I spent my Memorial day weekend going to the fourth annual Denver Comic Con, and since it started in 2012, it has grown by leaps and bounds. The DCC is not just fun and successful, but has become the third largest comic convention in the United States. Besides Denver, only San Diego and New York are bigger annual draws for the fandom, and DCC’s growth isn’t done yet.
The Denver Comic Con’s attendance has grown from a very impressive starting point of nearly 28,000, a number that made it the second biggest inaugural opening for a comic book convention. That number rose to 61,000 in 2013, and just over 86,000 in 2014. The latest projections have this year’s attendance pushing over 91,000 attendees, an extremely impressive feat in the world of comic book conventions.
To me the Denver Comic Con validates what I’ve been saying my whole life. Comics, sci-fi, and its related genres are not just for kids. The crossing over of geek culture into the mainstream has finally allowed the masses to enjoy what a niche has always enjoyed, and they come together at comic conventions to celebrate it.
The big thing that sets the DCC apart from its two biggest rivals in California and New York is the fact that the Denver con was set up as a nonprofit, a driving force of the Pop Culture Classroom. Here’s what that means, as detailed on the Denver Comic Con’s own website.
Pop Culture Classroom was founded in 2010 as Comic Book Classroom, a Colorado-based charitable organization focused on enhancing and improving students’ learning experience through the use of comic book media. At the same time, CBC founders Charlie LaGreca, Frank Romero, David Vinson, and Kevin Vinson also launched the Denver Comic Con event.
The Classroom program debuted the first version of its “Storytelling Through Comics” curriculum to local area schools, and with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and generous donations, DCC became a reality for the first time on Father’s Day weekend, June 15, 2012. It was an unexpected and overwhelming success; one that was to be surpassed in every year that followed.
Proceeds from DCC fund the staffing, supplies and infrastructure of the Classroom’s efforts toward literacy outreach. “Storytelling Through Comics” is a graphic literature creation program offered free of charge to schools, teachers, and community organizations. The program currently offers students an educational experience that includes instruction in reading and vocabulary, writing stories, and eventually the creation of the students’ own comics. Completed entries are then published in a class collection.
As a reader of comic books since I was a wee small one, I have always credited comic books as the gateway drug that turned me onto reading more, and onto books of all types. It fostered in me a love of reading that has carried on into my adult life, and ultimately led me to writing.
My mother once told me, that she encouraged me to read comics, because after reading a couple of the ones I so enthusiastically hoarded, she realized the messages in them were strong and positive. Now, I’m not going to say that every comic is full of nuggets of moral wisdom, because not all of them are, but I did learn a lot from the spandex-wearing crowd in my youth. I learned that the good guys always fought the good fight, no matter the odds. I learned that they fought for truth and justice, and championed the weak against the strong evildoers of the world. So in the end, they were a hugely positive influence on me.
Being a parent myself, I have turned my son onto comics too, in the hopes that the same love of reading, and the ideals that come through in so many stories of all genres, will be passed on to him as well. It does my heart good to see that my beloved comic books are finally getting their due. If you’re a fan of comics, I highly suggest that you go to a comic book convention, the ultimate celebration of the medium, and of the culture that has built up around it. If you go to the Denver Comic Con, know that you’ll be supporting the next generation through the Pop Culture Classroom.