A Tribute to the of

As I type this edition of the Silver Age Sage I have a heavy heart. It's the 12th of August, 2012 and I learned a short while ago that the incredible Joe Kubert has passed at the age of 85.

While I am deeply saddened, I take comfort in the fact that he was one of my first contacts when I began getting in touch with the creators for this feature. As a matter of fact, he was the second person I contacted and I'll admit it, I was a little frustrated with the terse replies I got to my e-mailed questions [Sage #170]. It wasn't until later that I realized he just wasn't much on talking about himself. When I called him about Jack Adler for that piece [Sage #212], he was much more forthcoming and we had a great telephone conversation. So I have his voice on tape, a nice little Hawkman sketch in my copy of his "How To Draw From Life" book and his autograph on my personal copy of DC Special No. 5 [December, 1969], titled "The Secret Lives of Joe Kubert!"

For those of you who don't have a copy of this issue, it's a treat through and through. It begins with a humorous, autobiographical piece drawn by Joe and about Joe called "The Cartoonist at Home!" The family portrait may be the best part of it, with Muriel, Dave, Danny, Lisa Adam and Andy in attendance. It then flows on with some of Joe's finest work, beginning, of course, with a Sgt. Rock story, then one called "Rider of the Winds!," and then a phony or at least staged lettercol with notes from Russ Heath; Irv Novick; Norm Maurer; Muriel Kubert and the kids David, Danny, Lisa, Adam & Andy; Neal Adams; Carmine Infantino and finally a note from Joe himself, explaining that the names above are his good friends and dearest family. Then it's a classic Hawkman tale, followed by a 2-page spread with another self-portrait and a recap of some of Joe's work on various characters during the Golden Age years in the '40s: Doctor Fate from 1944; Johnny Quick, also in 1944; Sargon the Sorcerer from 1946; Hawkman in 1947; The Guardian and the Newsboy Legion in 1945; The Flash and Wildcat in 1947; Vigilante in 1948 and finally Zatara in 1949. At the end there is an introduction to the new character he was starting in called Firehair. The final story in this collection is a Viking Prince adventure.

I've decided to cover the western story, "Rider of the Winds!" The scripter is lost to history, but Joe did the pencils and inks and it originally appeared as the featured story in Showcase #2 from May/June of 1956, right on the brink of the Silver Age when of course Showcase #4 brought back the revamped Flash, inked by Joe Kubert.

By the way, Joe is a one-man band in this issue, doing the cover, editing and of course pretty much everything in between except for a few writing credits on the stories.

Back to "Rider of the Winds!": The magnificent splash page shows a young boy in buckskin pants and moccasins falling from a cliff with a snow-capped mountain in the background and a massive eagle catching him.

The story begins with an ancient ceremony taking place in an Indian village at the base of Trembling Mountain. The tribal elder is holding a feather and calls on the Great Spirit to take it and write the name of the papoose present on it. The feather is tossed and taken by the wind until it is snatched from its trajectory by a large eagle, causing the elder to proclaim that the Rider of the Winds has caught the feather, thus naming the child Eagle Feather. He further intones that the eagle itself will be the babe's guardian.

Unfortunately we also learn that in addition to the guardian from the animal kingdom, there is opposition in the form of a mountain lion.

Life, meanwhile, goes on and as Eagle Feather reaches the age of 14 his father places him in charge of the tribe's flock of sheep. Gladly the boy takes the responsibility and is gladdened to see his guardian eagle show up, flying close enough to brush him with its great wings.

One day, while the shepherd is tending his flock he hears a lamb in distress. The creature has wandered into quicksand. Eagle Feather does not hesitate to rescue his charge, but then finds himself in the clutches of the quicksand.

He utters a prayer of sorts: "O Rider of the Winds—mighty godfather of Eagle Feather—only you can help me now!" Amazingly, the eagle appears and descends, offering his massive wing to Eagle Feather and pulling the youth free from the trap.

During the rescue, however, the mountain lion, known as Black Lightning, has chosen to strike the flock. Five of the sheep fall victim and Eagle Feather's father upbraids his son for this loss and symbolically breaks the boy's Eagle Feather, heaping shame upon his son.

Seeking to redeem himself, Eagle Feather approaches the tribal wise man to see what must be done. He is informed that he must defeat Black Lightning.

Quickly, Eagle Feather begins his quest, and armed with a Tomahawk and his wits, he tracks the big cat, but Black Lightning strikes from a recess in the rocky outcropping, disarming Eagle Feather and then disappearing. Truly it has become a game of cat and mouse.

Continuing his climb, Eagle Feather again encounters Black Lightning, but the boy is losing his grip on the crumbling rock. Just then the Rider of the Winds arrives to intimidate the big cat and while the great bird distracts the predator, Eagle Feather grabs a large stone and hurls it at Black Lightning, knocking it over the cliff's edge. In his moment of victory, however, he has lost his own grip, but the great Eagle saves the boy, carefully gripping his wrist with a large talon and depositing him to the ground below.

Eagle Feather takes a new feather dropped by the Rider of the Wind to replace the one he lost and with head held high returns to the village, his honor restored.

A short 8-page story filled with Kubert goodness. I enthusiastically give this issue the maximum 10 rating. The rest of the issue is just as impressive as this short story and I'm convinced Joe could do no wrong whether he was working on any of the aforementioned or Tarzan, Tor, Enemy Ace, Ragman, Rima, Fax from Sarajevo, Jew Gangster, Tex the Lonesome Rider…oh, you get the idea. The man was peerless as an award winning artist, editor and founder and instructor of the school that bears his name.

Godspeed, Joe. Your work has entertained and inspired for decades and will doubtless continue to do so in the future. A wonderful legacy has been left by a legend.

We'll be back in about two weeks with another installment and a new interview! Stay tuned and don't forget to write: professor_the@hotmail.com

Until then...

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2012 by B.D.S

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