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The Joe Kubert School of Art ads

February 18, 2014

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So I was reading through some old back issues of The Incredible Hulk, as I am often want to do, when I noticed something very interesting; an illustration of Darth Vader with a hood. Wearing a hood to be more exact, something which as far as I know was never done before (for obvious reasons.)

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The ad screamed “Darth Vader Lives!” which was impossible because I had seen him die like 10 times already in the movie! I mean, it looked like he died, I mean…I think he’s alive??… which is what my 10 yr old self kept wondering over and over.

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What I was actually looking at was a ad for the newly emerging Star Wars merchandise (including a knock-off light saber) being sold through “Heroes World”, mail order toy store from New Jersey. But what impressed me most was the artwork: I knew it right away the minute I saw it. It was the work of the Joe Kubert School of Art.

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Now known as simply the Kubert School, it was founded in 1976 by legendary comic artist and creator Joe Kubert. It stand still to this day as the only accredited school devoted entirely to cartooning. Sequential storytelling, illustration and design…basically teaching students how to successfully make comic books. As a 60 year veteran in the comics industry, Joe Kubert was best known for his work on Tarzan, Sgt. Rock and Hawkman for DC comics. His two sons, Adam and Andy are both well known comic professionals as well.

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The first ad appeared in the May 1978 issues of Marvel comics (note the name “Hans” Solo…kinda like that better) The comic books usually have a few months lead-in time, so the actual issue probably went to press a few months earlier, say March or February. Which places them right after Christmas of 1977, the summer Star Wars hit theaters.

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Now it’s a well-known fact that Kenner slept on the merchandise for Star Wars at the time, which meant the toys weren’t even available to buy for that upcoming Christmas season. But other manufacturers were ready, and Heroes World was ready to take advantage of it.

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Later ads focused on the more popular and consistently top selling Mego Corp.’s WGSH line as well as other interesting Marvel licensed (crap) toys. The Heroes World catalogs themselves became quite collectible, and all had lush illustrations provided by the way cool Kubert School of Graphic Art and Design. The kind of school I really wanted to go to as a 10-year-old…

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Now what made these ads stand out against the others is that they were entirely hand drawn. It wasn’t full of the usual cut and paste stock clip art that was normally used, it had breath and life because it was done with pen and ink. Now while I fully appreciate what digital can do, there really is nothing like holding an actual piece of art in your hands, that was done by hand.

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Now the 46 year old me is wishing he could still by some of these toys at these 1978 prices…because to buy most of these back now would cost quite a bit more.

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Even Gene Simmons was getting in on the act. Gotta respect a guy who likes comics and has a 25″ tongue.

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One Comment
  1. less permalink

    Did anybody get that on the commercial drawing of the characters? HanS Solo, Hahahaha, ze gerrmans are evrywhere…

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