Adam Kubert opened the spotlight panel for The Kubert School at New York Comic Con 2012 by introducing his "left-hand man," Anthony Marques, the Kubert School's Events and Marketing Coordinator. Kubert announced that after a slide show, he would be live-inking a Batman drawing by his brother Andy, and that the audience would be able to watch him ink on the screen during the Q&A. Later, at the Kubert School booth, they would give away the inked drawing in a raffle.
The slide show opened with pictures of attractive buildings in suburban Dover, NJ just 40 minutes west of New York. Many buildings were renovated recently. There is a full-service art store on the premises, run by Andy Kubert's wife Theresa. Students from all over the work come to study at "The Mansion." Marques made a reference to the X-Mansion and said that back when he attended the Kubert School, he remembers thinking that was a cool touch.
"I grew up in Dover," Kubert recalled. "This used to be a grade school, and I used to go to this school." More slides flashed by, and Kubert noted that the school library had up-to-date technology, and that besides himself and his brother Andy, there were 18 other teachers, including Jan Duursema, who draws "Star Wars," and Tom Mandrake, who worked on many books for DC Comics. Kubert himself teaches Narrative Art Third Year, and Andy Kubert teaches Narrative Art Second Year. Kubert wryly noted, "We used to teach Animation, but couldn't keep with the cost of keeping up-to-date with the tech, to be honest."
Kubert was keen to emphasize that every year, he and other administrators meet with a volunteer advisory board composed of "movers and shakers from the industry who believe in the school." In the slide Kubert showed, there were several Marvel executives, including Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer at Marvel Comics.
"One of the big advantages of the school is that companies come out to cherry-pick our graduates," Kubert said. "They get first-dibs."
Third-Year students take a trip to the DC Comics offices in New York. "The students meet 9 to 12 editors in a day, and the type of feedback you get is incredible," Kubert said. "It's a great privilege." All school trips are mandatory, and other destinations include The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Natural History Museum.
"I love going," Kubert said. "You learn so much … we want to show [the students] as much of our business and outside of our business as possible." Kubert also reminiscenced about past trips to the Frank Frazetta Museum, back when it was still open.
The Kubert School's three-year curriculum was demanding and difficult, and Kubert said "it just gets harder out of school." Students attend class from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, attend a lab to work on projects and homework from 2:30 to 4:00 most days of the week. As lab instructor, Marques said he was there to give feedback and extra help as needed.
The school brings in several guest speakers each year, and recent guests have included "Atomic Robo" creator Scott Wegener, X-books Editor Nick Lowe and Marvel SVP of Creative & Creator Development C.B. Cebulski. Other visitors included Rags Morales, Ale Garza, Jim Lee and "the whole Wildstorm crowd."
"I know we're doing a good job with the students," Kubert said. Gary Wood, a recent graduate, got a "Batman" job, and is currently working with Brian Wood on "The Massive." Some other recent, notable alumni include David Nakayama, Lee Weeks, Matt Hollingsworth, Morry Hollowell and Toby Cypress.
Gazing at a slide of people in costumes, Marques said, "We have a Halloween contest every year," and Kubert characterized it as great event because "we are all artists, so you gotta express your creativity."
The Kubert School has an open house every fall and spring. Scholarships are available, and Kubert has plans to create a scholarship in his father's name. At this point, Kubert and Marques opened up the floor to a Q&A.
Kubert now began inking Andy Kubert's drawing, letting the audience watch him on the screen. Kubert said he was using a #3 Micron pen, with a disclaimer that he usually used a dip pen and wasn't too comfortable inking over a projector. During the Q&A, Kubert would often look up to answer, and then return to inking, "beginning with outlines, and then rendering out of the black."
In response to a question about accreditation, Kubert said the school is accredited and said, "The teachers are all working professionals. They're not professional teachers, but we're all professionals."
Another question was about correspondence classes, and Kubert replied the school plans to update correspondence courses so students can submit work online instead of by snail mail.
One question was simply, "What is the tuition?" It's $18,000 a year, but Kubert emphasized that there are also additional costs, like housing and art supplies. Kubert said he knew some students felt they needed a job during the year, but while he understood that, he had misgivings because the school has a rigorous syllabus, and students who put in the time improve rapidly.
He related that when he used to teach first-years, he would take the students' first assignments and put them up on the wall side-by-side with work from several months later. "I've been drawing comics for 25 years, and I wish I improved that much [as much as first-years improve in a couple months] every couple years," Kubert said.
Kubert also described how long it takes to produce a page of a comic, both pencils and inks. "It all depends on the script for that page," he said. "Some pages have taken me only a few hours, another took me three days. A page a day is a good average. At the school, we teach professionalism, too. If you can't keep your deadlines, you can't keep your job."
Someone else asked whether Kubert preferred a full script or a back-and-forth "Marvel-style" script. Kubert stated that his own preference was almost always for a full script, but that he worked on a back-and-forth script recently for "AvX" and enjoyed it. "At the school, we ready the student for any kind of script."
One of the final questions was about what other careers the Kubert School prepared a student for, besides comics. "It prepares you for a visual career," he said, noting it also teaches students portable skills like storyboarding, illustration and how to draw. Kubert said that while the school had classes on digital art, "figure drawing is one of the most important classes we teach."
In school as in life, "you get better, not by thinking about it, not through books, not by watching other people draw, but by doing it," Kubert said. "There's a lot of reward."