“He sure is my heap hep dream beam!”* In praise of Bob Lubbers (1922-2017)

Mr. Lubbers (pronounced LEW-bers) , born January 10, 1922, left us last summer at the venerable age of ninety-five. As it happens, he also left us some fine, fine artwork.

My initial encounter with Bob Lubbers‘ work came in 1978, when he provided a handful of covers and a couple of issues to Marvel’s Human Fly, a book about masked Canadian stuntman Rick Rojatt, whose real-life, non-funnybook story is a gripping read**. Anyway, the series was usually pencilled either by Lee Elias*** or by the mighty Frank Robbins; by the time Lubbers came along, Robbins had rightly had his fill, given the comics industry the one-finger salute and decamped to México to retire and paint in peace. Wise man.

Lubbers’ fourth and final The Human Fly cover (no. 16, Dec. 1978, Marvel). Inks by Bob McLeod. Inside, “Niagara Nightmare!” is written by Bill Mantlo, with art by Lubbers and Ricardo Villamonte.

I then became aware of Mr. Lubbers as one of the Golden Age’s primo ‘good girl’ cover artists, with Fiction House, no less. That’s what I’ll chiefly focus on here. Can you honestly blame me? Unlike some of his peers (hello, Bill Ward), he wasn’t just good at, and interested in, the saucy depiction of lightly-clad sirens: he could draw anything with finesse and brio.

Mouth-breathing, slope-browed… I guess he’s not the hero in this one. Wings Comics no. 82 (June 1947, Fiction House.)
Arguably the most (in)famous of Lubbers’ Wings covers. “Classic bondage and headlights cover!”, cry the ancient fanboys. Wings Comics no. 90 (Feb. 1948, Fiction House.)
If our man of the hour had rescue in mind for the imperilled damsel, dropping a payload (you heard me!) a hundred feet away from her is likely to… make the situation a bit messy. Wings Comics no. 91 (March 1948, Fiction House.)
« Seriously? The engine is on fire, we’re being strafed, I’m hogtied and helpless, and he’s still going to threaten me with a gun? » Wings Comics no. 94 (June 1948, Fiction House.)
The life of a crocodile dentist isn’t an easy one, but the satisfaction of a job well done is its own reward. Wings Comics no. 98 (Oct. 1948, Fiction House.)
Here comes the mother of all rope burns, sister. You’re supposed to grab the loop! Wings Comics no. 100 (Dec. 1948, Fiction House.)
The exception to the Fiction House Wings set: Authentic Police Cases no. 5 (Oct. 1948, St. John.) The babes never could resist a bad boy.

Yet farther along, I would learn of his large and distinguished body of comic strip work: Long Sam, Secret Agent X-9, Tarzan, The Saint, Lil’ Abner, and best of all, his most personal work, Robin Malone (1967-70). On the latter, I can’t praise enough Tom Heintjes‘ definitive article (Hogan’s Alley no. 19, 2014), here’s a version of it: www.hoganmag.com/blog/the-life-and-death-of-robin-bob-lubbers-robin-malone

… and don’t forget to scroll down, down, down so you can sample (though it’s never enough!) the article’s lavish bounty Robin Malone Sunday strips.

*From the Captain Wings adventure « The Spider and the Fly-Guy » (Wings Comics no. 82) Read it right here (or pick from a generous selection of Wings Comics issues at Comicbookplus.com)

**speaking of which, check out this fine piece about The Human Fly’s rocket bike and the stunt that ended his career: http://kymichaelson.us/human-fly. You have to admit that jumping over 27 buses is a tad ambitious… and he was originally going to try for 36!

***likely picked for the job due to his fine work on another masked stuntperson character, Harvey’s The Black Cat.

– RG

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