The Kubert School Spotlight recognizes a chosen Kubert School instructor or alumni, showcasing their work and journey as a comic book professional.

    Talent from The Kubert School


    Tayo Fatunla


    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 
    Kubert School?
    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 

    starting here?

    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 
    first semester.

    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 
    these nations.

    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 
    finished school?

    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