Alumni Spotlight recognizes a chosen Kubert School alum showcasing their work and journey after The Kubert School.
- Alumni Spotlight
- Shane Davis
- Garry Brown
- Brandon Vietti
- Eric Shanower
- Cliff Rathburn
- Anna-Maria Cool
- Rob Tornoe
- Dan Duncan
- Kevin Colden
- Warren Martineck
- Kevin Mellon
- Thomas Yeates
- Henrik Jonsson
- Tayo Fatunla
- Grant Miehm
- Carli Ihde
- Tamra Bonvillain
- Gary Fields
- Elisa Feliz
- Jerry Wilson
- Jeff Brennan
- Emi Yonemura - Brown
- Adam Pedrone
- Rian Miller
- Eric Schock
- Steven Pennella
- Jason Quinones
- Clayton Cowles
- Mark Gonyea
Talent from The Kubert School
Interview by Michael Kraiger
Tayo Fatunla was The Kubert School's first international student from Africa. Now he's an internationally published cartoonist/illustrator based out of London. Tayo is a 1984 graduate of the school.
The Kubert School: Tayo, you’re originally from Nigeria.
I imagine coming to the school had to be a big decision
for you. What originally prompted you to attend The
Tayo: I was born in the United Kingdom and raised in
Nigeria. My DNA is Nigerian. I was a fan and collector
of Marvel Comics’ CONAN THE BARBARIAN and I still
remember very well. The school advertised on the inside
back cover of the comic as The Joe Kubert School of
Cartoon and Graphic Art.
TKS: I know you did editorial cartooning in Nigeria
before you came to the school. What could you tell
us about that?
Tayo: I left the shores of Nigeria to the US as a popular
professional cartoonist. I did not only want to be
popular with my cartoons, I wanted to improve my
skills. Cartooning in Nigeria before I went to The Kubert
School was self-taught. I had a cartoon column on the
back page of Punch, a Nigerian national newspaper that
opened doors to me.
TKS: Did you consider any other career before
deciding on art?
Tayo: Not really. I was into comics already and I just
wanted to draw cartoons only, nothing else.
TKS: Who are some of the artists that inspired you
early in your career?
Tayo: Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame, Dik Brown (I still have an autographed print of Hagar the Horrible from him); and of course Sergio Aragones and Don
Martin, the great MAD magazine cartoonists; Marvel artists such as John Buscema and Jack Kirby; and in Nigeria, Kenny Adamson, Dave Lasekan, and Toyin Akingbule of SOJI Stupid cartoon strip fame. It was because I was a fan of Marvel Comics' Conan The Barbarian series that I came across The Kubert
School advertised in one issue. I give thanks to all.
TKS: Were you able to visit the school before
Tayo: Flying to visit the school from Nigeria wasn't an
option. I arrived at the school, then housed in the Baker
Mansion, several days before the school opened for the
TKS: Did you experience any type of culture shock
once you arrived in the states?
Tayo: In Nigeria I grew up watching American and
British programs on television and reading comics from
When Andy Kubert picked me up from JFK International
Airport to drive me to Dover in New Jersey, I observed
how vastly different and big all things in the United
States are. Coming from Nigeria, it was scary not seeing iron
bars on the doors and windows to keep burglars and
thieves away. When Mrs. Kubert brought me a sandwich
(the size of which I had never seen before) and drove
me to the Carriage House (housing for first year
students) I asked her why there were no bars on the
doors and windows. I adapted quickly, though. My years
in the United States are still simply the best in terms of
experience and exposure.
TKS: How would you characterize your daily life
while at the school?
Tayo: I was at the school for a purpose and that
was to better myself in drawing, learning styles and
techniques from the masters. My parents paid my way
through The Kubert School and I was determined to
make it worth all their effort.
So with discipline I carried out my assignments meeting
deadlines and remained focused on my education. After
classes I would stay at the school to do my assignments
before returning to my residence. I also looked after
the school's library. Most of my social life was during
holidays and, sometimes, weekends. Most mornings I
woke up before all my colleagues and got to the school
early to finish off my assignments.
TKS: Was there any particular experience or class
that stands out in your memory?
Tayo: Yes... I was shocked to see models taking off
their clothes to pose in Ben Ruiz's, Human Figure
class. Ben interacted with his students very well. I
adapted quickly after that to realize the importance
of drawing the human anatomy. It made sense later
on to me and has helped me with my drawings. One
great experience was when Sergio Aragones, my
idol, was invited to the school to talk to my class.
Another was assisting the legendary Joe Kubert with
the Saturday Morning Cartoon Sketch Class.
TKS: Is there any one aspect of attending the school
that best prepared you for your current career?
Tayo: The school was and is still very good, and I
believe it is in the very capable hands of Adam and
Andy Kubert, and The Kubert School team. There
is no other school like this anywhere in the world.
The school from time to time got me commissioned
works to do, such as designing video tape jackets,
drawing caricatures at parties and at open events,
designing t-shirts, and, of course, drawing for DC
Comics. Teachers like Ben Ruiz (Human Figure),
Joe Kubert (Narrative Art), John Belfi (Paste-Ups
& Mechanicals), Milt Neil (Intro to Animation) and
Hy Eisman (Lettering) all helped in making me
confident and wanting to go out there into the real
TKS: What was your first professional work after you
Tayo: After leaving The Kubert School, I flew back to
Nigeria where I was embraced by publications who
wanted me to draw for them, being aware that I was
back with improved skills, style and a good sense of
humor. So I was back at Punch newspapers again with a
refreshing new cartooning style and techniques. I am an
international cartoonist for two reasons... that I went
to The Kubert School and that Jerry Robinson gave me
a contract to have my cartoons syndicated in the United
States and around the world.
TKS: How did you come to settle in England?
Tayo: After The Kubert School, I went back to Nigeria
drawing cartoons in newspapers and magazines for four
years. I then decided to relocate to England because I
noticed there were some good publications I thought
I could draw for on regular basis. I ended up being a
resident artist at West Africa, a pan-African, London-
based weekly magazine. I designed covers for the
magazine for 13 years and drew editorial cartoons from
an African perspective.
TKS: Has there been a moment when you felt like you
had achieved what you’d set out to do by coming to the
Tayo: There have been many moments such
as serializing my comic strip Our Roots in the Voice
newspaper in London, and when the late Jerry
Robinson's, Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate began
representing me in the United States and around the
world. Flying out to cartoon festivals in various countries
also gave me moments of reflection and elation.
TKS: What can you tell us about your work, Our Roots?
Tayo: Our Roots began as an end-of-the-year project at
The Kubert School. Its original title was African Sketch
Book as I had the intention of selling the idea in Nigeria
after leaving school. I felt there was a need to educate
people about Black History in the diaspora. It was when
I was at school that I realized how little information
about Africa was available in the US and I felt the need
to broaden the knowledge of Black History to all. My first
research for this feature was done in the Dover town
library where the school is situated.
When the legendary cartoonist Jerry Robinson offered to
use his syndicate to distribute Our Roots in newspapers
in the United States, I could not but be grateful for this
idea, which started at The Kubert School. Hy Eisman,
my lettering instructor at the school, helped with the
lettering and so did my classmate and friend David
TKS: Where is it published?
Tayo: It is currently serialized in The Voice newspaper in
London and has been featured around the world.
TKS: Through your postings on Facebook we can see
you're quite the international traveler. You seem to
always be in the company of other cartoonists. What can
you tell us about that?
Tayo: I enjoy comic and cartoon festivals, and it so
happens that organizers take notice of my work and
invite me to their festivals. My first international outing
was in Helsinki, Finland, where my cartoons were
exhibited under the name Tayo’s Nigeria. It went down
a storm and got featured in the national newspapers and
on national television. Since then, I've been to South
Korea, Cameroon, Egypt, Belgium, France, Mallorca,
Italy, Algeria, and Ethiopia to mention a few. The
organizers usually arrange flights and accommodations
and look after one's wellbeing while in their countries. I
have met many great cartoonists in my travels such as
Matt Groening, Daryl Cagle, French cartoonist Plantu,
and many other great African, American and European
cartoonists and comic book artists.
As a Nigerian and African artist, I find I am an
inspiration to many, and my drawings have broken down
color and racial barriers. I am also a self-proclaimed
ambassador for The Kubert School. Only if you live on
another planet would you not know that I went to the
TKS: What is a typical workday like for you?
Tayo: I like waking up in the early hours of the morning
to draw, check my emails, and to find out the latest
news on the Internet.
TKS: What are you working on now?
Tayo: A book compilation of my editorial cartoons
Not So Long Ago. I am also contemplating updating
my Our Roots book to feature President Barack
Obama and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. I am also
working on a Christian cartoon book compilation
titled Our Father...Who ART in Heaven. Not published
yet but it will be soon.
TKS: What's next for you?
Tayo: I’m planning to turn Our Roots into an eBook.
TKS: Finally, I'd like it if you could share any personal
thoughts about Joe Kubert and any of your experiences
with him you might have.
Tayo: Mr. Kubert (as I fondly called him out of respect,
as it’s a cultural thing) took me in as his son and gave
assurances that he would look after me whilst I was at
the school. They knew I was far away from home and I
was their first international student from Africa. I helped
Mr. Kubert with the Saturday Morning Cartoon Sketch
class. Working with a living legend was enough to get
me out of bed on a Saturday morning and it improved
my knowledge and skills as well. Now I am also able to
teach HOW TO DRAW CARTOONS to many.
Mr. Kubert would always make himself available at the
school anytime I was in the United States. He was proud
of my progress and would sincerely say so to me. He
would let me know when he was coming to the United
Kingdom so we could meet up. In 2010 at the Hyatt
Regency Hotel in Jersey City, Mr. Kubert was honored
with National Cartoonist Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime
Achievement Award. It was an opportunity to see two of
my mentors Mr. Kubert and Jerry Robinson at the same
gathering (and as was the case, sadly for the last time).
Through his volume of work... Joe Kubert lives!
BBC, The British Museum