How an iconic cartoonist left a legacy extending far beyond the pages he created, and inspired several generations of artists
How a cartoonist inspired several generations of artists at The Kubert School, including Dave Dorman and Alex Maleev.
Joe Kubert says he received $5 a page for his first paid gig as a cartoonist. That was good money in 1938. That was great money for an 11-year-old.
It was the beginning of a glittering career that would take the American comic-book artist from Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art to the Comic Book Hall of Fame – via DC Comics and his own creations, including Tor, Son of Sinbad and Viking Prince. Joe founded the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in 1976.
“I’ve always had the thought that it would be great if there was a formal school situation where an aspiring artist could gain this knowledge,” he said in a 1994 Comics Journal interview. “I knew nothing about setting up a school, or curriculums, or teaching… that abysmal ignorance was devoid of fear. So I just rolled ahead.”
Joe spotted a house for sale in his hometown Dover, New Jersey – an old 23-room mansion built in the early 1900s. It had a carriage house with two apartments over a four-car garage, set in over seven acres of land. It was, he and wife Muriel decided, the perfect place to set up a school.
When Joe died in August 2012, sons Adam and Andy – respected comic artists in their own right – took over the school. They pride themselves in staying true to their father’s vision. “It really hasn’t changed,”
says Andy, whose own credits include Batman & Son and Marvel 1602. “The passing of my father leaves a huge gap – not only with the school but within our family. Both he and my mom are sorely missed. We run the school pretty much the same way my father did.”
It clearly works. Stephen R Bissette (Swamp Thing), Dave Dorman (Star Wars, Indiana Jones), Steve Lieber (Whiteout and Hawkman), Alex Maleev (Daredevil) are just some of the school’s esteemed alumni.
It’s a family-run business with a familyrun feel. Where Andy and Adam took over the running of the school from father Joe, Andy’s wife, Theresa, has taken over from their mother Muriel. Class sizes are small. One-on-one instruction is paramount. “We have 95 students in total,” course
Many of our applicants would rather focus their energies simply on cartooning and nothing else
leader Mike Chen explains. “That’s first-year, secondyear and third-year students combined.”
Mike says the Kubert School is unique in its purist approach to cartooning. He says courses similar to the ones that Kubert offers are available elsewhere, but usually only as part of “large and impersonal liberal arts programme” and often imposing lessons in other unwanted subjects and disciplines as a condition of enrolment.
“Many of our applicants would rather focus their energies simply on cartooning,” Mike says, “and nothing else. And we are the only accredited school dedicated to training students in all aspects of the cartooning business.
“This is the only one focusing directly on the mainstream comics medium,” he continues, “Marvel, DC , Dark Horse, Dynamite-type titles. But we also facilitate other storytelling genres and mediums along with self-publishing ventures. We try to cover as many bases as possible.
“The team and I are committed to continuing what Joe started in 1976 and the School’s future is bright. It’s a fitting tribute to Joe.”
Location: New Jersey, US Al umni: Stephen Bissette, Dave Dorman, Steve Lieber, Alex Maleev
Web: www.kubertschool.edu The son of Joe, Adam Kubert has
made a name for himself mainly drawing characters such as X-Men,
Hulk and Wolverine at Marvel.
Amanda Conner has worked on Power Girl and Birds of Prey for DC and X-Men Unlimited for Marvel. Ralph Morales has built up a reputation as one of the most in-demand superhero artists currently working, and his work has been seen in titles such as JSA, Action Comics and Identity Crisis. Teacher Andy Kubert leads by example, as his captivating vision of Batman and Robin ably proves.
Everyone who studies at the school has the opportunity to hone their skills in subjects such as digital painting, using state-of-the-art tools.