Class Act

This is the only photographic evidence I have of my time at the Kubert school. This photo was taken in the larger of the two rooms that were shared by our class. There were approximately 12 students in this room and another 6 or so across the hall. Our various instructors would go back and forth between rooms. In the photo, I am the rather large lad in the red flannel shirt.

The fellow choking me is Alec Stevens, I hear he’s an instructor at the school and has been illustrating for the New York Times Book Review. Will wonders never cease. The other three are Brian Regal, John Patten and Grant Miehm. I’m not sure what Brian and John are doing now but I ran into Grant Miehm at a Chicago ComiCon a number of years back. At the time I think he was working on a project for DC comics. As information becomes available I will try to update this site on the activities of my former classmates.

During my first semester, narrative storytelling was taught by Joe Kubert, himself. It is amazing to me, the longevity this man has had in the comics industry. His class helped me look at comics with a more cinematic eye as opposed to just muscle bound guys in spandex.

Ben Ruiz taught figure drawing. Ben was in the very first class at the Kubert school back in 1976. I think Ben was originally from Puerto Rico and, if I’m not mistaken, he studied with THE Burne Hogarth? the master of human anatomy. Figure drawing class, of course, had nude models. I only had two minor complaints about this. First, there were far more male models than female ones. And, second, "The Rose." At the time, I didn't know this man's name (and for anonymity's sake I won't reveal it now)? only that he had a tattoo of a rose on his shoulder. While posing he would choose a student and maintain eye contact for the duration of the pose. Now, for me at least, it was a very difficult task to draw a naked man when his eyes were fixated on me. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

Another instructor at the school was Jose Delbo. I’m unsure from which Spanish speaking country he hailed but, Jose certainly was an entertaining teacher. Jose often referred to his students as yo-yo’s. At the end of the semester he had each of us vote for the Golden Yo-yo.

The Golden Yo-yo award was bestowed to the most popular, most improved, best artist, best liked or any combination of the former. I think Grant Miehm won the coveted Golden Yo-yo award. He added an international element to the class, sort of. Grant was from our neighbor to the north, Canada. I actually garnered one vote from Mike Russin. Mike told me that I got his vote because of my improvement and the fact that I didn’t run at the mouth like several of our other classmates.

One class that I didn’t think I would have much interest in was basic pasteup and mechanicals. John Belfi taught this class and he could tell that I wasn’t very enthused about his class by my early assignments. I wasn’t here to learn how to design ads - I wanted to draw comic books! Boy, was I wrong. The turning point for me was an assignment to design advertising materials for the Kubert school - a brochure, display stand for the brochure and a bumper sticker. For some reason I excelled at this project and realized that maybe this class wasn’t so bad. In my present job, I probably use more of what I learned in John’s class than any other.

Another class I wasn’t initially interested in was lettering with Hy Eisman. Hy taught this class since day one at the Kubert school back in 1976. I think the primary goal of the Kubert school is to ensure that their students are well versed in all aspects of commercial and comic art. I didn’t realize how important this was until I landed my first comic job primarily because I could do it all - pencil, ink, letter and color.

Of all my first-year classmates, I considered Jack Pollack to be my best friend. Jack was a slender man with a mess of red hair on his head and a great sense of humor. He was the class clown and a nice guy to boot. Jack did have an odd companion that he called Edgar. Edgar was an actual human skull that wore an old time leather aviator helmet. I wonder if Jack and Edgar are still together? Hmmm.

On occasion, our class would travel en masse to the cinema. Our favorite movie, by far, was Al Pacino’s Scarface. We liked that movie so much that we saw it multiple times. That’s saying a lot, considering how most of us were on a limited budget. Not only did Jack quote the movie on a regular basis... he took his Scarface obsession one step further. Al Pacino’s character had a scar through his eyebrow, hence the title... Scarface! So, Jack took a razor and shaved off part of his eyebrow. The joke went over well but, it wasn’t long before Jack realized his hair wasn’t growing back. By the end of the year his eyebrow still hadn’t grown back. But it was funny... so I guess it was worth it.

The Kubert school didn’t have any organized sports but, our class was the originator of one unique pastime... KILLER FRISBEE!! What is this strange sport, you may ask? Well, combine the frantic pace of dodge ball with the injury potential of a dozen circular disks flying through the air all at once and you have... Killer Frisbee. During breaks between classes we would unwind by trying to cause serious injury to fellow classmates. There were several approaches to this game. The first, duck-n-cover. Hide and pray you don’t get hit. The second, seek-n-destroy. Select your target, take aim and fire! And finally, kamikaze. Sacrifice your body to take out as many opponents as possible. Lee Weeks created and perfected the kamikaze approach. Lee was the class wild man and one of the best artists at the school.

Chris Mills suffered one of the most devastating hits during our games of Killer Frisbee. And I was the guiltry party... (evil laugh!) My strategy was a two-tiered attack. I would launch one frisbee at the target then, while distracted with my initial attack... I would fire another projectile. Chris Mills was able to avoid my first volley but, one particular frisbee had a wide, boomerang-like trajectory that struck him directly in the side of the head. Chris dropped like a sack of potatoes. Fortunately, he recovered with no lingering effects. He eventually forgave me... I think.