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RAYGUN owner collaborates on illustrated book about the Midwest

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | OCTOBER 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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For RAYGUN founder Mike Draper, the Midwest is the best name in the world because it’s not a real direction.

In his illustrated book The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth, he writes, “It’s not even an in-between direction like Southwest or Northwest. It’s an almost direction.”

He goes on to explain that if you tell people to drive Midwest, they get confused and ask, “What? You mean drive nicely and with a pitchfork?”

The common misconceptions many people have about Midwesterners caught his attention and spurred him to write this book.

In a collection of stories, jokes, and facts, he takes an assessment of how the Midwest is looked at.

“It’s weird that the Midwesterners don’t have more ‘street cred,’ but that’s what leads us to produce great people,” Draper said. “We are the region that doesn’t get a trophy just for showing up.”

The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth will go on sale for $17.50 in RAYGUN stores and online on Saturday. This will also mark the weeklong promotional tour for the book, in which the staff will travel to six Iowa cities.

Draper, along with his staff, will attend a book signing at the Iowa City RAYGUN, 103 E. College St., on Oct 17.

Joe Heuermann, the manager at the Iowa City store who will host the book launch on that day, says his involvement in the project was contributing a few illustrations to the book.

“I thought this seemed like a good way to roll all of our aesthetic into a project,” he said. “I’m really excited to see the final product.”

The Midwest has long been something Draper was interested in since he attended the University of Pennsylvania. When his scholastic career didn’t turn out as he planned, the Iowa native started to sell T-shirts with a friend around spring break of his senior year in college.

From there, Draper began to build a website for the T-shirts and traveled around the country, selling them out of a bag.

At that point, he decided to move back to Iowa and open his own shop — RAYGUN. Currently, the entrepreneur has two shops in Des Moines and one in Iowa City.

Around this time last year, Draper and his  colleagues had the idea to expand their store beyond T-shirts.

“We figured we were already good at slogans, so we had to have good writing abilities, too,” Draper said.

The first three months of the book’s preparation included research on the Midwest, which Draper said was difficult because there isn’t a lot published.

After that, he wanted the writing to include personal stories among the facts.

“I’ve liked books that insert the person into it, so that’s why we initially started with me,” he said. “Then we kind of wandered through other territories.”

One of those territories included comical illustrations, which range anywhere from the classic American Gothic image to Superman and even the Midwestern hick.

The brain behind the illustrations was Iowa native and RAYGUN graphic designer John Bosley.
The text influenced most of the illustrations, and Bosley said Draper had a clear image of what he wanted on each page.

“At first, I thought the idea was awesome, but I was kind of worried if we could pull it off,” Bosley said. “I envisioned it in a smaller book, but it became that organic thing.”

The book faithfully maintains Draper’s persona and personality of being driven, sarcastic, and unconventional, Bosley said.

“If this one does even moderately well, I think we will for sure write a next book,” he said. “Who knows, maybe even before Christmas.”

The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth book launch

When: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: RAYGUN, 103 E. College St.


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