It was jarring to me. I respected and loved the work of all of them. I also liked them all on a personal but individual basis. But when I saw what the comic book industry was doing to them, I think I liked it a little less. Those men all deserved better.
– Mark Evanier, commenting on the observation by Howard Chaykin that Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and other DC artists “regarded each other with distaste, frequently bordering on genuine loathing.”
It’s stuff like this that brings home to me how screwed up the comics industry was for so many years. I understand on an intellectual level that things were bad, but hearing how it inspired jealousy and soured relationships puts it into an emotional context that I hadn’t felt before.
I’m not saying we have a utopia today, but creators do have more options if they want more than what they’re getting from work-for-hire. Creator-owned comics are not only more welcomed than ever by readers, but they’re also proving popular with people outside of comics, which can turn into real money. Again, I’m not saying we’ve reached the Promised Land yet, but I think it’s fair to say we’ve at least left Egypt.
I’m reading Glen Weldon‘s Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, and I’m still in the chapters on the Golden Age. What’s struck me was just how quickly Superman became a national phenomenon. Within a year of his first appearance in an anthology book (that he wouldn’t be on the cover of for another five issues after the first), there was a syndicated newspaper strip about him. According to Weldon, Time magazine called the character “the No. 1 juvenile vogue in the U.S.” Within two years, there was a radio show. Within three, Max Fleischer’s studio was making animated short films. And then there were all the dolls, games, puzzles, and coloring books. That was a stunning amount of success in a very short amount of time.
Welcome to the very last Food or Comics. Next week our new-release picks will take a different format, but this week we’re still talking about what comics we’d buy at our local shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
Let’s be honest, if I had $15, I’d make sure that Batman Incorporated #8 (DC Comics, $2.99) was first on my list. Not because of any controversy — I’ve been enjoying the series all along — but because I’d be worried it’d sell out if I waited. I’d also grab two Dynamite books: Jennifer Blood #23 and Masks #4 (both $3.99); Al Ewing has done just insane, amazing things on the former, and the Chris Roberson/Dennis Calero team on the latter is just killing it.
If I had $30, I’d find myself time traveling to all the weeks prior in which I didn’t use all $30 to borrow a dollar from past-me, just so that I could get Showcase Presents Justice League of America, Vol. 6 (DC Comics, $19.99), which takes the series firmly into the 1970s and brings the team face to face with villains including the Shaggy Man, Amazo and countless other favorites of my childhood.
Should I have some splurging left in me after that nostalgia-fest, I’d likely go for the Judge Anderson: PSI Files, Vol. 3 collection (Rebellion, $32.99), which picks the series up just after I’d dropped off the 2000AD radar for awhile, and hopefully gives me the chance to get back into the character, now that I am firmly into Thrill Power again.
When Joe Kubert passed away in August, he left a sizable hole in the world of comics, by virtue of his lifelong career in the field, his fairly unique role as one of the medium’s first and most influential teachers, and his immense talent.
At the time of his death, many of the obituaries and remembrances mentioned he was still drawing comics at his advanced age, and that, in fact, he had projects on his drawing board.
I suspect a lot of people will be contemplating Kubert’s work this week, and mourning his loss, as Wednesday the major publisher with which he was most associated throughout his career released some of his latest and, sadly, last work, giving readers to chance to see some of that stuff of that was on his drawing board when he passed away: an eerie, unfinished story for a Vertigo anthology and the first issue of a new limited series bearing Kubert’s name.
The Vertigo anthology is Ghosts, and Kubert’s piece is “The Boy and the Old Man;” it’s about a brave old warrior on his figurative deathbed, lying there awaiting his end, and, ultimately, vigorously fighting against it when it arrives, in order to save a young man.
Fantagraphics has a first look at Weird Horrors & Daring Adventures: The Joe Kubert Archives Vol. 1, the upcoming 240-page hardcover collecting 33 of the late artist’s stories from the pre-Comics Code era — “they are more thrilling, violent and sexy (by contemporary standards) than much of his later, Code-constrained work” — with fantastic titles like “Bloody Yesterday,” “Marion Gilmore … Queen of the Waterfront Gangs” and “Death’s Pool!” It’s not all blood and violence, though, as the collection also features stories from Meet Miss Pepper and Abbott and Costello Comics.
The $39.99 book doesn’t ship for another couple of months, but Fantagraphics is offering a 22-page preview on its website.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
It’s an odd one for me this week; if I had $15, I’d probably just grab two of DC’s Zero Month books (Batman Incorporated and Flash, both $2.99) and then skip straight to the $30 portion of the week so that I could pick up the Showcase Presents Amethyst, Vol. 1 collection (DC, $19.99), if only to reassure me that the original series was good after last week’s revival.
If I were to splurge, I’d step outside of DC’s purview and go for IDW’s Joe Kubert Tarzan Artist Edition. I was one of the many people who didn’t really “get” Kubert as a kid, but his linework won me over as I got older, and the chance to see some of his best-looking art in ”real size” is something that I’d love to be able to embrace.
If I had $15, I’d get Batman Incorporated #0, probably the only DC zero book I’ll get, and Vol. 11 of Yotsuba&!, because I could use some irrepressibly cute manga about an adorable green-haired girl right about now.
If I had $30, I’d put away Yotsuba&! and get Barbara, Osamu Tezuka’s manga about a would-be artist who takes in a lovely but strange homeless woman, only to become convinced that she is his personal muse. I know there was a bit of grumbling that DMP went the Kickstarter route in getting this published, but honestly, I’m just happy to have more Tezuka in print.
What constitutes a splurge purchase? How about six, hardcover, slipcased volumes of Robert Crumb’s sketchbook work, priced at about $1,600, courtesy of the fine folks at Taschen? Yeah, I think buying that would be a “splurge purchase.” It would also constitute sheer madness and a one-way trip to the poorhouse, but at least you’d have all those nice Crumb books to keep you company. I’m sure they’d make a fine pillow.
What do you do when you combine a love for ’70s American comics, training at the Joe Kubert School and a passion for manga? Adam Warren (@EmpoweredComic), that’s what you get. And since graduation from Kubert in 1988, the New England artist has forged his own path in comics that’s classic and exotic, and all-around fun.
For the past five years, Warren has spent the majority of his working (and waking) hours on his creator-owned series Empowered, published by Dark Horse. Described as an “episodic sexy superhero comedy,” it follows the titular superheroine who wears a skintight costume that strengthens and weakens based on her relative self-esteem. With body issues, personal issues and the whole crime-fighting thing, her esteem is far from invincible. Emp, her boyfriend Thugboy and BFF Ninjette fight crime and spend their down time together in various states of anger, happiness and undress.
Empowered is de facto second act for Warren, who rose to fame importing and re-writing and drawing the manga/anime series Dirty Pair. Since then, he’s branched out to work as a writer and an artist for DC Comics and Marvel, but he continues to find the greatest success on his own on series like Empowered. I spoke with Warren this month about the longevity of Empowered, the new one-shot with guest artist Ryan Kinnaird, and Warren’s own issues of being a writer/artist, an artist and sometimes just a writer.
Digital comics | Watchmen co-creator David Gibbons discusses the comics he’s making for the Madefire digital app: “The term that we bandied around was that reading comics on the Madefire platform is a bit like reading comics on “intelligent” paper in that it’s got all the virtues of regular paper but it can do a whole lot of other things that a printed version can’t. There are wonderful things it can do with movement of the tablet, with animated transitions, and with ambient and event sound. We’ve also talked about creating the new grammar of graphic storytelling.” [ICv2]
Creators | A sold-out appearance by Stan Lee scheduled for Sept. 27 at Ohio’s Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has been canceled because of what the legendary writer’s agent reportedly described as “a very serious circumstance.” The library had sold 2,300 tickets for the “Authors! Authors!” series event, which had already been moved from April 18 because of a scheduling conflict. Lee, who turns 90 in December, cut short some public appearances in May, with a spokesman citing promotional fatigue and the death of Lee’s longtime business associate Arthur Lieberman. [Toledo Blade]
The legacy of Joe Kubert is rich and varied, from his school to his work on Sgt. Rock, Hawkman and other DC Comics properties. But one aspect of his career isn’t often a focus: He was among the first comic book professional to own his own character, predating the current creator-owned movement by more than 50 years.
The prehistoric Tor first appeared in 1,000,000 Years Ago #1, published in 1953 and edited by Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer. Its contents were owned by the book’s publisher, St. John Publications. But then in 1958, St. John abandoned comics and simply turned the rights to Tor over to Kubert.
How did he pull that off? By asking. As Tom Spurgeon’s obituary at The Comics Reporter explains, “Kubert said that receiving the copyright on Tor was as simple as requesting from the heir to the St. John publishing enterprise that the copyright be returned to him after the publisher had moved away from comics. The legally appropriate person provided a letter doing just that.”
If only it were that easy now!
College basketball season starts back up in November, so that makes thinking about bracketology only a little less premature. Looking at the various discrete (and, occasionally, indirect) crossovers happening throughout November’s New 52 solicitations, I couldn’t help but picture the field of 68, with each individual game a step along the way to … “Trinity War,” I guess …?
Green Lantern’s “Rise of the Third Army” occupies the four GL titles, of course, but it also brings in Justice League, where the solicit for issue #14 wonders where Hal is. (After reading this week’s GL #12, I have a better idea about that.) Likewise, GL #14 guest-stars the League.
From the solicits I wonder if “ROT3A” takes place mainly in GL (with a little JL on the side). “Night of the Owls” was advertised that way (you only need to read Batman, because the other Bat-books dealt with ancillary stories) and it kind-of fits with the way the New-52 books have hyped their creative teams. Johns, Scott Snyder, and Jeff Lemire are responsible for a total of seven books (GL, JL, Aquaman, Batman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, JL Dark), and each writer has at least one book in some sort of crossover this month.
As the comics community continues to process the news of Joe Kubert’s death, everything else feels very secondary. One way of honoring the legendary artist and teacher is by appreciating his art, and the art of his peers. Steve Niles discovered this series of art jams featuring a Kubert Hawkman alongside Wendy Pini’s Elfquest characters, Neal Adams’ Conan, Dave Cockrum’s Human Torch, and others. The rest of the jams include characters drawn by C.C. Beck, John Romita, John Byrne, George Perez, Gray Morrow, Dave Sim, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Al Williamson, Chester Gould, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t know the history behind these pieces, but it occurs to me that many of these comics legends are still with us. In addition to saying our good-byes to Mr. Kubert and offering appreciations of his work, another great way to honor his legacy might be to reach out and express similar appreciation to living creators whose work we love.
How better to remember the late, great Joe Kubert than with this 1965 photo from the Morris County, New Jersey, Daily Record showing him at the drawing board with son Andy (age 3 1/2)? “The Green Beret” mentioned in the caption is Tales of the Green Beret, the comic strip the elder Kubert drew from 1965 to 1968 (it spun out of the novel of the same by Robin Moore).
The DC Comics blog featured the photo about two years ago, when Joe and Andy Kubert were collaborating on the first two issues of DC Universe: Legacies. Andy wrote at the time: “I came across this old newspaper photo in my files that I had totally forgotten about which my mom had given me about 15-20 years ago. It was taken in my dad`s studio in the house I grew up in … his studio was above the attached garage overlooking the woods in the backyard. I still remember the smell of the paper and ink in there. He would let me set up a little area to draw and read comics as he drew. I loved the war, mystery and Superman and Batman comics. He would also show me a few drawing tricks (and still does!). From the looks of the photo, I don’t know how he put up with me in there!”
“Kubert was a giant of our industry, a singular talent up there on the mountaintop with masters like Gil Kane, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby,” J.M. DeMatteis wrote on his blog. “His art was dynamic, powerful and, most of all, rich with humanity and emotional impact. Like Kirby, he was one of comics’ greatest cover artists. Like Eisner, Kubert got better with time and age (one look at his recent graphic novel, Yossel, more than proves that point): his work achieved a kind elegance and simplicity that made storytelling seem effortless, easy.”
In a lengthy remembrance, Mark Evanier shares a story from a mid-1970s San Diego Comic-Con:
Everyone loved Joe. Everyone respected Joe. He was among a handful of artists whose speed and natural ability caused others to gape and express their envy. One year at the Comic-Con in San Diego (the same mid-seventies con where I took the above photo), Joe was asked to do a drawing for a charity art auction. He stepped up to an easel with a big, yard-high piece of drawing paper on it. He picked up a box of pastel chalks. He turned to the easel —
— and in under a minute, there was this drawing there of Hawkman. It was an incredible, detailed drawing that might have taken another artist an hour and been a third as good. Other artists working on nearby easels stopped and blinked in amazement.
July’s a great time to anticipate October: football; temperatures on the brisk side; the crisp smell of falling leaves; the cold rains that somehow aren’t depressing. I also like that DC Comics seems to be settling into its own seasonal patterns, using the fall to set up a slew of new creative teams and launch big new storylines. Having all those #13 issues in the run-up to Halloween doesn’t hurt either.
Of course, now we get to judge them all harshly, based on a few sentences and a photo for each….
COMINGS AND GOINGS
John Layman and Jay Fabok come aboard Detective Comics, replacing Tony Daniel. Daniel leaves regular Bat-work after several years writing and penciling in various combinations. I was never really enthralled with his writing, which seemed content mostly to approximate what a Batman story should be; but if Detective’s sales are any indication, I am in the minority. Daniel moves over to Justice League for two issues, so that likely eases the pain.
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DC Comics celebrated America’s birthday today by announcing Joe Kubert Presents, a “far-ranging collection of stories from comics legend Joe Kubert.” The first issue of the six-issue anthology arrives on Halloween.
The 48-page first issue will feature a “Hawkman” story written and drawn by Kubert, as well as an “Angel and the Ape” story by Brian Buniak and a new “U.S.S. Stevens” tale by Sam Glanzman.
Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]
Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]