Even if she’d had no interest in art or comics, Emma Kubert would still have been no stranger to the medium; her grandfather was the legendary Joe Kubert, her father is artist Andy Kubert (Dark Knight III, Marvel 1602), and her uncle is Adam Kubert (Action Comics, Wolverine). As it turns out, Emma had the art bug from the very beginning. We spoke with her about her childhood interests, her formal art education, and what she’s learned as she carves out her own path in the comics field.
First, the particulars…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc):
I write, pencil, ink, letter, and paint (watercolors).
Your home base (city/state or just state if you prefer):
I am from Northern New Jersey but currently live in Southern California.
Facebook: Art of Emma Kubert page
Current project title(s) (either already released or upcoming):
Dynamite Variant Cover for Army of Darkness
Variant Cover for It’s Alive! Airbus project
Finishing up sending out my Kickstarter rewards for Willowbrook
Sending out samples for the world to see!
Kevin Sharp, Fanbase Press Contributor: Let’s start with the overarching question: Why comics? What attracts you to making this over other artforms?
Emma Kubert: I love telling in-depth, character-driven stories. I love drawing. I like working at home in my sweatpants. Simply enough, comic books fit perfectly into those three categories.
KS: At what age (or roughly when) did reading comics first become an important part of your life? You obviously come from “comics royalty.” How much did that factor into setting you on this path?
EK: When I was younger, I mostly read Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Powerpuff Girls, Scooby Doo, etc. I was in awe of anything Glen Keane animated and the art his daughter, Claire Keane, created. I wasn’t into traditional superheroes at all — must have been that darn teenage rebellion!
What I do enjoy are stories. I loved illustrated children’s books, animated movies, and television ever since I was young, and it fascinated me how artists created these incredibly in-depth moving characters from a simple pencil and paper.
I didn’t start liking superhero comics until I was 19, and I interned at DC Comics Manufacturing Department in New York City. I was attending SCAD [Savannah College of Art & Design] at the time, majoring in animation and minoring in storyboarding. I figured comics wasn’t that far of a reach, and it would look good on my resume. I read Amanda Connor’s Harley Quinn, I thought it was fun and quirky, and it made me read more and more like a gateway into the comics world, specifically for me.
This experience opened my eyes to what my grandfather, uncle, and father have actually been doing. They did not just illustrate superheroes, but enjoyed the problem solving, the learning process, and the feeling of creation. I fell in love with the process of creating comics, not just the actual comics themselves, similar to my dad, grandfather, and uncle.
KS: What’s the first “real” comics piece you remember creating? Something that felt like a serious project for you at the time, whatever age that was…
EK: While I was at SCAD and thinking of leaving to go study at the Kubert School, my dad gave me a Harley Quinn script to try out. It was a disaster. It was really hard, I’ve never done it before, I whined, and I didn’t finish it. But it also showed me that I had a lot to learn, and it got me excited to go to the Kubert School, so when I showed up on the first day to get our first assignment, I was ready to go!
KS: Tell us about your decision to make the leap to attending the legendary Kubert School.
EK: I've always enjoyed art, and it was apparent since I was younger that I was going to make a career out of it; however, I didn't want to go to the Kubert School. Mostly because it was so close from home, and I think me being me, I needed to leave and feel independent, but I also grew up knowing how much commitment, time, and work goes into being in at that school. I knew I wasn't ready for it.
I attended SCAD for two years, majored in Animation, minored in Storyboarding, and met some of the best people there, but I was unsatisfied. I didn't want to actually animate, but do pre-production work like concept art, storyboarding, etc. At the end of my second year, I looked at my art and knew that if I stayed, my art skills would not progress the way that I wanted them to. I knew I needed to be in a supportive classroom setting and to have a large work load so that I am constantly drawing. I decided to go to the Kubert School.
KS: And how was the experience for you?
EK: It was the hardest and most rewarding three years of my life. If you only like art or you are just a comic fan who wants to draw Batman and only Batman, this place is not for you. There are 5 days a week, 2 classes a day, and 10 assignments each week. I was drawing 10-14 hours a day. The biggest lesson learned while attending this school is that you are not going to get better unless you keep drawing. Just by constantly grinding out assignments, I got better each week and I was seeing more immediate results just by sitting there and doing it.
KS: Jumping to the present, tell us a little about your workspace.
It’s probably like any other artist’s workspace — a hot mess. I really wish I was one of those people that stayed organized, but as soon as I clean up my space, it’s back to its old messy self by nightfall. I have my laptop hooked up to a TV monitor, sitting on my flat drawing table. A rolling cabaret with drawers are next to it, where it keeps all my supplies. I use a light box/board to prop up whatever I'm drawing against the table.
I share the room with my boyfriend and fellow Kubert School alum Rusty Gladd. We have a large cabinet full of our art books and more supplies with our desks facing opposite walls. Definitely a tight space, but we love working together, especially if we need help or one of us needs another’s perspective on their piece.
KS: Do you have a set daily (or nightly) work routine?
EK: I like working in the day time, waking up a bit early, probably around 7ish. I am definitely not a night owl, even though I know a lot of artists are. As soon as that sun sets, I try my hardest to make it to 10 p.m. before I fall asleep on my desk.
KS: What about listening to music, or any other background noise while you work?
EK: Usually while I’m working, I like putting on Netflix or Hulu, a show that I’ve seen before with a lot of seasons, so I can just listen and work. Sometimes, I choose music, but I actually find it more distracting because it makes me want to dance and sing, and then a song only lasts a couple minutes so I’m constantly skipping. I usually work in silence if I am writing or drawing layouts on my iPad.
KS: If you look back at your earlier work, what’s something that stands out as different vs. the current version of you? Why do you think that is?
EK: The biggest thing that stands out to me is patience. Earlier versions of my work were rushed, probably due to the workload of the Kubert School, but also me and my personality and always the need to have things done on time. I find that right now, I am taking my time to put maximum effort into every page I create and really trying to make everything exactly how I want it to look. Instead of saying, “I’ll do better on the next one,” I say, “I’m going to do better on this one.”
KS: Give us one word that sums up an important trait for being successful in the comics business.
EK: Determination. The artists who are on top are the ones who never stopped. There is no special answer to becoming an artist. It isn't magic like everyone thinks it is. It is a constant work ethic, staying at the table till the wee hours of the morning. To become an artist you have to draw. Simple as that.
KS: Finally, tell us a little about your most recent/upcoming project.
EK: I recently launched a Kickstarter titled Willowbrook, the first issue of a hopefully on-going fully watercolored, young adult fantasy series. I’ve done some variant covers, as well, for Dynamite Entertainment and It’s Alive! Since I graduated the Kubert School in May 2018, I’m really just in the start of my comic career and I’m excited to see where it leads me!
*Colors by Rusty Gladd