In my book, I combined the Kuberts in a chapter with Stan & Joanie Lee, as well as Will and Ann Eisner. All three were examples of men, and families, who broke the mold, in terms of finding success in the industry that was accomplished beyond the pen. All three men were good businessmen, and good salesmen.
Originally, my book was going to be nothing but interviews, but I wanted to provide more context, so I went the prose route. So, here, for the first time, is the entirety of the Muriel Kubert transcript (edited afterwards by her), in two parts. We'll publish part two tomorrow night, which includes the follow-up questions and my interview with Joe about his wife and her importance in his business and their family (read onwards after the jump break).
Muriel Kubert interview
by phone from New Jersey
for “I Have To Live With This Guy!”
Blake Bell: I'm speaking to Muriel Kubert on Thursday, March 7th, 2002. Muriel, I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your background; your family background; where you grew up.
Muriel Kubert: I grew up in New Jersey; a small town, Towaco, New Jersey.
BB: Now, when you say small, how small?
MK: At that time, maybe five thousand people. My dad had a small supermarket there – Fogelson’s Super Market. I went to Booton High. I went to Rider College after that. Got a B.S. in business administration.
BB: When you were in high school, did you ever dabble in art yourself?
MK: No, I'm not an artist.
BB: Never dabbled never did anything?
MK: I took art as an easy elective.
BB: What kind of pop culture influences did you have back in those days? Did you like movies, were you into any kind of fine arts or movies or music?
MK: No, nothing special. I liked music: Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra. But movies, not too much, no.
BB: Who had the biggest impact on you growing up? Was it father, mother, another family member?
MK: Probably my parents. We had a very close relationship. I have a sister and a brother. I'm the oldest. Still am.
BB: Looking back on it, what was the main thing you got from your parents, in terms of molding you into who you are today?
MK: My father's expression was - my sister's going to get a kick out of reading this – “get at it and get it done.” To this day, when I have something to do, I put everything else aside and I have to do it. Even a call, from anybody, wouldn't pull me away.
BB: It's nice to have that kind of discipline. It's a valuable trait. You went and got a B.A...?
MK: It was a B.S.; Business and Sciences-
BB: In Business administration?
BB: You aimed for that going through high school? How did you go into that?
MK: As matter of fact, in high school, I took a commercial course. In my junior year, I decided I wanted to go to college. I didn't have enough math. I think it was in my senior year I took algebra one with all the freshman in order to make sure I had enough credits to get into college. And it worked.
BB: Were you - I don't know the exact frame of reference, time wise, when you were going to high school - alone in that? I know a lot of woman from that era might have just gone into secretarial college.
MK: It was my decision. I was very young when I graduated high school. I was sixteen. I decided at that time - no one influenced me. As a matter of fact, I think my mother, at that time, was visiting with her parents down in Florida for a couple of weeks, and that's when I told my dad that I was going to try and get into college.
BB: Why business administration? What attracted you to that?
MK: I always liked business. Taking the commercial course in high school, I loved typing and shorthand and bookkeeping and Spanish. I've had five years of Spanish and I enjoyed it.
BB: Are we talking, you go into college in the forties, the fifties?
MK: I went to college in the late forties.
BB: What did you learn in college that you've been able to apply?
MK: Mainly, the bookkeeping, the accounting and also the Spanish. Of course I've forgotten a lot of it since then.
BB: Did you meet any resistance, being a woman talking business administration?
MK: There were a lot of women in my classes.
BB: May I ask when you first met Joe? And when that was, and the circumstances surrounding it?
MK: I first met Joe in the summer of 1950. His mother rented a rooming house for the summer at an area on the Jersey shore called Bradley Beach. My girlfriend - a sorority sister of mine - her mother, in turn, rented a room from Joe’s mother. I went there with my girlfriend to visit for a weekend and Joe was there visiting his mother. That's how we met.
BB: What were you very first impressions of the man? Do you remember your very first impressions?
MK: A nice guy - just a nice guy.
BB: What kind of personality did he have at that time? Was he overly funny? Was he quiet gentleman? I've never met that man myself so...
MK: You haven’t? You’re missing something. He's a very unusual guy. He was quiet. He was friendly. He was warm. He was sincere. He was honest - just as he is today.
BB: Was there an instant attraction or was there something that built?
MK: He took my girlfriend and I out at the same time that night. And then I went back to Towaco and he came up to see me. I believe it was at that point, he had received his draft notice and he was going into the army.
BB: Did that interrupt that courtship?
MK: No, not really, because Rider College was in Trenton at that time. Now it's moved to Lawrenceville, but it was in the city of Trenton at that time.
Joe was stationed in Fort Dix. I don't know how far that was, but they're very close. In fact, sometimes he would go AWOL to come over and see me, so it didn't interrupt. As a matter of fact, I never went out with anyone else after I met him.
BB: How long was the courtship?
MK: Well, I met him in the summer of ‘50. We got engaged, I think it must have been around Christmas time, and got married the following July. I had completed college early, graduating in March. We were married in July.
BB: What were your impressions of what he did for a career? Do you remember first time upon hearing...?
MK: Well, there was a cartoonist in our town, whom I really didn't know. I remember his name was Colen Allen. I don't remember exactly what he did but that was my only experience of knowing a cartoonist.
It was interesting to me. As a matter of fact, sometimes Joe would lend me his car and I would drive his work into New York for him and deliver it to D.C. Comics.
BB: This was before you were married?
MK: Yes, while I was still in college.
BB: What did your parents have think about, you know, daughter's involved with a comic book artist?
MK: They said it was just something different. They accepted him. They liked him very much.
BB: Oh, they did right off the bat?
BB: As a career, the career choice was not an issue at all?
MK: Not at all.
BB: Had you read any comics growing up or anything in that regard?
MK: Mainly, the girl comics. Fritzy Ritz, I remember; maybe Wonder Woman; The Journal American. Do you remember that strip?
BB: Sure, definitely.
MK: I used to read that one everyday. But comic books...I think I read Archie; mainly the feminine ones.
BB: In terms of, your impressions of comic books after meeting him, did you get exposed right away to a lot of his work?
MK: I wasn't really that involved with his work, no. I mean, I looked at it. It looked good to me. To tell you the truth, to this day, I really don't read comic books. I've read Fax From Sarajevo. I've read a couple of others, a couple of Sgt. Rocks, but I really haven't read a lot of comic books.
BB: So, his work, I'm assuming, would come to the house or would he get his work, in terms of the published work itself? Would it come to the house? Would he get it at the office, when he was working as an editor?
MK: He probably brought some back from the office. That I don't remember.
BB: Okay that’s interesting. I was going to ask what would strike you about his style from back then but...
MK: No, don’t ask me.
BB: Okay, I will stay away-
MK: All I know is I love his work.
BB: Okay, Now am I to understand, he was born in Poland originally and came over quite young?
MK: Two months old.
BB: When he was drafted into the military, when he received his draft papers, he must have had family in Poland. Did he have any family that lived through the holocaust?
MK: Oh, he lost family in the holocaust. As a matter of fact, when his mother was pregnant with Joe, they tried to come over but they wouldn't allow her on the boat. So, they had to go back to the town that they came from and wait for the birth to occur. That's why they came when Joe was two months old.
BB: Was that a prevalent force in his life from the time you first met him, about his history and him knowing his history?
MK: No, not necessarily.
BB: All the sudden he's drafted to go into Korea. What effect does that have on him? He did actually spend some time, I believe, in Germany?
MK: Yes, yes. He's very lucky and that's why I tell who ever draws to keep on drawing in case there's another war. While we were married, he, of course, was in the army. After basic training, he was permanent personnel in Fort Dix, New Jersey. We rented an apartment in Princeton. Joe would commute from Fort Dix to Princeton.
Because of his ability to draw, he was assigned to Special Services. He did a strip in the Fort Dix Post newspaper called the New Recruit. He painted helmets and signs, whatever else they needed. He stayed at Fort Dix, I think, for about a year and a half. He was due to come out after two years and then, in the last six months, they shipped him over to Germany.
BB: That must have had quite an impact on the family. I can't even imagine. I'm 31 years old and calling from Canada so I've never had to experience the notion of sending away somebody I love and you don't know where they're coming-
MK: Most of his company went to Korea. And a lot of them were killed in Korea.
BB: You have people with Survivors Guilt or people who think, “gee, I didn't get sent over.” Would he view himself as lucky, or did that have kind of a haunting effect, that members of his company-
MK: He kept in touch with some of the men he took basic with, but I think he just appreciated the luck.
BB: Exactly. So, he comes back from Korea and he starts working at St. John and creating Tor. How involved are you in the notion of his work and what's happening?
MK: Not at all.
BB: That's interesting, because Ann Eisner said the same thing about Will. He would go to work and it was a job and he would come home and she had no - I don't want to say clue per say - but it was just a job and she was not really cognizant of The Spirit and those types of things going on.
MK: Same thing, except Joe didn't go to job. We built the house in Parsippany, New Jersey when he was discharged. The basement was made into a studio and he would go downstairs to work. And then we started having children.
BB: During that time, how about the demands on his time as being a freelance artist at that time, I guess working for St John and DC at that time. What about the demands on his time compared to a normal 9 to 5 job?
MK: He was always able to juggle his time. Sometimes he would pull some all nighters. But if I needed him for something, if I needed to run someplace and needed someone to watch the baby for awhile, he could stop what he was doing and do it.
BB: Was he an early riser, in terms of starting work?
MK: Sometimes…sometimes, not all the time. Depends on how late he went to bed.
BB: So he would work, like after dinner he would keep working?
MK: Yes. It depended on what we were doing, his schedule or what was on television.
BB: And what's the worst situation like back then? Do you remember financial hardship? Or would he be able to earn enough money as a freelance artist, and connections to St. Johns, to make a healthy living at that time?
MK: I don't know about “healthy” but we were able to maintain a house. We had children and I was fortunate enough that I didn't have to go to work.
BB: You were able to stay home and raise the kids?
BB: And the first kid was David. And what year was he born, if I might ask?
BB: So, right after the war. What effect does that have, entering a child into a homestead, on an artist actually working in the home? He's able to find time-
MK: Wonderful. Wonderful life, I encourage anybody for it. It's a wonderful life.
BB: Is he able to work with distractions around him or does he need to be locked away?
MK: He had his studio. We knew when the door was close, you don't go downstairs. And he was able to work. The beauty of being a freelance artist, and of working at home, is that you can take your work with you. We would go on vacation and he would take his work with him. Not that he always did it. Sometimes he did. Some times he didn't.
BB: So there were no issues, about all the sudden he's taking his work on vacation. Were you ever like, “Joe, leave the work at home, let's go!”
MK: None at all.
BB: He was able to maintain that balance? Were you aware of the Comics Code Authority at the time and the big hubbub about comics?
BB: You never ran into anybody who said, “oh geez, your husband’s into comics? Aren't there people on the news saying bad things about comics and all those senate hearings about comics?” Were you cognizant of that going on at that time?
MK: Not really aware of it. I mean, I'd follow the news but it wasn’t the most important thing on my mind. At that point in our lives, I really didn't know many cartoonists. We didn't belong to the Cartoonists Society at that time. I really didn't know anybody else in the field, except Joe's friend, Norman Maurer, son-in-law of Moe Howard. That's the only one I knew.
BB: Did you ever get to meet any of the Three Stooges? Did you meet Moe Howard?
MK: I met Moe. In fact, when Joe returned home from overseas, we took a trip out to California and visited with Norman and his wife, in addition to having dinner at Moe Howard's house. I was so excited. My god, a movie star.
BB: What was Moe like in person?
MK: Very nice, very charming, and very warm.
BB: Different than he was in the movies or could you see that?
MK: I don't know. I didn't see any goings on.
BB: But you could see that he had those characteristics that would-
MK: He had his hair back instead of bangs. He was just a regular guy.
BB: When Joe starts working for DC and starts getting a lot of work from DC, do you remember your impressions of DC as a company at that time?
MK: I remember Joe working for Julie Schwartz at that time. As a matter of fact, let me backtrack for a minute. When Joe was overseas in Germany for those six months, DC sent him work. They were wonderful.
BB: They were considered, pretty much, the Cadillac of the industry at that time. Your remembrances of them were that they lived up to that kind of reputation?
MK: I think it was Julie Schwartz that was Joe's editor and he would send the work. No problems whatsoever.
BB: Would you have met Julie during this time?
MK: I think, probably when I went up to deliver the work or maybe once in a while with Joe taking a ride into New York with him. Yes, I remember sitting out in the waiting room they had.
BB: What was Julie like back then? Could you comment on that?
MK: Not really any conversation – just friendly and warm. They all are.
BB: Were there a lot of politics with DC in those early days?
MK: I wasn't aware of it. You'd have to ask Joe. But I wasn't aware of it.
BB: In terms of artistic temperament, what is Joe like working on superhero books as to opposed to war books. Could you tell a discernible difference-
MK: No, not at all.
BB: I was talking to Loretta Estrada and she was saying that when Ric-
MK: Ric Estrada's wife?
BB: Yes, definitely. She said when Ric would do war stories he would be a changed man. Coming from his background-
MK: Well, he's a Latino. Maybe that makes a difference. (laughter)
BB: But he really took it to heart, doing war, and he really felt what was going on, given his background. But Joe was able to keep an even keel?
BB: Would he discuss how he thought the war books were being treated? He virtually ran them, basically. How much resistance was there in the antiwar movement of the late sixties?
MK: As far as Joe was concerned?
BB: Would he discuss the notion of doing these war books? I believe he was the one that coined that, “Make War No More-.
MK: Oh, did he?
BB: - phrase, that would go at the end of every one of the books or every one of the stories.
MK: Honestly, Blake, I don't know because I wasn't involved - too busy with the family.
BB: Would you be the person who would handle the finances at home, while he could draw all the time?
MK: I handled them at the beginning. Then Joe took it over for awhile when I was just too busy with small children.
BB: So, you had David first. I'm not sure exactly how many children you have.
MK: Five. They kind of kept me busy. (laughter)
BB: What was the span of time?
MK: Let's see. David was ‘53. Danny was probably two years later. Daughter, Lisa, probably two years after that. And then Adam, I think, eighteen months later and then Andy was ‘62, could be a couple years after that.
BB: The two, who turned out to be budding comic book artists, were the final two?
BB: What about the first three? What kind of influence did their father's career have on them? Did they go into artistic fields themselves?
MK: No. My daughter, I guess you could call it an artistic field. She was majoring at F.I.T. in visual merchandising. David is now the vice-president of the IBEW Union for the state of New Jersey. Dan is now in the antique toy business at www.americantoys.biz.
BB: Why did Andy and Adam go into that vs. the other three?
MK: They were all exposed the same. You know, the father’s working downstairs or when we moved to this house, upstairs in the studio. I just think it was just in them; that’s all.
BB: It was just in those two? They had no special exposure to their father’s work?
MK: Well, Adam, that's the next to the youngest, at the age of twelve, was lettering for comic books professionally.
BB: Oh, really. I knew he lettered but didn't know as early as twelve.
MK: Yes, twelve.
BB: How does that develop? Did he have special writing skills from the start?
MK: I think it was just me pushing a little bit. I could see that he was extremely artistic. When he would put Catsup on a hamburger, he wouldn't put it on like you or me - he'd make a face out of it. You know what I mean? Put the dots for an eye, like that.
I could tell that he was artistic. I don't how the lettering first started. He had his father right here. He wanted to learn and Joe taught him.
BB: Did Andy and Adam hang over their father's when he was working more than the other three?
MK: I don't think so. They all took art in high school. Dover had a Vo-Tech school at that time, so they were able to go part time to high school to get their liberal arts credit and part time to the Vo-Tech. They had a wonderful, wonderful teacher there who encouraged them.
BB: So where did they get this spark of creativity that led them? Can you trace it back? Do you remember specifically? Or a time that you thought, “wow these guys, these two are really gonna take off?”
MK: As a matter of fact, Adam, I encouraged to go to Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.). He graduated from there with a degree in medical illustration. He even had a fellowship, a summer job, at Cornell, I think - Cornell Medical Center - drawing medical apparatus.
Andy, I did the same thing with. I encouraged him to go to R.I.T and take Package Design. And he hated it. Adam graduated. Andy went for - I don't even know if it was a complete year. They both decided they wanted to go to art school. And they did.
BB: Why did Andy hate it and Adam survived it? What's the difference between the-
MK: Andy didn't like the package design.
BB: It was merely the course they took?
MK: I think so - probably. Andy said he wanted to be a cartoonist. I said, “okay, come home.”
BB: So they had these tendencies early on to be drawing? Were they always drawing as kids?
MK: Adam was. Andy started out that way but when he would see the work that his father did and then he looked at the work that he did - this is when he was very young - he got disgusted. I remember him crumpling up the paper and throwing it in the garbage. Not until he went to this commercial art course at Vo-Tech did that turn him around. The guy, Frank Neubauer, is dead now, but he was a wonderful influence.
BB: Joe is so highly regarded, stylistically and as a person in the industry. What is it like having two sons who decide they want to become comic book artists or artists. What is it like, you as a mother, trying to help them having to grow up in their father's shadow, and issues like that?
MK: I always dreamed of “Kubert and Sons.” I want to hang out a shingle outside the house with an agency, “Kubert and Sons.” Now I thought it'd be wonderful. There is no such thing as being in your father's shadow. That's a bunch of garbage as far as our kids are concerned.
BB: But just in terms of the actual kids’ expectations. I think you said with Andy, they're drawing and they're going to compare themselves to Dad.
MK: Well, that's when he was young but when they mature and realize that they're their own people, I know that attitude changed. I think if they have enough self-confidence, self-esteem - which they did have - they'll go on their own.
BB: So they had no issues about following in their father's footsteps?
MK: Not that I know of, you'll have to ask them, but not that I know of.
BB: Did you have worries about that?
BB: You've got the three artists, so what separates them artistically, temperament wise? Do they all handle work in the same way? If you were watching them in a room or three separate rooms, could you separate them all, from their artistic temperaments?
MK: I really don't know. I haven't analyzed them to that point. The two boys, one is really disciplined, the other isn't as disciplined, but I think they're both wonderful young men and I'm very proud of them. I think they've achieved quite a wonderful reputation in the industry. They're professionals.
BB: You can't argue that they've carved their own niche. Do you remember the time when they came to you and they felt that about themselves? Was there a time when you remember a sense of validation in both of them where they were really standing on their own and they felt that for the first time?
MK: No. They are mature, individual, professionals. I don't think they question their own abilities. As I said, they have self-confidence.
BB: Now, would you ever help Joe interpret his plots or his scripts?
MK: Are you kidding? (laughter)
BB: So, what kind of influence did you have in his work?
MK: I don't think any. Do I look like Wonder Woman or something?
BB: No, would he come to you, would he bounce things off you?
BB: Not at all? When he would disappear into the studio, that was it?
MK: That was it.
BB: Would he bounce things of Adam, Andy, any of the kids?
MK: Not at that point. After they became professionals, I know they discussed everything, and still do, but at that point, no. Joe had a great deal of independence, and a great deal of self-confidence. He didn't bounce things off of anybody.
BB: He has always had that kind of self-confidence from the start?
BB: Where did that come from? Who inspires that in him?
MK: His mother. Maybe, his father, too. To pick up and come from Poland with one child and another child two months old, you got to be kind of self confident and independent to do that.
BB: Joe certainly started working young in the industry so he was exposed to a lot really early on and was able to keep going and keep working through it. Do your sons ever talk to you about their work?
MK: I have to pump them, but very rarely. They're not living at home. They're married with children. They've their own homes. I'm sure they discuss it all with their wives. But if you ask me what they're doing, sometimes I don't even know what strip they're doing.
BB: Do you recognize yourself in Joe's work at all? Does he use you as a model sometimes?
MK: I don't think so - not that I know of.
BB: You were saying, originally, that you don't necessarily read a lot of his work, or haven't over the years?
MK: I haven't over the years. As I said, I did read the Fax From Sarajevo and the upcoming book on The Holocaust. No, I really haven't read a lot. And I am a voracious reader. I read a great deal, bot not comic books.
BB: What kind of things do you read?
BB: What's your favorite then?
MK: Biographies, fiction and non-fiction. I'm reading Santa Fe Trail – fantastic! It's the history of the Santa Fe Trail from the beginning, when it was first Mexican property. It goes back to Montezuma; very, very interesting. I like John Grisham and Nelson DeMille. I love Stephen Ambrose; he's the one man I would love to meet. Just to go and sit and listen to him lecture. I would love it.
I like biographies. I just finished David McCullough’s John Adams. I also just finished Theodore Roosevelt, T.R. Rex.
BB: What were some of Joe's pop culture references when you met him? Did he read a lot at the time?
MK: I don’t know. I think he didn't have time - always working. As I said, he was going right into the army.
BB: When you were in the fifties and first married, what were his plans or his dreams? Was comics just a job and day to day? Did he have dreams to become an editor?
MK: I think things just happened. The thing that he had dreams of was opening a school.
BB: Right from the fifties he had that dream?
MK: I think more into the sixties.
BB: What was the genesis of that?
MK: Do you know John Costanza?
BB: Yes I do. He's a letterer, correct?
MK: Joe taught him lettering. John lived in Dover at that time and he would come over to the house. Joe would correct and critique his work. There are so many people that wanted to learn how.
So, we always had the idea in back of our mind. When we saw the piece of property, we figured that would be perfect. And as far as I was concerned, my youngest, Andy, I believe, was finishing off high school at that time, so I had the time to devote to it. That's one of the dreams. But outside of that, as far as editing, as far as everything else is concerned, I think it just happened.
BB: When did you get the first sensation of the caliber of his work, how highly it was regarded? Most of the artists I talked to in the fifties, there was such a disconnection between them and the readers; fandom in general. Do you remember those first inclinations?
MK: I think when I started going to conventions, did I realize what Joe, what reputation he had in the industry. I never really knew it. As I said, I didn't know any cartoonists.
BB: You didn't socialize with-
BB: So if I said, who were the interesting comic book wives, if you will, that you might have met over the years?
MK: I met Ann Eisner at a couple of conventions.
BB: What's she like?
MK: Oh, just from talking superficially, she seemed like a lovely, lovely woman. And Will is a very capable man – a good friend of Joe’s.
BB: When you talk to her - trade stories with her - do you hear the same types of stories?
MK: It's been years since I saw her.
BB: So there's not a lot of frame of reference for socializing with other people in the industry? Even when Joe's an editor with DC?
MK: No. When you have five children, you don't have time for that.
BB: People think that the comic book industry is so small and all based in New York, and yet a lot of people I've talked to, who started in the fifties, there was that separation. They didn't have the time. If someone lived next door who was an artist, that was one thing, but they all had a circle of friends who just weren't cartoonists.
BB: I talked to Dick and Linda Ayers--
MK: Oh, I remember them.
BB: There wasn't enough time. They lived out in White Plains and how were they going to get time away to hang out with artists? Pulling them away from the drawing table was money out of their pockets.
MK: Just because you have something in common, as far as a career is concerned, doesn't mean that you're going to be friends with them. We had our own circle of friends right here. We're very close with family. So it took up a lot of time.
BB: Do you remember your first comic book convention?
MK: Was it San Diego or was it Europe? I believe it was Lucca, Italy.
BB: This would have been in the seventies?
MK: Probably in the early seventies.
BB: What are your memories from that first convention, the sensations?
MK: Just standing around watching these kids and when they saw Joe, their faces all turned red. I get a big kick out of them. I enjoyed watching them.
That also was the first time we met our Yugoslavian friend, Ervin Rustemagic - the subject of Joe’s Fax From Sarajevo book. Another cartoonist that we met for the first time was Hugo Pratt, a top Italian cartoonist. Hugo told us an anecdote about the time he was a prisoner in Ethiopia – I don’t remember the reason - and what helped to maintain his sanity was his collection of comic books - mainly comic books illustrated by Joe!
BB: Do you remember what the male comic book fan was like at that point? What would you describe the typical comic book fan?
MK: Always blushing - a little bit heavy; very nice, very shy, very quiet - maybe because they were intimidated by Joe, I don't know...very nice. As I said, I enjoyed watching them.
BB: If I were to ask you what comics your sons worked on that you liked best, did you actively read your sons comics more.
MK: Never read them.
BB: That's interesting.
MK: I've looked at them, looked at their artwork. They would show me a couple of pages, but I've never read them.
BB: How does Joe handle criticism from peers, fans, and artists? I'm gathering that his position in the industry, he probably doesn't get a lot of that.
MK: I think you would have to ask him. I don't know.
BB: Did you ever talk him in or out of something?
MK: I've tried talking him out of it. Don't ask me which one cause I won’t tell you.
BB: So there was a specific one?
MK: There were a couple of things lately I tried to talk him out of.
BB: Without getting into what it was, what was the reason? Was it too much of his time?
MK: It was his work, but I said, “you don't have time for this.” He liked to do it, I said okay. When it comes to his career, he's the boss. When it comes to other things, we share.
BB: Would Joe ever discuss any of the political aspects of drawing and editing war comics with you? He would do stories of the (Lt. William) Calley incidence; those were really hot button issues.
MK: No. When he was doing Green Beret strip, after awhile, I was kind of agreeing with the protesters. I began to see that we shouldn't be in the war at all and he's still drawing the Green Beret. The Special Forces did a wonderful job, but that I was kind of against, but not enough to influence him and I wouldn't even tried.
BB: That must have been different writing a syndicated script.
MK: He wasn't really writing it. Robin Moore was the author of the book and Jerry Capp wrote the strip.
BB: What about demands on time? That doesn't sound like something in the end he enjoyed at all.
MK: That was rough. The deadlines on a syndicated strip are rough. You can't call them and tell them you're going be late. It's got to be in; the newspapers must be out on time. It's a rough thing. I respect the people that do it today.
BB: When he goes from basically back a freelance artist to an employee of the company in ’67, what is the difference, in terms of the difference in how it affects the time and the family?
MK: Well, it was nice because he got a check in every week, instead of trying to live on a freelance salary, which sometimes is difficult because you can't judge. He didn’t have to go into New York on a 9-5 schedule. He could go in after the traffic and leave before the traffic coming out, only a few days a week.
BB: Even as his role as an editor?
BB: So, demands on his time were not exceptionally different?
MK: Not that I recall, no.
BB: Would you go into DC and visit them during those times or were you just busy home with the kids?
MK: Well, if I could get out, I would take a ride with him into New York but that was very rare.
BB: Living with an artist, if they're in working a lot and you're staying home with the kids, how many times to you have to shake him and say, “can we go out?” Did you guys maintain balance?
MK: Not many, because Joe could keep a balance. He would dry off his brush, if we wanted to go someplace. Then he worked just a little later that night. He was very flexible when it came to that. If I had to run someplace, if I had to run the grocery store and the kid was sick that I couldn't take with me, I could leave. I didn't take advantage of it. It was, and is, a wonderful life.
BB: So you read Fax From Sarajevo? That's the one thing you mentioned that you'd read. What were your impressions of that project from your perspective?
MK: I loved it. He really hit on the heart of what our friend Ervin and his family was going through. I was a part of that group sending faxes to Ervin and cutting of articles from the New York Times and sending it to him. Trying to get transcripts of TV shows when I'd see something about what was going on there and getting that out to him. Maybe because I was a part of it, I enjoyed it more, but that is really at the heart of what the people there were going through.
BB: Now, having not read a lot of his stuff over the years and you're reading almost an entire novel, if you will, what do you take from his style and the impact that it brings? What impacted you about the style?
MK: I loved the way he put details in everything. He'll draw a living room with the statue in it and a picture on the wall. I mean, a picture that looks like a picture. The realistic drawings I think are super.
BB: The reaction to Fax From Sarajevo was pretty extreme in terms of congratulatory. It's pretty incredible to be producing work in the 1990s that's still considered relevant. Is he someone who takes a lot of validation from that or is he just moving on to the next project?
MK: He's just moving on to the next project. He knows what he's capable of.
BB: I believe he is either working, or may have finished at this point, some kind of graphic novel about revisiting the Holocaust?
MK: Wait til you see it. Wait til you see it.
BB: We talked before about doing the war stories and how he would be the same as when he was doing superhero stories in terms of his temperament, has this been different?
MK: No, not at all.
BB: He still able to keep all those feelings of the drawing table?
MK: Absolutely. I'm rather surprised by your question, especially when you told me that Mrs. Estrada said Ric reacts differently from the type of work to he's doing. No, I've never seen that. It doesn't affect his personality, no.
BB: You guys had that dream of the school from the '60s, as you were saying. What was the first thing, that made you think this could be a reality?
MK: When we saw the piece of property.
BB: Were you looking for the property? Did you just happened to stumble across something that you thought would be a good idea for school?
MK: It was our daughter Lisa' s girlfriend's grandparents. Do you follow me? She said, “mom, their grandfather died, and you've got to come over and take a look at this piece of property.” It was right in Dover, but I had never been to that section.
BB: Why did she suggest you coming over to see this property?
MK: I think she knew about our dream. The girlfriend's father called - the son-in-law of the man who died - and said, “would you like to take a look?” We said, "sure we’ll take a look." We went there and we knew that was where it could be. We worked out a very good deal and it worked.
BB: What's the first thing you have to do when you decide, here's the great property? What’s the next step?
MK: Oh God, well, the legality of getting the property; that was number one.
BB: Was that a nightmare?
MK: No, they were very nice. It was seven acres of property with a beautiful mansion with a pool in the back. On the property also was a carriage house. They called it a carriage house with a big garage underneath and two apartments over it.
But the next step was finding out how you run a school. We never ran a school, never wrote a curriculum, and we realized we had to be approved by the New Jersey Department of Education. We have wonderful guy down there at the Department of Education who we met. He helped us, telling us how to write the curriculum, and how do you do it.
Joe and I worked on that and got that approved. In fact, we bought the property and it was May or June of ‘76 and we opened the school, that first class, that September with 22 students.
BB: So it came together and rather quickly?
MK: Yeah, it was a lot of hard work.
BB: What was the hardest thing you about getting that prepared?
MK: I think writing the catalog. I sent for - I don't know how many - catalogs from different schools, to kind of pick their brains. And to pick and choose that this would apply to us, this would be good for us, this wouldn’t.
The hardest part was putting together the curriculum. Joe’s hardest part – because I didn't know anything about the artistic end of it - was how to put into actuality what you've been doing all your life. If you have to form a school, as far as authoring a book is concerned, what do you do first? Do you write the table of contents? Do you make an outline?
BB: Yes. You've done it for so long, it just flows out of you. Now you have to technically break it back down, so you can build it backup in other individuals
MK: Exactly! Exactly. So, that was hard.
BB: How does that get done? Do you sit down and breakdown on paper?
MK: That's what he did. One other person that helped as far as ideas was Jack Adler. Joe spoke to Jack, I don't remember what his background was besides comic books - I know it was into photography - maybe he had a background in education, but what he put forth some wonderful ideas for us, too. He was also in charge of production for DC.
BB: How do you get the financing for this kind of property?
MK: You do it yourself.
BB: Because back then, you go into a bank and say, “I'm opening of the school for comic book artists,” it'd never been tried before.
MK: That's right.
BB: What were these experiences trying to build that out and get the financing? Did you meet a lot of resistance?
MK: We were able to do it. Resistance? No, I don't think so. My husband and Will Eisner are the two best cartoonist businessmen I've ever met. Most cartoonists are not good businessmen.
BB: Most cartoonists leave it to their wives to handle the business.
MK: I don't know, or they have to hire somebody. But Joe and Will are excellent.
BB: Where does that business sense come from?
MK: It's innate.
BB: Because you are right about Will, Ann would say the same thing. I spoke to Adele Kurtzman and she would say the reverse about Harvey. He was ingenious, but lacked the ability to pull all the deals together and he envied Will, in terms of being able to do that. From the time you decided you were going to buy the property, from the time you opened the school...
MK: It was only a couple of months. That's not only the school itself, but it's furnishing the carriage house for dormitories. At that time we were going to garage sales or the Salvation Army and bought the dressers and the tables and the pots and pans and everything else.
Even our students are required to purchase an arts supply kit when the first come to the school, so they all have the same high-quality art supplies. I just talked to Joe today about it. The first year, I remember laying out the kits in one of the rooms in that mansion - 22 of them - one pencil here, one here, so I don't skip anybody; until they had a kit put together.
BB: What was it like trying to get students for this? You had 22 in that first class. How many applications did you get?
MK: Not that many more. I don't think we advertised. I the think it was all PR - press releases that we would put together and send out to the Comic Buyers Guide or whoever else was interested. I remember we did put one ad - a little ad - in the New York Times. I learned that that's not our audience.
BB: What is the feedback when it's starting off? This is goofy idea, or this is a great idea?
MK: It was a great idea.
BB: A lot of positive feedback at the time?
MK: Yes, if I remember, yes.
BB: What is the experience like, to be able to first open that thing?