on the Ghostwerks crew
North Texas Adventure"
Away With Me
Randolph's first reader was
a worn-out Spiderman comic. His teen-age Uncle Dwight, a Spidey fanatic, would
spend a few hours each day reading the same issue to a 3-year-old
Samax until he could do it on his own.
"I was an introverted kid and all I did was draw dinosaurs," Randolph
('99) says. "But after reading with
my uncle, I went from dinosaurs to Spiderman."
Mesmerized by the words and the frenetic ink and colors of
the comic book art, Randolph knew he'd create his own
comic heroes someday.
"I can remember being in third grade putting together
comic books," he says. "I was always finding other
kids to write while I drew. There
was the Falcon, Chameleon and the Grasshopper; they were just
of other superheroes, but I knew
this was what I was meant to do."
Randolph majored in drawing and painting and met four other comic
book fans who were sharpening their skills: art majors Khalid
Robertson ('97) and Michael Lagocki ('99), English
major Corance Davis ('99) and business major Mario Cauley
('99). After graduating, the five college buddies founded
their own comic book company, Ghostwerks, and their first comic,
Champion of Children.
The premise is simple: Little Mad Skillz, a 5-year-old black girl
with massive ponytails and Bruce Lee moves, is the protector of
small children everywhere — she takes on all the bullies
(super-powered or not).
The whole comic runs on a unique energy that melds hip-hop and
grunge cultures, Japanese comic book style (manga) and a dab of
traditional American funnies. The guys at Ghostwerks often call
it "ghetto manga."
All of this is filtered through artists Randolph, Robertson and
The stories and concept were created by Davis, and Cauley handles
the business side of Ghostwerks.
the visual complexity of the comic, the characters are simple,
clean and innocent.
"We wanted kid superheroes that kids could love, but we also
wanted them to think Champion is cool once they grow up,"
like Kurt the Hurttt, a 7-year-old bully who's still in kindergarten,
and the Funk Master, a villain wannabe with some
serious body odor, define the light and fun mood of the stories.
Both our hero and her older brother, Jr. Raw — a former Champion
of Children — seem to attract the most comical of nemeses.
The interactions of the characters have a hint of Wile E. Coyote
action. And the wisecracking, familial friendships of the heroes
mirror the very sincere friendships of the Ghostwerks crew.
Randolph readily admits to being the nerdy awkward kid growing
up. Everyone at Ghostwerks does.
These are the guys who were hanging out at Treasure Aisles off
Hickory Street in college, making wisecracks and absorbing every
bit of comic fare they could — the ones who hung out at
West Hall debating whose crime-fighting philosophy was better,
These are the guys who still love cartoons, even though they've
got real day jobs to support their comic book dreams.
More than business partners, they are defined by their friendship
and a love of comics like Hellboy and Captain Marvel and rappers
like Nappy Roots and Nas.
Keeping the faith
think for a minute that comic books are kids' play. Independent
comics come and go in the thousands across the country, and success
is based on discipline.
lot like trying to be a rock star," Randolph says. "You could
yourself to a life of a day job and obscurity."
And many do.
"You've got guys like Todd McFarlane (the
creator of the comic book Spawn) who's crazy rich, making $3
million a year," says Cauley, "and then there's
the other end of the spectrum with the thousands of independents
who disappear and fail every day.
"It's not enough to just be talented."
Each artist has a drawer full of rejection notices from companies
like Marvel and DC Comics. And everybody in the gang has had his
share of failed comic startups.
The cost to print, promote and ship the comics runs in the thousands — all
straight out of their own pockets.
Cauley can attest that getting comic book stores to carry an independent
series is a mountain in itself, because often the stores lose money
until the comic gains some notoriety. Despite that, the Ghostwerks
crew has had success in getting area stores, like Lone Star Comics,
to carry their books. They also promote them at conventions nationwide
and have their own web site at www.ghostwerkscomics.com.
They're counting on Ghostwerks' unique appeal to an audience
that has been left out of comics — hip-hop fans.
But more than anything, they've got faith, says Randolph, whose
sense of destiny and purpose sounds like something straight out of
the mouth of a comic book hero.
"When you're born or destined to do something like this,
everything you need is in you," he says. "I know there's
a place for us, and I believe in Champion of Children."
" The North Texas Adventure" Part I