Yesterday pioneering cartoonist Joe Kubert passed away at the age of 85. Kubert was famous for creating and defining such characters as the hard-as-nails Sergeant Rock, the supernatural crime-fighter Ragman, the DC Comics stalwart Hawkman, and the caveman Tor, whose prehistoric adventures were catalogued in Kubert's experimental 3D comics.

For decades, Kubert was one of the comic industry's finest and most prolific artists. In a 1994 interview with The Comics Journal, Kubert recalled how his parents — who were both immigrants from Poland — allowed him to cultivate a love of art in a time when such pursuits weren't considered practical:

I can remember my earliest years a love for drawing. I was really blessed and fortunate in that I could pursue that which I loved to do. I've been drawing since I was three years old, since I can remember. I recall when I was a kid of three or four, I used to be given boxes of chalk by the neighborhood people. Penny boxes of chalk, so I could draw in the gutters. They enjoyed seeing me draw. My parents came from the type of background where if you didn't do something that would eventually result in you getting a job, they would not permit you to "idle away your time" in that manner. That's the way most people thought at that time, especially immigrants. But like I say, I was lucky. My parents saw how much I loved drawing and encouraged me in every possible way, never deterred me; they did everything to help me. I was very, very lucky.

Kubert would impart this love of drawing to his sons Adam and Andy — who are both successful comic book illustrators in their own right — and to his students at The Kubert School, a cartooning academy Kubert founded in 1978 in Dover, New Jersey. His art kept him young and extraordinarily busy — note the telling self-portrait at the top of this page.

One of Kubert's most recent comics was the DC Comics miniseries Before Watchman: Nite Owl, a collaboration with his son Andy. ("What I'm doing is just embellishing [Andy's] work with ink," he quipped.) In an interview this past June with The Star-Ledger, the artist discussed his rigorous routine:

Though Joe Kubert surpassed any formal age of retirement years ago, besides running the school, the artist keeps working, advancing a decades-rich résumé with his pick of projects. He can't help but grin after he says, "I'm busy." [...] He draws from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and until noon on weekends, with a break in the day once a week to teach narrative art to third-year Kubert students. "And I mean every day and not because I have to, but because I want to," he said.


Comic Book Resources has also rounded up twenty-five of Kubert's most memorable covers, and commenter The Mutt mentions one that makes a handsome twenty-sixth addition — the cover to 1966's Star-Spangled War Stories #129, which showcased DC Comics' "dinosaurs versus World War II commandos" storyline The War That Time Forgot.

Yes, that is a man dogfighting while half-naked and riding a pterodactyl and that illustration has buckets of gravitas. 1970s comic blog Diversions of the Groovy Kind has also collected some of Kubert's best work from that decade, including his gothic and pulpy work on Ragman.


And while we're on the topic of Star-Spangled War Stories, there's this absolutely incredible cover to issue #126, in which an otherwise normal gorilla ends up fighting World War II for reasons inexplicable. (In a later interview, Kubert would claim he didn't remember illustrating that particular comic.)

And for a look back at Kubert's early days, here's some of his comic work from the 1940s, when the artist was publishing superhero comics at the age of but 16.


[Via The Star-Ledger]