September 1st, 2008

The Zombie

XQB Rating

August 31 -  I'll be honest.  It took me a long time to put myself back together after my disappointing Kubert School experience.  I couldn't even bring myself to draw anything for over a year, until I found myself absentmindedly doodling while talking on the phone.  And there it was.  When I didn't focus on the baggage of what drawing dredged up emotionally, I found that I just instinctively drew anyway.  During my year of recuperation and monk-like solitude, I had time to really think about what had happened to me, and what it would mean for the person I would be from then on.  As I said earlier this month, I'm not a big fan of the "me" of those days.  I was selfish, childish, weak, and stupid.  And the fight doesn't help.  But, even in all of this, I came to realize that I was also someone who'd made many friends, who'd really tried to do more than was expected of him, who took a chance on his dreams, and who, eventually, took action on principle, even when that hurt him.  It wasn't much, but relying on those positives, while guarding against my negatives, became the basis for who I am now.  Since then, I have tried to produce artwork which has the same care and thought behind it.  I will admit that I don't always get the chance, and that it is still emotionally challenging for me to draw, but I try.  Every project still fills me with self-doubt, but I push through it somehow.  Perhaps my time at the Kubert School has had a greater effect on me than I'd like to admit.  I did learn some actual mechanics of what I do while there, of course.  Mostly, though, I learned about life...more specifically, life as an artist.  For that, and the friends I made, I believe I actually got my money's worth.  In spite of how it all ended, it was nonetheless one of the greatest, most influential, most fun times of my life.  And I haven't even touched upon most of the amazing memories of those days, including...

Weekends spent in New York City, the epic snowball fight with the neighbor kids, always being pointedly called "John Mundt, ESQUIRE" by Hy Eisman, Bill Golliher's "Drug Train" (our nickname for his tricked-out truck), the kid who was the influence for the "modern" version of my childhood Snakeman character, meeting Klaus Janson, the rare early Kubert students' self-published comic books I found in The Mansion's basement, the lack of heat in the school building itself (in case you were wondering why everyone was wearing a coat in my classroom photos), seeing Pee Wee Herman and Cyndi Lauper riding go-carts down the sidewalks of Dover (or the remnants of the set from Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time video, for that matter), the phantom Chinese Restaurant (very creepy and 100% true), the time Joe regaled us with the story of being the best man at Moe Howard's daughter's wedding, the anniversary showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, the mysterious "Negative Zone" in The Mansion's basement (where small items dropped in the right place, and from the right height, would disappear before hitting the ground), the other paranormal activities of The Mansion (reported by just about every class of JKS students over the years), the time I slept for one and a half days straight (that was my Spring Break), my lucky Pathmark underwear, visiting the offices of Mad Magazine and Marvel Comics (including the famous Bullpen), the pilgrimage to Mort Walker's Cartoon Museum (with the graffiti all over the castle's bathroom walls...all by famous cartoonists), the fellow student who went nuts (lived under his bed, ate Cheerios off the floor, and thought he was The Terminator, speaking only in lines from the film), my near mugging (while I had a sprained ankle...I think the running to escape actually helped it), my life-changing conversation with Aloysius MacDougal (but I will tell that story someday, I promise), and the "beautiful" swimming pool full of debris. 

In the end, I have come to the conclusion that all of us, we Ex-Kubies, went though much the same experiences, no matter what era.  That shared history - that shared crucible - truly binds us all, whether we were there when it all began in the 1970's, when it all changed in the 1980's, when it continued through the 1990's, or are just now preparing for the first day of the 2008-2009 school year.  More than just producing great cartoonists, then, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc., has created a worldwide XQB Brotherhood/Sisterhood, to which I very proudly belong.


That's it for Kubert School Month, I guess, except for your last (and my personal favorite) Joe Kubert School Alum of The Day -  Stephen R. Bissette!