It's been a bad year for the elder statesmen of comics. Back in December, we lost Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon within days of each other and, today, Joe Kubert passed away at the age of 85. I can't say that I'm particularly familiar with Kubert's work, unfortunately, except for a Sgt. Rock collaboration written by Brian Azzerello. That book, though, Between Hell and a Hard Place, is one of my favorite graphic novels, a very honest sort of war story made all the better by Kubert's feeling impressionism. He handled all the visual elements of the work himself, and the soft lines and light colors come together to give the book a sort of distant, gauzy feel, one that contrasts with the way his storytelling ability drives home just how serious of a work Between Hell and a Hard Place and its horrific subject really are. Kubert, who served in Korea, very clearly knew that the way we remember the Second World War and the way it actually was are two very different things, and, in evoking both, his artwork reveals the flaws inherent both in an idealized view of history and in a sanitized account of the violence of war.
Because I love Between Hell and a Hard Place so much, I always sort of figured I'd take in some more of his work sooner or later and, while its never too late to dig deeper, my reading of his work will now always be marked with a certain cheapness, a certain sadness, the spectre of the fact that I started to read Joe Kubert's life work because he had died before I could get around to it. Which is not to say that I won't start in, just the opposite. It just won't be the same as it would have been if I had read it before today.
Move easy, Joe. You'll be missed.