Monday, September 18, 2006
Joe Kubert's "The Hog."
Joe Kubert is a cartoonist and teacher, as well as being one of the best comic book artists of all time. He started young, about 13, as an apprentice and he learned his lessons well.
Off the top of my pointy head, I can think of some of the Golden Age comic book publishers he worked for: DC, Harvey, St. John, and Atlas. He even did a short stint at EC, working with Harvey Kurtzman.
This story, The Hog, is from Journey Into Mystery #21, January 1955. It was the second to last issue of the pre-code series, and the whole comic seems somewhat tamer than earlier issues. Maybe the censorship talk was affecting them, even before the Comics Code went into effect.
The Hog is Horror Comics 101, the most basic style of horror story published in those pre-code years. A bad guy performs bad acts, and gets an ironic fate, brought about by his misdeeds. This story stretches that with the most laughable ending I've read, and you'll see what I mean when you read it.
Where it's great, and worth looking at, is in the artwork and storytelling style of Joe Kubert. The splash panel is a masterpiece, showing one car cutting off another car on a road with an S-curve. We're immediately dropped into the premise of the story: the main character is a jerk, a road hog. He's what police nowadays euphemistically call an "aggressive driver." In this case the guy likes to make people crash because he wants to see them die. Kubert's layouts are varied, and he uses his long shots with as much effectiveness as his close-ups. The last page is straight out of the Harvey Kurtzman stylebook.
Look also for the road sign that says "Drive Carefully" or the billboard with the "Reduce Tension" line for its gum ad. I doubt these were scripted in, but put in by Kubert for further irony.
A lesser artist would have taken such a ridiculous story with the very silly ending and by lack of talent made the story completely unmemorable. It's to Kubert's credit that no matter what story he was given to draw he made it worth a long look.