Denver Comic Con: Putting Comics in Education

Denver Comic Con BannerRecently I caught up with some of the head staff at the upcoming Denver Comic Con and asked them a few questions about their upcoming event.  Dr. Christina Angel, the co-director for DCC, replied with some great responses and even though I won’t be able to attend this year I am very excited to see what goes on over there. Denver Comic Con will be going full swing June 15th to the 17th at the Colorado Convention Center. Check out the full interview below!

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So how did the idea of Denver Comic Con come about? What can you share about the convention’s development up till now?

That’s a big question! Here goes: Lifelong friends Charlie La Greca and Frank Romero conceived the idea a few years ago, I’m told, in Charlie’s parents’ basement when they were discussing how they learned to read with comics. From there, the idea for Comic Book Classroom (a free after-school program using comics) was born and they brought me on board because I had been teaching my university courses with comics for some time. About the same time, they also brought on Illya Kowalchuk, who was then teaching at a school in Boulder. Since then, we’ve built an organization of dedicated people I couldn’t begin to name; I am blessed to work with every person here.
The goal of Denver Comic Con since its inception is to serve as a fundraiser for the CBC project. I think we all envisioned a fairly modest first-year presence that would build over time to a large-scale convention. I don’t think any of us could have imagined that we’d be in Hall A of the Convention Center with so many stellar guests and amazing programming in our first year but it just kept growing. To be honest, I should have expected this; Denver is way overdue for this kind of event. What we thought would be our pet project for years to come has exploded; it seems Denver was more ready for a comic convention than we thought, and we’re ready to give them what they want! We’re even going far beyond the Convention Center space: we have full gaming in the Hyatt across the street and our two marquee events – the Four Color Mixer at the Denver Film Center with some of the biggest stars in comics, as well as Rock Comic Con, which is an evening of nerd rock at the Hard Rock Café

I noticed you have a literary conference attached to your convention, why is that? How do you feel a literary conference ties into Denver Comic Con?

Because our mission is educational and our current presence is in the elementary and middle school arenas, I wanted to bring to DCC some of the scholarly work that’s being done at the college and post-graduate levels in the field of comics and graphic novels. For many years comics scholarship has been part of some prestigious and well-established literary conferences, but it’s rare that lit conferences are solely dedicated to this field of study. It seemed timely to do this alongside DCC as part of our educational initiative so that it opens the door a bit wider to more people and brings them all together under the heading of these two events, which doesn’t often occur. On the one hand, we’re talking about theories of comics and the pedagogy of using them in classrooms at the literary conference, and on the other, we’re seeing the physical manifestation of the impact such things have on our students and our world at the con.

What went into your decision process to select your guests? Were you aiming for certain audiences or themes?

I have to admit that at first, and like most fans who dream of doing this kind of work would do, we went with our own personal favorites. But after our initial excitement settled back into our mission, we focused our energy on guests that we felt people in Denver were most anxious to meet, as well as guests who write and create books for children. We wanted to create a convention that appealed not just to fans, but to families and kids and communities as well. We not only love comics and geek culture ourselves, but we wanted to invite fans and neophytes alike to join the fun.

A lot of conventions I’ve known practically start planning next year the day after closing, what sort of things are you looking at to grow on next year?

It’s funny you mention this; just tonight I was saying how curious I found it that we hadn’t had our first show yet and we’re already solving the crises of 2013! So we are already in the thick of next year’s planning. Realistically, we should be working 18 months out for the amount of work and planning it takes to pull this off. For next year, we’re hoping to go even bigger – in space, with guests and attendees. I can’t share anything specific yet, but next year is already shaping up to be a brilliant convention!

Where do you see Denver Comic Con going in the future? Do you have any goals you want to accomplish?

The goal for so long has been to launch CBC and hold our inaugural convention that it’s difficult to think beyond the next show; having said that, we hope to see this event become a standing Denver institution that people can look forward to every year. Of course we hope to see Comic Book Classroom continue to flourish and positively affect people’s lives, get more kids reading and assist in cultivating the next generation of comic writers, artists and creators.

It’s not everyday someone organizes a convention, what do you find the most rewarding part of the job? The most challenging?

The most rewarding part so far is the simple fact that we’re on the verge of seeing our dream and thousands of hours of hard work come to fruition, and that this event is going to be so much fun for Denver. What’s also rewarding is that we’re making a difference – not for ourselves but for our community and it feels good to give back to Colorado, the place we love. The most challenging part is that we all work as volunteers and balancing what I want to be doing here with the demands of real life sometimes gets a bit messy. Sometimes I think if I didn’t need sleep, I’d do this job around the clock.


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Alex Añé

I am a geek, writer, web developer and avid comic book fan.

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