Charlie La Greca lives and breathes all things comic book — and then some. A comic artist and one-time inker for D.C. Comics, as well as a first-class nerd, he’s an original founder of Denver Comic Con who has moved on to create the smaller, more artist-driven DINK Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo, which debuts this weekend, while also organizing other geek-worthy events around town as a promoter with Nerd Riot. What goes on in the mind of this ruler of the local comic kingdom? La Greca tells all in his answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Charlie La Greca: In comics: Jack Kirby, in his earlier days prior to Marvel Comics. I can really relate to him on many levels. His creativity was in constant motion, always producing, always growing, and he never stopped. His line work was so fluid, yet chunky and full of life. The guy was a freight train of creativity, vision, talent and ability! Look, they call Marvel Comics the house that Jack built for a reason. And he did it all. Romance, heroes, monsters, sci-fi, Westerns...you name it, Jack did it.
After all of the challenges he faced, the mistreatment and disrespect, he never stopped loving or working in comics. He stayed in the trenches, true to his love, and continued to create, oftentimes struggling and yet still leading with the message of hope and wonder. Who could do that?
I personally would have loved to create either some kind of super sci-fi monster comic with him or a fictional story stripped of all his fantastic elements that was more character-driven and simple.
In performance: Jim Henson. I have done a lot of music and stage shows. I would have loved to work with my brother Jeff and "Jim" to create a live stage show that was entirely muppets in some fantastical bizarre world of comedy and music.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I'm pretty consumed by my desire to create and produce, and so I don't honestly have one person that I'm pulled to right now. At this point in my life, I'm more into the bold actions of certain people and the inspiration from them. People who know they are stepping into a storm but do it anyway, to stand for something vital that they believe at their core. People like Julian Assange, Malala Yousafzai, the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and such.
Oh, and dank memes. Lots and lots of dank memes.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Ohhh, boy....hitting me with that one. Beards? High-waisted ’80s pants? Celebrity worship? Do any of these count? I love the celebration of art and what we create as humans, but when we lift those who are our peers to heights so lofty that we can no longer relate to them or they become deified, it's just too much for me.
What's your day job?
I think you mean day-and-night job. There is no eight-hour workday here. Haha! I have been very fortunate in that I have been pretty much freeloading — I mean freelancing — for close to twenty years. That job has run the gamut of cartoonist, drawer, illustrator, creator, designer, creative director, producer, convention director, singer, performer, art director and sometimes having to dress up as a giant snowman or something.
I just finished the second comic book I created, for the Mayah's Lot series; I'm creating this book with and for the City Universities of New York and a nonprofit called CUER. It's a fictional story that explores environmental justice and attempts to create participation, awareness and impact with all ages. I'm excited about this next issue that is coming out; I've put a lot of myself and hard work into it, and also had the joy of collaborating with fantastic people.
And I'm creating lots of cool stuff with awesome nerds to go under the Nerd Riot banner!
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Do you know someone? Please have them call me. So…I get to dream like there were no financial struggles? I would first pay you lots for asking that question! I would honestly devote myself to continue to create and support others fully and wholly. I'd make DINK an unstoppable show and go even more insane with the creative and pay everyone who has devoted themselves so fully. I'd guzzle tons of crazy high-end drinks pulled from the udders of god knows what and fermented for eons only to be ingested and enjoyed. I'd give my brother Jeff a huge lump of money to keep creating, as he is easily one of the best writers I've ever met and deserves it. I'd give Ami, my fiancée, the island of Vieques. I'd basically give jobs to all of the creative friends. I'd hold audience with anyone at 3:37 a.m. once a week for 47 minutes in which each person would get three minutes to wow me with their art, and I'd then blow copious amounts of smelly rotten cigar smoke in their faces while a Smurf poured a barrel of slimy cash over their heads (which they could keep)?? I'd create a space-age replica of Howl's Moving Castle for my mom and pop that would drive them to church, Broncos games, King Soopers and…Pueblo. I would buy an entire peewee league football franchise, wherein I inject the tykes with HGH on massive levels, making them the super-human tiny mutant monster sports league (wait — that’s my next comic!). I would just carry loads of cash and shoot it out of a T-shirt cannon at people's faces randomly, while they are walking, driving or sitting at a cafe.
Basically, I’d go broke giving it all away.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I'd list it and make loads of money that I could then use in the example above. I do want to explore the world a heck of a lot more.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
This city is changing fast, and I think it's at a cost to the artistic viewpoint indicative to each particular neighborhood of Denver. Sure, we are gaining in so many incredible ways, but I think we need to seriously consider nurturing and maintaining the artistic movements that were grounded and had set the tone and are now being swallowed whole.
Take 13th Avenue. We should be looking to keep this the punk-rock and indie center that it’s been for so long. We need to work with artists and retail stores on that avenue to maintain that personality. This was one of those sections that was thriving when Denver was smaller, and in many ways it set and drew people to the city long before the other sections. Why not replace the now-closed Panera Bread with something that is more fitting, like a City, O’City or Wax Trax?
Lets band together to not let Colfax lose all its teeth. I'm not talking about keeping it dangerous, but to support what is unique and strange about it — the weird and the odd. Let’s curate and support installations or active art movements on our longest avenue to keep it an oddity of the West.
And also Welton Street and Five Points. In some ways this one is too late, but I do think the city could support African-American art that is specific to that neighborhood, right in its rightful place in Denver. That should never be lost. This is what I believe establishes a sense of identity to our city.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Oh, man! Okay...to be fair, I'm not going to count any of the comic and cartoonist community. Which leaves nobody. Thanks, Westword, thank you very much.
Actually, if I have to answer, I'd say Dan Crosier. He is an insane, beautiful mess. He creates comics on wood (on wood, people!), he is a performer and filmmaker, and he does not care about what the mainstream might think. He works only to suffice his desire and what makes him giddy, and he seems to love the most strange, bizarre stuff. And last of all, his output is inspiring.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
The DINK Comic & Art Expo, Rock Comic Con and Game of Thrones Night, which will be produced by Nerd Riot Productions. Hopefully, some shows for our nerd-rock band, H2Awesome! Mayah's Lot Issue #2: Bina's Err release with CUER and CUNY.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Oh, man. I think Robin Munro is killing it with Colorado Crush, and I can't wait to see what he keeps coming up with. He is a force that Denver needs. It's tough, though, because there are tons of great people out there creating unique stuff who all deserve recognition. To comeeks!
Attend the inaugural DINK Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo on March 25 and 26 at the Sherman Street Event Center, 1770 Sherman Street. Tickets are $20 in advance, slightly higher at the door, with single-day passes also available. Kids fifteen and under get in free with an adult. To learn more about Charlie La Greca and get tickets and info, visit DINK online.
Nerd Riot hosts the Denver Game of Thrones Viewing Party, with live music and GoT cosplay, from 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays, beginning April 24 at Stoney's Bar & Grill. Visit Nerd Riot online for information about this and other events.