Joe Kubert is a prominent cartoonist, graphic novelist and illustrator. He is the founder and president of the Kubert School for cartoon and graphic arts in New Jersey. His extraordinary career spans the history of the comic book in America: he began drawing comics in 1938, just as Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1, and continues to be one of the most vital cartoonists working today, writing and drawing both mainstream comic book characters as well as, more recently, graphic novels of his own conception.  He has worked as an artist and writer, editor and teacher.  Kubert began his career at the early age of 12; his long list of well-loved cartoon figures includes Abraham Stone, Tarzan, Flash, Batman, Superman and the X-Men.

During Joe Kubert’s visit to Israel he received a lifetime award for 70 years of work from the Israeli Museum of Caricature and Comics in Holon, with the support of the Holon Municipality.  The museum opened an exhibition of his work and the work of his two sons, Adam and Andy Kubert, who are notable cartoonists in their own right.  The show, Heroes, curated by Dorit Maya Gur and Yuval Sharon, was the first show outside the US for both father and sons.  Over their visit, the museum held an evening in honor of their work with Israeli comics artists and a wide, appreciative crowd in the Holon Cinematheque.  Joe Kubert donated his original sketched of Yossel: 19 April, 1943 to the museum. 

Joe Kubert also met with President Shimon Peres, who is of the same generation, for a long conversation on Kubert’s life and work. In addition, he met with some 40 Israeli comics artists, and was thoroughly impressed by the local scene.  He said he found inspiration for his work in the people he met and places he visited, which included the Dead Sea, Massada, Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall Tunnels.

Kubert’s visit to Israel was supported by the Israeli Museum of Caricatures and Comics, Meditek Holon, the Holon Municipality, the American Embassy, and the JCVA residency.

Yossel: April 19, 1943, 2003

Joe Kubert’s Yossel: 19 April, 1943, is a speculative graphic novel made of a striking mix of reality and fiction: it explores what might have taken place if Joe Kubert’s parents, who were living in Poland in 1932, had chosen to stay there rather than emigrate to the US.  Kubert transports his fifteen year-old self and his family back from the US, where they were living in 1943, to the Warsaw Ghetto under the Nazis.  There he develops the story of Yossel, his counterpart, a remarkably talented young draftsman who documents life in the ghetto on pieces of cardboard. 

Kubert bases his fictional autobiography on historical facts and visual evidence, including letters sent by family friends who remained in Poland.  Using the genre’s usual sequencing of frames and framed text, he tells a fragmented story.  His graphic language of incomplete pencil drawings and a high-contrast, basic coloring scheme evoke the immediacy of Yossel’s bold and persuasive impressions.  The drawings appear unmediated; Kubert creates a convincingly realistic ghetto environment within which he brings to life to his partially fictive character. 

The open-ended drawings remind us of the presence of an illustrator, but can be experienced as an authentic document.  The distance that stylization and color normally bring to comics is dissolved here, and the effect is one of truthfulness.  The wise play between reality and fiction evokes the tension between truth and our created versions of reality, a tension which Kubert leaves as unresolved as Yossel’s life. Every incomplete sketch is an unfinished fragment in Yossel’s story, and the stories of those around him.