Frank and Sarah Cunniff go from punk rock to comic art | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Frank and Sarah Cunniff go from punk rock to comic art

Their new comic, Doc Red, is published by Florida label Paper + Plastick

Comic artists Frank and Sarah Cunniff
Comic artists Frank and Sarah Cunniff

As of a few years ago, Frank Cunniff was known mostly for his bass work with Incommunicado (or singing with Hipsterdeathmachine). But more recently, it's been words (and drawings) on paper that make the Polish Hill resident notable. Going from punk bands to comic books has been something of an adjustment, but it's got its upsides — like the fact that instead of touring with a gaggle of guys, he now tours with his sole collaborator, his wife Sarah.

"I really miss touring; that's the big thing," Cunniff says. "I miss traveling and playing shows. But with comics, it's great, because I still get to do that, but it's a lot less gear, and you don't have to be in a van with a bunch of cranky, thirty-something dudes. I get to travel with my wife, who's a trooper; we sleep in the van, and have a nice time meeting people."

The Cunniffs' latest, and biggest, foray into the comic world is the first edition of Doc Red, a series set in the Old West, starring a character based on a real-life family friend, Dr. Ellen Redinbaugh. The idea came to Frank while he was working at the family's pub, Blue Dust, in Homestead.

"She's a really nice, kind of firecracker of a lady," he says. "I'd write her name on the [point-of-sale system] and the way it stacks, it would say ‘Doc Red.' And I thought of how funny it would be to have a muzzle in the ‘O,' with Ellen behind the muzzle, pointing this long rifle."

"The image sort of cracked me up," he adds. "Then I thought about how well Ellen would actually do in the Wild West."

In line with their DIY punk roots, the Cunniffs found a home for the comic series on Paper + Plastick, the record label and comic imprint run by Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake. Frank recalled how friendly and charitable the guys from the legendary ska band had been once when Incommunicado was in Gainesville, and sent the comic when he was courting publishers. Paper + Plastick quickly bit on the series. 

A limited print run is available, and a free download of Doc Red #1 is available on the label's site,

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