty stories, reprinted with great quality and care. While it says Volume I it will be the only volume. Schelly: “The book sold well, but used most of the top rate public domain material, and just about ALL the good pre-Code horror and crime (plus we'd used 50 pages of great stuff in The Art of Joe Kubert.”


Here is a very interesting part of the saga, presented well.  The Art of Joe Kubert presents  many interesting pictures from this era.





Weird Horrors publishes 33 complete stories, reproduced very well. Other publishers have reprinted some of these stories but not so carefully.   Here are three, back to  back examples
.

On your left are Schelly's reprints from Strange Worlds. On the right are the  recent reprints from PS Publishing.







As Bill writes in “Man of Rock” in later years, Kubert would have an interesting take on this difficult time: "I know it was tough on some people, but it's been my experience that every once in a while, there's a shaking out point [in comics]. During times when books are generally selling well, people are hired not because they're really good, but because they are just barely good enough. They can turn the stuff out, often for less money, but when the going gets a little rough, when the competition gets a little heavy, when books are not selling so well, then quality is really the deciding factor on whether a book gets published. The first ones to go are those people who have marginal abilities.
"I have found that during the bad times, the good guys are busier than ever because that's when the editors and publishers are very, very selective. Invariably, the people who are really good are inundated, because everyone wants top qual­ity. It's really ironic, but during lean times, the better people are busier than they’ve ever been.”

Professional: Silver Age

One of the most important jobs Kubert ever did was inking the pencils of Carmine Infantino for the premiere of the Barry Allen Flash in Showcase #4 (Sep-Oct 1956). How did he get this job? Joe speculated in later years, “... it was probably no more complicated than I happen to show up at the DC offices when they needed the issue inked in a hurry. I had experience inking Carmine’s pencils. It was as simple as that.”

With the success of the Flash, editor Julius Schwartz began to bring back other Golden Age heroes. The Brave and the Bold #34 (Feb-Mar 1961) featured the first Silver Age Hawkman story, “The Creature of a Thousand Shapes!” It was written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Joe.



About the new updated, science-fictional Hawkman, Kubert wrote, “Julius Schwartz asked me if I would be interested in drawing Hawkman again. My answer was a resounding yes! I believe Hawkman will benefit from my experience of two decades in the comic book business. I feel I can imply things I couldn’t even visualize 15 years ago. I sincerely hope that the readers will enjoy reading Hawkman as much as I will enjoy drawing him.”








Sgt. Rock was not created by Kubert. In fact he often said that “Rock was Bob’s (Kanigher) idea from start to finish, as far as I’m concerned.” Sgt. Rock’s origin is a bit of a controversy. That’s because people other than Kanigher wrote several stories in the series and several artists illustrated them. The story “The Rock” in G.I. Combat #68, 1959, was when the name Rock was first used. Kubert was given tremendous leeway in how he wanted to present the stories by his editor and writer, Kanigher. Kubert developed the look and the feel of the strip which made it so successful.








Enemy Ace
Kanigher: "Joe, I've got an idea for a new character. A World War One air ace. He's a loner, moody, and has downed more enemy planes than all the other pilots in his group combined. "His fellow flyers can't get close to him. He's different from the others. His only friend is a wild wolf in the forest. Wordlessly, they communicate. Both are killing machines and their common fate is loneliness. And here's the kicker, Joe. The flyer is a German air ace." (From Enemy Ace Archives #1)
Joe Kubert: So, when Bob asked if I'd be interested in illustrating the Enemy Ace stories, my answer was a resounding affirmative. Bob always had the ability, both in writing and orally, to evoke a strong response in my imagination. His words had the power to create clear, exciting, dramatic, dynamic pictures in my mind. I could see the pictures as I would want to draw them, and I couldn't wait to get to my drawing board.
When I got the first script from Bob, it was my responsibility to research my end of the project. As I've done with all my stories, my first steps were to the library and bookstores to find as many picture references as possible. In this case I was particularly hard driven to educate myself in terms of the air war of World War One. The character of the Enemy Ace and the script drove me. I wanted to achieve a credible picture that would be accepted by the readers, just as I had accepted the premise of the story.
Two from the Enemy Ace Artist Editions




Tales of the Green Berets

Schelly points out that too many of the summaries of Kubert’s life concentrate solely on Hawkman (Golden and Silver Age), Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock.

Yet if one were to stop with the heights his art reached on "Rock," "Hawkman," and "Enemy Ace," as Kubert approached his 40th year, one would miss the further growth that came when he drew the Tales of the Green Beret newspaper comic strip, or when he became the editor, writer, and artist of DC's relaunch of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan in the 1970s. These accomplishments reveal new fac­ets of the Kubert aesthetic. Similarly, the curriculum of the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art, founded in 1976, tells a great deal about his personal approach to telling stories in sequential art form. The way Kubert dealt with the multitude of changes that came to the comic book industry in the 1980s and 1990s, both technical and creative, is also illuminating.
Throughout his career, Joe Kubert has shown a questing creative spirit, remarkable energy and commitment to the work, and an exceptional ability to evoke all the excitement and emotional potentialities the four-color medium can offer. Thus, his work is deservedly ranked with other writer-artists who loom largest in the history of comics.

Often, the goal of a comic book artist was to draw a daily or weekly comic strip which paid more money. Kubert got his opportunity when Neal Adams, who had drawn the Dr. Kildare comic strip, declined to draw a comic strip based on Robin Moore’s novel The Green Berets. Upon getting the job, Kubert visited the Special Warfare Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Kubert said, “Now that I see the men themselves I recognize most of them from the book Robin wrote. I seem to be meeting old friends. I can now draw these people; they are no longer vague or fictional characters. They are real. Period. I’ll remember those eyes whenever I draw a Green Beret soldier.” There was no Sunday page at first, so Kubert worked to create a 12-week series of three- and four-panel daily strips. After a test run in September 1965, the series began on Monday, April 4, 1966. It was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. This was, unfortunately, just as the Viet Nam anti-war protests erupted across the United States and more and more papers stopped running the series. The writer, Jerry Capp. kept inserting his politics into the strip, making it less of an adventure story. Kubert walked away from drawing it on January 7, 1968.


 (Scans thanks to Michael J. Vassallo, Y.S.G.)



Tony Isabella for this blog: Kubert's lifetime of accomplishments is staggering to consider.  All those great comics.  His work on the Tales of the Green Beret newspaper strip.  His work on PS Magazine for the military.  His school and all the wonderful comics creators who passed through its halls.


Tarzan, 1972:

One bright, sunny day, Carmine (Infantino) called me into his office. "Joe," he said with a broad smile, "how would you like to do Tarzan?" Carmine and I had known each other since we started in this business. If anyone knew of my love for Burroughs' Tarzan, he did. I jumped at it.
Here was an opportunity for me to connect again with the joys of my childhood. To infuse myself into the world of Tarzan, the Ape-Man, and to write and draw the character that had been an inspiration to me.



First, I re-read all the Tarzan novels. This was step one in re-acquainting myself with the origin. Then, I studied Foster's work, some of which I had never seen before. I learned that Tarzan first appeared in newspapers as a series of captioned illustrations rather than sequential panels. In fact, Foster never included balloons for dialogue in either Tarzan or in his later work, Prince Valiant. My intent in doing Tarzan was to inject the excitement and immediacy that I felt when I read Tarzan for the very first time. I made every effort to recapture the reality that was so pervasive to me.”


Robin Snyder, for this blog:  I knew and loved the forward-moving Kubert and worked with him at DC, Western and The Comics! He was always focused on the here and now and looking up ahead to the current and next project. Ask him about an issue of Rock from 1, 10 or 20 years back and he would only generalize. Out of sight, out of mind. Ask him about his current work and he could be very specific, enthusiastic.

  We attended a comics convention and were discussing cover design. I mentioned to him that I long ago had imagined the same artist had drawn the covers of The Brave and the Bold, G.I. Combat, Our Army at War and Wonder Woman. I told him they looked similar to me.
Showcase #87


Our Army At War #196


  Joe asked about the period and I told him this was in the mid-50s. He laughed and suggested I was recognizing the design elements of Kanigher and not the execution by Novick, Grandenetti, Kubert and Hasen.

  An aside. Yes, I was able to differentiate the artists on the inside but not the covers. Joe’s Tor looked nothing like Novick’s war stories. 


School Days


Bill also presents the time that Kubert served as an editor and gives a great deal of the history  information on the comic art school Kubert opened and ran.
Lesson #1





Graphic Novelist.









Tony Isabella for this blog: What made me admire Kubert even more was his ability, right to the end of his life, to create comic books and graphic novels that were every bit as good and, in the case of Yossel, better than even the incredible comics he had done in the past.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to tell him how much I loved Yossel when he was a guest at a Mid-Ohio-Con.







I asked Bill Schelly why he did three separate books on Kubert.  Here are the questions and answers:

How old were you when you started reading comics? 
 Eight years old, during the summer of 1960. If I read comics before that, which I might have, I don't remember them at all.

 What was your first comic? 
The first one was either the Nancy and Sluggo Summer Camp giant of 1960, which I realized decades later, was written by the great John Stanley, or the Giant Superman Annual #1, which came out about a week later.

 Was there a comic that “hooked” you?
 It was that Giant Superman Annual in 1960. When I saw it on the newsstand, it just jumped out at me. I don't know exactly why. I must have known who Superman was, maybe from reruns of the Adventures of Superman TV show. I think it was because it was an 80-page "special" comic book, which had "everything about Superman." The minute I convinced my Dad to buy it for me, I had my nose in it, and was absolutely spellbound. I loved the colorful, imaginative artwork and of course the Man of Steel himself. After that, I did what I could to get my hands on more Superman comic books, and it just went on from there.


When did you start noticing or keeping track of artists in the comics?
 My comic book reading from eight to about eleven was almost exclusively Superman and Batman comic books. I was probably ten when I began to really notice differences in the way Superman was drawn, and decided I liked Superman best when he was drawn by Wayne Boring or Curt Swan, although I didn't know their names. These were in issues from 1960 to 1962 or so. Same with Batman. For me, Dick Sprang was the "good Bob Kane." But it wasn't until I got into Marvel Comics in late 1963 that I knew the names of the artists, since they published them right on the first page of each story. I became a huge fan of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby
 How did you discover the Golden Age of Comics? Who were your favorite Golden Age creators or characters?
 The back cover of Giant Superman Annual #1 in 1960 gave me the first awareness that there were comic books published "a long time ago," because it had the covers of Superman #1 and other early covers. It wasn't until I joined comic fandom in 1964 that I began hearing about "the golden age" and realized that comics had been published way back in the days before World War II.  My favorite creators were Otto Binder and C. C. Beck on Captain Marvel, and Will Eisner's The Spirit, in those great old newspaper inserts published all through the 1940s.

 When did you first discover Joe Kubert?
 I was a little too young to appreciate Kubert's work on the Hawkman revival in The Brave and the Bold. I saw the ads for those issues, but only saw them if a friend had one, or at the barber shop. They seemed too dark and confusing for my young brain. At that time, I loved Sheldon Moldoff's work on Batman, which was neat, clean and colored in bright primary colors.

 When did you first see his Golden Age Hawkman? What did you think of those stories and what did they tell you about Kubert?

 I came late to the Golden Age Hawkman, since I didn't own any Golden Age comic books due to their cost, when all I had for spending money was my allowance. I probably first saw them when a story was reprinted during DC's big reprint binge of the early 1970s. By then, I had become a fan of his work on Sgt. Rock. I started to appreciate Kubert when I read those Sgt. Rock-Viking Prince "team up" stories, and also Enemy Ace.



I’ll leave the final words to Bill and I echo his thoughts on this!!!!

All three books are still in print. And I'd like to encourage all true-blue Kubert fans to buy all three, as they complement each other quite well. It's not about making money -- it's about wanting those books to be read and appreciated, since so much loving care went into them, and because I really believe they all offer something unique and valuable about Joe's amazing art and career. I hate to think of the remaining copies just sitting there, unread. And they are all, by now, available at pretty good discounts somewhere on the internet.

I would like to greatly thank Carl Thiel, Michael J. Vassallo, Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella and Robin Snyder for their efforts in putting this together!!!!!




An Addendum: Kubert's work for Marvel

8 comments:

  1. I've got one of Bill's books - Sense Of Wonder: A Life In Comic Fandom - really enjoyed it. I'll keep an eye out for his others. Cheers, Barry.

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  2. Thank you, Barry, for this blog on Joe Kubert. Joe has been on my list of great artists ever since I first saw his art. I particularly enjoyed his Enemy Ace illustrated stories and when he drew a cover for one of DC's superhero comics like Batman or those Atom & Hawkman comics, it was on my must buy list. I bought those Ragman comics because of Kubert's covers. Kubert was one of the first artists whose work I could immediately identify with just one look. It was distinctive and along with Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino, he was one of my favorites at DC.

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    1. Anthony, I am very glad you like this.

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  3. Kid, were any of his comics available to you in Great Britain?

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    1. Oh, yeah, for sure, Barry. Sgt Rock, Hawkman, Tarzan, etc. From at least the '60s and '70s onwards, most DC Kubert comics were readily available here.

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  4. Great writing.
    Thank you for your wonderful efforts, and especially for bringing more light into the work of Joe Kubert. I'm a big fan, especially of his early war books.

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  5. Wonderful post, Barry. One question — that page from Uncanny Tales #26. The first two panels look Ditko. The next two, not so much. Any thoughts? —(I found my way here from a Facebook page you just joined. So glad you did. Your photos of books from your collection are wonderful.)

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  6. Great post! Being a Marvel kid, I came to appreciate Joe Kubert's work later. I loved his 60s Hawkman and studied it when I was drawing my own comic. I was lucky enough to meet Joe at a con in 2000 in White Plains, NY. He had a grip of steel and we discussed brushes for inking since I bought my brush from his school's website. A very nice man.

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