Steve Lieber is, bluntly, one of the finest people in comics. It’s not simply that he’s an astonishing comic book artist — although his work on projects like Whiteout, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen demonstrates that’s more than enough to take him to all-star status — but, as his Twitter account makes clear, he’s also one of the most helpful and considerate creators out there… a fact that makes him an ideal teacher for the next generations of comic book creators.
“One of my favorite things in the world is to talk about the craft of making comics,” Lieber told Popverse during a recent conversation. “I wasn't a natural at all when I started out – I had to learn. I wrote everything I know, which I think set me up to be a pretty good teacher. I think very systematically, so I can speak systematically about what people can do to fix problems in their work.”
These days, that means monthly “office hours” at local comic book store Books with Pictures, where he’ll critique the work of artists who present their work, although he’s also spoken as a guest lecturer in art schools and worked as a mentor to new creators who join his studio Helioscope in Portland, Oregon. His goal is, simply, finding the best way to help creators find their own voices and improve their work.
“I’m not producing lesson plans. What I'm doing is, you bring me what you're working on, tell me what your goals are and I'll give you a fresh and experienced pair of eyes to tell you ways to steer more closely to your goal,” he said. “There's so many different ways to critique a page. You could critique it from, whether it's achieving its goals as expressive art, whether it's solving storytelling problems, whether it's just graphically coherent and different folks require different things.”
As rewarding as it can be, it can also be amusing depending on the circumstance. Talking about his experience as a guest lecturer, Lieber shared, “one student – and I'm taking this shit to my grave – swiped ME. He laid a sheet of office paper on top of the comic book and he traced my work and signed my name… When I looked over, his jaw was actually hanging slack open and there was just a big wad chewing gum at the end of his tongue. What am I going to say? What is worth the energy? God. I just said, 'You just keep doing what you're doing there, buddy.' Yeah. The world will give you what you deserve.”
Popverse members can read more of Steve Lieber talking about teaching, what his experience in comics has taught him, and more in the full interview, available right now.
Lieber has contributed to DC’s New Golden Age comic book imprint, featuring titles spearheaded by Geoff Johns.