Today we know
Joe Kubert as an industry luminary and founder of the
only college dedicated to sequential art, but he is
also a United States Army veteran. Missing World
War II by a hair, Kubert continued working on comics
until he was ultimately drafted to serve in the Korean
became the resident workhorse for DC Comics' entire
War Comics line, doing art chores on such books as Sgt.Rock,
All-American Men of War, G.I. Combat, Our
Fighting Forces, Our Army At War, Star
Spangled War Stories, Unknown Soldier, Enemy
Ace, Weird War Tales, and All Out War.
Join us now as
we enter the mind of this remarkable man.
(Note: This interview was
originally published in May of 2001)
You were in your teens in
1947. Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor
I recall that rather
vividly. I was in my early teens. I was born in 1926,
so I was about 15 and was already working as a
cartoonist. I was in my home, in my bedroom, it was on
Sunday morning. I was drawing pictures, as I was
already a pro cartoonist for comic books. I donít
think I really understood the significance of what was
happening when the news came over that Pearl Harbor
Were you listening to the
radio at the time?
Yes. Well, most of the guys
in our business are listening to the radio when
When did the enormity of
what had happened dawn on you?
I guess it kind of came up
rather quickly when we saw the pictures of what the
hell had happened and Rooseveltís address to the
country saying that we were in a state of war and so
on. Soon afterwards when people in my family were
being drafted I guess it hit everybody and I was part
How did the war affect
your work or the company that you were employed by?
I started drawing in the
business when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I got my
first job at that time. Not as a result of anything
good that I was doing, but rather because there was so
much work in demand at that time, that guys were
willing to give jobs to even kids like me. So we could
learn on the job. Well, when the war started, a lot of
the artists, a lot of tremendous artists, were
drafted. That allowed even more room, and even more
demand, for guys like me that werenít yet in the
Army or whatever. Strangely enough, and oddly enough,
and ironically enough, that which proved out to be
life-threatening and horrible for a lot of other
people during World War 2, it afforded me a lot of
In fact, I recall vividly
one time, Will Eisner had been drafted early on. And
at that time, before he was drafted, he was doing The
Spirit. When he was drafted The Spirit went
to Lou Fine, who was the artist at the time. So they
scrounged up a bunch of guys to help out with the
inking and the work and so forth. Alex Kotsky, whoís
another incredibly talented man, was called in to do
inking. And this was the way I got my first job. One
of my early jobs doing a really vaunted hero like The
Spirit came to me simply because I was still around.
My summer vacations from high school were spent
running back and forth to Stanford, Connecticut from
Brooklyn, but the advantage was that I was able to
work with people like Lou Fine and Alex Kotsky working
on The Spirit.
I know you werenít in
the war, and I also asked this to Will Eisner, but at
that time did you know what the Nazis were doing to
Yes I did. In fact, and you
coming from generally the same background would
understand, my folks were living in a small town in
the southern part of Poland, and their family was from
the same place as well. They were helped to come to
the United States by their brothers, sisters, aunts,
uncles, and so on, but there were still a lot of
people left in Europe. And little by little at the
beginning of the war and towards the middle, there
were people coming from my folkís towns, telling
them what happened to those relatives that were left
there. And I recall seeing a lot of these people come
with the tattoos on their arms.
I never really realized at
that time what the hell was happening, or going on.
But I do recall those stories. And I remember the
stories of those people telling my mother and father
how their brothers and sisters and uncles were running
up the street and how they were hunted down like
animals and shot. It was horrible but I donít think
that I really felt the significance of it until later
This is somewhat jumping
forward here, but did any of those memories and
emotions enter into your Fax From Sarajevo,
where there were definite parallels between the
Holocaust and what was going on over there?
Very, very much so. In fact,
Iím about two-thirds done with a book about the
Holocaust. Iíve got a lot of other stuff on my table
that I need to get done first, but I would imagine in
about two or three months I should be about finished.
What kind of book is it?
Itís a very personal
reaction to the things that happened during the
Holocaust. Itís something Iíd prefer not to talk
about, but it does deal with that period in time and
itís a very personal kind of thing.
Moving on, were you
either drafted into the service for Korea or did you
Oh, I was definitely
drafted. Me and the two other guys that had to pull me
Do you remember where you
were when you received your draft notice?
No. We were living in New
Jersey at the time. I had just squeaked by and missed
World War II for one reason or another and when Korea
came up I was drafted. And I guessÖwell, I was going
to say I was ready to go but I really had no choice in
the matter. [laughs]
You were drafted into the
What division were you
I donít recall. It was the
infantry. I was stationed at Fort Dix for a year and
then I was shipped off to Germany. Most of the guys in
my outfit went directly to Korea after Basic, but one
reason for another I was shipped to Germany.
And you remained in Germany for the rest of the
war? ďMissed outĒ
being an unfortunate choice of words, perhaps.
Yeah, I donít know what it
was but I missed out. I donít feel I missed out. I
kept in touch with a lot of the guys that took Basic
with me and it was a horror, I understood. I recall
getting letters from some of the guys and they told me
about 50% of the guys were casualties within the first
week of going to Korea.
They call Korea the
ďForgotten War.Ē Do you think thatís because it
was sandwiched between World War II and Vietnam?
I think so. I had a
brother-in-law that was in Korea and he froze a couple
of toes off. It was, like all wars, a horrible
Itís unfortunate that
many people have never even heard of the Korean War.
We lost about as many there as we did in Vietnam.
Yeah. All these kind of
conflicts stink. They cost the lives of a bunch of
people. Either their full lives or remnants of the
rest of the time theyíre on Earth. It stinks.
Did you ever read Will
Eisnerís P.S. Magazine when you were over
Funny that you should ask.
Will is incredible. In fact, I worked for Will when I
was about twelve years-old. Before he went into the
Army he was doing The Spirit, he was doing it
in Manhattan, and one of the summers I spent was
working there, and he gave me a terrific opportunity.
I wasnít doing a hell of a lot of drawing. I did
some stuff. But mostly I was erasing material and
cleaning up and sweeping out the place. And
incidentally, even today, remains a very dear and
close friend of mine. And we talk about it often and
we kid about it. It was a wonderful opportunity that I
Anyhow, when Will was
drafted, and of course, one of the things he did, the
genius that he is, he kicked off this P.S. Magazine.
Which has, incidentally, has just celebrated itís
I wasnít aware of that.
Well, let me tell you a
couple of other ironic things. He started it when he
was in the service. He insisted, and I guess he sort
of inculcated this, to me anyhow, that you can do
anything with cartoons. You can take the driest
subject, like mathematics, and do it in a cartoon,
graphic way and make it seem interesting.
Apparently, he applied that
theory to what he was doing in the Army. He knew that
guys who were working on tanks and trucks and stuff
like that, werenít the type that would really sit
and read really detailed information, in terms of
verbiage. But he felt very strongly that if it was
done in an entertaining way that they way absorb what
was trying to be put across to them, in terms of
teaching, whether they realized it or not. And
thatís exactly what happened. Have you ever seen any
of the early P.S. Magazines?
Iíve seen a few pages
here and there.
He did a tremendous job. He
would take the driest, most mundane, kind of subjects
and make them seem interesting, and funny, and
humorous, and entertaining. And in that way the guys
learned to do stuff that they didnít even realize
they were learning.
Doug Murray was telling
me how he read it in while he was serving in Vietnam.
Isnít that something. So
when he got out of the army, he continued to do it. He
did it for twenty years after he got out of the
But anyhow, every couple of
years the Army gives this stuff out for general
opportunity for other publishers and other people to
do the books. After his twenty year stint, I guess he
had enough of it. So the books went out for public
bids, in terms of new publishers or artists or
whatever, to do the work. I donít remember exactly
when this happened. This must have been in the late
Ď50s or early Ď60s. But I made a drawing. I had
heard someplace that they were taking bids for this.
And in my naive [laughs], unsophisticated, untutored
way, I thought well, let me take a jump at it. And I
did, and of course, my sample just disappeared or
whatever the hell happened to it.
About six, seven months ago,
just towards the end of last year, I got a call from a
very dear friend, Neal Adams, who had mentioned to me
that somebody had come up and they were looking for
artists to do P.S. Magazine. And he said,
ďHey Joe. You got people. You got the school.Ē And
incidentally, I had not heard about it or read about P.S.
Magazine since like thirty or forty years ago.
So it was still going on.
I didnít even know that it
was still going on. I knew that Murphy Anderson had
taken over the chores of putting out the magazine
after Will had left it. Murph had worked with Will
prior to it and kind of was able to step right in.
Anyhow, about seven months
ago, although maybe even more than that. Closer to a
year ago, I donít know. I learned from Neal that
they were taking bids on P.S. Magazine. And so
I said gee whiz, that would be really interesting,
coming back to square one after all these years. And
so we started vying for it. And for the last six
months weíve been doing P.S. Magazine here.
What a great opportunity
for your students.
Yeah. Well, itís terrific
for them. Itís terrific for us. And they tell us
that weíre doing a real good job on it. So it just
worked out. Really, really nice.