Neil Greenaway (of Nerd Team 30) writes for Bleeding Cool:
On April 8th, at the second annual Denver Independent Comic and Art Expo (DINK!), I had the opportunity to interview Karl Christian Krumpholz about his comics, his love of histories both grand and small, and his favorite Denver bars. Just a few hours after we spoke, Mr. Krumpholz's newest book, An Introduction To Alcohol, won the DINKy Award for Best In Show!
Bleeding Cool: Let's start today talking about 30 Miles Of Crazy. How did that series come about?
Karl Christian Krumpholz: Basically what happened was that a few years ago me, my friends, and my (now) wife were all drinking in a bar. And with your bar family, you trade stories. About the city, about the bar, things that have happened. Stories like, "Hey, did you hear about when the bar back passed out in the rafters, and he fell through the ceiling into the bar?" Stories like that. And the one story we started with was the idea of Colfax (a famous street here in Denver), and who was the king of the city? Since it's Colfax, it must be some sort of Hobo-King. And that spun out to me wanting to do a comic about this Hobo-King of the city. And that morphed into the idea of illustrating the stories that we had been trading in bars. And just stories of the city that happen to people. A lot of them are really interesting stories, funny stories. Some are really filled with pathos. There are melancholic stories. And I have been doing a new comic every week for about 4 years now.
BC: I know you have been collecting the stories into trade paperbacks, and you have the first to volumes here today. Is it safe to say that there will be a volume 3?
KCK: Yes and no. There will be a volume 3, but since I have done these big trades for volumes 1 & 2, I am now more interested in doing some smaller books. I might just start doing floppies. Single issues that would collect the most recent stuff. Just because the price point would be lower, it would be much easier for someone new to dive in. If someone has never heard of you before, it is easier to convince them to spend $5 on a single issue than it would be to get $15 for the book. So I may start doing the floppies and then collect those into a trade for volume 3.
BC: You put 30 Miles of Crazy out every week yourself, but you also have a weekly comic in the local culture/events paper The Westword. What can you tell me about that?
KCK: 30 Miles is something that I usually publish through my social media. So on my website, or twitter, or instagram. I will put up a new page every week. For the Westword, I draw the Denver Bootleg. I've been doing that for about a year and a half now. And these are stories that are truly Colorado-centric. These are stories of the various bars and venues, but the real history of the place. So when we do a bar, we tell the real story of the building. And then the smaller stories are in 30 Miles, which is about the people. I like the idea that there are two kinds of history. A grand history and then a small history, and I get to tell both. So the grand history is the Denver Bootleg saying, "This bar has been here for 60 years and these people drank at it." And then 30 Miles Of Crazy are more the Tom Waits stories or the Bukowski stories. The weird things that happen late at night.
BC: Do you ever see yourself in that position, as the Tom Waits of comics? Or at least a Tom Waits in comics?
KCK: I would love to think of myself as a Tom Waits in comics, but I would never claim that title. Because I adore him. He is one of my favorite musicians. I would love to be thought of like that, but I would never claim it myself.
BC: You had said that the Denver Bootleg was Colorado-centric. Does 30 Miles Of Crazy cover different places?
KCK: Yeah! If I get a good story! Originally, it started with just Denver stories because I live in Denver and most of the people I deal with are in Denver. But as the comic became known, people started reaching out from San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia. Boston and Philly were easy because I used to live in both cities. So I knew people, and they would tell me stories. If it's a good story I will illustrate it. Also, I just did one two or three weeks ago that was set in Oakland. There was an artist friend of mine who told me a story, so I illustrated it.
BC: Are these stories entirely anecdotal? Are they all "you had to be there" stories?
KCK: Yeah! A lot of these stories either happened to me or my wife, or they were related to me. So, I'm going with what the person tells me. Is it true or not? That's why I call them true-ish.
BC: So you never do any verification?
KCK: No! That would take the fun out of it. That would take all the fun out of stories like these. And they are not all bar stories. I just did one about a woman talking about gentrification in her neighborhood in Denver (story #194). Denver is getting so wicked expensive to live in, people are getting chased out just because they can't afford it. That page was published just a few days ago. Since this week was the lead-up to DINK, I published three stories.
BC: With both 30 Miles and the Denver Bootleg running weekly, are there any other projects that you are currently working on?
KCK: I have been trying to get a World War I story off the ground for almost 2 years, but I have been so busy with these other stories that I have not been able to get to it. What's kicking my ass right now is the fact that we are at the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering WWI, so I need to get this done. Right now, most of my time is taken up with these comics and other freelance work that I take on.
I've also just done An Introduction To Alcohol – which started out as 30 Miles Of Crazy stories – but this was more about my relationship with my father while growing up, and about my introduction to alcohol. My father was a heavy drinker and this is about how I dealt with that. That was how I was introduced to drinking. And it also deals with our relationship which was not always great. It has been nominated for 2 DINKy awards, though, so I'm pretty happy about that.
BC: In looking at the continuation of your comic, do you do a lot of bar hopping?
KCK: (laughs) I have been known to go to quite a few bars. There are quite a few bartenders who know my wife and I. There are probably 5 places that we frequent, and then maybe another half-dozen that we go to less often.
BC: Do you have any kind of reputation in the bar scene?
KCK: We are known as a classy couple! because of the book though? It depends on the bar. All of the bars that really know us are very supportive of the comic. The bartenders are the ones telling me the stories. Stories # 171 & 172 were told to me by a bartender at the Lion's Lair, for example.
BC: Has anyone ever been offended by their inclusion in one of your comics?
KCK: Oh God no. At least I don't know anyone. It's actually the exact opposite of that. I find that people are usually just glad to see their story told. It has been a very positive reaction from the people telling the stories.
BC: Do the people that tell you their stories ever see the comic?
KCK: 9 times out of 10, I would say yes. A lot of the times after a comic is written but before I post it, I will send it to the person and ask "Is this ok?" And then when I post it I will say "Thank you very much to…" whoever told me the story.
BC: Looking forward, how far could you see this going?
KCK: Until I run out of stories or get bored. I am approaching 200 comics right now. This week was, I think, #195. I have up to #201 drawn. I could see me going until at least #300. At least two more years. It all depends on what happens. Because telling this history is what interests me.
BC: Before I leave you today, I have two more questions. First: If people wanted to see more of your work, where would they look online?
BC: And my last question for you today: What would you say is the BEST bar in Denver?
KCK: (laughs) That is a loaded question! That is a totally loaded question! It depends on what you want. For high-end cocktails, it's Williams & Graham. If you want a dive bar, it is the Lion's Lair. If you're looking for just a good neighborhood bar, that's Tooey's Off Colfax.
Lion's Lair, Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado 07-14-2011