How a St. Louis cartoonist replaced 'Dilbert' in the Washington Post
As soon as they landed in Seattle to speak at Emerald City Comic Con, St. Louis-based cartoonist Steenz Stewart learned that their comic strip “Heart of the City” was picked up by the Washington Post — not even three years into drawing the comic. “Heart of the City” replaced “Dilbert” after the satirical comic strip was dropped from the publication because of creator Scott Adams’ racist remarks on his YouTube channel.
In 2020, “Heart of the City” creator and cartoonist Mark Tatulli handed over the reins to Stewart after 22 years. Stewart made headlines as one of the few syndicated Black cartoonists in the United States.
The comic follows a young girl named Heart and her group of theater friends as they navigate the crushes, hobbies and changing relationship dynamics of middle school.
“The series is really about her growing up and trying to be the best actress that she can be,” Stewart told St. Louis on the Air. “They're just regular nerdy middle schoolers, and it's all about their growth.”
Stewart said that now they are more comfortable writing longer story arcs than when they first started drawing the comic.
“I'm finding that these stories end up being longer and more complicated, because life is complicated,” Stewart said. “I like to show real relationships in this comic.”
Stewart said they pull from their own memories of middle school when exploring the characters’ more nuanced feelings. Stewart shows up in the strip, as well.
“I'm even illustrated in the comic several times. I'm actually Charlotte's neighbor,” Stewart said, referencing one of the characters. “I like the idea that these characters are real. They're real as magic is real. Even though they are not actually real people, they are real to the readers.”
The second “Heart of the City” collection, titled “Lost and Found,” will be available in bookstores on April 4.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com.