Arts and Culture

Denver Comic Con founder Charlie La Greca on what makes this con special

In just its second year, Denver Comic Con is poised to take the pole position among the region's many fandom conventions. Sporting a stellar lineup of geek-culture icons, including Wil Wheaton, George Takei, Colin Baker, Chris Ware and last-minute guest William Shatner, as well as hundreds of panels, cosplay, an independent film series, sci-fi comedy, gaming activities and more, the con is building on the momentum of last year's event. Before the event kicks off tomorrow at the Colorado Convention Center, we talked to Denver Comic Con co-founder Charlie La Greca about what to expect from this con, comics as mythology and how Denver Comic Con is different from other cities' Comic Cons.

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Westword: Despite the name Denver Comic Con, it's not just comics, right? It's geek culture, and even pop culture in general? Movies, games, everything?

Charlie La Greca: Absolutely. Comic Con is the term associated with the event, but it truly is a pop-culture, multimedia circus of imagination and a celebration of creation of any kind in our modern era, whether it be comics, gaming, film, TV, books, even role-playing games. It covers the gamut. Literally anything you can think geeky is thrown in there. People can look forward to all of those elements. If there's anything they geek out on, most likely they'll find it there.

That makes it an excellent opportunity to cross-pollinate, doesn't it? Like if you're a big comic-book fan who always wanted to check out Magic: The Gathering, this is a great chance to do that.

Totally. That's the great thing about it. Artists' Alley is one of my favorite things, because its 220 artists -- actually even more since a lot of artists have another artist at their table -- some of them are working for top publishers like Marvel and DC and Dark Horse, and some are just doing their own stuff. So it's an amazing discovery for anyone, something that they might find that speaks to them, whether it's a print or a T-shirt or a quirky, weird hat, whatever it is. There really is a huge amount of diversity to find something to relate to.

Then you can go to a panel on anything. We have 250 panels this year; last year we had 150. Our programming director set a really high bar for himself this year, wanting to do more, so we have 250 programming panel hours, which is just unheard of. It can be anything from learn how to write novels to storyboarding for movies to fan experiences to spotlights on someone's career. There's definitely something for everyone.

Another thing is we really crafted the floor this year trying to educate people. You have the main floor, then you have all the panels, then you have all the gaming stuff ... the fan table area and all these different areas. There's two film rooms that people can watch films from morning until midnight, so if you're just tired and want to go watch a movie, they can. People need to explore the convention center to discover them. Hopefully they do.

In addition to Denver Comic Con, you do something called the Comic Book Classroom. Can you tell us a bit about that?

They're both tied together. The Comic Book Classroom really is the heart of the whole thing. Frank Romero, my best friend since childhood, had the idea, the seed that we should do something, because we learned so much from comics. I feel like a lot of times comics try to cater to the age groups now, but back then, they were just writing whatever they wanted, and we learned exciting, big words from comics. I'd be plowing through them and I'd see these words over and over again, like "archnemesis," and slowly you start learning them. When you're seven years old, or eight years old, those words are new to you. They would just use them and you would have to catch up.

Frank and I were talking about that and we both felt like we had pretty high reading levels and that it was due to comics, more than anything. They're this wonderful gateway. So we came up with this idea to help the next generation of kids, who don't even know about comics -- comics are less and less on everyone's radar, kids know the movie franchises and stuff like that; they hardly ever pick up a comic -- and be that gateway for kids to learn, and literacy and empowerment and imagination and all the other exciting things that can bring.

Introduction to modern mythology

Oh my god, yeah! The modern American mythology, right? The mythology we're building. Who would have known that all these characters of Stan Lee and those guys created would become are myths? It's kind of crazy.

People do seem to have invested the energy that previous generations put into things like Greek mythology into these characters. The mythological archetypes have become superheroes and supervillains.

Yeah, they've been contemporized. It's a mixture of the gods and a few other things. I know Superman was a mixture of Hercules and a few other things I'm forgetting. A lot of it was pulled from religions and other myths. Mythology mashups!

It definitely seems like when it comes to pop culture, if you want to reference some universal cultural idiom, you don't make allusion to the labors of Hercules, you're making an X-Men reference.

That's so true. That's a really interesting take. It gives us a contemporary hero that speaks to us and our times. Superman was so cool because when he was first created, it was during the Depression. He was the blue-collar, even anti-government on some level, pro-civilian hero.

Speaking of that, it reminds me that it's the 75th anniversary for Superman. He's the first of the American comic-book heroes. We're bringing out all kinds of comic-book guests who have written and drawn Superman through the years, many different generations. You'll get a wide breadth of people who have worked on Superman and maybe have a lot to say with him. We're doing programming around that and we've created what's called the Daily Planet experience on the floor. It's for the media and guests and VIPs that's a recreation of the newsroom from the Daily Planet. We're honoring a bunch of different anniversaries this year, but Superman is the big one.

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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato

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