Business of Cartooning Joe Kubert Ramblings & Reviews

Lettering – Part of the Layout

I’ve seen the top version posted here and there on social media (don’t know the artist).

The bottom version is my variation using my experience working on syndicated comic strips (Flash Gordon/Sally Forth). For Sally Forth I’m the penciller, letterer, inker, and colorist for the Sunday page (the dailies are colored in-house at King).

My variation puts the letterer before the inker in the assembly line of making comics. Putting lettering last can make for some badly placed type (in my humble opinion).

Here’s Joe Kubert talking about how he lays out his lettering as part of the inital layout – and how he thought laying it in as an overlay as the last step was “a little nutty.”

For the full clip go to

It’s a sentiment I agree with 100%. It just makes for a better marriage of words and pictures.

A quick side note: Lettering is the “invisible art” of a comic page when done well. If done horribly it stands apart from the page like a sore thumb.

Check out the  Iwata Todd Klein Facebook page for examples of lettering done right.

And last but not least, a top notch production staff is ESSENTIAL and are the unsung heroes of this business. Any kink in the chain, and no matter how outstanding particular individuals are, you’ll end up with a crappy product.

And that’s all for today – class dismissed…

-Jim Keefe

Joe Kubert

Joe Kubert – The Nutcracker

Sirjan The Nutcracker by The Joe Kubert School
Click on images to see larger.








The dailies shown above were originally published December 2-25, 1985.
I don’t know if Sunday pages were also produced.
If anyone knows please drop me a line!

-Jim Keefe


– Update – 

From George Hagenauer:

“I talked to Joe right before his death about this as I own (among other Kubert originals ) a Big Ben Bolt original that looked like his work.
Basically over the years he would get commercial projects (The Winnie
winkle comic strip, various comic related catalogs etc.) with the idea that
they would involve the students and get them some needed experience and
practice. These projects look like Kubert but usually are not signed by
him. They are often a mix of his direction and the students art .

How much is Kubert and how much is students depended on the students
skill- and sometimes it didn’t work or as Joe said they couldn’t handle
“Big Ben Bolt so I ended up doing it all myself”

From Sam Kujava:

“When I was at Kubert’s School the first year, he offered me a week’s worth of Big Ben Bolt dailies to work on. Joe had already laid out the panels, and I went over them and tightened the pencils, making the art look a little more like my “style”. When I finished, on time, Joe took them back to ink. He showed them to me before he sent it off to the syndicate and it more or less totally looked like Joe did it all. No complaint, just observation.”

From D.D.Degg:

“You probably know by now that the NEA Christmas strips were daily only.

Joe Kubert and School did the seasonal strip from 1982 through 1985.
(Weren’t you a freshman at The School in 1985?)

The Owosso (Mich) Argus-Press ran the 1982 (The Christmas Carol)
and 1983 (Gifts of the Magi) strips.

Unfortunately they switched over to the Disney/King Features Christmas strips in 1984, so I hadn’t seen The School’s Hans Brinker (1984) or their 1985 The Nutcracker – until now (thanks again).

Yeah, they all look like Joe Kubert was deeply involved.

In 1981/82 the Joe Kubert School drew the Winnie Winkle strip. Some of those look like Joe took on more of a role of layout/art director and let the young’uns go at it.

These were actually signed J.K.S., for Joe Kubert School.


D.D.Degg mentions “they switched over to the Disney/King Features Christmas strips” – which coincidentally I colored in the 90s when I was on staff at King.

Examples of Disney holiday strips I colored for King Features.
Examples of Disney holiday strips I colored for King Features.

Many thanks for the added info – greatly appreciated!
If I find out anything more (like students who helped work on them)
I’ll be sure to keep you posted…

-Jim Keefe

Artists - Cartoonists Conventions Joe Kubert MCAD

C2E2 2010-2013

A quick look back at C2E2 with some pics and videos.

C2E2 2013

A pan of the huge main floor

The Kubert School booth at C2E2 2013.

Brigid Allanson (left) and Angie Fernot (right) - Class of 2012.
Brigid Allanson and Angie Fernot – Class of 2012.

MCAD students at C2E2 2013.


Jaime Willems and Mandie Brasington.


Maya Kern, Heather Williams, Jacklyn Hedlund and Allison O’Brien


Jesse Charles Baker and Jay Rasgorshek.


Coleman Gilbert, Greer Lawson, April Kasulis and Spencer Amundson.


Jakob “Fro” Ealy


Jack Kotz


Charles Stewart


Alexis Cooke and repeat performance by Mandie.

Barb Schulz and Jacklyn Heeyun Kim

Professor Barb Schulz and Jacklyn Heeyun Kim.

My table at C2E2…

Tessa manning my table.
My daughter Tessa manning my table.

My daughters Tessa and Anna in line to meet Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor).

Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor) and my daughter Anna.
Peter Davison (the 5th Doctor) and my daughter Anna.

C2E2 2012

Sights and sounds:
Includes sketches by George Perez and Joe Kubert.

Pics just before the show and Artist Alley.

Convention attendees queued up for the 1:00pm opening.
Freddie E. Williams II
Jeph Loeb
Alex Saviuk
Keron Grant
Kevin Yan
Zander Cannon
Richard Starkings
Ben Templesmith
Eric Powell
Douglas Klauba
Peter V Nguyen
Dave Dorman
Billy Tucci
Amanda Conner
Frederica Yang
Adam Hughes
Thomas Gianni
Gary Gianni
Art Baltazar
Jimmy Palmiotti
Tony Daniel
Eric Maruscak
George Perez
Jill Thompson
Tim Sale
Brent Schoonover

Joe Kubert lecture.
This would be one of Joe’s last conventions, as he died in August of that same year.

C2E2 2011

Artist Alley sketching tutorials by Thomas Gianni, Jeremy Dale and Gene Ha.

McCormick Place - Chicago
McCormick Place – Chicago
Artist Alley
Artist Alley
Artists Alley - My new banner.
Artists Alley – My new banner.
Me at my table - C2E2 2011
Me at my table – C2E2 2011
My daughters Tessa and Anna commandeering the $400 table of someone who left early.
My daughters Tessa and Anna commandeering the $400 table of someone who left early.

C2E2 2010

Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics
Oni Press
Oni Press
Adam Hughes doing sketches.
Adam Hughes doing sketches.
The line for Adam Hughes.
The line for Adam Hughes.
Douglas Klauba's beautiful Flash Gordon print.
Douglas Klauba’s beautiful Flash Gordon print.
Me at my table.
Me at my table.

Last but not least – I had just bought a new car in 2010 that promptly broke down on the drive down to Chicago. Luckily I hadn’t driven that far and I was able to switch to the old reliable 1998 Dodge.

The Keefemobile at the convention - circa 2010.
The Keefemobile at the convention – circa 2010.
Conventions Joe Kubert

The Kubert School at C2E2

It was great seeing The Kubert School represented at C2E2 this year.

Brigid Allanson (left) and Angie Fernot (right) - Class of 2012.
Brigid Allanson and Angie Fernot – Class of 2012.

And with the Kubert School you don’t just get some random shill handing out flyers, but two highly skilled Kubert School graduates giving you practical firsthand information, Brigid Allanson (left) and Angie Fernot (right).

The two were fielding questions, selling prints and were available for portfolio reviews.

And speaking of which…
Even though there were a lot of publishers at C2E2, those companies had people on the floor to sell merchandise, not to look over an aspiring cartoonists portfolios. With Brigid and Angie you had two artists that have a working knowledge of the field that is just invaluable to the up-and-comer looking to break into the business.

I doff my Joe Kubert School hat to them in salute.


Disclaimer: Jim Keefe is a graduate of the Joe Kubert School and would be working convention service at a Hyatt Regency right now if not for the skills learned at the school – to which he is eternally grateful.

Disclaimer 2: Jim Keefe has no beef with the Hyatt Regency chain of hotels and was even awarded the Hyatt Regency’s Convention Service department’s “Employee of the Month” in 1986 before moving out east to attend the Joe Kubert School.

Artist Spotlight Artists - Cartoonists Conventions Joe Kubert

Joe Kubert – Saying Thanks…

Joe Kubert (1926-2012)
Tribute: Part 3

I’m rounding off my tribute to Joe Kubert by reminising about the last time I saw Joe. It was the spring of 2012 at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.

For the Kubert School panel, Joe Kubert alum (and current President of the Kubert School) Anthony Marques moderated, as Joe sketched and answered questions. Here’s just a few highlights featuring Joe’s comments…

The following video is Joe sketching Nite Owl from the Before Watchmen series. The image was projected sideways on a large screen – my video is rotated to one side so the drawing can be seen right-side-up. While Joe sketched Anthony was fielding questions.

What amazed me during Joe’s drawing demo was that every time Joe was asked a question instead of Anthony (and this is not seen on the video) Joe was so focused on the drawing that Anthony had to repeat the question numerous times just to get Joe’s attention – repeatedly – EVERY time.

Joe finally apologized saying that when he’s drawing,  that’s where he’s focused, so he’s not listening to the conversation going on around him.

THAT’S how focused Joe was while drawing – it was remarkable and inspiring to watch…

After the drawing demo Joe stayed for a short time to meet and greet fans. I went up to say hi and the guy standing in line in front of me told Joe he was a huge fan and then asked for Joe to sign his arm so he could then get the signature tattooed.

Joe immediately protested, “Why would you do that? I can’t…”
The fan persisted and Joe kept protesting until the guy’s friend explained it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, that his friend really was that big a fan.

Joe finally acquiesced.

This last little clip is of Joe signing the fan’s arm.

My time with Joe was relatively brief. It had been years since I had seen him last, but he recognized who I was after I mentioned the Flash Gordon page we had worked on. A smile lit his face and his strong handshake followed. He asked me what I had been up to and I told him about my freelance and teaching.

I then told him, “I just wanted to thank you for my career.”
That warm smile again and the handshake.

And that was the last time I saw Joe Kubert.

There’s more to say, much more, but I’m going to leave it at that.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends – he’ll be sorely missed.

Joe Kubert self-portrait from back in the day…

Joe Kubert Obits and Remembrances From Around the Web:

New York Times Obituary

Washington Post


Dick Siegel: National Enquirer

Tom Spurgeon: The Comics Reporter

Bill Schelly: The Comics Journal

The Comics Journal: Joe Kubert interview from 1994

Neal Adams

Steve Bissette – Updated

Mark McMurray’s Tribute
Mark is a long time friend and classmate from the Kubert School.