UMSL professor, students donate collection of class-produced comics to Missouri History Museum

Comics class at Missouri History Museum library

Professor of Art Dan Younger (back row, far left) and many of the students currently enrolled in his Comics and Cartoon Illustrations course made a special trip to the Missouri History Museum’s Library and Research Center earlier this month. (Photos by Evie Hemphill)

It’s been about five years since staff members at the Missouri History Museum’s Library and Research Center first started growing a collection of St. Louis-related comic books. But the set they acquired on Feb. 13 held unique significance.

“We’re extra excited about a comic produced by students in the community,” said head librarian Emily Jaycox as a group of budding University of Missouri–St. Louis artists arrived for the formal hand-off of the materials.

Some art majors and others not, the UMSL students joined their teacher, Professor of Art Dan Younger, at the library that afternoon to donate a collection of work many semesters in the making.

Once every two years, Younger teaches another section of his popular Comics and Cartoon Illustrations class, and each time the course culminates in an entire comic book co-authored by his students. Over time, Younger has amassed a colorful series, with the current group working on what will be the eighth published by UMSL students.

Archiving that work is important, Younger said, and the local museum turned out to be a great match.

“To have this here is really great,” he added. “One day their friends or even their children may come looking for their comics.”

Comics officially donated

The formal donation of the collection on Feb. 13 held personal meaning for the museum’s acquisitions librarian, Kelly Brown (at right), who studied psychology as an undergrad at UMSL and took Professor Dan Younger’s course as an elective. “It was really fun,” she recalled. “I got so much out of it.”

Acquisitions librarian Kelly Brown, herself a UMSL alumna and former member of Younger’s class, provided the group with a demonstration of the archival and indexing processes involved in caring for the comics collection.

“I think it’s amazing that she was from this class,” said Younger, who wasn’t aware of the connection when he first reached out to inquire about the possibility of preservation.

The students were all smiles as they paged through the comic books created by their predecessors as well as other St. Louis authors that comprise the museum’s collection.

“You guys are going to be an official, published and collected artist,” Younger told them.

Only partway through the semester, the current project still has a ways to go.

“I’ve really enjoyed it so far – I really didn’t know what to expect going into it,” said Shyanna Street, an undecided major at UMSL. “First we got an assignment to draw 25 different robots and kitchen appliances with attitude.”

The next step was a three-panel comic strip by each individual in the class, followed by lessons on narrative and group work to begin pulling everything together.

“I’m excited to see the collaboration since everyone has a different style,” said junior Miranda Kotraba. “It’ll be fun to see what we come up with.”

Younger is impressed with what he’s seen so far from this spring’s crew – both the longtime art students and nonmajors.

“These guys can draw,” he said.

Sociology student Mahogany Wilson admitted she was a little worried going into the course. But so far she’s glad she took the plunge and loves the intensive sessions that run from 3:30 to 6 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday in the Fine Arts Building.

“I was looking for a class that could be my debriefing class – something to draw on that creative side,” said Wilson, whose academic adviser suggested Younger’s course. “The professor has been wonderful and always reassures me that as long as I continue to make progress I should get a decent grade.”

She’ll also receive about a dozen copies of the finished comic book for her own personal collection this summer when it’s hot off the press.

The Missouri History Museum will get a copy, too, as will the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Ohio and The Cartoon Museum in London – each of which now has standing orders for the comic.

The UMSL Experience

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