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This 1969 Joe Kubert tribute comic will make you love the man even more – DC Special #5

July 23, 2013


We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of Joe Kubert’s passing. Much was said about the man last August 12th and the days following, most if not all of it celebrating a magnificent body of work that put him on the Mount Rushmore of his industry. It seemed like Kubert had been in comics from the beginning, and hence it seemed that he’d be around forever. This made his death more of a blow to the comic aficionado public than it might have otherwise been. That his distinctive, elegant, humble signature will no longer grace stop-you-in-your-tracks covers is still hard to believe. But through his artist sons, Adam and Andy, through the countless students who passed under his eponymous school’s tutelage, and through his magnificent art, immortality has in a sense been achieved. He’s missed but remembered.

There’s no greater testament to the breadth of his career and his longevity than the comic before us today. Kubert had been around long enough and developed such an oeuvre that it was deemed kosher to give him a retrospective book 40+ years ago, complete with cracks about him being old as Methuselah. As an old political science professor of mine once joked: “Strom Thurmond ran for president against Harry Truman, and he wasn’t young then!” Same thing here — minus the race-baiting, of course.  

DC Special was a boutique book DC put out in the ’60s and ’70s, one that would often feature reprints centered around a unified theme: “Strange Sports Stories” and the like. The first issue was an artist retrospective for Carmine Infantino, and was dear old Carmine, in his Big Boss Man, capacity that got the ball rolling on this one. At least that’s what this opening page would have us believe — the aforementioned Methuselah jibe lies within:


What follows are five pages of self-referential Kubert bliss. In “A Cartoonist — At Home” we get a quirky, funny inside peak at the behind-the-scenes magic-making in the Kubert household. But first we get an outside view of chez Joe, which looks to be interchangeable with either Cain’s or Abel’s domiciles. Behold old biddies Martha and Gertrude (you could call either of these crows Mildred and be just as much on the money):


Those two broads are so Kubert.

We pan up and inside to gaze upon the man himself, chained to his labors:


No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you — that’s a Firehair reference you see there. More on him in a moment. (Love the distortion from the jar, by the way.)

Poor Joe is hunched over his work straight through the night, and the next day the whole Kubert brood busts in on him. Are they Kuberts or Waltons?:


First, it had to be great fun for Kubert to draw his family like this. Second, Dave dressed like Fred from Scooby-Doo. Third, did Joe and Andy have a little thing going, a questioning inflection at the end of a sentence? Fourth, they look like a big, happy family. Good for them.

An artist’s work is never done, and after plowing through the night Joe still has to go into the office that day. There he finds a pile of mail that looks to have been diverted from Santa Claus’ Miracle on 34th Street batch:


Did LBJ ever take up cartooning during his brief post-presidency? The world may never know.

So closes this delightful opening salvo. A number DC reprints hand-picked by Joe follow: the Viking Prince, Hawkman, Sgt. Rock, and an old Showcase tale called “Rider of the Winds.” But this isn’t the end of the original Kubert-centric content. We also have this facetious answering of “fan” mail:


Finally there’s this fun two-page spread, in which Kubert recreates the old looks of classic characters that he worked on over the years (apologies for Hawkman becoming “HWKMAN” thanks to the comic’s square binding):


There’s Firehair again. Yes, Firehair, the Native American Jimmy Olsen (or is it vice versa?), not to be confused with the Golden Age female of the same name. You can feel Kubert’s optimism about the then-fresh character’s future, and you always have to admire that feeling of hope present in every act of creation. That said, all I can say about Firehair is this: I’ve had his first Showcase appearance sitting in in a pile on my desk here for the past two years, waiting for the right moment to say a few words about the guy. I haven’t gotten around to it yet. That kind of says it all, you know? (That said, maybe this will shame me into action.)

I never met Joe Kubert. I only know him through his work and his reputation. He always sounded like a real nice guy, one who gave of himself without reserve during his many years. This book, with its sense of fun and homage to family, only reinforces that impression. And it makes you miss him all the more.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. docvoltage permalink
    July 24, 2013 11:35 am

    I met Joe Kubert at the San Diego Comic Con the year his ABRAHAM STONE graphic novel came out. He was signing each copy with a sketch and most everybody was asking for an ENEMY ACE (George Pratt’s book had recently been published). When I requested TARZAN, his eyes lit up and while he was telling me how much he loved that character, he drew me a full-figure Tarzan swinging between vines in something like 3 minutes. Perfect sketch. He was nice to everybody!

    A little later I see him inn the hall and just approached him to chat. Well, he makes small talk with me and Julie Schwartz comes up. Mr. Kubert is too polite to send me off, so he introduces me and they start to chat. Well, after a minute or two I did excuse myself, but I was so impressed that even while the two were talking, their body language and eye contact never excluded me. Very, very gracious!

    Overall, Joe Kubert impressed me as a prince of a guy. He just exuded warmth and friendliness and you could see in his eyes that here was a genuinely happy man.

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