For Rodney Lambright II [BS-Art] ’17, art is all about narrative. “It all derives from story for me,” he says. And ever since he was a student, his stories have been spilling from any medium he gets involved with, whether pen, brush, or computer program.

An Illinois native, Lambright went to high school in Racine and came to know the UW through PEOPLE — the Pre-college Educational Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence.

“It’s a visionary program that helps students of color have access and an opportunity to go to college,” he says. “It put the UW on my radar because every summer I ended up coming to Madison for what felt like summer camp but actually took us through various courses that helped prepare us.”

As a UW freshman, Lambright thought he wanted to be a fine artist, but after a couple of years, he began to wonder why. “I started to ask myself how I was going to make money off of this,” he says. “Did I even want to be an artist? I like storytelling, and I didn’t really know how that fit in the fine-arts space.”

His inspiration, he realized came from comics artists such as Aaron McGruder, who wrote the strip The Boondocks, and Bill Waterson, who wrote Calvin and Hobbes. Lambright felt far more interested in the comic strip he was writing, The Beatniks, than in his art courses. Then a communication arts class got him thinking about animation, and he began to see where his path lay.

Lambright took an internship in the scenic design department Wisconsin Public Television (WPT), where he worked on animated shorts for the show Wisconsin Life. Later, he helped do design work for educational video games such as Jo Wilder and the Capitol Casea historical adventure game created in collaboration between WPT and the Field Day Lab, a UW-based video game design group. Lambright amassed an eclectic set of skills, which he now uses at his day job as a storyboard artist, designer, and animator for BUCK, a creative and brand-development firm. His work went into the feature film Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and the video game Lets Revolution.

But while BUCK gives Lambright a paycheck, his art still draws him back to do his own storytelling. He recently published the first chapter of his debut graphic novel, Phantasma, on the site GlobalComix.

“It’s a sci-fi psychological thriller about this legendary character called the Cosmic Warrior,” Lambright says. “Essentially, his mission is to bring balance back to broken universe through the protection of an all-powerful energy known as Dark Matter. It is an epic series that follows the hero’s journey and the trials and tribulations that one must endure along the way to fulfill their destiny.”