Joe Kubert was comic book royalty.
Kubert, the creator of a Morris County school dedicated to inspiring generations of comic book artists from around the world, died yesterday, his son David confirmed. He was 85.
Kubert spoke to The Star-Ledger in June about his history as an artist and his role as father to noted comic book artists Andy and Adam Kubert.
“I was, and still am, the luckiest person in the world,” Kubert said at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art — known internationally as the Kubert School — in Dover. His images of the sinewy Tarzan and feathery Hawkman stood nearby as reminders of his legacy.
At the time, Joe and Andy (a consultant for DC Comics) were on the verge of releasing a project together, “Nite Owl” an installment in DC’s “Before Watchmen” series. (See Drew Sheneman’s Comics column, Page 19.)
Speaking enthusiastically in his school office in what used to be Dover High School, Kubert still possessed a strong passion for his work, both as a teacher and artist.
As a comic book artist, Joe Kubert had a hand in creating Sgt. Rock, a World War II soldier that debuted in 1959, as well as the prehistoric Tor, one of the first comics presented in 3-D. He also drew Hawkman, starting in the 1940s. The son of a kosher butcher, Joe Kubert made his comic book debut when he was just 12, growing up in the East New York section of Brooklyn.
“It’s become dramatically more accessible to make a livelihood with this business than it ever has been,” said Kubert. Back when he started, for many artists, comics were seen as a shameful way to work. He said successful movies starring comic book heroes — the predecessors of today’s wildly popular “Avengers,” “Spider-Man” and “Batman” film franchises — upped the cache of comics.
“We’ve gained a respectability that nobody who started in my business ever dreamed,” said Kubert. “It’s amazing how money changes things.”
In 1976, Kubert and his wife Muriel moved to Dover and opened the Kubert School. Since then, students from all over the world have trained there. One day a week, Kubert left his drawing table to teach a class in comic book narrative.
“He’s been a heavy influence on my drawing, my approach to storytelling,” Andy Kubert, 50, said of his father in June. He graduated from his father’s school in 1984 and teaches there. In his own career he’s drawn X-Men and Batman, his dream project.
AdamKubert, 52, hasworked on books starring iconic characters the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and Superman.
Last night on Twitter, amid talk of the Olympics closing ceremony, “Joe Kubert” trended worldwide.
“I loved Joe Kubert as a kid, and dammit, he was still doing vital work,” tweeted comic book artist Cully Hamner. “We should all follow his example.”
In June, Joe Kubert said he was working on a graphic novel about a female soldier in the Israeli army, having visited the Middle East in 2011. DC Comics released “Nite Owl,” his project with son Andy, on June 27.
Marvel and DC artist Mike Horton tweeted: “His influence is undeniable. He literally taught generations to make great comics.”
Joe Kubert saw his work as an artist as his mechanism for living, not a job. He kept drawing, “not because I have to, but because I want to,” he said.
He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1926 from what was then Yzeran , Poland, when he was two months old. Kubert’s 2003 graphic novel, “Yossel — April 19, 1943,” was about a young Jewish artist in the Warsaw ghetto. It’s a story, he said, that reimagines life for Kubert’s own family if they had not left Europe before the war. He said that was just one reason he often called himself “lucky.”
In addition to his three sons, Joe Kubert is survived by another son, Danny; a daughter, Lisa; and 12 grandchildren.
Muriel Kubert died in 2008.