Joe Kubert – Flash Gordon page

Joe Kubert (1926-2012)
Tribute: Part 1

Back in 2002 I dropped Joe Kubert a line asking if he’d be interested in drawing a Flash Gordon Sunday page for the small sum I could afford to pay at the time. I figured I had a shot at him accepting as first, I was a Kubert School alum, and secondly (and more importantly) because of his fondness of the strip and its creator, Alex Raymond.

He said yes with the stipulation that he would have full control over the finished product. In essence, for the paltry sum I had offered, he was willing to do not just the art but also the lettering, coloring and color separations as well. He also wanted to include as many classic Raymond characters as possible. I sent him some reference (Raymond clip art and color specs) and a loose script that I told him not to adhere to – to just use as a springboard. I gave him the page well in advance so I would have plenty of time to fashion the surrounding Sunday pages in regards to continuity.

Example of Alex Raymond clip art sent to Joe Kubert as reference.

Flash Gordon Sunday page: Loose script

Panel 1
Direction:
Reaction shot of Flash, Vultan and Thun to creature (creature as yet unseen).
Vultan and Thun are momentarily frozen to the spot.
Flash springing forward into action.

Flash and Thun have swords, Vultan has spear. See reference for costume.
Note: Flash wearing holster but gun has been removed.

Text Box: As the grisly creature enters the arena, Flash springs into action!
Flash: Vultan, Thun, no time to waste… That thing is headed straight for Dale!

Panel 2 (inset in panel 3)
Direction:
Close up on Ming in his spectator’s booth. A look of macabre enjoyment lights his face.

Text Box: Far above the horrible spectacle, Ming issues a proclamation as old on Mongo as time itself…
Ming: Let the Tournaments of Death Begin!

Panel 3
Direction:
Flash, Vultan and Thun engaging creature as it reaches Dale. Dale is chained to center of arena (see reference), straining at bonds.
Vultan flying, swooping in for the attack.

Creature is your design – go nuts!

Text Box (lower right hand corner): To be continued!


Promptly and WAY before deadline, he emailed me the finished artwork.

Click on image to enlarge.

The changes he made to the script were sublime.
Flash entering with weapons? Where’s the fun in that?
Joe had Flash and his allies chained in the center of the arena – defenseless.

The layout: Panoramic establishing shot followed by reaction shots of our helpless captives leading up to the cliffhanger as the creature is released.
A master storyteller, Joe had amped up the drama from my initial script to a fevered pitch.

After the page saw print I sent Joe a copy of it from the Boston Herald’s Sunday Comics section. A few week later I got the following response…


December 2, 2002

Dear Jim,
It’s amazing and sad the depths to which syndication has sunk. I was sorry that they distorted the strip to the extent that they did, but what do people say about crying over spilt milk?

I hope the New Year brings good things for you.

Take care,
Joe


To fully understand Joe’s reaction I’ve included the following quick visual showing what Joe Kubert grew up reading in the 1930’s compared to what Sunday comics look like today.

Left to right: Flash Gordon 2/25/1934 by Alex Raymond – Flash Gordon 11/10/2002 by Joe Kubert


A short time afterward Mark McMurray and I (a fellow alum) were visiting Joe in his studio and I asked (if it wasn’t any trouble) if I could get a copy of his Flash Gordon Sunday page artwork full size. Joe found the art and asked me if I would rather just have the original instead – dumbfounded I accepted. He bent forward to sign it for me, and before pen touched paper he turned to me and said, “I better not see this on eBay tomorrow.”

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Footnote: Suffice it to say, it did NOT go on eBay. As a matter of fact it went on display in the fall of 2012 at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center for the exhibit, Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe. Also on display were Works by Alex Raymond, Al Williamson, George Evans and myself.

flash.exhibit

About Jim Keefe

Jim Keefe is the current artist of the Sally Forth comic strip, he is also the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip - both available at ComicsKingdom.com. A graduate of the Joe Kubert School, Keefe likewise teaches Comic Art. Teaching and speaking engagements include SVA in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs, The University of Minnesota and most recently the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
This entry was posted in Cartoonists, Flash Gordon, Joe Kubert, King Features and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Joe Kubert – Flash Gordon page

  1. Mike says:

    WONDERFUL READ! Many thanks. I wonder if u can tell me if Joe referred to photo references when drawing, I have Dong Xoai which I love. I would love to know his process if this is ok please. Thanks!

  2. Jim
    Great article! I’m sure it was a thrill to have Joe do a strip. Being an X-QB also I know the man he was not to mention his talent. The work you’re doing is also wonderful! I’ve always been a huge newspaper strip guy! Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Popeye, Prince Valiant etc. Keep up the great work! And thanks for sharing!

  3. Patrick Lowery says:

    Even though I would barely call myself a fan of comic books, I owe Joe and his school a lot, and I’m not talking about the unclaimed damage done to student housing. Nice to see people still remember and will miss him.

  4. Jim Keefe says:

    I was fortunate enough to run into Joe one more time this past Spring at C2E2.
    I’ll be writing up a blog on that as well – truly memorable.

  5. Mark McMurray says:

    Great post, Jim!
    I seem to remember Joe saying “If I see this on eBay tomorrow, I’ll kill you”, but I could be mistaken.
    On a personal note, I’m pretty sure that was the last time I saw Joe face to face. Thanks for inviting me along on that trip! It bums me out I’ll never get to speak with him again…

  6. John Mietus says:

    Thanks, Jim. This was wonderful. Got choked up thinking about Joe today.

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