For nearly 35 years, aspiring comic artists have taken their ambition to The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art for training in the ways of sequential storytelling, but that is no longer the case.
That’s because the professional school this week officially renamed itself to be simply The Kubert School — a name most people called the Dover, New Jersey institution anyway — as well as launching a new website at KubertSchool.edu to promote the 21st Century look and feel of the campus and coursework offers. Founded by legendary artist Joe Kubert and staffed by a wealth of working professionals including his sons Adam Kubert and Andy Kubert, both superstar artists in their own right, the Kubert School offers an intensive three-year program for high school graduates to study the finer points of drawing comics and cartoons.
To help spread the word on the school’s new look, talk about how the students and staff have changed over the last three and a half decades and share what pieces of history and technology will drive it forward, all three Kuberts spoke with CBR News in a lively discussion.
CBR News: Gentlemen, what is the purpose of this rebranding? Does this involve the legal status of the school, or is it more of a promotional thing to draw new students in?
Joe Kubert: I think it’s just reflective of the fact that we’re growing up, and things are getting in place where the school has a good hold on what’s happening and what we’re doing. With the inclusion of Adam and Andy becoming more important in the school, I think the branding should also be reflective of their ideas and where we’re going.
Adam Kubert: The school’s been around for 35 years as of next year, and this is the first time there’s been any kind of refresh. Like my dad said, it’s time to completely reboot the website, and while we’re at it, we thought we’d also do the logo. We’ve shortened the name of the school mostly because people already refer to the school as “The Kubert School” anyway. So we’ve officially gone from The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon And Graphic Art down to just The Kubert School.
A lot of people realize that the school has been around a long time without knowing a lot of the specifics on its growth. You guys are currently located in what used to be a public high school, right? What “number” building is this for the school?
Andy Kubert: This is the second building that we’ve been in. The first building was a large mansion on the other side of Dover, and as my dad will tell you, the current location used to be the old Dover High School. It then became the Middle School for Dover, and I went to school here in seventh and eighth grade. Adam went to school here. My sister and my other brothers all went to school here, so it’s kind of like we never left.
Adam Kubert: Unfortunately. [Laughter]
In what ways have you guys worked to turn the space in to a modern art school, both in terms of the classes offered and what’s physically on hand?
Joe Kubert: Well, the building itself is unimportant to some extent. What’s more important is the education that people are getting when they come here, and I think that is reflected in the kind of graduate that comes out of our program and the kind of jobs they’re getting. We’re very proud of a very high job placement for students. And the building itself has actually been renovated in the last two or three years. The building that was originally put up back in the late ’20s now has all the modern conveniences, including an elevator and WiFi throughout the building. And it’s up to date as far as the use of computers and additional tools are concerned. I think we’re doing well, and we’re all very proud of it. That’s the reason why at this stage in the game we wanted to show our new face.
I know there are different levels of accreditation that schools hit as the grow and offer different kinds of degrees. What status does the school currently stand in there?
Joe Kubert: The accreditation is something that we renew every few years. We’re involved with that at the state level, but also federally. In order for the students to get financial aid, the school has to be accredited by a national organization, which we are and have been. In fact, our credits this year are higher than they ever have been as a result of the last examination that took place within the last year.
Adam Kubert: We should also add that the organization we’re accredited through is associated with over 400 schools, and this last time around, which was finally completed this fall, they told us that in their opinion we were the highest rated school out of any in their organization. That means we’ve got 100% student satisfaction, over 95% placement within the art field and that the students that are getting an education here are getting jobs. They may not be penciling “X-Men,” but they are at least peripherally involved in the business that they want to be in.
Joe Kubert: I think it’s important as Adam is mentioning, that 95% or better of all the people graduating from the school are getting jobs in the field. It’s ironic, too, because despite the economy that’s in effect across the entire United States and the world, our profession is looking more and more for new, talented people to come in who know how to do business and act in a professional manner. All of these things that are being taught here prepare people for an entry into our profession, and that’s reflected by the numbers and the fact that there are already so many from the school in the business today.
Adam Kubert: We have a really strong alumni presence in the business. After having 35 classes graduated, we’re pretty much everywhere. That’s really a huge thing as far as any school’s reputation goes.
Andy Kubert: Every May, we have representatives from Archie Comics, Marvel Comics and DC Comics come out to review third year portfolios — basically, they’re just headhunting for their books.
I’m wondering what kind of change you’ve seen in student interest over the years. I’m sure that 35 years ago, and many years after that, you had a lot of students coming in who knew Joe’s work, primarily, and were looking to break in to mainstream genre comics. These days, are you having to shift anything about your approach to teaching as you get students who come looking do manga or something on the web?
Joe Kubert: I think it’s important to note that from the very beginning, the students that come to this school have an innate feeling that this is what they want to do. They want to spend their lives doing this, and it’s what will make a happy future for them. They’re willing to put out the kind of effort necessary to achieve that goal. However, the work that’s involved has not changed except for new tools that have come into play. These people who come to our school are not expected to turn out Joe Kuberts or Adam Kuberts or Andy Kuberts. If that were true, there’d be fewer jobs, not only for them, but for us! [Laughs] So we teach as wide a variety of ongoing interests in the business as possible. Genres are very important. Styles are very important. The new tools that come in are really important.
But the most important thing that a cartoonist does is tell a story graphically. That’s what the whole idea is about. It sounds very simple, but believe me, it takes a good heavy three years for every student to be able to achieve a level of competency where they can do that kind of work.
Adam Kubert: What we try to do is emphasize the basics. We still use all the modern tools — Photoshop and InDesign and so on — but it still comes back to figure drawing or drawing things that you see combined with stuff out of your head. We still touch on lettering and layout and design. Myself, Andy and my dad all still teach a couple of classes a week here. I teach first year students, Andy teaches second years, and my dad teaches third years.
Joe Kubert: And those are all narrative art courses.
Adam Kubert: But the other faculty that we have at the school are also notable in their fields. We have Rowena, who teaches painting and is a well known fantasy illustrator in the Boris Vallejo vein. Another painting instructor, Todd Doney, has won all kind of awards. Kim Demulder, who’s been inking for 25 years, teaches methods and materials.
Right now, what’s the average class size coming through the school each year?
Andy Kubert: We have usually about ten to 15 students in each class. Each student has to take ten different course a week, and like Adam said, each of us teach a different narrative art class. In my class, we don’t focus on styles like you’d asked about. It’s funny. I’ve seen waves of different styles come through in the years that I’ve been teaching. Jim Lee styles at first, and then a bunch of people who want to draw manga, which has been pretty prevalent in the last few years. But even so, I always tell anybody, “Whatever style you pick is up to you. What we’re going to hammer home is storytelling. I am going to teach you the way my father taught me.” And I think that’s the proper way of doing it as far as comics in general goes.
One of the public changes people will be seeing is the new website. What was most important for you guys to have out there as the face of the school?
Adam Kubert: We want to make it easier and more navigable.
Andy Kubert: More attractive.
Adam Kubert: Definitely. Social media is a big part of it.
Joe Kubert: I have to tell you, they had to convince me because I’m still a cripple when it comes to the electronic areas. It’s hard for old guys like me to grab a hold. I’m trying to learn, just like a lot of the students. But Adam and Andy are the ones who’ve been pushing for this.
Andy Kubert: The website is the first place people look, and we want that to better reflect the values, the tradition and what’s going on with the school. The site that was up was outdated. We haven’t changed anything with how we work at the school, but we wanted the site to reflect current trends and exactly what we do at the school.
For more information on The Kubert School, visit the school’s new website at KubertSchool.edu