Archive for Texas Tech

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: 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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Whither Metropolis Radio?

So Texas Tech is doing all it can to kill off the highly popular student-run KTXT-FM, citing money trouble. And one of the things I’m wondering is: what happens to Radio Free Metropolis, the best comics-oriented radio show on the planet?

My google-fu is proving weak once again, because I can’t find anything with any solid info. Will they go to online podcasting? Is there still a chance of resurrecting the station somehow and continuing the broadcast over the airwaves? If KOHM lets KTXT broadcast through them, will Metropolis be able to get any of that limited air-time? Heck if I know. Seems like no one knows much of anything right now.

As for why the university is trying so hard to close down KTXT? I don’t think this was a monetary matter — Student Media is claiming that running KTXT was expensive and they didn’t bring in much revenue. Of course, the FCC’s license of KTXT says they’re pretty much not allowed to make any money from advertising, except under extremely limited circumstances.

But there are lots of departments and offices at Tech that don’t make money for the university. Does the Tech Museum bring in scads of cash, compared to the costs of running it? Does the English Department? KTXT-TV? KOHM? Heck, that’s what state funding is about — we as a society pay to educate students in mathematics, in history, in music, in broadcasting, because it benefits society as a whole to have people around who know this stuff.

If the university kept open only those departments and offices that made money, you’d probably have a university that consisted of Engineering, Law, Medicine, a few of the hard sciences, and athletics.

Plus there’s this:

The way they went about this was pretty sneaky and underhanded in my opinion. Yesterday, at 2:30 they called the station manager and told him what was happening ten minutes before they pulled the plug. One of our other exec staffers was on the air at that point. By the time I got there, they had painted over the KTXT logo on the wall in our lobby and were shooing everybody out. They had threatened to change the locks and the entry codes before anybody even had a chance to get their cd’s out of there.

That’s not the way you do it if the only problem is that the station wasn’t making enough money. KTXT has sponsored concerts and shows in the past, and they seem to have an excellent reputation and track record for that kinda stuff. The way to do it would’ve been to go to the students participating in the station, tell ’em there’s money trouble, and let ’em set up a benefit concert. Heck, do it every few months, like pledge weeks on public radio and public TV, except with better music.

But kicking everyone out with ten minutes’ notice, while you’re painting over the logo, while you’re threatening to change the locks and keep the students’ CDs? That’s not “We’re closing because of money trouble.” That’s “We hate KTXT, and we’re going to screw them as hard as we can, then go home and laugh about it.”

In other words, when Student Media says they shut down KTXT because of money trouble… well, I’m not sure I can believe that.

More than likely, this is some member of the university administration, either within Student Media or maybe higher up the food chain, deciding they wanted to throw their weight around. That’s the way university politics works — some bureaucrat who’s managed to work his or her way into a position of power gets it into his head to stir stuff up, picks an employee, office, or department, smites the heck out of them, then settles back into his comfy chair and calls the dry cleaners to get his Sansabelts cleaned up. Meanwhile, the rest of the university breathes a sigh of relief that at least they weren’t the target of the smackdown this time.

How do you respond to this? You stick up for the lowbies who the bureaucrats want to strike down, partly for the good of KTXT and listeners in Lubbock who like good music, and partly to remind the bureaucrats that their power isn’t as great as they’d like to pretend it is.

UPDATE: There’s a concert to support KTXT-FM tonight at 8 p.m. at Jake’s Sports Cafe, at 5025 50th Street. And Texas Tech’s Board of Regents will be meeting today at 11 a.m. in Room 202 of the Administration Building. They usually have a closed session for most of the morning, though, so check around for a meeting agenda to see when they’ll be in open session…

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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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