Beyond superhero comics, St. Louis is host to many comic artists tackling diverse subjects
Comics are no longer solely relegated to syndicated placement in newspapers or in comic books—the increasing popularity of the World Wide Web changed that. Today, you’re just as likely to find a comic you love on a Tumblr, Facebook page, or webpage than in a comic book shop. These web comics (that come in strips, series, and serials) are often an entry for women and people of color into the world of comics and comic book publishing — a field typically dominated by white men.
“People who before would have to go through a pitch process, getting in touch with editors and publishers, now they can have web comics and have that on the internet but also, in the last three or four years crowd-funding sites or things like Patreon, allow people to make a living doing this without the eye of publishers,” said Rori de Rien, author of Tiny Pink Robots.
St. Louis is host to a large and often unrecognized group of comic artists, writers, and illustrators who work on everything from personal web comics and fan art to book publications with thousands of followers. People in St. Louis don’t realize that there are over 40 people here contributing to all parts of the comic creation process (writing, illustrating, coloring and publishing).
“I became aware of it when I’d go to conventions at other cities, I’d go to Seattle and be at a table and other cartoonists would come up and be like ‘Do you know Dan Zattwoch and Kevin Huizenga?’ and like ten other cartoonists who live in St. Louis,” Kindt said. “I’d be like, ‘Oh, how do you know those guys?’ When you are close to it, like you are here, everyone’s in this small community, you don’t really think about it. Those are my friends, we’re all writing and drawing comics, you don’t think about how big it is until you go outside the city.”
"Comics are a medium, they aren't constrained to any genre."
On Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” Kindt as well as de Rien joined the show to discuss the world of comic artistry in St. Louis as well as the state of the industry today. We also hosted a Twitter Q&A with several comic creators online. Catch up on the conversation here and feel free to share your insights with us at @STLonAir. You can also follow this Twitter list to find different comic creators working in the area.
One of the first things to understand about the community here is that the comics made by St. Louis artists and writers aren’t just relegated to the land of comedy any more. As de Rien put it, “Comics are a medium, they aren’t constrained to any genre.”
That means subject matter ranges from the fantastical, to the funny, to the dark and serious. There are even autobiographies of Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders out there done in the style of comics. “It is as broad as you can imagine, there must be tens of thousands of web comics on the internet, just in English,” said de Rien.
“I’m wondering ‘why am I doing comics? I’m a grown man,’” said Kindt. “But if you look back, since the beginning of time, cavemen have been drawing pictures on walls to tell stories. When you’re a kid, you read children’s books, looking at pictures while your mother/father is reading books to you. As a grown up, there’s still something magical about how a picture interacts with words. Just because I am grown up does not mean that I don’t enjoy that interaction. I think that’s the beauty of comics too.”
Listen to the full discussion, which covers how comic artists can make a living, how women and people of color are getting their voices heard, how to improve diversity in the world of comics and more:
“Comic books and graphic novels, words and pictures, is one of the few visual mediums that can provide a pure voice,” said Kindt. “If you’re making a movie, you’re working with hundreds of other people to make this thing. The same with books, you’re in a sea of books and editors and publishers. With comic books, most of the time, the best comics are when one writer, one artist and they’re providing this voice that is unadulterated. There’s no one interfering. This is the story you want to have told, you’re telling it, and no one is interfering. There’s not market interference, there’s no money interference, there’s no editorial…it is just the pure vision.”
Interested in this subject matter? Check out this event, 'The Art of Illustration,' hosted by the Cut & Paste podcast on March 10, 2016.
While publishing houses like Marvel and DC Comics have struggled to bring the visions of a diverse cast of comic writers and illustrators to fruition, de Rien said that the internet has caused an explosion of diverse voices in comics to be heard because people can publish their own work and gain thousands of viewers. While women and people of color have been creating comics for a long time, they are able to gather a following without the gatekeeper of the publishing house any more. De Rien said that she thinks teenage girls are actually the vanguard of comics today.
“Teenage girls are incredibly passionate about art and literature and comics,” she said. “They don’t bring preconceived notions. They see what they like and they love it and they have good taste.”
Kindt agreed and said that awareness of the multitude of voices that could be heard in comics but aren’t has changed his style over the years.
"We've had forty or fifty years of superhero comics that are for teenage males. I don't want to do those kinds of books anymore."
“We’ve had forty or fifty years of superhero comics that are for teenage males,” Kindt said. “I don’t want to do those kinds of books anymore. I grew up reading those and I want to do something that is for everyone. I have a daughter who is 12, so having her made me extra conscious of wanting to do a book that, when she’s old enough, she’d be into it. Not just because ‘it’s my dad’s book’ but because ‘this book is interesting and speaks to things I’d be interested in.’ If I was targeting an audience, it would be my wife and daughter, neither of them grew up loving comics like I did, but I’d love them to love comics.
What to hear more perspectives of St. Louis comic creators? Read this Storify and share your story with us!
Check out some of these other artists who work out of St. Louis below:
Christina ‘Steenz’ Stewart
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards,Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.