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Monday August 13, 2012 9:09 pm

Joe Kubert, RIP




Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Editorials, DC Comics

Abraham StoneIt’s hard to believe that Joe Kubert passed away. His work was such a large part of my comic book experience and his war comics are so ingrained on my psyche that it feels like the passing of a great man of literature.

From Sgt. Rock, to Enemy Ace, to Tarzan and dozens more, his work never disappointed. His covers were dynamic, fluid, and never looked like anyone else’s. I could spot Kubert art a mile away. I loved his covers on Son Of Tomahawk, and I really liked a tryout series of his called Firehair, about a red-headed boy raised by native Americans.

And as much as I loved his war comics, it was his Tarzan that was a revelation to me. I’d read the Gold Key stuff which I found stiff and unexciting, but when I picked up the first issue Kubert did for DC, I was amazed at how he got me to like a character I was never really interested in.

Years later, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the publication of one of Joe’s graphic albums, Abraham Stone, at Malibu Comics. Here’s how that came about.

We were working with Ervin Rustemagic, who owned a business called Strip Art Features (SAF). He represented work by lots of European artists, including guys like Hermann (creator of Jeremiah).

He operated like a syndicate - an artist would finish up a graphic album and then Ervin would pre-sell the publishing rights to various countries before going to print. He’d accumulate the orders, each country supplied a black-plate change for the lettering in their native language. All copies would print at once - thus, the print run would be higher and there’d be a break on printing and the book could be released nearly simultaneously worldwide. And with the quantity of publishers contributing to the cost of the project, the creator benefitted by getting a very nice page rate for his work.

We were doing small bits of business with Ervin and eventually set up a separate imprint called Platinum Editions (and there’s a funny story about why it was called that - it was almost called "Exit"). The imprint would be for US versions of his upcoming albums and it was set up just as Ervin was getting ready for books from Sergio Aragonés and... Joe Kubert. Sergio had done Buzz & Bell and Smokehouse 5, and Joe was starting a series called Abraham Stone.

For all the Platinum Editions’ books the production was handled by Ervin - we just had to solicit through the direct market, collate the orders and deliver the print run to SAF.

When the imprint debuted that year, 1991, at San Diego, I got to meet Joe as he and Sergio (and Ervin) dropped by the Malibu Comics booth for a joint appearance and signing. And Joe was great - nice, friendly, gracious and he had lots of time for the fans who dropped by. It was a terrific afternoon and I was just too awestruck to do much more than say hello and sort of supervise the signing (which meant keeping the line straight and staying out of everyone’s way). Sergio was great too - effusive, funny and the fastest artist I'd ever seen.

Of all the stuff Malibu Comics published, Abraham Stone was one of my favorites - without Platinum Editions and Ervin we wouldn’t have been able to publish a Kubert book - and it was an absolutely beautiful-looking graphic album. Alas, sales were not what was anticipated, and the imprint was shuttered after releasing just a handful of books. But they were nice books, and for a brief time, I got to hang with Sergio and Joe.

RIP Mr. Kubert.

Tom Spurgeon on Kubert.

Mark Evanier on Kubert.

And here’s the New York Times.

[Artwork: Abraham Stone by Joe Kubert]

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