Written by Manuel A. Carmona
Some of you may or may not know that I attended The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Although it is common knowledge by those who follow me that I studied there for a brief period of time, my feelings towards the school are far less known; mostly because I've never actually talked about the experience on any interview, blog or on social media... until now. But before I talk about myself, I wanna talk about the Master, Mr. Joe Kubert!
Taken from the school's Facebook page....
Joe Kubert, writer, designer, illustrator and producer of Joe Kubert's World of Cartooning - The Correspondence Course - has had an illustrious career over the past 60 years as a comic book artist, publisher and educator. He has influenced the career of many cartoonists of today and of yesteryear.
Knowing who he was, I'm sure it made every single student nervous as heck when they first arrived at the school, the man was a living legend and we all knew it; although you couldn't tell by his demeanor. Mr. Kubert was as humble as he was talented. Looking back on my time at the school there are many things I regret not doing, but the one thing I regret the most is not reaching out to Mr. Kubert. I was too awestruck, too shy to reach out to him (or any one of the teachers for that matter), if I would've I'd probably be working at Marvel or DC Comics today; but everything happens for a reason so there's no point in dwelling on it.
When I arrived at the school I was fresh out of high school, barely 18 years old; thinking I was one of the best artists in the United States... boy was I wrong! One thing I hated at the time (and I'm extremely grateful for today) was the way some teachers humbled me, they gave me harsh critiques of my work to the point I thought they hated me; but in retrospect they clearly knew what they were talking about and I did not. Some were more gentle than others but they all thought the same thing about me, great potential; still had a lot to learn.
Enter: Prof. Mike Chen! He was the teacher I loved to hate back then and who later became my favorite teacher ever, once I understood that he wasn't picking on me just to humiliate me; he was actually trying to push me to become the best artist I could be. In art, just like in life; you can't reach your full potential if you settle and stay inside your comfort zone. He taught me that lesson the hard way, and although I really hated him back then; I have a deep respect for him because of it now and will forever be in his debt.
When you go up those stairs and through those doors it's like you're stepping into Narnia, you're suddenly in a place you've dreamt about for so long; it's exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. For me it was bittersweet, I was where I wanted to be but I was suddenly by myself, thousands of miles away from my family, my friends; my island of Puerto Rico. I was utterly alone. Eventually I dropped out and went back home for personal reasons, to this day I wonder what would've happened if I'd stayed there; it's a big what if? But I don't dwell on the past anymore, things happen for a reason and I'm just thankful I was one of the few chosen ones to attend this prestigious school.
I know in the short period of time I studied at The Joe Kubert School my art improved exponentially, it made me a better artist and unbeknownst to me; prepared me for a future in the United States. I'm grateful to those educators who helped me become a better artist. As of today my art career is better than it's ever been, I've found great friends and colleagues in Frank Rivera, Alvaro Cortez Ortiz and Juan Carlos Arbelo who've been with me on this journey through thick and thin; and I wouldn't change a thing.
PS. Thank you Mr. Joe Kubert for having the vision of opening a school for artists to hone their skills and giving them the guidance necessary to become World class professionals. Me and the hundreds of artists that have studied at your school will forever be in your debt. May You Rest in Peace.