When Andy Kubert took over the reins on X-Men and Uncanny X-Men during my ’90s comic collecting days, I developed a love-hate relationship with his artwork. I was always frustrated by the same face syndrome he displayed in his art and by his weirdly disproportionate appendages, with knees that seemed to take up far more focal space than they ought to. I could never understand how he could be involved in the Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art when his body proportions always seemed so … off.
And yet, when it comes to X-Men comic book covers in particular, his work most certainly stands out in my mind as some of the best. Taking a closer look at Kubert’s cover art twenty years later, I’m finally realizing why.
1. High Energy, Creative Poses
Anyone can do a typical superhero power pose cover, and Kubert has done his fair share, but more often than not, his covers feature poses that pop off the page. Sure their bodies defy physical reasoning, but we’ll deal with the physiotherapy bills later.
2. Mood Setting
Whether its romance, a daring rescue, or a heated battle, Kubert knows how to set the mood, building tension, a sense of urgency, a sense of peace, a promise of danger, or worse. Wind direction, shading choices, background details (or lack there of), and focal points keep your eye on the prize. Use of the space is key and he doesn’t let pesky things like logos get in his way. Even when he does make use of typical superhero poses, that’s rarely all there is going on.
3. Dynamic Storytelling
A Kubert cover demands that you open it up to find out exactly what is going on. The writer’s got a story to tell, and Kubert gets the jump on it with covers that summarize all 32 pages, giving you the crux to chew on, without giving away all the details. And he’s not afraid to show our heroes at their worst, whether it’s having an ugly cry or losing the battle. We know they’re going to pick themselves up and save the day in the end, but Kubert is welcome to express those dire emotions that let us know the journey within these pages won’t be an easy one. As if it ever is.
4. Fabulous Fashion and Hair
Fashion is more specific to Kubert’s interior work, but I can fall off topic for a minute to praise the efforts he put into dressing our favourite mutants fashionably during their down time, especially since out-of-costume fashion is such a big deal for me. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also talk about the fabulous hair Kubert draws. Yes, long hair is a detriment when you’re fighting to save the world, but if Kubert is your stylist, you need to show those locks off. And that’s not just the long-haired ladies, I’m talking about. Kubert gives just as much love to the fellas. No one can draw Gambit’s ‘do quite like Andy Kubert do.
This isn’t to say that other artists didn’t or don’t create covers that intrigue me as much as Andy Kubert’s X-Men runs do. The point is that a conversation about why his covers bugged me so much, turned into me having a closer look and realizing what made me love them too. Also, any excuse to bust out my old X-Men comics is a good one.