Joe Kubert, the legendary comic book creator, and mastermind behind the school that bears his name (one which I attended) has passed away at the age of 85. On many of the comic book websites, you can read a brief biography of Joe and a list of his achievements in the field of cartooning (of which there are many) so I will not dwell on that. While I did enjoy Joe's contribution to comic books as much as the next guy, it was what he did for the community of comic book creators that stands out in my mind. There is no debate that his personal contributions to comics were numerous and all expertly crafted, but without the formation of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Graphics in 1976, there is a possibility that many talented artists working right now could still be toiling away on notebook paper while working the cash register at a gas station. Joe created an avenue for those of us with comic book dreams to go to school, learn from masters of their craft, and with a little bit of luck, move on to the big leagues.
Even for those of us that did not go on to pick up a pencil, brush or computer mouse at one of the "big two" we were still infused with the spirit necessary to succeed in this increasingly brutal industry. The late-night drawing sessions, the all consuming class projects (upwards of ten per week) all created not only a drive in each and every one of us, but also helped foster the brotherhood that is the "Kubie".
Just mentioning the name Kubie brings to mind long hours at a drawing table both in class and out, coupled with far-reaching friendships that last regardless of proximity. I have never enlisted in the armed forces, and so I have never had to endure an actual boot-camp experience, but the kind of camaraderie that is developed through that has to be similar to the sense of brotherhood that all those that fall under the "Kubie" mantle share. No, we are not going off to war, but there is no doubt the physical and mental toll that a three-year art boot-camp can place on the body of individuals that were, in all honesty, probably pretty out of shape to begin with. It seems rather fitting that the creator of probably the most well-known war heroes in all of comics, Sergeant Frank Rock, devised his own method of boot camp for his students.
Through that fire, a bond was created that not only fostered encouragement for one another in the various endeavors that we undertook in the school itself, but also created a lifelong fanbase upon graduation. I personally feel a sense of pride when I pick up a comic (or anything for that matter) created by a Kubert alum. I have to imagine it is a similar feeling that someone from the University of Alabama, for example, gets when their alma mater wins the college football national championship. That feeling of fraternity permeates everything that we do and it is amplified by the advent of social media. By pushing us all well beyond our artistic breaking point and stretching us all to the same lengths regardless of inherent talent, the Kubert School has created a group of lifelong fans of other "Kubies".
Being a "Kubie" is not a guaranteed spot in the comic book industry, but it does give you the tools that you need as well as the connections to work with, through teachers, classmates and alumni to get your foot in the door. The comic jobs run the gamut of self-published, small press, really small press (like some guy in his mom's basement kind of small press), lettering and coloring jobs for larger publishers, to art teaching, web design and even model making (and this is just in my graduating class alone)! The school's reach is far and wide in all corners of the creative community and should be commended for instilling the kind of values (that's an art pun) in its students that can lead to their dream job as long as they continue to work towards it and catch a couple lucky breaks along the way.
Without the Kubert School, and therefore without Joe himself, there would be no Eat @ Shrimpy's. I know that I am not the only person in the school's storied history that can make that claim, but for those of you that enjoy this site, and especially the comic strips, please understand that without that school, without that three year experience, I would not be who I am today, and Eat @ Shrimpy's would not even be here in this form. I don't know what I would be doing today if I had not attended the Kubert School, but I do know that I would not have the friendship and support of my fellow "Kubies" in those endeavors, and that brotherhood is something that I am eternally grateful for.
Joe has left his school in some very capable hands with not only his boys Adam and Andy (who I had the privilege of learning under during my time at the Kubert School) but also the other teachers and administrators such as Mike Chen and Mike Kraiger that have taken on huge roles in the scholastic operation of the school (Chen in particular as he does a lot, if not all, of the portfolio reviews and has to sit through some downright painful examples of "art").There is no doubt in my mind that the school itself will keep on in the grand tradition that Joe set forth upon its inception back in 1976, just as Joe's legacy in the world of comic books will endure for generations to come. Thank you Joe for what you have done for me and all of my classmates both past and future that will walk through the Kubert School doors.
Joe lived a life that any of us that are even remotely associated with the comics business would give our non-drawing hand to live and the fact that he was drawing right up to the end is a testament to the work ethic that came so natural to him, one that he did his best to instill in all of us. My condolences go out to everyone in the Kubert family, those that were related by blood, and those that were related by graphite and ink. You will be greatly missed Joe, but you will never be forgotten.