Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965; JOE KUBERT

This week at finer comic book stores everywhere, the new graphic novel by comic book legend and extraordinary artist, Joe Kubert, titled Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 arrived. This new hardcover graphic novel (200 pages) published by DC Comics is a fictional account by Joe Kubert (who both writes and illustrates Dong Xoai) of events that happened in Don Xoai, in June of 1965.

Joe Kubert did extensive research on Dong Xoai and communicated with the soldiers of the Special Forces Group (Detachment A-342, 5th Special Forces Group Airborne) that were in service there during the time this graphic novel takes place. Dong Xoai was critical within Vietnam because several roads that moved men and material between war zones intersected nearby. The Special Forces unit was stationed there to secure Dong Xoai against the Viet Cong and to train / supply the Vietnamese strike force.

The art style that Joe Kubert employs in Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965, is more of an illustrative style and while this graphic novel isn't done in the traditional sequential panel borders format, the events that unfold (and the art itself) are more organic for these artistic choices that Joe Kubert has made for this book.

Anyone who has read, watched, or heard any accounts of the Vietnam War know that it was an especially difficult conflict and what happens in Dong Xaoi, in June of 1965 was no exception. Just as there can't be too many stories about what happened during World War I, stories about what happened during the Vietnam War are important because of how divided people of the United States were with the U.S.'s involvement, that many are still trying to sort though today forty years after these events occurred. There's over thirty pages after Kubert's Dong Xaoi, Vietnam 1965 narrative, with photos, from the Special Forces team that was there which provides the historical context for this graphic novel.

At this year's Wondercon San Francisco comic book convention, which was held the first weekend of April this year, the highlight for me was meeting Joe Kubert (this photo is from that convention), getting one of his new sketchbooks, and telling him how much I've enjoyed his many contributions in the comic book industry. At the Joe Kubert and Adam Kubert panel at the convention moderated by Mark Evanier, I was also happy to be the first one called upon during the question session and I think Joe Kubert liked that I asked him to talk about Dong Xaoi, Vietnam 1965 because he went on at length about how he first got the idea to do this graphic novel.

Joe Kubert is 84 years old, has worked in this medium for over 75 years (!!) on characters such as Hawkman, Tor, and SGT. Rock, a character he worked on for over thirty rears and has won numerous awards for his cartooning work. Joe Kubert also wrote and drew many graphic novels such as Yossel, Fax From Sarajevo, and Jew Gangster, in addition to running his comic book art school, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, which he established in 1976 with his wife. The fact that Joe Kubert has worked in this industry for over 75 years is amazing unto itself, but what's truly amazing is that he is still producing work on the caliber of Dong Xaoi, Vietnam 1965 and that he can still draw with a flair that is still miles above what most artists can ever hope to attain (both in quality and sheer output). I've said the preceding not to discourage other artists, or to degenerate other artists, rather to show that cartooning, or any kind of art, doesn't have to just be a young person's game.

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