Kickstarting a comic career: prominent artists visit Baylor

Ben Humeniuk, Tyler Ellis and Devin Kraft talked about their work with creating comic books. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

By Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

How do three Baylor graduates from three different cities with three different degrees find common ground? The answer is simple: comic books.

Tyler Ellis, Devin Kraft and Ben Humeniuk visited Baylor University, their alma mater, to speak to an audience of Professor Michael Korpi’s students. In addition to sharing insight about their work as comic creators and the comic industry, the trio gave advice to student who have creative passions.

All three of the illustrators are published comic artists. Ellis and Humeniuk both have full time jobs in addition to creating comics for comic publisher “Comicker, a digital-first, print-second small start-up, on the side. Kraft primarily makes a living creating comics while he works as a graphic designer for a professional agency. The artists did not know each other during their time at Baylor, but they met after graduation at comic conventions such as Comic-Con.

“If you can do anything else other than comics, do it,” Kraft said. “But if you care that much about your medium, if you can lose sleep over it, then you’re right for the job, and keep pushing.”

Humeniuk said that comics are more prevalent in today’s culture than society realizes; comics are extremely influential in pop culture, in movies like “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman,” but actual comic books are still trying to find their way into pop culture.

Comic books are also undergoing a culture shift of their own, in which some comic producers are working to diversify their content. Ellis and Humeniuk said their publisher, Comicker, is pushing diversity in an industry that isn’t quite there yet.

“We’re pushing diversity in a field that is very homogenous,” Ellis said. “Very whitewashed, male centric. I’m pretty proud of what we’re doing now.”

Ellis said he worked on children’s comics for a period of time, during which he was also working on his own comic titled “Chimera.” Ellis said he created a gay character in Chimera, about which the commissioner of the children’s comic found out. Ellis said he was not hiding or lying about the fact that the character existed; nonetheless, the commissioner removed Ellis from the children’s comic he was simultaneously working on.

“All this stuff happening pushed me towards the idea that I think LGBT representation in comics is important,” Ellis said.

Ellis eventually realized children’s comics where not for him. He moved on to work at Google and create original comics on the side.

Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that helps bring creative projects to fruition, has played a significant role in these artists’ comic careers. All three artists have used and found success in using Kickstarter because it allows artists to create a campaign for their creative projects. Supporters are able to pledge money to the project to help it get its feet on the ground. Kraft said he raised more than he anticipated for five comics and a graphic novel. He has raised over $36,000 for the publication of his work.

Humeniuk graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and now teaches English in Woodlands, Texas.

Kraft graduated from Baylor in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media and now works as a graphic designer for an agency in Dallas.

Ellis graduated in 2010 with a double major in Studio Art and Film and Digital Media and currently works for Google.