#9: Karl Christian Krumpholz
Cartoonist Karl Christian Krumpholz has a keen eye for the historical underbelly of Denver bar culture, as evidenced by his new weekly comic, The Denver Bootleg, in Westword, as well as his ongoing web comic 30 Miles of Crazy!, a paean to the nightlife, people and places along the gritty length of Colfax Avenue. In the same vein, he’s done illustration work for Modern Drunkard magazine and animated drawings seen in the locally produced documentary Neal Cassady: The Denver Years. His latest illustration project, a collaboration with local author Dan Landes, debuts this week. Learn more about what drives Krumpholz to glorify the dives of Denver via his answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Karl Christian Krumpholz: Tom Waits. It would be easy for me to say someone like Kerouac, Hemingway, Bukowski, Jim Thompson or any of the boozy writers I’ve always been drawn to — writers who tell stories about characters, life and the city. For me, though, Tom Waits takes it to another level. His music paints a picture of down-and-out streets and bars, as well as the characters who were just trying to get through the day and perhaps get a drink — all of which has all been a massive inspiration on my own artwork and "True-ish Tales" comics. You know that Tom Waits would have the best stories. It would be brilliant to be able to illustrate just a few of his characters.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Right now, I am really interested in the early-twentieth-century comics and illustrations of Winsor McCay – his collections of Dream of the Rare Bit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland, as well as some of his editorial cartoons for the New York Herald. It’s brilliant to look at the size, hatching, perspective, color and detail of his work, as well as the sort of fevered-dream subject matter of his comics from over a hundred years ago. It’s impressive to look at this work and be able to trace the connection and influences to other modern cartoonists like Robert Crumb, Maurice Sendak and Berke Breathed.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I think I would rather bring back something that went out of style some time ago. Back in the '80s and '90s, you couldn’t swing a dead cat in a comic or book store without hitting some independent comic company publishing a collection of various artists’ work. There was Raw, Taboo, Weirdo and other comic compilations. Not only that, but zines as well. With the rise of the Internet and the decline of printed media, all of that seems to have slowly disappeared. I would love to see more independent comic collections come back — artwork and stories from upcoming artists that you could hold in your hand rather than read on some digital device.
What's your day job?
Aside from my comic work and illustration commissions, I still do some freelance editing work every now and then for the publishing company that I used to work for back in Boston.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
First thing I would like would be a large walk-in liquor cabinet, filled with the finest boozes, beers and wines known to man, with enough room for my drawing table to fit in, as well. Seriously, though, I do find the idea of being able to travel the country — visiting bars, meeting locals and collecting stories to document in my comics — to be a wicked brilliant idea, a way to learn about and document people’s lives, as well as discover some of the history of the place, which is something that I have always been interested in. Lastly, perhaps I’d create and publish that independent comic collection that I’ve already spoken about. Need to come up with some sort of clever name, though.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Affordable living for artists would be great. With all the rising costs of rents, most people seem to be slowly driven out of the city. Another great idea would be to take all the empty storefronts throughout the city and offer artists exhibition space, at a greatly reduced rate. Why have a glaring eyesore of an empty, locked-up shop with a "for rent" sign? Give it to an artist while it remains empty and let them create a place that is interesting to see.
I guess the main thing would be to say to the city, “Hey…we’re here.” It’s the artists, not the weed, that make a city an interesting place to experience.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
That is a very hard question. There are so many people in this state doing great work. There is the photography of Gary Isaacs, the paintings of both Jesse Peper and Heather Reynolds, the comics of Lonnie Allen, the cocktails of Sean Kenyon and the music of Munly Munly. All of that is utterly brilliant. I cannot choose just one.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I just finished Revolt to What?, a comic collaboration between myself and local author Daniel Landes that is coming out this month from Suspect Press. After that, I’ll continue with another 52 weekly installments of the “True-ish Tales” of 30 Miles of Crazy!, more of the comic history of Denver venues weekly in "The Denver Bootleg" in Westword, a few more bar reviews on my blog (30 Miles of Cocktails), finally starting work on a World War One graphic novel that I have been planning and promising to myself for some time, and then perhaps find time to have a very large cocktail. Likely some sort of bourbon.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local art community in the coming year?
I think the most exciting thing coming up in Denver right now was the announcement of the Denver Independent Comic Exhibition (DINK), which will be held next March. Sure, there is still the Denver Comic Con, but like most other comic conventions around the country, it focuses more on media and mainstream pop culture than on comics themselves…which is kind of tragically funny, since “comics” is actually in the event’s name. DINK is shaping up to kind of rectify that, bringing the focus back on comics, local talent and everything that is ignored in the industry since it’s not superhero-driven. I’m very excited for this to finally happen here in Denver and am looking forward to exhibiting at the event. Plus, the commute is brilliant, and I’ll get to sleep in my own bed.
Attend a book release event for Revolt to What?, a new Suspect Press novel by Dan Landes and illustrated by Karl Christian Krumpholz, at 8 p.m. Friday, October 9, at Deer Pile. The free event includes live music from Bad Luck City and Joe Sampson and readings by Landes and Mathias Svalina. See more on the Facebook event page. Learn more about Karl Christian Krumpholz online.