Joe Kubert and the Experiment of 3D Comics

Joe Kubert

Joe Kubert was a titan in his field. As one of the main pencilers and illustrators of comic books in the early 40s, he is considered a virtual founder of the industry as we know it.  He passed away earlier this August.  He left behind two sons who are comic artists themselves; his very own Joe Kubert School for comics in Dover, NJ; and a tremendous influence on comic books.  From his position as a major player, he had a lot of leeway to experiment over his long career, including being one of the first in any industry to promote 3D imaging.

He is credited with being the forerunner of 3D comics in the . . . wait for it . . . 1950s!  Teaming with Craig Yoe in 2011, he produced a compilation called, simply enough, Amazing 3-D Comics.  Kubert himself was considered a pioneer of “red-blue” 3D editions.

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Kubert worked with Leonard and Norman Maurer in the early 1950s to piggyback off the original 3D-movie fad that was sweeping cinemas at the time.

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They paid excruciating attention to detail, lighting and shadow in the comics, prepping them for conversion and viewing with anaglyph glasses.  The process he oversaw was expensive, requiring more ink and Pantone colors than was common.  But that investment paid off, selling a whopping 1.2 million copies of the new medium at $.25 a copy (during an era when they often cost only $.10).  More titles would follow, popularizing handheld 3D imaging even as the fad waned.

Kubert had to rely on a technique which, while more difficult and perhaps outdated, is increasingly being used by movie studios to convert 2D films into their 3D versions: stereo conversion.  The process is cumbersome and has to overcome a number of challenges, though anticipating an image will be used in 3D gives an artist (or a filmmaker) advantages in preparing for later conversion.

Working for St. Johns Publications, the early editions of 3D work were called “Three Dimensional Comics.”Even though the fad died out, he had resurfaced to join the latest 3D trend and has obviously received praise for being one of the pioneers in published 3D.

Modern Comics are Getting the 3D Treatment in Kubert's Tradition

Comic books again have entered the 3D realm, making the crisper and updated styles popular today jump off the page and reflecting the deeper attitudes and action of modern comics.  His impact will be enduring, as a patriarch of comic books leaves behind a truly influential legacy.

Joe Kubert's Self "Portrait" Surrounded by Many of the Characters He Illustrated

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