You might know Christina "Steenz" Stewart as an artist, drawing the McDuffie Award-winning Archival Quality from Oni Press.
You might know Christina "Steenz" Stewart as an editor of titles at Lion Forge, Mad Cave Studios, and elsewhere.
You might know Christina "Steenz" Stewart as an adjunct professor at Missouri's Webster University, teaching cartooning.
Yes, one person is all these things and more.
The St. Louis-based artist has a three-pronged approach to comics, and has become a staple of the comics community. With everything going on (and what she's planning for her future), Newarama caught up with Steenz to find out where she got her start and what's on her mind.
Newsarama: Let's start this one out easy - what are you working on right now - besides talking to me, of course?
Christina 'Steenz' Stewart: I am doing freelance editorial for small press, Tapas, and a few individual creators. I'm also test for a lot of comics projects. Which is always fun and stressful at the same time lol. And I'm also possibly teaching some elementary school kids for the spring semester! So I have a lot of plates spinning.
Nrama: I've already set the stage of who you are now as a cartoonist, an editor, and a teacher, but let's go back to the beginning. What's your first memory of comics?
Steenz: My first memory of comics was going with my grandmother to the hospital so she could get her check-ups and reading Archie Comics from the gift shop. I was a big fan of Archie. Not a big fan of hospitals.
Nrama: Was there someone who you remember assisting you into getting into comics? Either loaning them to you, letting you borrow them, or something?
Steenz: So I would read comics at the library. So librarians making them available to me was really nice. But when I got into single issue comics, I was a poor college student. So my friend Dan (who had a job) would bring me the comics he read and we'd talk about them afterwards. It was a really great time.
Nrama: How would you describe yourself when you were "just" a comic fans with no real professional aspirations for it?
Steenz: How would I describe myself.... Probably dweeby. [Laughs]
I was constantly talking about comics with people who dit not care about comics. And then finally when I got my job at the comic shop, I was like "... Finally." And the floodgates were opened.
Nrama: That begs the next question - when did you realize that there were people making comics?
Steenz: Oh man... They always felt like they weren't real. Like, I live in St. Louis, I didn't se anyone. And then I started a Ladies Night at my shop and asked for some donations from women in comics for door prizes. And I met Raina Telgemeier! She had just done Baby Sitters Club so a few Ladies Nights attendees have some ~originals~ *chef kiss*. But that's when I was like wow. People are super nice and care about making the community strong. So yea. Thanks Raina!
Nrama: And how did you come to want to do it yourself?
Steenz: So I tell this story a lot, but I didn't consider making comics at all when I was in school for art or while I was working at the comic shop until I saw Brittany Williams name on the Samurai Jack comic. And I was like "Hold it. Brittany Williams. Is black. And... makes comics. I'm black. I can... make comics." It was a wild, eye-opening situation. But it shows the power of seeing someone that looks like you doing work you never knew you could.
Nrama: Once you decided to do it, what were your first steps?
Steenz: I made like daily journal comics. I would post them on my Facebook. Or I would draw a lot of fanart.
And then one of my co-workers was like why don't you join Ink & Drink (which was the local comics group). And from then I started making comics in their seasonal anthologies!
Nrama: What was your first actual comic - and can you share it with us here?
Steenz: Oh god. I do. This was the first comic I did for the Ink & Drink Anthology: Off The Wagon. [Laughs]
Nrama: When do you feel you started to make real progress as a comics creator?
Steenz: I feel progress every day I draw. Because every time I draw I'm learning something new. From working with a certain brush, to playing with a certain color. It's an ongoing learning process.
Nrama: You're not "just" a cartoonist, but you're also editing, teaching, project managing. WHere did that side of it come from
Steenz: I think I've just always wanted to do everything. I love making comics, but I love when other people love making comics too. Because that's what got me interested. Other people.
So I guess it's all about building and fostering a healthy community in every way I can. Using my skills at being personable and putting them to good use.
Nrama: Have you had any professional jobs outside the comics industry?
Steenz: Oh totally. I was a Beauty Lead at Victoria's Secret, a clerk at the Hallmark Store, a Sandwich Artist at Subway, a camp counselor at my local Jewish summer camp. [Laughs]
I did all kinds of stuff to make money and yanno. survive.
Nrama: I first met you when you were at Lion Forge, but I believe you mentioned you worked at a comic store? If I'm not mistaken... can you tell us about that?
Steenz: Yea, I worked at Star Clipper in St. Louis for four years. I was a manager and focused on community building events. It was something I just happened to be good at. Combining my love for group events, meticulous planning, and gumption makes me a pretty good event coordinator. so I was very fortunate to be able to work for a company that encouraged me to do that sort of thing.
Nrama: Your first real break also became your first real hit, with Archival Quality. How'd you meet Ivy and come to do that together?
Steenz: Through comics! We were both in the Valkyries which was a group for women in comics retail. And we became fast friends. Not totally sure what sparked it... maybe the reality tv show KPop Star... I don't know, we watch a lot of the same reality tv which would could talk about at length. But after a while she was like "yo wanna do a webcomic w/ me or w/e". and i was like "sick." That is not verbatim.
Nrama: Looking back on your path to comics, is there anything you'd tweak or change?
Steenz: You know I like to think that everything happens for a reason. But if i can change anything, I'd probably just be nicer to myself. I shit on my comics work all the time. But I shouldn't. I'm good at it.
Nrama: If there was someone like you out there, wanting to break into comics, what would you tell them?
Steenz: Start making comics now. You're never going to feel ready. But the sooner you start the more time you 'll have to hone your craft.
Nrama: And 15 years from now, what is something you'd want to tell your future self not to forget - kinda like a message in a time capsule?
Steenz: I'd like to know if Vanderpump Rules is still on in 15 years. But also, treat your body right, and keep that confidence. That'll never fail you.