2019 GalaxyCon Louisville EXCLUSIVE: Joe Rubinstein Talks Con Culture, The Current Landscape of Comi
Few can boast the career that Mr. Rubinstein has had (& continues to have) in the comics industry. Starting his career as a teenage office assistant to Dick Giordano and Neal Adams in the early 70s, Joe has - in the nearly 50 years - since had his inking talents splash the pages of Marvel, DC, as well as Dark Horse Comics. This weekend, fans can come check out the legendary artist at GalaxyCon Louisville (formerly known as Lousiville Supercon) as he's joined by Jim Starlin & Ron Lim - to round out most of the team behind the epic Infinity Gaunlet comic story.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Joe about: the comics' industry's current impact on pop culture, his current approach to inking, & his thoughts on where the comics industry might need to go in the next few years. Check it out below...
BT: Joe, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with MOVERS & SHAKERS UNLIMITED. I'll start first by asking, "Considering the MANY Cons that I'm sure you have your pick of to attend, what drew you to GalaxyCon Louisville?"
JR: Well, I'd say that it's likely due in part on the Con's thinking - seeing that [Jim] Starlin and Ron Lim are both going to be there, it made sense to include me, as my addition, would complete 3/4 of the "Infinity Gaunlet" team.
BT: Gotcha, gotcha. Well, that's actually a great segue to my next question, which is, "Aside from the logical sense of joining Starlin & Lim at a Con," do any other general factors influence your decision to attend a given Con (i.e. catching up/hanging out with contemporaries, going to a specific destination, etc.)?
JR: No, I wouldn't say that [there are general factors that attract me to a Con]. However, once I AM at a Con, I might look through the programming and say, "Oh look, there's my friend, Bob McLeod...there's my friend, Bob Hall...let me write them & see if we can all have dinner later."
JR: So, [with that in mind] it's always good to be with people who you've known [for a long time] and like...Instances such as those can undeniably be nice surprises & treats, but to be honest, comic book conventions are sort of like vaudeville...
JR: (Continuing)...[Like vaudeville] in that we (guests like myself) all go [to Cons], "do our bit," then we may see someone we know and say, "Hey, I haven't seen 'ya in 3 years! Hey, how are 'ya doing...?" Sometimes, it just works out that way...
BT: Right, right...
JR: At the same, there are a lot of people [in my industry] who do every single convention it seems like, so it's like, "Oh, there THEY are again."
BT: Gotcha, gotcha. Well, be that as it may, we live in an interesting time - as I'm sure you know - where comics books have seeped into all facets of pop culture (i.e. film/tv, games, etc.). So I'd love to know your thoughts on the various characters as well as comic book story arcs now becoming common knowledge to the general public?
JR: Well, for those people who now know about Thanos (and care about him) or Wolverine - both characters with whom I'm closely associated with - I can comfortably tell them that "I did" those characters; however, if I'm in a really pretentious mood...
JR: (Continuing)...it's like, (speaking to someone) "Yeah, my work is the basis for the highest grossing movie of all time - AVENGERS ENDGAME!"
BT: (Laughing) There you go! (Smiling)
JR: ...not that [saying that] gets me any [money] from anywhere.
JR: Still, I can say it [when speaking with people about those characters]! With that said, [the popularity of these characters] is also a mixed bag because I have a couple of Wolverine shirts that I wear to comic book conventions as well as an Infinity Gaunlet one that I had to buy because no one sends me a copy or pays me for using my work...
JR: ...so it's a bit of an injustice there. Now, believe me, they (the movie industry) would have made the movie without me [or my input], but it would have still been nice to at least be invited to the premiere or to be on the set to watch the films being made...
[Jim] Starlin deserves everything he's getting and I very happy for him, I just feel it would be nice to have someone include me - now and again - on these things.
BT: Absolutely! Well, the reason I bring up this topic is due to the news (not long ago) stating that Marvel Studios President, Kevin Feige (below), would be taking a new position as Chief Creative Officer for Marvel - providing him creative control of all things Marvel. What are your thoughts on this?
JR: We'll see...He's certainly demonstrated that he knows what he's doing when it comes to the movies - the mega hits that they are.
JR: Only time will tell if he's spreading himself too thin or if he's delegating responsibilities to the best people...We'll see. The ironic thing about all of this is that comics are ubiquitous, everyone (adapting these stories) is making TONS of money, yet the one thing not selling is comic books! For example, people who go out to see films like INFINITY WAR, don't run out to buy a copy of Avengers from their local comic book shop that month. Currently, if I'm not mistaken, comics are the least selling they've ever been; yet they're everywhere (i.e. TV, film, etc.).
BT: No doubt. In fact, it's funny you should say that because I've recently started watching the new Watchmen series on HBO. Just a few years ago, it would have been unheard of to see such a show on TV, yet here we are.
JR: Yeah! Also, the fact that they made the movie [before] too was great, because it didn't feature recognizable characters like Batman or Superman. To this day, I still hold Watchmen as the best comic limited series all of time.
BT: You are not alone in that sentiment.
JR: Well, I guess I should say the Wolverine miniseries that I did also...(Smiling)
BT: That as well...That as well. (Smiling) Now, shifting gears from "comics in pop culture," I'd like to delve into your approach to inking. Has it remained the same or would you say that it has evolved (for you) over your career?
JR: Well, I'd like to think that I've gotten better! (Smiling)
JR: I look at my old work and think of what I might have done better. As a matter of fact, these days when I'm commissioned to do recreations of my old work - oftentimes being asked for an exact recreation - I regularly find myself saying, "Gee, I wish this guy (my younger self) were better....'cause I would have done this differently here and that differently there," but I have to stick to what my old choices were...
JR: Still, [with all that being said] the basic philosophy (for me) has not changed in the 40+ years I've been at it, which is: follow what's in front of you, give respect to what's in front of you. For example, if I'm given a great artist like [Jose] Luis Garcia Lopez or John Buscema, no one is asking for Joe Rubinstein when it comes back. If you, as a comic reader, see the prior names just mentioned as the artist - or perhaps Frank Miller - on a comic cover, it should come back as the best version of that said person's work.
This philosophy has always been my thrust...The reason being that I don't want my work to become homogenous.
BT: Gotcha, gotcha. So to close, considering everything that we have discussed regarding how far the comics industry has come and where it still has left to go, where do you see the industry going - based on what you have observed - in the next 5-10 years?
JR: Well, in the ol' days when you would buy Daredevil, the story would sometimes end on a cliffhanger, and you had to wait a month to find out happened - there was a sweet agony about having to wait that long...
However, now that we live in a day & age where people binge & stream their content, it seems to me that comics might need to adjust its rollout format to match with the times. For example, 12 issues of a comic book series should be dropped all at once or a chapter should release every three days to a week. This way, people can get their comics when they want - similar to the way that they get their other content.
BT: Gotcha, gotcha. Well Joe, thank you so much for your time. I really do appreciate it!
JR: Thank you, take care.