Archive for Lubbock’s Comics Connections

The Reinvention of Francis Tsai

It’s been a heck of a long time since I did anything on all of the comic artists who have come from Lubbock — mainly because I don’t live there anymore, and it’s hard to remember to do them. But I found a good excuse to revisit the series…

Francis Tsai grew up in Lubbock — moved here from Hawaii when he was about six years old, but attended college at UT in Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Chemistry and a Masters degree in Architecture.


He’s done work in a lot of different areas. He worked on an ongoing story in Marvel Comics Presents called “Vanguard”. He also did covers for Marvel on different titles, including “Marvel Adventures Iron Man,” “Marvel Adventures Spider-Man,” “Heroes for Hire,” and a one shot called “Exiles: Days of Then and Now.” He also worked on a book called “Tracker” for Top Cow a few years back.

He was also a regular freelancer for the game company Wizards of the Coast, working on Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and other projects. He illustrated a cover for PCGamer magazine for an issue focused on zombie games, as well as a lot of video game design work, and published a book on designing and painting fantasy characters called “Fantasy Art Academy: 100 Ways to Paint the Coolest Fantasy Figures.” And he contributed art to a book called “Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology.”


Well, after that, things got rough. In 2010, he was diagnosed with ALS. And it barely even slowed him down.

He lost the use of his hands. So he started drawing with his toes. Then he lost the use of his feet. So a friend set him up with a computer program that would let him draw with his eyes. Here are a couple examples of the work he’s doing now.



I’ll assume that thunk I heard was the sound of your jaw hitting the floor.

Now Francis and some of his colleagues have put together a Kickstarter project for an art book called “RE:INVENT” dedicated to inspiring artists to reinvent themselves to allow themselves to escape from creative ruts and create the artwork they’ve always dreamed of doing. They’ve already gotten funded, but there are still 20 days left to go in the campaign. And if you like Francis’ art — both then and now — you should consider tossing them some coin. The artwork they’ve got so far is absolutely amazing, and the more money they raise, the better it’s going to get.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Kara Edwards

Not all careers in animation require the ability to draw — for example, Kara Edwards is a voice actress who was born in Lubbock in 1977.

She started her career working at Radio Disney in Dallas not long after graduating from high school. After working as an intern for eight months, she was hired as a writer, producer, voice actress, and children’s voice director. She became co-host of the “Squeege and Kara Show” on syndicated Radio Disney in 1997.

Her first role as a freelance voice actress was as Lime in “Dragon Ball Z.” She was soon hired to provide the voices for Goten, Videl, and Gotenks for the remaining episodes of the series. Kara also provided the characters’ voices for a couple of “Dragon Ball Z” video games. (You can see a video of Kara discussing working on the “Dragon Ball Z” shows right here.)

After going back to radio for several years, she returned to voice work, portraying Upa and Pocowatha in a recent version of the original “Dragon Ball” anime, as well as Murugu in “Yu Yu Hakusho” and Arizona in “Ask Arizona” for She also voices Celica in a series called “Solty Rei” and a character named Razzles on a PBS kids’ series called “Raggs.”

Now I’m not expecting that you’ll be able to meet Kara at the Lubbock Comic Book Expo next month (I haven’t yet seen who’ll be on the guest list), but the thing is, you will get to meet local comic creators and artists. There are always a ton of artists who show up to meet folks, make some sketches, sell some comics, and drink in the atmosphere — you should be sure you make time in your schedule on April 17–18 at the Lubbock Municipal Civic Center so you don’t miss out on meeting some interesting folks.

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Lubbock's Comics Connections: Awesome Books

It’s been way, way, way too long since we did one of these profiles of current or former Lubbockites who’ve gotten into the comics biz. For once, I’m going to turn the focus away from comics creators so we can look at some of the folks *selling* comics — namely, Awesome Books at 3009A 34th Street.

I’d actually asked Kenny and the gang for some info about the store all the way back last April. They sent me everything I needed, and then I went and completely forgot about it until last weekend, when I was checking through my transferred files on the new computer. So to make up for my embarrassing forgetfulness, here’s what they sent me back in April…

Awesome Books is the brain child of its three owners: Scott Cunningham, Kenny Ketner, and Derek Moreland.  The trio started planning the business in January of 2008, and it opened its doors officially in mid-June of 2008.

Each owner brings a different set of strengths to the business.  Scott is the book genius.  He worked at Book Alley for ten years, learning the ins and outs of the used book business.  After his time at Book Alley, he sold books online through ABE Books, which is also the online selling method for Awesome Books.  (These days, it’s essential for a used bookstore to have an internet presence, because so much business is lost to the internet before a customer even comes through the doors.)

Derek is the comic book genius.  He is a walking encyclopedia of the comic book world.  On top of that, Derek has ten years of retail sales and management experience, mostly through WaldenBooks and Hastings. (He also worked as a book buyer for Hastings.)

Kenny handles annoying little business details, advertising, scheduling, and crap like that.

Our journey to a functioning (though not yet profitable) business has been an exciting one, and we have been helped by friends and family along the way.  We also made use of the wonderful resources available at the Small Business Development Center.  Anyone thinking about starting a business should definitely take their classes and sign up for one-on-one business counseling.

Our plans for the future include growing the store and finding a way to crack open the racket that is college textbook sales.

Awesome Books isn’t the biggest used bookstore around, but it is one of the most geek-friendly. In addition to the large rack of used and collectible single-issue comics up by the register, there’s also a whole room in the back called the Nerdery that’s devoted to science fiction, fantasy, comics, and role-playing games. They’ve been enthusiastic supporters of all of the Lubbock comic conventions and expos, too.

Go check ’em out, man.

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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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Lubbock's Comics Connections: Jack Tippit

It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything on our semi-regular series on current and former Lubbockites who’ve worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. Today, let’s take a look at Jack Tippit.


Jack Tippit was a syndicated cartoonist whose work included the comic strips “Henry” and “Amy.” He also drew the comic strip “Dr. Bill” and a weekly panel called “Family Flak.”


He was born in 1923 and attended Texas Tech before transferring to Syracuse University, where he got his degree in Fine Arts. During World War II, he served in the Air Force for four years, doing 46 combat missions as a B-24 pilot in the Southwest Pacific. During the Korean War, he also served as a jet pilot.
His cartoons appeared over a 30-year span in magazines including The New Yorker, Ladies’ Home Journal, Look and The Saturday Evening Post.


Tippit helped found the Museum of Cartoon Art in 1974 and was its first director, serving until 1979. He also served on the National Cartoonists Society Board of Governors and was its general membership chairman, first vice president and president. He died in 1994 at the age of 70.

I understand at least some of his family members may still live in Lubbock.

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The Amazing Spider-Philosopher!

Texas Tech Associate Humanities Librarian Rob Weiner is getting another high-profile scholarly article published

Yes, Mary Jane, there is a Spider-Man.

At least, that’s what pop-culture guru and associate humanities librarian for Texas Tech University Libraries Rob Weiner set out to prove in an article published in the International Journal of Comic Art.

A note to comic buffs: don’t get too wrapped up searching the skyline for web-slinging do-gooders just yet.

However, there’s good news for anyone who’s ever picked up a Spidey comic or just worn one of his T-shirts: thanks to you, Spider-Man has found life outside of comic-book pages.

In much the same way that editor Francis Pharcellus Church proved the existence of Santa Claus in his famous 1897 New York Sun editorial, Weiner contends that Spider-Man and his costumed peers have entered mankind’s collective consciousness, filling a shared need for heroes.

“When I started reading graphic novels, I was struck by the fact that stories about Spider-Man or Batman and Superman could have as many plot twists and turns as any story by Shakespeare, Stephen King or Leo Tolstoy,”  he said. “I was struck by how good some of the writing was for these so-called ‘kiddie’ books, and that somehow these archetypical characters like Spider-Man were replacing Odysseus and Zeus as part of modern mythology.”

Snooping around mankind’s collective consciousness for humanity’s new archetypical heroes is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…

Rob gave a talk about this topic at the Lubbock Comic Book Expo back in May, so it’s great to hear that he was able to turn the talk into something that folks outside of Lubbock will get to read and enjoy.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Rachael Simmons

To my complete surprise, yesterday’s move went extremely well — I’d originally planned to take ’til the end of Wednesday to get my stuff moved, then spend Wednesday evening cleaning the old apartment. But it turns out, thanks to some timely assistance from my brother, that 99% of everything has been moved into the new house. Now tomorrow, I can get the place cleaned up, toss my vacuum cleaner in the trunk, and get gone ’til checkout on Thursday morning.

Of course, there’s a downside to all this — namely, the new house is much, much smaller than my old apartment, and it’s looking like my entire stay here will be plagued by stacks of boxes that I’ve got no room to store elsewhere.

But enough about me — let’s take one more look at a Lubbock artist who will be appearing at this Saturday’s Lubbock Comic Book Expo at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center: Rachael Simmons.

Rachael was born in Plant City, Florida, and moved to Lubbock when she was 10. Discovering manga and then Spider-Girl, she threw herself into reading all the comics she could and abandoned her plans to become a veterinarian so she could become a cartoonist. She even moved back to Florida to study at an arts high school, but gravitated more toward sequential art than the fine arts and painting taught in Florida.

After moving back to Lubbock, she got involved with the Lubbock Sketch Club and began sending samples of her work to comics companies. With a lot of rejections in the mailbox, Rachael eventually got a call from Red 5 Comics — they had been following her blog and were interested in working on a project with her. Soon, another new project was offered — in this case, a commission for a Harvard business professor for an educational comic book.

Rachael used to work at the Children’s Art Academy, where she taught kids about art and illustration, but she’s taken a hiatus from teaching to work on her freelance comics work.

Y’all have probably heard me say a few times how impressed I am with the artwork produced by the folks at the Lubbock Sketch Club, but I gotta say Rachael’s stuff blows me away. I got to flip through her portfolio a week or so back, and she’s doing absolutely world-class stuff. I think she’s gonna make a breakthrough to Marvel or DC sooner rather than later.

Go meet Rachael at the Lubbock Comic Book Expo this Saturday before the major comics companies whisk her away to New York…

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Marc Watson

Well, I spent all day yesterday getting moved into the new apartment. All the furniture is moved over, but I’ve still got a lot of little odds-and-ends to try to get moved. And I need to vacuum and scrub the bathrooms. In other words, I spent all day yesterday working like crazy, my feet hurt, and I gotta move a bunch more stuff over the next couple of days.

But even moving day madness cannot stop the highly necessary promotion of this Saturday’s Lubbock Comic Book Expo — nor can it stop me from giving a shout-out to yet another talented Lubbock artist who’ll be appearing at the Expo! Today, let’s meet Marc Watson.


Marc was born in Aurora, Colorado, and has lived in numerous places around the Lone Star State. He is a 2006 graduate of Texas Tech and current Lubbock resident. He operates Stranded Studios here in the Hub City. He does a lot of work on murals around the city — he’s painted murals at RC Wheels and Props, Dave’s Need 4 Speed (that’s the picture below), PetSmart, the main branch of Covenant Medical Center (and that’s the pic above), and the new Covenant Women’s and Children’s Hospital.


In addition to murals, Marc has also worked in jewelry, sculpture, ceramics, sketch art, and life drawing. His latest project is a children’s book called “Apples the Rat.” He’ll have a six-page black-and-white promo ready for the Expo, but the finished product will be fully painted in watercolor and 48 pages long. Here’s a little of what Marc had to say about it:

As for the story, it follows our main character as he finds himself in a new place as well as a new sense of belonging. I tried to balance a book that had both a cute side but also a side that kids would think was cool and exciting. I want to also maintain an overall good moral, while still including the aspects of pirates that kids love, such as sword fighting.

Folks, he’s talking about sword-fighting pirate rats, and I think that’s something we can all get behind. The only way to make that more awesome would be to add gorillas or rocketcars, and that might be too much awesomeness for one children’s book.


Again, Marc and Stranded Studios will be at the Lubbock Comic Book Expo this Saturday at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. Stop by and see him, as well as all the other local artists.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Ginny Case

Okay, folks, it’s Moving Day. I’m not going to be getting all my stuff into the new house until the very end of the month, but this is the day I’ve got set up for moving all my large furniture — the bed, bookshelves, dresser, hideabed, etc. I’m also getting my gas turned on today and switching my Internet service to the new address. So I won’t have a lot of time to hang out unless y’all wanna rush down here and help us get the dresser shoved into the truck.

But I’ve got at least one more of this series on local comics talent to get online before the Lubbock Comic Book Expo this Saturday! Today, we’re going to focus on Ginny Case.

Ginny was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She attended the State University of New York in Fredonia for Illustration and Theater, but moved to Lubbock a few years ago with her fiancée — now husband — Christopher.


She works as a full-time artist, writing and illustrating comics and doing private commissions. She has a self-published comic, “Athenaeum,” from Flaming Hand Comics, which is Ginny and Chris’ personal studio. It’s a fantasy adventure that takes place in a strange world where artists are brought to revive their lost creativity. “Athenaeum” is set to premiere at the Comic Book Expo on May 2.


She’s also working on a project called “Requiem for Innocence,” which is an immense science fiction epic. The prologue will be published this fall, with subsequent volumes every six months. How large is “Requiem for Innocence” going to be? Each volume of the series will be around 100 pages long.


Want to see more of her artwork? Check out her DeviantArt page. And don’t forget to come meet her at the Lubbock Comic Book Expo this Saturday, May 2, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center! Ginny and a lot of other artists will be there!

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Nicholas Webb

Yes, as a matter of fact, we are doing an awful lot of this series on Lubbockites who work in comics, cartooning, and animation. The Lubbock Comic Book Expo is coming up in just a little more than a week, and there are a lot of local artists who’ll be appearing there. So I want to spotlight as many of them as I can — comics reviews can wait. Today, we’re taking a quick look at Nicholas Webb.


Nicholas Webb was born here in Lubbock and graduated from Abernathy High School in 2003. He studied at the Art Institute in Dallas, but is now back in Lubbock.


He has worked as a sprite animator for a cell phone game called “Shadow of the Incubus” and was the colorist and letterer for Issues 11 and 14 of a comic called “Reynard City.” He also drew the cover for Issue 14 and will be the penciller for a future issue of the series.


Again, Nicholas is going to have a table at the Comic Expo on May 2 at the Civic Center. He’s just one of many extremely talented artists who’ll be on hand. Don’t miss the chance to stop by and say hi.

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