Back in mid-July, as I've done for the past six summers, I helped with the facilitation of two national teacher conferences at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. During one of the sessions at the English/language arts conference, teachers from around North America were discussing whether or not they'd use Art Spiegelman's Maus with middle school/junior high-aged students. Several voiced concern that the material was a bit too mature for that audience. One of the young teachers in the room raised her hand and remarked that her husband was an artist, and his grandfather had written a graphic novel that fit the bill. I was in the back of the room observing the session, but you know my ears perked up -- face it, it's not just anyone who can say their grandfather wrote a graphic novel. She went on to say that the graphic novel that she has successfully taught from was called Yossel. The author? Joe Kubert. I about fell off my chair.
When the session ended I approached the young teacher who'd offered the suggestion to her fellows. I just wanted to express to her, and to her husband, how much joy their grandfather had given me, really since the time I was six or seven years old. She was very grateful, and said that she had never actually met Kubert but had heard so many things about him. She added that her father-in-law, Joe's son-in-law, would be at the conference on the next day and would I like to meet him. I agreed, and later was able to express many of my same sentiments. It was a wonderful conversation, and everything I'd ever heard about Joe Kubert as a human being was confirmed by his son-in-law.
Yesterday marked four years since Joe Kubert's passing (it is the same date, in some crazy comic cosmic twist of fate that Mark Gruenwald and Mike Wieringo passed as well). One of the things I wanted to say to Joe Kubert's family was that Joe was a treasure; the man is in the conversation of the greatest artists of all time in the comics industry. They appreciated that so much.
So that brings us to this weekend's conversation, and it's multi-faceted. First off, maybe the important question is "how does a creator make your list of all-time greats?" Is it pretty objective? For example, I don't have a tremendous amount of experience with the work of Alex Toth, but I'll accept the opinions of those who say he's in the conversation. Same with Frank Frazetta. For both men, a large chunk of their important output was before my fandom. Or, is your all-time list populated by your personal favorites?
For me, I would have to say that people like Kirby, Kubert, Toth, Jack Davis, Frazetta, John Severin, and others are pretty much pillars of the industry. But can I add Buscema, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, and even John Romita to the mix?
What about you?