There’s little that is more indie than a comic book creator. And if you’re not one of the fortunate few with agent representation and a publishing house, then you’re really indie when you produce anyway.
At the Denver independent Comics & Art Expo in mid-April, mostly unknown titans of talent showed their work—and not just comic books, but longer graphic novels, zines, small press releases, and more. Affectionately referred to as DiNK, the expo has attracted underground creators for three years now, and this time, we got to join—as sponsors and participants.
There was a general mingling of artists and enthusiastic fans, many of them creators themselves. It was your typical comic con–style event: booths of treasures and underground stories that could make a Marvel million, if discovered.
The expo—which geeked out Denver’s downtown Civic Center—is home to a fully alternative scene. It’s queer, straight, friendly, weird, and nerdy fun without bias. They even have a “Safer-Space/Anti Harassment” policy to keep it an engaging and open space for all types of expression. In other words, we fit right in and so do our fans, cohorts, and the artists we admire.
DiNK’s motto is “Keep Comics Fun,” which is why they work exclusively with independent and small press creators. To spread the fun, a good part of the expo’s proceeds go to Camp Comic Book, a nonprofit project that sends underserved youth to the mountains! There they undergo a half–Outward Bound, half–comic and art making regimen.
Needless to say, these kids know what they’re doing.
Joining them were three of our concept artists—Lysander Cramer, Sahaih Escobedo, and Jaco Foster. They were invited to give a panel talk, “Bringing Concept Art to Life,” during which they discussed how Meow Wolf starts with an idea, it goes to paper, and then we build our installations from there. As independent as we are, with roots that couldn’t be more underground, we still felt awe to meet some of the seasoned creative hustlers, whose resilience and slick, gorgeous graphic work astounded us.
Concept artist Escobedo reflects, “At first the audience was confused. I think they expected to hear something about how the industry works, and what Meow Wolf’s formalized concept art process is.” The thing is, Escobedo laughs, “we’re just figuring all this out. I don’t think they expected what we really are—still these DIY, ramshackle artists discovering as they go.”
Nonetheless, a DiNK organizer states that the Meow Wolf panel attracted a discernibly larger crowd than most panels do. Another of our concept artists, Foster (the one in the Hello Kitty sunglasses), answered an audience question about what Meow Wolf’s legacy will be. He said he hopes it grows as a platform for creatives to be taken care of and really express themselves. A DiNK-y mission, for sure.
Our sponsorship funds also went to some new artists in our network. We commissioned Denver artists Lonnie Allen, Barry Brown, and Brian Essig-Peppard to create an entryway installation. They achieved a classic comic aesthetic, with a spoof on newspaper-style comics, ads, and classifieds.
“It was cool thinking about how Meow Wolf fits in with an indie comic book convention. The culture is similar. It’s the indie side of things,” summarizes Escobedo.
“These are off-the-beaten-path voices that take atypical approaches from the mainstream,” he adds. “These are people starting off on their own, and we have that history too.”