To Joe, With Love

A Sad Farewell to the Man Who Opened All the Doors

My life changed the nanosecond I met Joe Kubert; a nanosecond later, he and my father shook hands for the first time, and my life changed again, always for the better with Joe there. Though Joe didn’t know it, I’d fought my own father all my life up to that point—my father didn’t believe drawing was either a way to make a living or “manly”—and that moment Joe and my Dad met, my path was validated forever in my own father’s eyes.

Do you have any grasp of what that does, how powerful that is, how momentous that was?

From that second forward, my father was forever in my camp, on my side; from that second forward, I had, if you will, a second father—as Joe said, “Yes, you’re just the kind of person we need here at the school,” and I joined the first-ever class, and my life and path became one.

Joe and Muriel, you gave me so, so, so much—I teach young cartoonists today myself, in hopes of repaying that debt I can never, ever pay.

Love you, Joe; miss you forever, Joe.


There’s nothing more to say, really, and yet there’s more than I can possibly say if I posted every day here for the next ten years, and wrote a book about Joe on top of that.

Joe and Muriel Kubert gave me the world—I mean, my Mom and Dad brought me into the world, and brought me up in the world, but there were doors seemingly, forever closed to me that I knew that my life depended upon opening.

Joe and Muriel opened those doors for me—in hindsight, the moment Joe opened the door of the Baker Mansion (which was, at that time, indeed THE Joe Kubert School), he literally opened endless doors for me that are still opening, and will till the day I, too, pass.

I’m glad that Joe made time to spend the better part of a Saturday afternoon in September, 2010 with me—his handshake was fierce as ever, his smile as wide as ever, his heart as big as ever. We talked for a couple of hours, still hitting our usual cul-de-sacs (Joe‘s belief in DC Comics and work-for-hire prominent among them), still finding abundant common ground (including that I was now teaching, too), and savoring that we were both still breathing and talking and sharing some time together.

Though we spoke on the phone after that, it was the last time we saw one another. Sadly, though I was invited, I didn’t take the opportunity to travel to a foreign convention Joe was attending, nor did I pursue an invitation Joe extended to contribute a story to a new anthology he was doing for DC (I just couldn’t—it was DC).

There’s more to say, more to share, more to tell, and more than a bit I’m ashamed of (I let Joe down more than once), but this will have to do for now.

Here’s to Andy, Adam, David, Lisa, and Dan (who I was once closest to of all—we were foosball champions for two weeks!). My deepest condolences; my deepest, most heartfelt love to all in Joe’s circle—his sons, his daughters, his family, his friends, his circles, his students, my classmates, and all who knew and loved Joe—and who Joe loved more than we knew.

Rob Imes (The Ditko Collector) shared this rare image from one of the rare comics creations in which Joe’s religious and artistic life came together (as they often did, in unexpected ways). Rob posted on Facebook before midnight on Sunday, “Probably the MOST obscure Joe Kubert comic in my collection is THE ADVENTURES OF YAAKOV & ISAAC Vol. One, published by Mahrwood Press in 2004, which collected 15 two-page strips that Kubert drew between 1984 and 1993 for a Jewish magazine called The Moshiach Times. The editor, Rabbi Dr. David Sholom Pape, contacted Joe through DC Comics, trying to get him to contribute to the magazine. At first Kubert turned him down, explaining that he was much too busy to take on any additional work. The rabbi was persistent, however, and somehow Kubert found the time to draw pages like this for the magazine every month.” Thanks for sharing this, Rob.

You know, Joe was a great teacher—but even with him in the same classroom with us, showing us this on a giant sketchpad, I still couldn’t get from his Step 1 here to his Step 2! And I never will!


PS: I had a deadline to meet this Monday, and I’ve just met it. Somehow, sticking to that on the very day I learned Joe passed away, despite the quicksand of emotions, seemed the right thing to do. I’ve no doubt Joe would have told me, as Joe only could, to stick to it. I did.

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Discussion (8) ¬

  1. Russ Rogers

    It’s my contention that Joe Kubert’s School for Comics was instrumental in changing the attitude of the general public toward Comics, and in that way it aided the maturing of Comics. This was a great remembrance and tribute. Thank you. For me, Joe’s vision of Tarzan remains definitive of the character. Edgar Rice Burroughs may have created the character, but more than anyone, Joe Kubert drew Tarzan into my brain.

  2. Roger Green

    Glad you could continue to find commonality, even when having philosophical differences; not always easy to do, in my experience.

  3. Paul Chadwick

    Long, prosperous career, a tremendous artistic legacy, passed on his wisdom via the school, had two stellar talents for sons, his drawing still terrific into his eighties — everything to admire.

    But I wonder about all that mysterious stuff on that oversized drawing board. It looks like a Kirby control panel. What is all that?

  4. john pirtel

    here here brother!
    joe never had doubt in me or my abilities….i know he was proud evertime i sent him something i had published….
    i am so glad he was part of my life.


  5. Steve Weiner

    Very nice piece Steve. I knew Joe mostly through his work on Tarzan. I met him briefly a few years ago & could tell right off he was a class act. Its always iffy when you meet these guys in real life & more than a few times I’ve been taken aback by their ego. There was none of that with Kubert & it made my day. Seriously.

  6. Anthony Sorge

    This was a really touching read. For what it’s worth, I know the students you have now will look back at you as fondly as you look back at–you’ve already made a huge impact on me in my limited interactions with you. Anyway, really moving and inspiring post.

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