Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sgt. Rock and Roll

When I was a kid, the first comic books I enjoyed were DC's war comics. And the best DC war comics were the reprint books (of which there were a lot, as DC and Marvel engaged in a war over newsstand placement, and reprint comics were the cheapest way to crank out volume), because they would contain stories from the sixties drawn by Joe Kubert.

Kubert's art was unlike any other comics artist's. His trademarks were a lively, organic line that communicated much with a few strokes; impeccable pacing; characters with a haunted look in their eyes (ideal for war comics); and, in an era when DC's layouts tended toward the staid, wild "camera angles" that could take the reader's breath away.

In the late fifties, Kubert essentially created the look of the DC war comics, particularly with his flagship feature, Sgt. Rock. Rock's character evolved over a few stories, but then settled into the long run. His lead feature in OUR ARMY AT WAR lasted from the fifties into the mid-seventies, when Rock finally got his own series. Rock's feature petered out in the early eighties, with occasional reprint miniseries; and Kubert devoted more of his attention to his comic illustrator's school.

Yet, incredibly, over forty-five years after first drawing Rock, Kubert is still around; and he's once again drawing the combat-happy joes of Easy Company. A few years ago, he drew a Rock graphic novel, Between Hell and a Hard Place, written by Brian Azzerelllo. And now he is writing and drawing (and lettering and coloring!) a new Sgt. Rock miniseries. Even more incredibly, his artwork now is even better than it was then, as the art on the left shows.

Most comebacks are disappointments. But sometimes what seems like a comeback is only a second wind.

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