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Joe Kubert and the early days of creator-owned comic books

Retroactively owned by Joe Kubert

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!

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