Adam Kubert, age 12 in 1971,
at his dad’s drawing boardAdam Kubert has had a tumultuous summer. First, there’s the pressure of deadlines drawing Avengers vs. X-Men, Marvel’s mega-crossover. There’s teaching at the prestigious school founded by his father, the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. And then…there are larger issues.
The comics world was saddened on August 12 when Joe Kubert, the legendary artist and educator, passed away at the age of 85 years. Since then, many have wondered what this means for the future of the school, and the role that Adam and his brother Andy, both top-flight comic artists in their own right, will play. Adam Kubert sat down to discuss the future of the school, his next Marvel work, and the passions in his life.
Newsarama: Adam, it’s been a little more than one month since your father passed away. Many people have wondered what this means for the future of the Kubert School…
Adam Kubert: Andy and I are currently in charge. And we’re moving ahead as we always have. Andy and I were right under my dad in the organizational structure to begin with. So there’s really no change insofar as the school’s operations will progress as they always have.
Nrama: So what is your specific involvement at the school right now? I know you've taught classes in the past. Are you teaching right now?
Kubert: Yes. I’ve been teaching at the school for the past 12 years, as has Andy. The big change for me is that I took over my dad’s third-year Narrative Art class. I was just teaching the first-year section. We also have Fernando Ruiz taking some extra classes to teach. He’s been working at Archie Comics for about 15 years, and he’s a heckuva guy and an outstanding teacher. So basically, I’m taking over my dad’s Narrative Art classes in the third year, and Andy will continue teaching Narrative Art in the second year.
Nrama: Roughly how many students do you have at the school this year?
Kubert: There are 85 to 90. This year, I don’t know what we’re doing right, but we’ve had at least a 35% increase in first-year enrollment over last year. I mean, I do have some ideas how that happened, but we are still moving along, and moving along really, really well.
Nrama: What are your ideas as to why that happened?
Kubert: Well, we revamped our Website last year, and I think that had a lot to do with it. We’re more active on all of our social media networks, and getting out to conventions more. And I don’t think it hurts that Andy and I are doing some of DC and Marvel’s top projects. I think you add all that up, and it’s just a higher-profile marketing.
Nrama: How can this be? You’re teaching multiple classes, running a school, and both you and Andy are working at Marvel and DC, all at the same time.
Kubert: Yeah, I wonder! (laughs). And don’t forget, I have four children, which takes up rest of my quote-unquote “spare time.” Ah…I don’t know. You just do it. You just do it is all.
Nrama: You guys are teaching. Are you doing any work at the school in an administrative and management sense? What’s your support staff there?
Kubert: We are working on the administrative side as well, but we have a full staff of about 20 people between teachers and administrators who help out tremendously. And the work in that regard is kind of the same as it’s been for the past 20 years, so…I don’t want to say that it runs itself, but it’s a process we know how to manage. It’s as close to “running itself” as you can get by now.
Nrama: Granted, this might be projecting down the path farther than you’re looking, but where do you see yourself five or ten years down the line? Where does your passion lie? More in teaching, or more in drawing comics?
Kubert: Well, for both Andy and I, our first love is absolutely drawing. Nothing’s going to get in the way of that. That said, we’re going to continue to follow our dad’s path, which is to juggle both. We’re going to teach at the school, we’re going to continue do draw our Marvel and DC work, and to be honest, I think we’re more valuable to the school if we continue our comic book work.
Nrama: I’ve only been to the school a couple of times myself, but one thing I always loved seeing was your dad’s drawing table, which is his original one from…what, 1939 or so? There’s a great anecdote behind that. Can you please relay that?
Kubert: Yeah. I’ll try. When my dad was a kid, I guess 10 or 11 years old, my grandfather wound up buying that drawing table for him. And this is in the Great Depression, as an immigrant family, so it wasn’t easy to come up with the money for what seemed like possibly a frivolous expense. But it ended up meaning a lot, really the whole world, to both of them.
My grandfather had that very intense, first-generation immigrant work ethic. He was a butcher, a kosher butcher. I think he probably would have preferred if my father would have followed him into that trade, as cutting meat is steady work, you know? People always have to eat. But my dad always had the artistic impulse. He wanted to be an artist. He saw this drawing table and fell in love with it, but it cost what must have been the princely sum of $12 or whatever back then. It was just too expensive.
Well, lo and behold, my dad comes home from school one day at age 10 or 11, and there’s the drawing board in the apartment. My grandfather said, “Here it is. I realize you love this so much, I got this for you. It’s that important to you. It’s your passion. Use it and love it.”
And that’s the way my grandfather was, too. That mentality has been passed from my grandfather, to my father, down to his family. My dad really didn’t care if I went into art, or anything else. What he did care about was that I followed my passion. Their mentality, at the end of the day, was that you always have to follow your passion and do what your heart tells you to do. Do what makes you most happy. And drawing made my dad the happiest. That’s why that drawing table appeared out of nowhere, and why my dad was still using the same one 60 or more years later. It’s a great table. I learned on it, myself.
Nrama: So what is the future of said table? I mean, to many, this might be a Smithsonian piece.
Kubert: Well, a studio is a very personal place. You have to surround yourself with items that give you inspiration, and allow you to work. You set it up the way you have to get your work done. In many ways, it’s a home away from home, and you have to treat it like a home. So my dad’s studio at the school…we’re not touching. Except for dusting and cleaning, we’re not touching a thing. We’re keeping it completely intact. My dad’s studio at the school already doubled as a meeting room as well, with a large conference table and so on. We’ll just leave it all there. Maybe more people will draw some inspiration from it that way.
Nrama: So what are you up to today, as in exactly today? Chasing a final deadline on Avengers vs. X-Men?
Kubert: No! Nope! Thank God! Now please—that was an absolute dream project for me, with a gazillion characters and a million things going on. It was a lot of fun, and I didn’t mind the work of it at all. But I just wrapped that up last Thursday afternoon. So this week…has been a lazy week for me. I started Avengers vs. X-Men in May, and I swear I didn’t put the pencil down until last Thursday. So that was basically my summer!
This week, I took on a couple of covers. I’m working on a variant cover for Uncanny X-Men #20, and a variant for First X-Men #5. I also got the scripts for my next project, Avengers #4 through #6, by Jonathan Hickman. So I’m reading through all of that, doodling around and figuring how I’m going to attack that story. So this week is kind of taking it easy. But still drawing, y’know?FACEBOOK and TWITTER!