The Mile High Comics Jason St. Mega-Store is hard to miss: not only is the massive warehouse visible from I-70 as you’re heading toward Denver, but the towering comic book covers that decorate the walls draw the eye of any comic aficionado.
The building is no less impressive when standing in front of it in person, and after arriving in the chain-link fenced-in parking lot, the entrance can be reached by way of a rainbow-colored footbridge.
Enter the Jason St. Mega-Store
Just inside the entrance, you’re immediately greeted by walls that are plastered with banners and posters celebrating all kinds of comics from the past few decades. But this is just the overture for the main event: the vast, open space of the main Mile High Comics store.
The first thought on entering is: COMICS! The cavernous interior is filled with long boxes, walls, display cases, and shelves full of comics as far as the eye can see. In addition to thousands of current and older comics available for browsing, the warehouse also includes online stock for the Mile High Comics website.
The Jason St. Mega-Store is a sight to behold, and it isn’t just the copious collection of comics: there are also plenty of toys, games, and apparel, as well as life-size statues of superheroes (as a few larger-than-life statues).
Once you manage to collect your wits and take a few steps further into the store, you’ll soon notice a large event space, and displayed prominently on the wall beyond it, an array of various Pride flags. In an email with the Beat, Mile High Comics owner Chuck Rozanski/Bettie Pages says that they have only received positive comments about the flags on display.
“I’m pretty sure that we’ve also had some bigots walk out, but I guess that they just seethe quietly,” said Chuck/Bettie. “Bye, Felicia…”
The All-Ages Drag Show
The flags aren’t the only support that Mile High Comics has been providing to the local queer community. The store hosts a monthly all-ages drag show that affords kids and their families an opportunity to celebrate themselves in a safe environment. Chuck/Bettie explained that, given the resources available to the store, they feel compelled to provide a space for the event to take place.
“I believe that transgender and gender-questioning kids suffer more bullying and discrimination than any other youth demographic,” they said. “Providing them with a safe space for 3 hours each month to just be kids and enjoy each other’s company is a very heart-warming endeavor. I own a huge building, banquet tables that seat 400 for events, and a full-size performance stage, so it only makes sense for us to let the kids put on their monthly shows.”
According to Chuck/Bettie, the store has received a huge amount of positive feedback, from those within the community and from the public at large. “People actually stop me on the street to thank me for having the courage to resist the neo-Nazi’s.”
Attendance at the monthly show, which carries a suggested donation of $5 and provides free snacks, has only grown since it began earlier this year. “Our first show had about 175 attendees, last month’s show was over 400, which makes our show the single-largest drag even in the entire state of Colorado. The Denver community loves and supports us.”
However, the response hasn’t been entirely positive, and alt-right protestors have taken to regularly gathering outside of the store during the monthly performance. “We have had nasty alt-right protestors harassing attendees of our shows since day one,” explained Chuck/Bettie.
During the seventh all-ages drag show, which took place on September 29th, the situation outside grew so tense that it earned coverage in the Denver Post. Fortunately, Mile High Comics has some innovative methods of circumventing noisy hate groups like the “Colorado Proud Boys.”
“To provide a safe passage for families to our store from our parking lot we cut through an old chain link fence, and then installed our beautiful rainbow bridge over the abandoned rail tracks in between the parking lot and the store. The bridge has been a huge hit!”
In addition to the rainbow bridge, a group of volunteers that have been dubbed the “Parasol Patrol” hold up rainbow-colored umbrellas to shield those entering the store from the vitriol spewed by the groups outside.
Mile High Comics has lost some patronage as a result of hosting the drag show.
“I have forever lost about 10% of the people who shopped with us,” wrote Chuck/Bettie. “On the flip side, however, those who love what we are doing are actively replacing all of those lost sales, and much more. Frankly, I truly prefer to not do business with people whose hearts are filled with hate…”
Promoting an Inclusive Environment
During my trip to the Jason St. Mega-Store, I asked the clerk behind the counter about the pride flags and was presented with a sheet that identified each of them. The environment was friendly and welcoming, and Chuck/Bettie shared some suggestions on how comic shops can promote an inclusive environment for all potential customers.
“You can begin establishing an inclusive environment by educating yourself about LGBTQ issues,” they explained. “Correct transgender pronouns, for example, are critically important to many people. Then work to stock at least a few LGBTQ-friendly titles, and finally, put up at least one rainbow flag in order to declare to everyone that your establishment is a hate-free zone.”
In the excellent Mile High Comics newsletter, Chuck/Bettie provides readers with insight into news about the store and life generally, including updates on their travels to many different pride marches and other events across the United States.
“As the International Court System Imperial Crown Princess of the Americas, I am blessed to be among the leaders of our national LGBTQ world,” explained Chuck/Bettie. “As such, I feel that I need to lead by example, so I try to help out as much as I can at events all around the nation. I travel pretty much every week.”
But What About the Comics?
Finally, I couldn’t let the opportunity to ask Chuck/Bettie about their favorite all-time comics pass me by.
“The Desert Peach is one of my favorites, as is Castle Waiting, and Strangers in Paradise,” they answered. “Harold Hedd was my bisexual hero, while Gay Comix was all over the place.”
Visit Mile High Comics in person at the Jason St. Mega-Store at 4600 Jason Street, Denver, CO 80211, or online at their website.