An Interview With Joe Kubert - A Masterful Hand in Comics

Written by Bryan Stroud

Joe Kubert, Photo Credit: Jim Salicrup for COMICS INTERVIEW

Born on September 18, 1926, Joseph "Joe" Kubert was an American comic book artist, art teacher and founder of The Kubert School. He is best known for his work on the DC Comics characters Sgt. Rock and Hawkman. He is also known for working on his own creations, such as Tor, Son of Sinbad, the Viking Prince, and (with writer Robin Moore) the comic strip Tales of the Green Beret. Two of Kubert's sons - Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert - themselves became successful comic book artists, as have many of Kubert's former students, including Stephen R. Bissette, Amanda Conner, Rick Veitch, Eric Shanower, Steve Lieber, and Scott Kolins.

Joe Kubert was inducted into the Harvey Awards' Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998. He passed away on August 12, 2012.

Tor (1975) #1 by Joe Kubert from DC comics.

Son of Sinbad (1950) #1 from ANC. Cover by Joe Kubert.

DC Special (1968) #12 featuring Viking Prince by Joe Kubert.

My original Kubert interview was kind of frustrating for me.  Joe was one of the greats and a truly nice guy, but he didn't seem to enjoy talking much about himself.  I learned later, seeing other interviews online, that he was similarly brief in his comments - so I felt a little better about it. Since the interview was conducted via e-mail, I didn't have much control or influence over it.  Fortunately I would have another opportunity later (when I interviewed Jack Adler) to speak with Joe on the phone and he had a lot more to say.

One kindness Joe did for me was to autograph my copy of DC Special #5, "The Secret Lives of Joe Kubert" issue.  I'll never forget the thrill when I pulled the envelope out of the mailbox.  Suddenly I was an excited 10-year old again.  It very nearly eclipsed the purchase of his art book a few years later with his original Hawkman sketch on one of the interior leaves.

This interview took place on March 29, 2007.

DC Showcase (1956) #102 featuring Hawkman. Cover by Joe Kubert.

DC Speacial (1968) #5, The Secret Lives of Joe Kubert.

Star Spangled War Stories (1952) #146 from DC comics, featuring Enemy Ace. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Bryan Stroud:  You enjoyed a long and productive partnership with Bob Kanigher at DC, clear back to that first Silver Age story of the Flash in Showcase #4.  How was he to work with?  Which titles were the most fun to work on? 

Joe Kubert:  It was a great experience and I enjoyed illustrating all his stories. 

Stroud:  Did you have any trouble navigating the Comics Code? 

JK:  No.

Stroud:  What were things like in the DC bullpen? 

JK:  Busy.

Stroud:  Who were your friends? 

JK:  Jack Adler and all the guys in production.

Stroud:  You worked on virtually every major character in the DC catalog at one time or another, going back to 1944.  Are there any you enjoyed working on more than others? 

JK:  I enjoyed them all – in retrospect. 

Our Army At War (1952) #102 from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock Special #3 (1977) from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock (1977) #396 from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Stroud:  You are particularly identified with the war titles such as Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace.  Was any of your inspiration from your own time in the service overseas? 

JK:  No.

Stroud:  Your sons have followed you into the illustration business.  Does it feel satisfying to watch them develop their talents? 

JK:  I feel it’s a miracle.

Stroud:  You operate the only accredited school devoted entirely to cartooning and have an impressive list of alumni.  Has this “second career” been as good as or better than your first?

JK:  This (the school) is not my career.  I am a cartoonist – first, last and always.

Stroud:  Are there any Golden Age characters you wish had survived into the Silver Age? 

JK:  None come to mind.

Stroud:  Did you have any concerns about the super-heroes disappearing in the 40’s?  Did it look like your work might evaporate? 

JK:  No.

Original art for the cover to Our Army At War (1952) #193 by Joe Kubert.

Original art for the cover to The House of Mystery (1951) #292 by Joe Kubert.

Original art for the cover to G.I. Combat (1952) #198 by Joe Kubert.

Stroud:  What sort of research did you do for the Viking Prince title? 

JK:  Books, illustrations, Prince Valiant.

Stroud:  Your inking style was unique.  How did you choose to render form at a time when the DC house style was to mostly just indicate stuff with a simple outline? 

JK:  Purely intuitive and never questioned by DC or anyone else.

Stroud:  Do you think inking with a brush, as opposed to inking with a pen, is becoming a lost art? It seems few people do it anymore, but it is essential to your style. 

JK:  I don’t think so.

Stroud:  Your knowledge of military gear is legendary.  How did this come about? Through references, or is it all in your head? 

JK:  Reference.  ALWAYS reference.  

Stroud:  Who were your influences? Hal Foster maybe? 

JK:  Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Milt Caniff.

Weird War Tales (1971) #5 from DC comics. Cover by Joe Kubert.

Joe Kubert as drawn by Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock & Company by Joe Kubert.

Stroud:  Whose idea was Jackie Johnson, and was there any opposition to having a black soldier in Easy Company? 

JK:  Bob Kanigher (the writer/editor.)  No.

Stroud:  Did you enjoy working with Brian Azzarello on "Between Hell and a Hard Place"? 

JK:  Yes, very much.

Stroud:  Do you think Brian stewarded these characters well? 

JK:  Yes.

Stroud:  How long did it take to pencil and ink a typical page? 

JK:  One day.

Stroud:  You recently produced a new Sgt. Rock story.  What sort of differences did you encounter in how it was done today as opposed to the Frank Rock of the 60’s? 

JK:  The use of computers for lettering, color and reproduction.

Cover to Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert (2008), drawn by Joe Kubert.

Joe Kubert.

Hawkman & Hawkgirl by Joe Kubert.


Bryan Stroud

Bryan Stroud is a longtime fan of DC Comics, particularly the Silver and Bronze Ages, and has been published in a number of places over the last decade plus, to include the magazines Comic Book Creator andLurid Little Nightmare Makers and websites like The Silver Lantern and Comics Bulletin.  Bryan wrote the afterword to “Think Pink,” is a frequent contributor to BACK ISSUE magazine, Ditkomania and co-authored Nick Cardy:  Wit-LashHe and his indulgent wife have dined with Joe and Hilarie Staton and Jim Shooter.  He owns a comic book spinner rack that reminds him of his boyhood.