Friday afternoon at WonderCon saw the famed father-son team of Joe and Adam Kubert talk passionately about their famed Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, which was founded in 1976.
“I had the idea for a long time,” said Joe about the school’s creation. “For those of you committed to getting into the business of cartooning at one place to learn all the things required to become a professional.” Joe then recanted his younger days about how it was through the help and kindness of the other established professionals already in the business that he was able to develop into the artist that he has since become.
“They even gave me pens and brushes,” said Joe. “Artist or not, most people don’t know what goes into the work that it takes to make these wonderful comic books.”
Joe then spoke of how much an equal effort it was between him and his wife, Muriel, to get the school up and running. “I asked her ‘If you’re interested in running the business end of starting a school, then I think I might take a crack at it.’ She did have that kind of interest, and did go into this with me, and if it weren’t for her, this school certainly would not be here.” Muriel’s handling of the business and administrative side of the school meant Joe could keep focus on his efforts in the classroom but also his own work.
“I’ve been doing this ever since I was a kid. It was something I always wanted to do. It wasn’t something you would or could stop.”
As far as technical information goes, the three-year, fully accredited school started out with just 25 students when it was founded in 1976 – a figure that has gone as high as 200 and now currently stands at around 75, with 25 professional artists serving as the school’s instructors. This includes Joe and Adam, as well as Adam’s brother and fellow superhero artist Andy Kubert. While Adam and Andy teach Narrative Art 1 and 2 respectively, the elder Kubert teaches the third year course. Altogether, the curriculum consists of ten different courses that students take each of their three years.
“The average student maintains a schedule where they’re drawing six or seven or more hours a day, and that’s seven days a week,” said Joe on the rigorous curriculum. “The only way that anyone improves their drawings is by sitting and drawing. There are a lot of people that like to draw, but don’t like to draw that much, that don’t like to draw all the time. Those people are not meant for the profession.”
“There are ten classes a week, two classes a day, and each class meets for two hours and 45 minutes,” added the younger Kubert. “After that first year you’re going to figure out if this is something you want to do.”
“If one of the other students said they couldn’t turn in their homework because their dog ate it, I could except it,” said Joe joking on the subject. “But not my sons because they still happened to be living at home.”
Adam then quipped, “Yeah, there was no such thing as missing class.”
“I told my sons if they didn’t apply themselves as they should, I’d have to treat them even rougher than the others,” said Joe. “I would have kicked Adam and Andy right out.”
In addition to the three-year program, the father and son panelists talked of the school’s Saturday class and correspondence courses. Saturday classes started because there were enough people in the local community that asked for it – a lot of which were younger kids too young for the regular program. The pair also cited the fact that eventually, some of these students went on to attend and graduate from the three-year program as a reason for expanding to weekends. Joe stressed to attendees that the Saturday course, and the correspondence course particularly, is something geared for more casual learning. “The deadlines are loose on a correspondence course. If it takes you a month, two months, or six months, it’s no big deal. At the school, you have set deadlines for these assignments. It’s quite rigorous.”
One of the aspects of cartooning that is rigorously taught is the emphasis in storytelling. When an attendee asked about the emphasis on storytelling, Joe answered that a cartoonist is a storyteller. “We use pictures like a writer uses words. Imagine if the pictures don’t tell the story, then you’re not doing the job of a cartoonist, and that is the toughest thing to learn.”
The Kuberts also boasted that in addition to the comic book professionals that are also their instructors, the school has in recent years had guest speakers the likes of Darwyn Cooke, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada and Jim Lee come in to address the students. “It’s as personal as we are here, one on one, asking questions. It’s really a great situation, and the students take full advantage.”
“The advisory board’s job,” said Joe of the group that, among others, consists of Joe Quesada, Neal Adams and Paul Levtiz. “Is to tell us what’s new in the profession, what they feel publishers are looking for in the new crop of artists coming in.”
“Every year, we have one or two meetings where all these guys get together and we walk them through the building and go over the curriculum with them,” said Adam of the advisory board. “They’re kind enough to allow us to pick their brain.”
Following that up, Joe pointed out that “what results of this is that the caliber of the students that come out of this school tells all the people in the business that this is a resource. This is the people that they need to come into the business.”
For more information on The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, visit www.KubertsWorld.com