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The Scarlet & Black

Tickets to the RAYGUN show

By Max Mindock

Just in case no one has mentioned it—we go to school in Iowa, the middle of Iowa. Everything you have ever heard of Iowa is probably true. There’s a lot of corn and not too many hills, but RAYGUN, a Des Moines-based clothing company, has provided a recent insight into Iowa’s sense of pride.

As RAYGUN sees it, somewhere between the coasts lies a place with the kindest, most hardworking group of people you will ever meet—this is the Midwest. To highlight the hidden wealth of the region, RAYGUN is publishing their first book, The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth! An Illustrated Guide to the History and Culture of the Galaxy’s Most Important Region.

Closing in on a year of planning and writing, RAYGUN has now expanded their witty clothing company to the world of literature. Midwesterners will instantly fall in love with RAYGUN’s sense of humor.

For RAYGUN, a book was the logical next step.

“We were always looking to build beyond t-shirts, prints, and clothing,” said Mike Draper, founder of RAYGUN. “We wanted to keep the same things that have done well (like punchy slogans, Midwestern-humor, etc.), but also build on those.”

RAYGUN puts a strong focus on their sense of community. Although they may have found cheaper prices elsewhere, RAYGUN wanted to support Midwest businesses while creating their book.

“A cool thing is that the book is entirely made in the Midwest—the cover paper is from Wisconsin, the interior paper is milled from across the Midwest, it was printed and folded by union labor in Des Moines, then bound by a binder here in Des Moines,” Draper said.

Not only did RAYGUN use Midwest resources to make the physical book, the phrases on their clothing and in their book are all Midwest related:

”’No, I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space’ –Captain Kirk”; “Iowans: The Few, The Proud, The Extremely Attractive”; and our own, “Grinnell: Miles Away From Ordinary…And From Everything Else” are all samples of the phrases displayed on their clothing.

Now, RAYGUN will be able to go into even greater depth of their Midwest messages and put their spin on Midwest culture and history in their book.

“I’d be a lot happier if it kind of developed a fuller understanding of the Midwest itself,” Draper said.

RAYGUN’s passion for the Midwest stems from Draper’s childhood in Des Moines. Years went by for Draper at the University of Pennsylvania but he never fully left the Midwest at heart.

In 2005, he moved back to Iowa and opened the first RAYGUN store. Soon after both his first store and online store were opened, Draper knew there was potential to expand.

Minutes away from the University of Iowa, RAYGUN had found the perfect location for their next store.

Yearning to share their messages and laughs with even more Iowans, RAYGUN has scheduled an Iowan book tour that will stop in Grinnell on Thursday October 18th at 6 p.m. at the Pioneer Bookshop on 4th Avenue.

Grinnell will be their fourth of five stops on the tour. At the event, Draper will sign copies of the book and talk about the book or whatever else you’d like to pick his brain about.

For more information regarding RAYGUN, you can visit their online store,, or, better yet, talk to the founder of RAYGUN yourself and pick up a copy of The Midwest: God’s Gift to Planet Earth! on October 18th.

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  • R

    RuthOct 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I liked the article. It was in tune with what I heard from Mike Draper on NPR.
    The real biz for me: where can I get an autographed copy of this gem??? R