Top Ten Kubert School GraduatesA column article, Top Ten by: Jason Sacks
It's said that the true mark of a man is not the life he lives but the legacy he leaves behind.
Joe Kubert (1926-2012) was one of the true legends of the comics industry, a towering figure whose art was incredibly powerful, whose editing was brilliant and whose influence on his fans was incalculable. He was, quite simply, perhaps the greatest artist of war comics in history with a body of work that was powerful, visceral, intense, excellently composed and smartly designed.
When Kubert opened his school in 1976, many of his peers were skeptical that it would be successful. But with that very first graduating class-- which included such thoughtful and influential cartoonists as Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette and Tom Yeates-- he quickly showed that The Kubert School graduated important and exciting cartoonists, men and women who would do some of the most phenomenal work in comics.
While the comics industry mourns the passing of the great Mr. Kubert, this seems like the perfect time to celebrate his legacy by thinking about some of the great comics industry pros who have graduated from The Kubert School.
10. Steve Lieber
The man that is often referred to as "the nicest guy in comics" is also a terrific cartoonist, perhaps best known for his work with Greg Rucka on Whiteout: Melt, with Jeff Parker on Underground and with Caitlan Kernan on Alabaster: Wolves.
Lieber's clean and sometimes stark style is an ideal match for a dark and intense story like Alabaster: Wolves as well as for the spooky Alaska crime setting of Whiteout. Lieber's style still shows elements of Kubert's style, often in unexpected ways, and his love for the great cartoonist is evident in every word of Steve's wonderful tribute to Joe Kubert.
9. Alex Maleev
Alex Maleev is one of the more unique cartoonists to find a home at Marvel Comics. On the surface you might think that his intense, often abstract style wouldn't be a good fit for series like Daredevil, Spider-Man or Halo: Uprising. But that same abstract style and intensity that makes him an odd fit for Marvel books is also the same style that makes his work so compelling. Especially on series like Scarlet, in which Maleev's style makes the grungy ground-level revolutionary character feel exciting and transgressive and legitimately scary.
And yet despite this offbeat style, you can see the influence of the Kubert School in every page that Maleev turns in. You can see his education in every one of his precisely-defined characters and his wonderful storytelling chops that allows the reader to find his way through the page easily. Maleev is successful because his skills at page design and flow are so good that they allow him to experiment at the same time-- fundamentals he learned at the Kubert School.
8. Rags Morales
And speaking of fundamentals, Rags Morales is mad talented in the ways he makes super characters feel real. His depictions of super-powered characters-- which has stretched from amazing work at Acclaim Comics in the mid-1990s to spectacular work at DC Comics on books like Identity Crisis and, of course, Action Comics-- always betray a terrific eye for details as well as smart design. Morales's people always look like real people, with strong anatomy and realistic facial features, and yet they somehow always look glamorous—which makes Morales another creator who shows the signs of a great education learned at the Kubert School.
Morales also loved his time at The Kubert School, as you can read in this wonderful remembrance.
7. Scott Kolins
The second paragraph of Scott Kolins's Wikipedia page talks about the cartoonist's speed and his consistent attention to detail-– yeah, you guessed it, all signs of a great education. But of course, that reduces the man's work to a simple set of tricks. What makes Kolins special is the excitement he brings his pages, the sheer energy connected to his bright personality that helps to make his art really come alive – especially on characters like the Flash.
Scott's been hyping his new creator-owned project on his DeviantArt page – surely there's no better way to pay tribute to your upbringing than to be confident enough to blaze your own path.
6. Steve Bissette
No cartoonist has ever scared me as much as Steve Bissette. From the first time I laid eyes on a page he drew-– in a "Dracula" story for Bizarre Adventures #33 (1982)-– I worked desperately to find anything I could find by this man who had an amazing ability to conjure up images that seemed to come straight from the gates of Hell. Seriously, search high and low for that story because it's fucking breathtaking. Oh yeah, and Bissette moved from that one-shot story to a little series called Swamp Thing with a little-known writer named Alan Moore. You might know that book by its reputation as maybe the finest horror comic of its era. And--surprise!-- Bissette was one of the very first graduates of the Kubert School.
Steve's memoir of Joe is so moving: "My life changed the nanosecond I met Joe Kubert; a nanosecond later, he and my father shook hands for the first time, and my life changed again, always for the better with Joe there." Go read the rest and tell me if it doesn’t bring you to tears.
5. Karl Kesel
Karl began working in comics in 1984, shortly after he graduated from the Kubert School, on DC's long-forgotten New Talent Showcase, a comic devoted to… umm… showcasing new talent. It's pretty easy to say that Kesel's work deserved to be showcased, as evidenced by his long and distinguished work in the comics industry. It's almost impossible to read a comic from the last 25 years without stumbling over Karl Kesel's name on one project or another, from John Byrne's Superman to Harley Quinn, from Fantastic Four to Captain America and his own Section Zero and about a million other projects as writer and inker. His style combines a deep love of traditional comics art with an eye for innovation and slickness.
Hmmm… versatility and insightful work. What was I saying about a good education helping Kubert School grads?
4. Rick Veitch
Maybe the most idiosyncratic of all the Kubert School grads, Rick Veitch has been a relentless experimenter and innovator throughout his career, using his outstanding and moody draftsmanship in the service of a long and august run on Swamp Thing, on his dream journal Rare Bit Fiends and several tragically underrated series such as Army @Love. Veitch has always been an iconoclast, but that iconoclastic nature is a fascinating contrast to his command and mastery of the comics page. He's able to be iconoclastic and still get work because his command of storytelling elements are so good – skills that he learned at the Kubert School.
Veitch also has a wonderful reminiscence of his long relationship with the great artist.
3. Adam Warren
To read Empowered is to love Empowered. Adam Warren's exuberant distillation of good girl art, manga craziness, madcap comedy and an often subversive take on gender roles has been a smash hit with fans. And why not? Warren obviously has fun with every comic he's created, from the wacky Dirty Pair to his deleriously manga-styled Iron Man series.
Though Warren obviously has different influences from many of his Kubert School peers, he obviously has learned many of the same lessons as his friends, producing smart, funny, interesting work that comes straight from the heart.
2. Amanda Conner
I'm just so crazy about Amanda Conner's art. It's charming and sexy and attention-grabbing and tremendously fun to read. Conner draws some of the most glamorous people in comics, which made her a perfect fit for series like Power Girl, the "Supergirl" strip in Wednesday Comics, Terra and the utterly hilarious The Pro, among many others.
Yeah, there's a common denominator in these titles, and yeah, it's clear that Amanda loves drawing strong, powerful, fun-loving women – so much so that the new IDW Art of Amanda Conner hardcover looks like a total must-have. Yeah, she obviously learned a lot while studying at the foot of the great Joe Kubert.
1. Adam and Andy Kubert
But if we're listing the creators whose lives were most influenced by the brilliant Mr. Kubert, we need look no further than his immediate family and at his tremendously talented sons. It would be tempting to attribute their success to nepotism, but the fact is that the Kubert sons are incredibly talented on their own right. All it takes is a look at Adam's outstanding work on Uncanny X-Men, Action Comics or Ultimate Fantastic Four; or at Andy's art on Amazing Spider-Man, Batman and Ka-Zar to see that these are sensationally talented men.
What better tribute is there to the greatness of Joe Kubert than to know that the Kubert name will live on, associated for many years with amazing comic art. Greatness is sometimes passed on in the blood – and in painstaking education too.