Denver Comic Con is a phenomenon. In only two years, it has become one of the largest comic conventions in the country, and figuring out just how that came about can give us some in-depth insights into the wider growth of cons happening internationally, but particularly in the USA right now. Christina Angel, an English professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver, is one of the con’s small band of visionary founding members (with Frank Romero, Bruce MacIntosh, Charlie La Greca, Michael Newman, and Illya Kowalchuk), and one of the lynch-pins that held the con together through its planning stages, astonishing first year, and even more overwhelming second year this past May. She spoke in very personal terms with The Beat about how exactly Denver Comic Con came to exist, and how it met its first year’s extreme challenges. An equal partner in Denver Comic Con is the charitable educational literacy program Comic Book Classroom, which has also experienced a meteoric rise in the Denver area, is part of Denver Comic Con itself, and a strong element in the drive toward comics as a positive impact in the community that has fueled programming at DCC. Illya Kowalchuk, Executive Director of Comic Book Classroom, also spoke with The Beat about the charity’s origins and how it functions to supply real-world need for youngsters through the medium of comics. Together Angel and Kowalchuk lay out the foundational steps that led them up to an explosion in growth for DCC and Comic Book Classroom in this exclusive interview.
Hannah Means-Shannon: What were the nuts and bolts necessary to start a local comic con? What kind of relationships are necessary on a local level to get started?
Christina Angel, Ph.D.: The funny thing is, at the time we started this, we had no idea about the nuts and bolts, so I’m answering this part in retrospect. Beyond knowing we needed people, vendors and a place to put them all, the rest was learned mostly on the fly. In order to start a local comic con, the most crucial thing to have is patience – what you don’t know takes time to learn and from my own experience, people will get excited about the prospect, but will take a sceptical approach to helping you, save the few “true believers” right out of the gate. The other learning experience is that comic cons are not like other conventions and you will have to educate even the most seasoned convention organizers, decorators and security teams about the unique qualities of such an event. You have to prove yourself to all of the people who think you’re nuts or out of your league or both, and that also takes time.