Zoe Serbin and Emma Steinkellner

Paul Wellman

Zoe Serbin and Emma Steinkellner

The New Digital Comics

Self-Portraits of the Artists in Pictures

The temptation with new tech­nology is to see only what’s new about it. But take a closer look at what many young artists are doing online with digital tools, and you will soon see that, amid all the Instagrams and tweets, other, seemingly old-school forms like comics are emerging as areas of sustained or even renewed interest. With access to an incredible archive of comics online and with nonstop connections to a huge global community of like-minded contemporaries, younger artists are creating new versions of the old comic book formats that pick up where Archie left off and breathe new life into these old models.

For this Winter Arts Preview issue, we chose to represent what’s happening in the next generation of comics by showcasing a pair of young Santa Barbara artists whose work successfully bridges the divide between old and new media. In Becoming the Girl Who Draws, Zoe Serbin, a senior at Laguna Blanca School, tells the story of how her passion for basketball led to the unintended consequence of learning to love drawing. In Aces: Who We Are and How We Make It, Emma Steinkellner, a first-year student at Stanford and a Dos Pueblos High School alum, describes the way that she and her older sister, Kit, have collaborated on an often more-than-weekly online comic about the staff of a high school newspaper in a place strikingly similar to Santa Barbara.

<em>Becoming the Girl Who Draws</em>
Click to enlarge photo

Becoming the Girl Who Draws

When one thinks of the stereotypical comics nerd, the first thing that comes to mind is generally a young guy, but both Emma and Zoe object strenuously to the idea that girls drawing comics is somehow a new or surprising thing. “So many girls go to Comic-Con!” says Steinkellner. And while neither of these young women is interested in creating the superheroes and busty fantasy females often associated with the medium, it doesn’t bother them a bit to share comics with the cosplay crew. “There are so many other ways to do comics now,” observes Serbin. “All you have to do is go online and find things that interest you.”

<em>Aces: Who We Are and How We Make It</em>
Click to enlarge photo

Aces: Who We Are and How We Make It

The one big background experience that Serbin and Steinkellner do share beyond their love of drawing is the theater. Both have written plays, and Kit Steinkellner is an established and successful playwright. “Comics can be kind of theatrical” says Emma, “but it’s more of an older style of theater — the kind of thing where the villain has a mustache. It’s important in comics that people get it right away, so you have to be pretty direct.” Serbin agrees, adding that her experience onstage left her energized to create more comics because “the writing for both is similar — you are trying to do a lot in a little space. Every word counts.”

We hope you enjoy these beautifully crafted accounts of artistic self-discovery. (Click on the comic strips above to see bigger versions.)

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