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DC Comics, courtesy Kubert School
Sgt. Rock was one of the iconic characters Joe Kubert was best-known for. His school for artists carries on his legacy.
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TODAY books
updated 8/13/2012 4:18:06 PM ET 2012-08-13T20:18:06

Famed comic book artist Joe Kubert, who created “Sgt. Rock” and drew the well-known 1940s comic “Hawkman” and its 1960s reincarnation, died at age 85 on Sunday.

Kubert and his wife also founded the Kubert School in Dover, N.J., which since its founding in 1975 has become an internationally renowned institution for teaching graphic and cartoon art. Two of Kubert’s sons, Adam, 52, and Andy, 50, are notable comic book artists in their own right, having worked on titles like Spider-Man, Superman, Wolverine, Ultimate X-Men and Incredible Hulk. Kubert is survived by a total five children, also including sons David, 58, and Danny, 57, and daughter Lisa, 54.

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“Up until yesterday, he was known as the living legend,’’ Adam Kubert told TODAY.com on Monday. “I don’t know what they’re going to call him now. His legacy will be different things to different people.’’

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His passion for comics was evident right up until his death. Adam and Andy were working with their father on an installment in DC Comics’ “Before Watchmen” series even while his health was failing.

“He brought his work to the hospital with him and did it while he was there,’’ Adam said. “He drew every day, seven days a week.’’

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Kubert got his first job in comics in 1938 when he was only 11 years old and living in Brooklyn, and he gained prominence by drawing the Hawkman comic in the 1940s. He later had a hand in creating “Three Dimension Comics,” which included Mighty Mouse, in 1952, and followed that by helping to create Sgt. Rock, a comic based around a World War II Army officer named Frank Rock that was released in 1959. DC Comics released a monthly installment of Sgt. Rock for nearly 30 years.

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Kubert was still prolific later into his life, producing the critically-acclaimed graphic novel “Yossel’’ in 2003. The novel is about the life of a young Jewish artist in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland, where Kubert was born before his family moved to America ahead of World War II.

A pioneer in the industry, he also watched as comics became big business in Hollywood, producing numerous blockbuster movies.

“It's always gratifying to know that what you do is better known and more widespread, but he got the most enjoyment when he was sitting by himself putting pencil to paper,’’ Adam said.

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Sons Adam and Andy have become luminaries in the comic book world as well, but their father never pushed them into it.

“We chose this path,’’ Adam said. “He wanted us to do whatever it is that made us happy.’’

The Kubert School also became an important part of the legacy of Kubert and his wife, Muriel, who died at age 77 year in 2008 from breast cancer.

“That (school) was their baby,’’ Adam said. “They started it together, and both of them were equally critical to its success. He really enjoyed the interaction between himself and the students.’’

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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