This just seems weird. In fact, I thought someone was fucking with me at first. If you don't know, I'm from Colorado. And when I lived there for the first 20 odd years of my life, it was definitely not the indie comic capital. Sure there's a lot of comic shops, but I would have to visit three locations to find fucking books. I guess things change when you move away, but hey... congrats. This is a weird press release to post, but I'm strangely smiling while posting it so... yeah. From Tinto Press:
Denver has snuck past long-time trend setters Portland and Seattle as the “Indie Comics Capital of North America,” according to the latest independent study conducted by Tinto Press, a small press publisher of award-winning indie comics, in cooperation with comics industry consultants and analysts in the US and Canada. The result of in-person and online polls of comics readers from 15 to 60 years of age in multiple targeted venues indicates that there are more independent comic fans per capita in the Denver/Boulder area than in anywhere else in North America.
“Indie” comics, sometimes called alternative comics, refers to comic books and graphic novels that are either self-published by creators or published by specialty small press houses. These types of comics typically revolve around autobiographical, literary and fantasy themes, as opposed to “mainstream” comics which are dominated by superheroes whose publishers, most famously Marvel and DC, are owned by conglomerates. While both genres are steadily growing, indies are growing at a faster pace and are increasingly the preference of younger and better educated comics readers.
Wayne Winsett, owner of Time Warp Comics in Boulder embraced the bragging rights as the continent’s new independent comics center. “I’m not at all surprised at the results of this study. I’ve always known that Denver / Boulder is full of eager minds for comics of substance. I’m proud of my customers’ diverse reading tastes, so this only confirms what I’ve suspected for some time.”
An underground “comix” pioneer, Denis Kitchen, who received the “Comics Legend” award at the recent Denver Independent Comics & Art Festival (DINK), concurs. “I attend comic conventions all over the country, from the ridiculously huge ones in San Diego and New York to many smaller shows in between. I’ve seen more enthusiasm for indie comics in Denver than any other place in recent memory. Something’s definitely going on there.”
Kitchen, whose participation in a “Cannabis and Comics” bus tour held during the DINK Festival received national press attention, added that he thought Colorado’s changing pot laws were a factor in the area’s new distinction. “Good weed increases visual focus and introspective thought for most smokers, and so indie comics are tailor made for readers in such an altered state. That’s not to say that sober readers can’t enjoy good comics, but partakers often find the combination irresistible.”
Prior holders of the indie comics capital crown are Portland, Oregon (2012-2015), Seattle, Washington (2008, 2010-2011), San Francisco/Berkeley (2006-2007, 2009), and Toronto, Ontario (2004-2005). No formal polling was conducted prior to 2004, but industry observers almost uniformly agree that San Francisco/Berkeley, the original epicenter of the underground comix movement (the forerunner of the indie comics scene), held the informal crown from the late 1960s till around the turn of the century. New York City, host of the important annual indie MoCCA Fest, can lay claim to numerically more indie comics fans than other metropolitan areas, but on a per capita basis the Big Apple cannot compare to concentrated fan bases in communities like Denver.
Shannon Wheeler, a popular cartoonist and spokesperson for the newly dethroned Portland’s alternative comics scene, did not dispute the results of the new national reader survey, but laid down a challenge: “Denver’s cool, and maybe Portland’s slipping a little, but we’ll be back on top.”
When notified of Portland’s response, Charlie LaGreca, the organizer of DINK, was defiant. “We earned this Indie Comics Capital status. Our recent festival at the Sherman Events Center downtown was overflowing with exhibitors, artists, and fans, and we will not relinquish the crown. I will be a very old man,” he declared, “before another city will wrest this title away from Denver!…And I say that as a former New Yorker; a place also very dear to my heart.”
Comments from participants in the study credit Colorado’s healthy education community, a supportive network of comics retailers, Indie-focused festivals like DINK, the proliferation of comic drawing social clubs like Denver Drink & Draw and, more recently, the legalization of marijuana as bolstering the large and ever-increasing Indie Comics population.