What was the first DC book that you worked on
after being discharged from the army?
Well, I didnít get right into doing work for DC
when I came out. When I had went into the Army I was
working for a guyís place by the name of St.
Johnís Publishing Company. And I had been producing,
packaging magazines for him. When I got out of the
Army I contacted him and he was more than happy to
have me come back and do more stuff for him. I
contacted a very dear friend of mine, who I went to
high school with incidentally, a guy by the name of
Norman Maurer. We had started into the business
together, and Norm had I had done a lot of work
together. We were very good friends. He was living out
in California and he had been involved in some other
things. He had gotten into producing, directing movies
and so on. I contacted him and asked him if heíd be
interested in becoming a partner, working with me, and
producing these magazines. He felt he would like to do
it so he came East here. We rented a house in New
Jersey, and started putting out magazines.
What kind of magazines?
Well, they were not Army-oriented at all. One of
the magazines was of one of my characters called Tor.
Norm also had access to The Three Stooges because he
had married Joanie Howard, who was Moe Howardís
daughter. So we were putting out The Three Stoogeís
Did you ever meet the Three Stooges?
Oh yes. As a matter of fact, I was out to Normís
wedding in 1947. So yeah, I knew the family, and I had
met the guys. I mean, I didnít know the
Stooges [laughs]. I had met them and so forth.
So when Norm decided to get in with me, we knew we
wanted to do some books that were a little bit more
novel. Especially since so many books were coming out
and the business was extremely competitive. I had
recalled seeing some 3-D magazines in Europe, in
Germany, when I was there, that you read with red and
green glasses. And I suggested that maybe itíd be a
good idea to have our books stand out a little bit
from all the rest, and to have them, if we could do
it, in 3-D. At first glance we all looked at each
other, me and Norm and some other people, and went,
ďNah, itíll never work.Ē But then we started
working on it and were able to then produce a magazine
for twenty-five cents, which included the red and
green glasses. So we produced the first 3-D comic
book, which was Mighty Mouse. And this was back
in 1952 I think.
And this was before Creature From The Black
Lagoon in 3D, and all those type of movies.
Yes, I believe so. I think it was just at the same
time, or perhaps a little bit before, 3-D movies came
out. Now, before you asked when I started doing the
war stuff for DC. It was soon after that we started
that, after the first batch of 3-D books came out, the
whole bottom dropped out of the comic book publishing
field. Everybody went 3-D and the gimmick soon wore
out very, very quickly. On top of that, the Senate
investigating comic books and how terrible they were
for kids, and so on, was being publicized and on TV,
so that too had a terrible effect on comic books. St.
Johnís was one of the publishing companies that
fell, among many others, and it was then at that time
that I went over to DC.
Did DC come to you and ask whether youíd be
willing to work on the war comics?
Oh, no, no. It was just a job. It wasnít that I
wanted to do a war comic. It wasnít that I was
particularly interested, because I wasnít. Iíd
done every conceivable subject matter for comic books
and Iím interested in the whole scope of things that
are done, whatever the subject matter is, whatever the
When I went over to DC, I got involved with Bob
Kanigher [editor's note - Bob recently passed away],
who at that time was editing about half a dozen war
magazines. He gave me the first story, simply because
he had a story to give me. Thatís the way it started
out. Not because I was pushing for it. Not because I
requested it. Not because he felt it would be a good
thing for me to do. It just happened to be a couple of
war stories that were open and that had to be done so
he gave them to me to do them.
Iím assuming you naturally drew back upon your
own military experience?
A little. I try to make comic book stories as
realistic and credible as possible. But the storylines
themselves, especially at the very beginning, I had no
control of at all. The way comics books are set up is
the work is divided into any number of facets done by
different people. Thereís a writer, thereís a
letterer, thereís an inker, thereís a colorist,
thereís a penciller, and so on. My job was just to
illustrate the stories. The stories were written by
somebody else. I tried to have the characters look as
much GI as I possibly could, based on, of course, the
time that I spent in the Army, on the uniforms and
stuff like that. But the basic stories themselves,
especially at that time, I felt were as far removed
from what happens in the Army as you can get.
The dinosaurs in World War II?
Exactly. I mean what weíre trying to do is sell
comic books. And weíre selling to, what we feel, at
that time especially, a particular audience of younger
people. So we tailored the stories for that purpose.
As we talk about this, Iím looking at a cover
for Star Spangled War Storiesís, ďMy Buddy
Was A Killer Dinosaur.Ē
I found very few of those when I was in the Army.
You must have been looking in the wrong places.
So you became DCís resident War Artist.
I just fell in, I just fell in.
And most of those were done with Bob Kanigher
Bob was the editor and the writer. At a certain
point, however, Bob took ill and the powers that be
felt it might be a good idea for me to be the editor.
At that time I tried to make the stories a little bit
more interesting, a little bit less gung ho, a little
bit make peace, not war.
When you were editor of Sgt. Rock, you
ended all of the books with, ďMake War No More.Ē
It wasnít very original, I donít think, but it
was just my comment. I felt that the stuff that I
wanted to do was not promote guys going into the Army
to kill people, but the fact that most guys in the
Army, that I had found, were there simply because they
had to be. Even the guys who enlisted, not only
the draftees. There was a job that had to be done,
there were things that had to be done, you really
didnít have a hell of a lot of choice in it. And
simply because you were in a lousy situation you had
to do something. You had to act accordingly and there
were certain expectations that the upper echelon had
for you. And you had to do what you had to do, period.
Did the conflict in Vietnam impact DC war
storylines at all?
I donít think so. As a matter of fact, Bob had
attempted at that time, I think he was still the
editor, to introduce different kinds of stories.
Vietnam, Korea. But for whatever reason, the most
popular ones seemed to be those that dealt with World
Do you think that was because people could look
at the Nazis as a sort of cartoonish type of
Your guess is as good as mine [laughs]. I really
donít know. I think weíve kind of postulated on it
and felt that perhaps that this was supposed to be a
righteous war as opposed to some that didnít seem as
clear-cut later on, or whatever the hell the reason
was. And the enemy was very distinct and was described
as the ďblackest of black,Ē so to speak. The most
horrible of horrors. It was easy to hate people like
Having lived through the Korean experience, did
you see the Vietnam parallels right away?
Particularly that it would become the size and scope
that it did.
No, not at all. I was involved with a comic strip
called The Green Berets.
For the Chicago Tribune.
Right. Robin Moore, who was the writer, was a
terrific guy who had been in Vietnam and had fought
with the special forces. I was lucky enough to meet
some of those guys. Incredible bunch of people. And I
want to make it clear that when I did the strip the
politics of it were the last thing on my mind. As a
matter of fact, I left it not because I was against
the war but I felt that politics had no place in comic
strips. The idea was to use the popularity of Robin
Mooreís book to kick off the comic strip, which it
did. And the writer felt apparently that it was a
platform that he could espouse certain feelings. It
wasnít that I felt that he was right or wrong, I
just felt that the newspaper strip, a comic strip, was
not the place to do it. I felt that it should
eventually become a sort of romantic kind of thing,
perhaps a Terry and the Pirates kind of strip.
It never got to that. It got to the point where it
became such a drudge to do it, I just left it.
The countryís anti-war sentiments dragged that
strip down in the end, correct?
I guess so, but I didnít really look into that as
carefully as I should have. I guess we all learned a
lot about what the hell happened and the kind of abuse
that guyís in the Army always get, and
especially in the Vietnam war, the politics that were
played there. But I wasnít really aware of all that
stuff, and I certainly wasnít one of the people who
were manning the ramparts and saying, ďBring the
boys back home.Ē I didnít know what the hell was
That leads me into my next question, which I
asked of Will since he was also drafted. What did you
think of all the anti-war protestors, with them
burning draft cards, donating money and supplies to
the North Vietnamese.
I thought it was wrong. I thought it was wrong that
that tact was taken. Like I said, I was just not
aware, I didnít have enough information, and I guess
I didnít look for enough information, to find out
what was really happening. And I felt that those kind
of actions were wrong.
I want to jump ahead now to present time. The
Comics Code is in question since Marvel announced it
was pulling out and creating its own set of standards.
Do you think we need a Code and, if so, does it need
to be centralized, or should each comic publisher make
Jeez, I donít know. I really donít know. Iíve
seen stuff in comic books that just astounds me.
Things that have a little label on it, ďPrinted For
Adult ConsumptionĒ or whatever, and thatís
supposed to make it ok. I still feel that comic books
are essentially still a kidís medium. I may be wrong
on that, but thatís the way I feel. Especially as
reflected with the superhero genre, which is still one
of the most popular in comic books today.
I donít believe in censorship. I donít think
that the government should put a stamp on what people
should read or learn about, or whatever. But I do feel
that some of the stuff thatís coming out in comic
books, to me personally, is objectionable.
Sexual-oriented stuff, the violence, the kind of
explicit and graphic violence that goes on. I think
some of the publishers are really nuts. I think
theyíre crazy. I think theyíre begging for
problems. I think one of the reasons that they
havenít had any backlash from it is because
theyíre not really selling all that well. But if
they ever gained the kind of popularity that suddenly
makes them noticed, I think theyíll have the wrath
of all kinds of parentsí groups and educators coming
down on them like crazy. And perhaps justifiably so.
Doug Murray made the comment that he believes we
lost a generation of comic readers.
I happen to agree to this extent: I think comic
books have always been considered a kidís medium.
And every publisher I know has made attempts to have a
more adult audience read the books. As it has
happened, in most of the rest of the world, comic
books in Europe and Asia, are read by adults as much
as children, perhaps even more so. And itís accepted
as legitimate literature. In the United States,
ironically where comic books started, it started out
as a kidís junk media, and most publishers have been
trying like crazy to have stuff be acceptable to
adults. I think whatís happened in the last five to
ten years, there are perhaps a lot more adults reading
the books, and I put adults in quotes, but less young
people coming in to read them.
I find though, when I pick up a lot of the books, I
donít know what the hell is happening in them. I
find it really difficult to read some of the books, in
terms of the subject matter and the fact that the
publishers and the editors go on the supposition that
people have been reading the books that have been
coming out for years before. So weíre
supposed to know whatís happening in these books
that come out, which I think is erroneous.
Anyhow, subject matter kind of eludes, and I think
that theyíve lost a lot of the young people. I get
all of the comic books, and my grandkids, some of the
stuff that I let them look at, theyíll look at the
first two pages and they canít make heads or tales
out of the rest of it and theyíll stop reading.
Originally comic were read by young people. Theyíd
come in maybe about the age of seven, eight, nine.
Theyíd read maybe to the age that theyíre 18, 19,
20, 21, 22, and then theyíd go onto reading other
material. But theyíd always be supplanted, as they
drop out, by young people coming in to read them.
Thatís not happening.
So comic publishers are shooting for the
unattainable by aiming their products towards an adult
Shooting themselves in the foot, thatís right. I
Well, Marvelís once again in financial
trouble, as we all know.
They arenít the only ones. Marvel is in financial
trouble because I think that theyíve been terribly
abused. I mean theyíve been taken advantage of. The
money guys, the suits, have kind of stripped it clean
pretty good. It was a great company and they were
doing terrific things. But, you know, any company can
take just a certain amount of buffeting around,
raping, so to speak. And the result is whatís
happened to Marvel.
So howís your school doing?
So far, so good.
Have you noticed a drop in the number of
Yes. There had a drop but itís coming back up
again. Itís been pretty steady and the drop hasnít
been remarkable. Well, we started out as a small
school and I certainly havenít depended on the
school. The school here is not my career. Iím
still a comic book artist. And thatís what I do and
Iím lucky enough, even at this stage in the game, to
keep on doing it, just like Will.
Yeah, he sounded great.
Yeah. And Iím sure he, and I know that I,
consider ourselves the luckiest people in the world.
Here we are doing what we love to do. Doing it at our
own pace. Selecting what we want to do when we want to
do it. And people pay us for it.
You told me about the Holocaust project you are
working on, but are there any other projects you can
tell me about?
Well, Iím doing this book with Stan Lee, the Batman
Do you have any idea when thatíll be coming
Yeah, itís supposed to be out in July. And I
finished a 224 book for an Italian publisher about a
year ago thatís supposed to be out in June. I got a
full table, thank God.
Slush thanks Joe Kubert both for his participation
in this interview and for his service to our
country. Be sure to check out last year's
interviews with Doug Murray, Dan DeCarlo, Will Eisner,
and Joe Kubert.