Artist Spotlight Artists - Cartoonists Joe Kubert

The Kubert School – Acceptance

intermittingly Joe Kubert (1926-2012)
Tribute: Part 2

Joe Kubert legitimized drawing comics and cartoons as a career.

Graduating High School I had no direction. I grew up inspired by comic book artists, but saying you wanted to draw comics for a living was as remote in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as saying you were going to be an actor, or sing on Broadway. Sure, people did it – but there didn’t seem to be any clear path to actually doing so.

My first step was a local art school called Atelier Lack – formerly on Hennepin Avenue in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.

Founded by local Minneapolis artist Richard Lack, the school focused on traditional skills and techniques starting with figure drawing and charcoal studies leading up to oil painting. (It has since moved to a new location and is called The Atelier). I took a summer course there, which was a great foundation, but my goal was not to work in oils.

After a brief stint at Atelier Hathaway (a student of Richard Lack’s that had opened up a school for illustration) I was onto the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The instruction I received at MCAD veered sharply away from the traditional and was focused on conceptual art. The disdain I got regarding comic art from teachers and students alike was palpable and had me bowing out after one semester.

Now I had pretty much stopped buying comics in high school (not helpful for getting dates) but started picking them up again during the art school search years. One comic that jumped out at me was Swamp Thing with artwork by Steve Bissette and John Totleben – teamed with a new writer by the name of Alan Moore.

Side note: This is when comics were still on the newsstand, not hidden away in specialty shops away from the prying eyes of the general public.

The artwork and storytelling FLOORED me.

Steve Bissette – penciler • John Totleben – inker • Tatjana Wood – colorist

The Comics Journal hit the newsstand with Swamp Thing on the cover and I snatched it up.

In it Bissette and Totleben mentioned a new school they had attended founded by a veteran comic book artist – Joe Kubert. Seeing a copy of The Joe Kubert School presents: 1st Folio, I picked that up as well.

Reading Joe’s introduction on the inside front cover I felt like he was almost talking to me personally…

It seemed a long shot, but I eventually got up nerve to apply. After a portfolio review and interview by Joe Kubert himself (done by phone as I was out of state) there followed the anxiety that my work wouldn’t be up to par. I eventually received my letter of acceptance. I still have it, and reading blogs and Facebook posts of other X-Kubies, I’m finding out many others saved theirs as well.

Acceptance letter.

My parents were always supportive of my aspirations to be a cartoonist – as long as I was actually pursuing it. The Joe Kubert School legitimized that career track. With Joe at the helm, the school actually nurtured this love of comic art and storytelling WAY before “graphic novels” starting seeping into the general public’s lexicon and acceptance.

I’ve since moved back to Minnesota and have taught at the once apathetic about comics Minneapolis College of Art and Design. They now have a whole department devoted to Comic Art. Steve Bissette has also done some teaching, including a stint at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. These schools – along with SVA in Manhattan and SCAD in Atlanta – are among the growing number of colleges that recognize comics and cartooning as a legitimate art form.

But the first school solely devoted to Comic Art was Joe Kubert’s.
He lit the way for me and sooooooooo many others.

Joe Kubert at his drawing desk.
©Librado Romero/The New York Times

That the school is still thriving is a testament to the hard work, spirit and love of the craft that Joe and his wife Muriel put into it for over 30 years. I’m proud and honored to be counted as an alumnus.

With a tip of my Joe Kubert hat…