Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Art of Joe Kubert

Just did a "review" of the book The Art of Joe Kubert on and thought I'd share it here too.
[I gave it two stars while the five other reviewers all gave it five stars.]
Only 2 stars?
Let me start with saying that this is a nice collection of scans of comic book pages and covers, plus a few complete stories from the 40's and 50's by Joe Kubert. Hard to find stuff by a great, great artist. All put in context by Bill Schelly.
It feels like reading a special Joe Kubert issue of "Alter Ego", in color with hard covers.
Nothing wrong with that.
In fact this is a perfect companion to "Man of Rock" by Schelly.
And I have to say the choice of paper used in this book is excellent!

Then why only two stars?
Well, as an "Art of" book it fails miserably.
What we get here are mostly scans from comic books.
Almost no personal works, no sketches or preliminaries etc. (A childhood drawing is the only piece reproduced in this book not related to his comic book work. And it has been previously published.) Did Kubert only draw finished comic book art and nothing else?
That's the impression you get when looking in this book.

Either Schelly didn't get access to the Kubert archives or he didn't care for unpublished artwork.
However there are 25 pieces of comic book art reproduced from original art. Of those are all but five taken from Heritage Auctions.
(Ca 200 pages of original Joe Kubert art can be viewed on their site. Check under "Reference".)
Unfortunately those pages shows traces of compression in the images, jagged lines etc. The Heritage Auctions scans are great to watch on a computer screen, but reproduction of those pages in this book leaves a lot to desire.
(Check out Mark Evanier's "Kirby: King of Comics" for how nice original art can be reproduced.)
Why not go for original Kubert comic book artwork not easily available on the net when producing a book like this?

If you, like me, expect a fantastic book like "B. Krigstein" by Greg Sadowski, the above mentioned Kirby book or a stunning art book like Dean Mullaney's "Caniff" you will be disappointed. The title "The Art of" is simply mis-leading in this case.
But if you are looking for a nice companion book to "Man of Rock" you can add two stars to mine.

Links to the other books mentioned above:
Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert
B. Krigstein, Volume 1
Kirby: King of Comics
Caniff HC

1 comment:

Jim Keefe said...

Kubert is one of my favorite artists, and I didn't pick up this book for all the reasons you cited.

On a side note: John Romita is one of my favorite artists as well. I didn't pick up the BADLY produced Marvel book reprinting the newspaper strips - but JUMPED at the chance when IDW came out with their beautiful John Romita Artist's Edition collection.