Archive for Dirk West

Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Dirk West

I’d like to start a semi-regular series now about people from Lubbock who work or worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. There are actually a lot more than you’d expect, but let’s start off with someone who just about everyone in Lubbock knows about: Dirk West.

Dirk West was born in Littlefield, in 1930, but his family moved to Lubbock before he’d had his first birthday. He eventually attended Texas Tech, where he drew cartoons for the University Daily. After graduating, he appeared for three years as Uncle Dirk on a local children’s television show, but gave it up when his new advertising agency grew large enough to need all of his attention.

In the early 1960s, West began contributing sports cartoons to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He drew two cartoons a week during football season, with each cartoon appearing in the sports section of the newspaper.

West’s cartoons were — and to a large degree, still are — wildly popular in Lubbock. He created Raider Red to represent Tech’s Red Raiders. Nearly all the other characters were mascots from other SWC teams. His cartoons were West Texas institutions for decades and were even appreciated by rival schools, even if just because they helped get their players psyched-up to try to beat the Red Raiders.

West entered politics in the 1970s, serving several years on Lubbock’s Parks and Recreation Board and city council and being elected mayor in 1978. By most accounts, he was a good mayor, but he disliked politics so much that he refused to run for a second term. After getting out of the government biz, he returned full-time to cartooning and his advertising agency, which he continued clear up to his death of a sudden heart attack in 1996.

So far, he’s the only cartoonist on the West Texas Walk of Fame.

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HOW ‘BOUT THEM RAIDERS!

Ohhh, man!

I try not to blog about sports too often, ’cause who wants to listen to the comic book guy blather about sports, right? But tonight, after Texas Tech’s undefeated Red Raiders met — and beat — the previously undefeated University of Texas Longhorns, ranked Number One in the nation, I think I’m gonna break that rule but good.

I certainly wasn’t sure it would actually happen — those of us who’ve lived in Lubbock long enough have seen the Red Raiders choke on big games way too often. But this was the biggest game Tech has ever had — and they didn’t choke. It was a nailbiter clear to the end, but Tech didn’t choke, they beat the #1 team in the nation, and Lubbock’s gonna be high as a kite for the rest of the week, maybe longer.

Is Tech gonna jump from #7 to #1? I’m not sure I’d bet on that — might be too much of a jump too quickly. But we’re definitely moving up now.

And it weren’t no fluke either, baby. Almost all season long, we’ve been listening to people say Tech is over-rated — usually just before their team gets a slat kicked out of ‘em by Mike Leach’s boys. But there’s not anyone left who’s gonna say Tech is over-rated. The Red Raiders were expected to lose to Kansas, and the Raiders stomped ‘em. Most folks were expecting the Longhorns to take the win tonight — and though Tech didn’t get a blowout win, they were definitely in charge for nearly the entire game. This is a team that demands that attention and respect be paid.

Sure doesn’t mean the season’s over — Oklahoma State’s gonna be tough. Oklahoma’s gonna be even tougher. Tech can’t relax for a second. But right now, I think I’m gonna go outside and whoop at the stars for a few minutes.

Let’s tie this into comics for a bit, okay? How ’bout with a few nice little cartoons from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s great sports cartoonist, Dirk West.

A bit too rough, maybe? Heh, too bad, Dirk didn’t get many chances to draw beat-up Longhorns, so I’m gonna go find another one. How ’bout this ‘un?

And after a game that wild, don’tcha just want a nice hot bowl of red?

Guns up, baby. Guns. UP.

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The Duh Files: Goalposts and Binoculars

 

Hey, hey! It’s Saturday! Almost time for the Texas Tech-A&M football game! The angriest, angstiest game in the country! Everyone start boozing now so you’ll have no idea who you’re punching in the second quarter! Gosh darn, is there any prominent instance of poor sportsmanship that I haven’t gotten to yet?

Y’all thought I wouldn’t get around to talking about the most infamous Tech-Aggie game of all?

November 3, 2001. Tech shut out the Aggies 12-0… but this happened afterwards.

Fast summary: Tech fans stormed the field, tore down one of the end zone goalposts, and chucked it into the Aggie stands. Much hollering and hitting followed.

You ain’t gonna hear me defend very much that went on there. Tech fans, I’m telling you this fer true: there are only TWO good reasons for you to ever run onto the field.

* First, if the running back gets injured, and Coach Leach looks up into the stands, points at you, and says, “I need a new running back fast — get down onto the field and get ready to catch the game-winning pass!” then you should feel perfectly free to run onto the field, catch the pass, and collect your smoochies from cheerleaders.

* Second, if you are being chased by angry bears, no one will blame you if you run onto the field to get away.

But those are the only times it’s allowed. No, you may not chuck the goalposts anywhere. No, you may not fight with the Governor’s Chief of Staff. They have Mad Secret Gubernatorial-Stooge Ninjitsu Skillz, and they’re mean drunks besides. You should feel free to stay in the stands and enjoy the game. You should feel free to holler and cheer and get your guns up. You should feel free to enjoy some nachos, a coke, and one of those nasty concession-stand pickles. You should feel free to go to the restroom if you gotta visit Captain Leakey… but for the sake of all that is holy, don’t touch anything you see in there! You should feel free to go home after the game, high-five your fellow fans, send congratulatory e-mails to Michael Crabtree, and enjoy a nice glass of milk before bed.

You should feel free to be polite to the Aggies, because they want us to be thugs. As my momma always says, if you’re nice to those who hate you, it heaps coals of burning fire on their heads. (That’s a figurative expression — please don’t heap real coals of burning fire on anyone’s heads.)

But no, you are not allowed to endanger yourself and others. You are not allowed to fling stuff at the other team or their fans. You are not allowed to run amok like a bunch of brain-dead mumbling nimrods. The Aggies get mad when you steal their schtick.

Okay, by now, I do believe I’ve successfully inoculated myself against any charges that I’m encouraging bad behavior, yes? So let’s get back to razzing the Aggies. ‘Cause there’s a lot of talk about the goalposts and Tech fans, and not a lot of talk about Aggie fans. Because the Aggies didn’t really do themselves proud either. There were a lot of Aggie fans throwing their fists around — the governor’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Mike McKinney, said a Tech fan slugged him in the head… but it turned out that another Aggie was the person who hit him. Neither side had clean hands in this one.

But let’s take another quick look at the esteemed Dr. McKinney. Yes, he sustained a nasty wound in the brawl, and needed eight stitches. But his righteous outrage started to look a bit funky a few days after the game.

In initial interviews after Saturday’s game, McKinney said he was assaulted by an unidentified Tech student.

In offense reports from the Tech Police Department released to The Avalanche-Journal on Wednesday through the district attorney’s office, the student who hit McKinney, Reginald Wallace, said he was trying to prevent fighting when McKinney shoved him and hit him with binoculars.

The A&M student told Tech police that he got angry and punched McKinney in the eye.

Wallace, 23, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

In a sworn statement, student Nicklos Beihl said he tried to break up a fight between two men, identified in the police reports as McKinney and Wallace.

“After the separation of the two men, (McKinney) proceeded to make threats to the police and other stadium workers that they will hear about this later because of some ‘high’ governmental position that he held,” Beihl told police.

In a sworn statement, witness Andrea Luhm said she witnessed the fight between McKinney and the A&M student.

“When all calmed down, (McKinney) made clear that he worked for the government and that he was going to press charges,” her statement said.

(All emphasis above is mine.)

So there was one angry, belligerent thug in the Aggie stands — who cares, right? Well, the Aggies cared. They cared a lot. They took one look at Dr. Mike McKinney, using his position in the governor’s office to threaten cops and bystanders, hitting other Aggie fans with a pair of freakin’ binoculars… and they made him the chancellor of the A&M System.

Dr. Mike McKinney, Texas A&M Chancellor/Crazy Binocular Man

And that’s why I have a hard time taking the Aggies seriously when they start whining about Texas Tech and sportsmanship.

Let’s have another Dirk West cartoon before we go, oy?

Awright, let’s play some football. Go Tech!

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Friday Night Fights: Aggie Bootin’!

Well, the Tech-A&M game is tomorrow, but for tonight, Bahlactus demands nothing less than Friday Night Fights!

But surely we can find a way to combine football with butt-kicking? From the late great Dirk West, sports cartoonist extraordinaire:

Wow, Raider Red not only managed to fracture the Aggie’s pelvis and spine, but he also completely shattered the word “POW!” That’s not easy to do, especially with a cartoon boot.

Alright, Red Raiders: Go ye forth and do likewise!

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The Duh Files: Horsies!

“Oh, Scott, you keep making fun of the Aggies for exhibiting poor sportsmanship several decades ago! Surely they’re much better behaved now, right?”

Why, sure they are. In fact, in 2005, they showered rival fans with special gifts!

A sophomore member of Texas A&M University’s Parsons Mounted Cavalry was charged Friday with throwing horse feces onto members of the University of Texas band before the A&M-UT football game.

John Richmond Sullivan, 20, was seen by a University Police Department lieutenant throwing a shovel full of horse feces onto band members at Kyle Field at about 10 a.m. Friday, according to an officer’s affidavit.

UT band director Robert Carnochan told police that he and the band members did not want to press criminal charges, though they did want Texas A&M to discipline Sullivan, the court documents state.

Yep, you can smell the pungent aroma of sportsmanship from here!

Meanwhile, I’ve been asked if I’m running this series because I hate Aggies. Really, I don’t. I hate some Aggie fans, but there are some Tech fans I hate, too. That dude who made the “Vick ‘Em” t-shirts, for instance.

What bugs me is listening to Aggies pretend that Tech is the evilest, wickedest, devil-worshipping-est, least sportsmanlike university ever while ignoring their own university’s various missteps. Claiming that Tech is awful because an Aggie got yelled at by some rude Tech fans would be as silly as, well, claiming A&M is awful because an A&M fan threw horse crap at UT fans.

If you can’t handle sports fans yelling at games, stay away from the games.

And if you can’t handle sports cartoonists making fun of the Aggies, don’t look at the next cartoon.

(All pix from Dirk West’s “SWC Cartoon Book” — hundreds of hilarious football cartoons for just $15. Ask about ‘em at the A-J’s front desk.)

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The Duh Files: Laughing at the Mighty Sword

 

The big game between the Red Raiders and the Aggies is coming up this weekend, so let’s continue our more-or-less humorous retrospective of the Aggies’ greatest hits, along with some classic old Dirk West cartoons about Texas A&M.

Hey, remember the big A&M-SMU game back in 1981? I expect not, but I’ll tell you anyway. Now you see, the members of A&M’s Corps of Cadets traditionally carry sabers. Strictly for ceremonial purposes — it’s part of the uniform. Well, in 1981, on Halloween night, the Aggies fell to the Mustangs 27-7. Words were exchanged, the cheerleaders got rambunctious, and one of the cadets actually threatened the cheerleaders with his saber!

You think I’m kidding, but here’s a photo:

 

Now I’m sure this was not a particularly serious threat. Oh, sure, the cadet was well-and-truly honked-off, but I’m assuming the sabers aren’t actually sharp. If they were sharp, and all these hormonal college kids had them lying around their dorm rooms, I think we’d hear a lot more stories about students killing their roommates in College Station. Besides, these are Aggies. If you gave them real swords, they’d use them to pick their noses, and they’d end up skewering their brains. So it’s safe to assume that this was a mostly-harmless saber.

So the Aggie, this quasi-military cadet, felt so threatened by a cheerleader — and an unarmed cheerleader at that — that he drew his sword to defend himself. Except it was a dull sword, so he wasn’t really going to manage to defend himself real well…

Yeah, the Aggies don’t really cover themselves with glory in this anecdote, do they?

And on that note, let’s check out another Dirk West cartoon about our Aggie friends!

 

Oh, mercy. I’ve done corrupted the youth with pictures of nekkid idjits.

(And again, if you like these old Dirk West cartoons, you’ll want to shell out the fifteen simoleons to get Dirk’s “SWC Cartoon Book.” We sell ‘em here at the Avalanche-Journal. I wouldn’t recommend it so much if it wasn’t so durn awesome.)

UPDATE: Robin, in comments, has a more complete summary of the incident in question, which my online searching was unable to turn up before. And yeah, the Smew cheerleaders were acting like rampaging dillweeds. Discipline, either from SMU or from local authorities was certainly called for. But I still say that pulling a sword, even a fake, dull one, is pushing the discipline way too hard.

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The Duh Files: Sportsmanship

I’m going to step away from comic book matters for a bit — not too far away, since I’ve got some great Dirk West sports cartoons I can share with you, too. But let’s take a quick dip into sports-related matters. And by “quick,” I mean “from now ’til Saturday.”

Ahh, the Texas Tech-Aggie game. Is there a better time for us to reflect upon our esteemed cross-state rivals, upon the glories of enthusiastic fansmanship, upon the unbridled sense of glee one feels when listening to A&M complain about getting mistreated by everyone?

For the past several years, the Aggies have become loud advocates of good sportsmanship — in particular, they’ve decried Tech fans and their boorish tendencies to cheer loudly, ride a horse on the sidelines, tell jokes about the Aggies’ comedic stupidity, and drop end zone uprights from dizzying heights upon their fans. They will tell you of all the times they’ve visited Jones Stadium only to be greeted by diabolical ogres flipping the team bus over, by eldritch necromancers summoning armies of the undead to feast upon the souls of anyone wearing maroon, by little girls asking them if they have Prince Albert in a can, then laughing uproariously when they respond with their traditional “Duhhh…”

I sympathize. I really do. But whining about other teams’ sportsmanship doesn’t win you quite as many brownie points when you’ve got your own long history of really awful football misbehavior.

For instance: Texas Tech quarterback Rodney Allison. That won’t mean much to newcomers to Lubbock, but all the old-timers know who I’m talking about. Allison was an absolute phenom in ’77 — he was a favorite to win the Heisman, and thanks to him, Tech was picked as the #4 team in the nation, likely to win the SWC and a probable contender for the national title.

Now back in the ’70s, the Aggies didn’t really care that much about sportsmanship. They were much more into being the Southwest Conference’s dreaded thug squad. It was whispered that the alumni put bounties on certain players — if an Aggie player managed to take them out of the game, they’d get a nice, fat, under-the-table cash reward. True? Untrue? Heck if I know. People believed all kinds of crazy stuff in the ’70s — polyester as a fashion choice? Pet rocks? The Hustle?

Still, the Aggies wracked up a long string of prominent injuries of rival players over the space of a few years. And when it got to be time for the Tech game… well, the Red Raiders were 6-0 and strongly favored over the Aggies. Who’d be the obvious target if there was a bounty on a Tech player? Guess who got his leg broke early in the first quarter? And how did the Aggie fans react? It was a bit less on the “respectful concern for a fallen player” and more on the “delighted, taunting glee.”

As Dirk West’s Boo Bird said at the time: “I don’t think the Aggies tried to hurt Rodney… But then I also believe in the Easter bunny.”

Now I’m entirely in favor of good sportsmanship. I think teams and fans should respect each other, play and enjoy a good game, and go home with positive memories of their opponents, win or lose. But I don’t feel that bad about questioning a team’s commitment to sportsmanship when their past behavior demonstrates the opposite.

Hey, that was unexpectedly serious! None of that! Let’s have another cartoon!

Yay! Cartoons are fun!

(By the way, if you enjoy these old Dirk West cartoons, you can see them in their full glory in the “SWC Cartoon Book,” which was put together by Dirk himself. We’ve got ‘em for sale here at the A-J — fifteen bucks’ll get you a thick book with at least a couple hundred of Dirk’s cartoons.)

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The Lubbock Comics Connection

No one will ever be able to claim that Lubbock is a major comics/cartooning center. Sure, we’ve got a good comics shop, our local library stocks comics, and we’ve even got the Lubbock Sketch Club, which works to nurture local artists and cartoonists. But we certainly don’t have a reputation as a comics hub.

However, you’d be surprised how many connections to the comics and cartooning world that we do have here. Let’s take a quick look at our hometown heroes…

1. Dirk West: Probably the artist that Lubbockites are most familiar with, West was born in Littlefield but grew up in Lubbock. After graduating from Tech, he spent a few years working as Uncle Dirk, the host of a local children’s TV show, and opened up his own advertising agency.

In the early ’60s, West started contributing single-panel sports cartoons to the A-J that featured the mascots of the teams in the Southwest Conference standing around and talking about SWC football. He created Raider Red and Nebraska’s Herbie Husker, and his weekly cartoons were must-read events here in Lubbock. They got lots of attention throughout the SWC — usually because some team (Ahem: the Aggies) would get mad about how they were portrayed.

West served a term as Lubbock mayor in 1978 and died in 1996.

You can see a gallery of some of West’s cartoons right here, and I’m posting a couple of my personal favorites below.

 

2. Alex Ross: One of the best known comics pros anywhere, Ross was born in Portland, Oregon, but spent much of his childhood here in Lubbock. His specialty is not traditional comics art, but painting — specifically beautiful, photorealistic painting of superheroes. His characters don’t look like steroid freaks wearing painted-on costumes — Ross knows how to draw realistic muscles (and realistic fat!), as well as clothing that actually wrinkles like clothing. He knows how to use light and shadow, how to make super-people look like people — and his artwork is still incredibly exciting and cinematic.

Some of his best known works include “Marvels” and “Earth X” for Marvel, “Kingdom Come” and “Uncle Sam” for DC, and covers for “Astro City,” “Justice Society,” and more.

I’m plugging in a few examples below.

 

Above: Giant-Man from “Marvels”

 

3. Jack Tippit: A gag cartoonist, Tippit attended Texas Tech but tranferred to Syracuse. He was a pilot in both World War II and the Korean War. His best-known work was a gag strip called “Amy,” who was basically a female Dennis the Menace. He also drew a strip called “Dr. Bill” and published cartoons in the New Yorker, Look, the Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines. For a while, he drew the “Henry” comic strip.

Here are a couple of his cartoons.

 

 

4. Scott Williams: I know almost nothing about him, to be honest. Yes, my Google-Fu is weak. But Robert Mora, who runs Star Books and Comics here in town, says that he’s a Lubbockite.

Williams is an inker — in fact, he inks almost all of Jim Lee’s work. If you don’t know Jim Lee, he’s one of the big artists, pencilling everything from the X-Men to Superman and Batman, and he was one of the founders of Image Comics in the 1990s.

“Aww, who cares? Williams just traces Lee’s stuff!” Ohh, that’s what you think, kid. You can’t be an inker without displaying a heck of a lot of artistic skill. Don’t believe me? Okay, here’s a sample of some of Lee’s uninked pencils:

 

And here’s the same piece after Williams inked it:

 

(Both of the pictures above come from Inkers.org, a blog produced by professional comics inkers. Check them out if you’d like more info on inking as a career.)

Pencillers are always very picky about their inkers — a good inker can make good artwork even better, and a bad one can doom the best pencils in the world. There’s a reason why Lee has stuck with Williams for all these years.

5. The Blob: No, not the evil glob of protoplasm from the 1958 horror flick — this is Fred J. Dukes, a mutant supervillain who was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964 for “X-Men #3.” He’s not a particularly handsome super-guy.

 

His primary powers involve superstrength, toughness, and gravity control — basically, he can increase the pull of gravity on himself to make it almost impossible to move him.

Yeah, the Blob’s mutant powers involve him being really fat. Nobody ever said Marvel Comics was a very politically correct place back in the ’60s.

So what’s he doing on this list? Well, according to his official Marvel Comics biography, Fred was actually born here in Lubbock.

Gee, since he’s a native son, maybe we should name the Walk of Fame after him?

So how ’bout it, folks? Do you know of any other comics professionals who are from the Lubbock area? How about comics characters? Drop me a line and let me know, and I’ll add ‘em to the list…

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