Friday, May 28, 2010

Eye Kubert

Friday Comic Book Day.

I just love the early work of Joe Kubert. And when I say his early work, I men his work in the early fifties, before he became a reliable workhorse for DC. From what I have seen, I like his owkr in the fifties just as much, but most of it is only available in the later and ridiculously expensive issues of The Flash and other DC books, so those will have to wait. But in the period from when he left DC in the late forties (at least as a sole employer) and started working for different publishers, through his years with Norman Maurer at St. John (and the creation of the 3D craze, Mad imitation Whack as well as his pre-historical version of Tarzan, Tor) up until his return to DC in 1955/56, his work is gorgeous. Don't get me wrong, I still like his work and still buy everything he does these days. And he may even have become a better story-teller, even though he is now well into his eighties. But somewhere towards the end of the fifties, he started adopting a new, thinner inkline, which most people now associate with his work. What they don't know is, that before that he was one of the heaviest inkers around and his brush work was as good as that of all the greats.

So here, in honor of his ongoing brilliance (and I urge you to get his latest book on a shocking episode in the Vietnam war, called "Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965" ) here are some of those early stories.

I am starting off with one of the horror stories he did for Avon. If you follow the tag, you will find a similar story he did for Harvey slightly earlier. Greg Theakstone was going to do a reprint book of all of Kubert's pre St. John's work, some of which has not even been noticed in the Grand Comic Book Database, but as far as I know that tome still has to materialize. Consider this an appetizer.

Witchcraft #1:

For The Hawk #8, Kubert did one western story. Even though it's from St. John where he was working at the time, it is a reprint from a story Kubert did for Ziff Davis run of that title in 1951.

The Hawk #9:

Kubert's earliest war work for DC when he returned in the mid fifties, still looked like the sort of stuff he had been doing for St. John (and the inking he had done for Al Gordon, for that matter). He always worked for color and I think that his work, more than any suffered in the Showcase series of reprints by DC from being in black and white.

All American Men of War #22:

Our Fighting Forces #13:

Our Fighting Forces #18:

All American Men of War #36:

But the series you really should be looking for is Foley of the Fighting Fifth. This charming western series appeared in All American Western from #103 to #124. The first ten or so stories were drawn by Kubert, sing one of his strength at the time; his abillity to draw convincing and compelling indians. Strange;y enough none of these stories are attributed to him in the Grand Comics Database, nor is his occasional inking of Alex Toth in the same book. The later stories of Foley were drawn by Dan Barry (about whose remarkable and influecial pre-Flash Gordon career I really should do a post one of these days), so if the western wasn't such a forgotten and ill-appreciated genre these days, it really would be a condidate for a color reprint.

All American Western #104:

All American Western #112:

For this story Kubert was inked by someone who really didn't get him...


The Seditionist said...

Innnttterresting... how Kubert seemed to "clean up" his art on his return to DC -- to fit the house style, sterility -- and then started evolving in the 60s to probably where it would have been anyway. Like destiny. But seen between his early 50s work -- a breakthrough from his 40s DC work -- and his post-60s evolution, it's just a little sad, watching him holding back so much....

nyrdyv said...

Great selection to highlight his work. It really shows just how expansive his skills are.



Steven G. Willis

Smurfswacker said...

Thanks for this overview of Kubert's great 50s work. His art underwent many transformations during the 50s and 60s.

Kubert didn't just "clean up" his art as The Seditionist suggests. He also seems to have consciously striven for a more "realistic" approach. He lengthened his figures, did more detailed rendering on the faces, etc. This was especially true in his pre-Rock war stories.

Some of these changes shaped his style further as he loosened up in the 70s and 80s...for example his figures got even longer.

I own that Hawk story and I've examined it countless times. I can't shake the impression that there's something un-Kubertish about the layouts. In places I could swear Carmine Infantino had a hand in laying the story out. Or I could be seeing things. Infantino did work on other Hawk stories; who knows?

=link said...

I'm frothing with delight! What a great selection of Kubert stories--especially the Foley stories! I thought I was the only one hip to the Foley stories! They are so obscure--are they treasured in some circles? Cool! I've horded my Foley stories for years, thinking no one else wd appreciate them. Wow, how cool is this? Once again, the Web gold-pans so obscure fans. It's really remarkably interesting work, isn't it?

So you think that one story is inked by someone else, huh? I THOUGHT it looked extremely clear and clean of line. It never occurred to me that another inked it, but of course, that makes the most sense! Do you know this for a fact of is that just your educated analysis? I'd be interested to know. I DO agree with you, whatever the case.

THANKS for presenting these tales!!!