Librarian-cum-comic-book-creator Thane Benson spearheaded the newsprint showcase of comic strips by Colorado artists. His inspiration was twofold: the local comic creator community with which he's involved and the library's vision statement of "an inspired and engaged Denver," he explains.
"To me," he says, "that meant we should encourage people to make comics."
Benson, who publishes a weekly webcomic called Hellhole, regularly rendezvoused with other Denver-area comic creators at "Drink & Draw" gatherings at St. Mark's Coffeehouse; in 2014, the group, led by Lonnie MF Allen, put out the Kickstarter-funded Comix Brew, a paper featuring the work of local comic artists. Although they initially envisioned the issue as the first of many, the publication proved unsustainable on a variety of fronts. Benson saw Denver Comix as a way to "basically resurrect the Comix Brew."
After the library gave the project the green light, he began soliciting submissions on social media. He timed the month-long submission period to overlap with DINK and went table to table at the independent comic expo, shaking hands and encouraging Colorado artists to submit. By May 1, Denver Comix had received over eighty submissions.
Only about a fourth of those submissions could make it into the newspaper's pages. To whittle down the submission pool, Benson and the two other judges — Comix Brew creator Allen and Ted Intorcio, who owns Tinto Press, a boutique publishing house in south Denver — printed out the comics and spread them across the long tables of a large-windowed meeting room near the teen section in the library. They deliberated and rearranged the pages until they'd settled on a final 24.
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Benson describes their selection as "eclectic." The collection spans from gags about "Wokémon" to a brief history of the Platte River and the purple-toned tribulations of students at a monster academy. While Benson recognized some of the comics as the work of artists in the underground Denver comic scene, others were entirely unfamiliar.
Denver Comix debuts this Friday with a launch party at Mutiny Information Cafe from 7 to 10 p.m, right after the first day of Denver Comic Con adjourns. At Comic Con itself, the Denver Public Library will have an outreach table distributing copies of Denver Comix, bringing some local, indie representation to an event that's loaded with nationally-known names. After this weekend, library-goers can pick up a copy at the nearest branch.
Ideally, Benson says, Denver Comix will see repeat publications, perhaps becoming a biannual or even quarterly publication. In the meantime, "I'm thrilled that it's happened at all," he adds. "When I was a young person, you couldn't find comics in libraries...now they are considered art."