The Tenderloin’s Graphic Novelist, James Lowe

If you’ve been around the Tenderloin for a while you might already know James Lowe, a prolific graphic novelist who uses his art form both to entertain and to give back to the community. James first got involved with the Street Sheet 10 years ago when he spent 10 months homeless and out on the streets. He says the Street Sheet originally inspired him to use the power of the written word, and eventually he moved on to creating graphic novels because he felt it was the best way for him to communicate.

        “It’s not just about me, it’s about where I come from, where a lot of people come from, and where some people are headed who may not even know it yet,” James said of his work. His most recent graphic novel is called A Tenderloin Tale, and his next one will be “Homeless Guy,” a story about living on the streets of San Francisco, and one that he thinks will really help people connect to the reality of homelessness.

        James says everywhere he goes he meets people who have read his stories, and that they give him a lot of positive feedback about the books and the messages they spread.

“I’m not trying to be famous,” he said. “But if that’s what it takes to get the point across then I’ll guess I’ll have to suffer the consequences.”

        James wasn’t always where he is today. Before he found his passion he was struggling with drug abuse. One time he was down at Fisherman’s Wharf with a friend who was really strung out and tried to steal a boat. The Coast Guard caught them and the police showed up. As he was standing there, he says he heard the police dog call him a n***** and he realized something was a little off.

        “Ya know, in the police dog’s defense I had smoked a lot of weed so, that’s that. But that kinda thing gives you perspective. It made me think maybe I should slow down with this.”


        As he tells it, he finally found the motivation to get clean when he was waiting at the bus stop and his bus pulled up, and it looked so small that he had to kneel down to crawl inside. The bus driver was looking at him like he was crazy, and he realized he needed to get sober. So he just quit using.  

        Today he works hard on his graphic novels. He doesn’t want to work under someone else’s thumb, to work for a boss, so instead he says he works under his own thumb. “I think it’s a good vehicle for people to express love and an intelligence I never knew I had.”

        Interested readers can find copies of James Lowe’s books at City Lights, Bound Together Books, Needles and Pins, or Dog Eared Books. To contact the James Lowe email