Archive for John Ira Thomas

Dirty Laundry


Lost in the Wash

Picked this one up recently — written by former Lubbockite John Ira Thomas, with art by Will Grant, from Thomas’ Candle Light Press.

The story is set in a tiny town in the Colorado mountains called Isco — it used to be called Francisco ’til the locals changed the name in a burst of misguided patriotism prior to the Iraq War. Still, for a town with a population of just 60 people, it’s got an unusual collection of amenities — an occult bookstore (which doubles as a tattoo parlor and a paintball range), a fairly large laundromat, and a castle. And a ghost. Maybe several ghosts…

Walt and Terisa run the bookstore/tattoo/paintball parlor (and try to drum up support for something they call Gothic Colorado, which gives the local punk/goth population an excuse to try to scare themselves with ghost stories and rituals), while Darrin runs (and lives in) the laundromat for his tyrannical uncle Sal, who lives in the local castle. Darrin has a seriously rotten life — he refers to himself as a ghost, because no one notices him, no one cares about him, he’s invisible to the world because he lives and works in a laundromat, plus his uncle pretty much owns him and heaps abuse on him at every opportunity.

And there’s a monster living inside the washing machines.

A giant snake, in fact, made out of water. It periodically emerges, sucks some poor soul dry, and vanishes ’til the next time it gets hungry. And this leads to even more questions — why is Darrin so good at throwing scares into the goth kids at Gothic Colorado? What is Sal really doing in that big castle? And is Darrin even alive at all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good, fun, spooky story, and I bet you’d like it.

Let’s talk setting a bit. Part of me wants to snark about how this tiny, tiny town in the mountains has so much odd stuff. A laundromat, a bookstore, and a castle? But on the other hand, part of it feels very realistic. When I was a kid, we’d often spend our summer vacation in the southern New Mexico mountains, and you quickly learn that folks up there are a bit quirky. No, not crazy or dangerous, but they’ve moved way out to the edge of civilization, and if they want to open a deluxe ice cream parlor or learn chainsaw sculpture or start an ostrich farm or cover their entire house with animal skulls — well, they’ll do it, and no one much is gonna complain. The large numbers of punked-out goth kids is a bit much, but the rest? I reckon I’ve seen weirder.

Thomas’ story itself is seriously offbeat — a mystical water serpent lurking in coin-op washing machines? — while still being tense, surreal, and frightening. There are threats here both mundane and supernatural, and we’re never really sure what’s the most dangerous, or where the next shock will hit us.

Grant’s art is fun, too — part surreal and jagged and enraged, part liquid and wet and flowing — appropriate for a story where water plays such a big role in the action. Seriously, plan to spend a little extra time to read through this carefully — the path of Grant’s art from one panel to the next and from one word balloon to another is not always in a straight line. You can’t control where the river may take you, after all.

It’s a good one, kids. Go pick it up.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: John Ira Thomas

Let’s crack open our vault for another entry in our occasional series on current and former Lubbockites who have worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. Our subject today is John Ira Thomas.

John is a comics writer who publishes with Candle Light Press, a company he helped form. As a comics writer, he doesn’t have what you could call a traditional portfolio, but I will include some of the comics pages with his writing, even though they’re illustrated by different artists.


John was born in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado and spent a lot of his childhood in Eastern Colorado, where at one point, one of his father’s coworkers suspected him of being the Antichrist because he could read at 18 months old. John and his family later moved to Texas, spending a few years in Perryton, Texas (coincidentally, I spent a few years in Perryton, too — I lived there after John had moved on) before moving to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech. He got a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a masters in classical humanities.

While at Tech… Well, I’m gonna let him tell it:

I’d been writing things since I was little, even tried drawing some comics. But it was a bar bet that got me going later on. My good friend Ed Boland, a serious comics fan, distilled it all into a simple challenge: write three comics plots, right now. I’d been protesting that since I didn’t draw, I wouldn’t know how to write comics. He disagreed; he also won the bet. The plots stayed on that napkin until I could find an artist.

After that I went on to the University of Iowa for a Ph.D., but settled for another M.A., this one in Latin. I just got burned out on the whole grad school to professorhood path. At that point I decided it was time to really make a go of this. Iowa City is known as a writer’s town, but there’s an amazing number of artists here. I cast about for someone to draw the one of the stories on my napkin and found Jeremy Smith. Once we made our first comic, “Absence”, we put it out as a zine and walked straight into a dozen other folks who were trying the same thing. After all this time, six of us are still making comics together.


John and his friends founded Candle Light Press, which distributes through the bookstore market instead of the direct market in comics. Among the comics that John has written are:

  • “Numbers: A Tale of Shades and Angels” – art by Jeremy Smith – A guy finds himself at the top of a vigilante’s hitlist after running a dead pool on the killer’s previous victims.
  • “The Man is Vox” – A mentally-damaged man takes on a telepath who can read minds and erase memories.
  • “Lost in the Wash” – A guy running a coin-op laundromat makes a deal with a man-eating water monster that lives in the pipes — as long as he can keep providing human munchies for the monster…
  • “Zoo Force: We Heart Libraries” – This one follows a small superhero team that patrols the trailer courts at the edge of Freedom City, Texas.


John’s comics are available through print-on-demand at the Candle Light Press website, and you can also check out their fan page on Facebook.

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