Have you thought about sampling a Joe Kubert correspondence course? Many items are marked “Joe Kubert’s World of Cartooning”, but the school itself is simply called “The Kubert School”. Regardless of the proper name, those who would like professional advice often question: is the price tag for a Joe Kubert correspondence course worth it?
An early advertisement for the course says that the courses took three years to make and were made with the help of other comic book experts like Tom Mandrake and Mike Sellers. It also presents five courses (later six) that also included a video and materials. This advertisement was from the late 90s. Curious about the courses, I decided to try a few.
Turnaround Time: Pleased
I have done other correspondence courses before, and the time it takes to have my assignment returned to me can be lengthy. However, in the case of this Joe Kubert correspondence course, I received it back in less than a month. I was pretty surprised.
Feedback on Illustration Skills: Pleased
My entire assignment was quickly redrawn to show my strengths and weaknesses. Some comments were written in the margin as well. The drawings, however, are sketchy and are not specific.
Feedback for Topic Studied: Disappointed
When choosing which course to take, you have a selection. You may choose Superheroes, Horror, etc. In my case, no feedback at all was given to the topic at hand. For the first assignment I was instructed to create a character based on the book’s instructions. Feedback was given on my drawing ability, but not on the character itself.
The same goes for the way the story was meant to be told. The instructions were specific about certain things like lighting, which no feedback was given on. It is as if the person who critiqued the assignment was unaware of the assignment instructions. In fact, a comment written on my assignment suggested against what I was instructed to do.
So Who Critiques the Assignments, Anyway?
This is a fair question. You want to sure of a person’s reputation or judgment. As mentioned, correspondence courses to me are nothing new. Usually, the person’s name is no secret, and simply asking is all that is needed if you happen to not know. If I remember correctly, somewhere I read that a faculty member from the Kubert School will do the critiquing, however there is no mention of who specifically. It can’t be Joe Kubert himself, because he’s dead.
To find the answer to this question, I put a post-it note on the assignment and asked politely: who is critiquing this? I received no answer. I have no idea what this silence means, or how I should feel about it. Maybe there is a good reason, maybe there is not. Just know that you will have to blindly trust the opinion of someone you know nothing about.
Kubert School Critique Examples
The problem with the critiques, I’ve noticed, is that they are done by a couple different people. If you are lucky, your art will get critiqued by someone who will give you a lot of feedback, and will take his time to correct your drawings properly. If you are unlucky, your art will get critiqued by someone who will sketch out alternate drawings quickly, and will leave little feedback. Look at these two examples to see the contrast:
There is nothing terribly wrong with these two critiques, but they were clearly done by different people with different levels of complexity. One person offers a lot of help; the other corrects your work like he is trying to beat a deadline, not offering much.
So Is It Worth the Money?
It is hard to say. The DVD included in the materials is narrated sentimentally by a man who is no longer with us, which bears the question: do the staff that follow in Joe Kubert’s footsteps agree wholeheartedly with the words spoken? The book is authored by Joe Kubert as well. So you are being taught by one person whom you will never have any connection with. Even though he may not have corrected your assignments if he were alive, the connection would have been the school that he built, maintained, and supported.
There are five assignments, regardless of topic, and the critiques are often simple.There is the feel of a typical school homework assignment being corrected, which is fine. However, typically in a school environment there is a discussion about your mistakes as well. Now obviously, we are talking about a correspondence course and not a school. But the gap exists nonetheless. For another correspondence course I had taken, the instructor would type out a letter explaining what I had done right or wrong. In this case, one may have to rely on sparse comments along with sketches to decipher their mistakes.
My Opinion for the Future
In the advertisement, as well as in the back of the assignment books, it states that future courses will be available soon. Obviously this never happened since after 20 years there were only six total instead of the planned 25. In my opinion, Andy or Adam Kubert should continue their father’s legacy by creating at least one more course of their own. By doing this, they will be able to offer new advice and illustrations to differentiate from what their father offered. In addition, the included DVDs (that were apparently converted from VHS tapes) are not the best quality, and some fresh videos would be welcomed.
Have you taken one of the Joe Kubert correspondence courses? Agree? Disagree? Comment below.