DOWNTOWN – On a Wednesday night, a group of comic artists and enthusiasts hoping to learn more attended the first class of 2019’s Comics University through the St. Louis Public Library.
Hosted by an area cartoonist who goes by the name Steenz, Comics University consists of six classes over the course of June and July. The classes, offered on Wednesday nights at the Central Library at 1301 Olive Street, cover everything from the history of comics to storyboarding and figure drawing.
Steenz created Comics University in 2013, when she was working as a manager at Star Clipper Comics, then in the Delmar Loop. She got the idea after noticing that Cicero’s hosted a “Beer School” for their patrons and wanted to do the same – but with comics.
Steenz said she had started the program because she wanted to show people that comics are “more than just superhero single issues at comic shops.”
“I’m very big into community and growing the comics community, especially with a low-entry level, and having a free program definitely does that,” she said. “So I know a lot of people in St. Louis that work in comics or are professors that teach comics or people outside of St. Louis that can do Skype.”
After the Star Clipper store on Delmar Boulevard closed, Steenz got a job working at the library, where she pledged to bring more events to the public, while also keeping Comics University going. She said it was usually one of the more popular library events, some years boasting 60 participants.
Every attendee at the sessions gets 10% off of any full-price comic at the new Star Clipper Comics, 1319 Washington Avenue, on the night of the class.
For the first session, Steenz Skyped in Wendy Xu, a comics artist and editor who co-created the graphic novel “Mooncakes.” Xu offered her expertise to the audience, touching on how to find inspiration, the art of choosing a good agent and the benefits of collaboration. She also answered direct questions from the audience.
As a freelance cartoonist herself, Steenz said, she believes comics are different from other art forms because of “the ability to see from someone else’s point of view visually.”
She elaborated, “So like you can watch something on TV, and it can be a really great moment for you to see someone else’s point of view, but if there is a face someone makes or a mood they’re trying to get across, you kind of have to pause; and with comics you can linger on pages, and you can actually feel what people feel just by flipping through pages.”
As for what she looks forward to for this iteration of Comics University, Steenz said was excited about bringing in Jill Gerber, who will offer a workshop about writing for children as well as in the education market.
“It’s a class that we haven’t had before, and it’s really, really interesting stuff,” Steenz said. “She’s a great teacher as well.”
“The medium is just so vast. You can do so much with it.”
Comics University takes place on Wednesdays at the Central Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m., with the last class on July 17th. For the full schedule of classes, visit https://www.slpl.org/news/2019-comics-university-at-central-library/.