Review -- 30 MILES OF CRAZY by Karl Christian Krumpholz
30 Miles of Crazy
(Karl Christian Krumpholz)
“Colfax Avenue is Denver's main throughfare, running close to thirty miles east-west through Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, and Golden. Playboy Magazine once called Colfax 'The longest, wickedest street in America.'” This is the backdrop for Karl Christian Krumpholz's 30 Miles of Crazy, a long-running webcomic that has finally been collected by Drunken Tiki Comics. While ostensibly a series of (mostly) one-page shorts about what defines place and what can happen to people, it's also about notions of family and, more importantly, about the concept of home.
Many of the stories Krumpholz captures in his comics take place in various bars along Colfax Avenue and present a voyeuristic view of some of the weirder, damaged, drunken, or flat-out crazy folk who inhabit them. Often, his comics begin with someone saying something like, “A Colfax story? Yeah, I have one.” But interspersed among these tales of depravity and drunkenness, Krumpholz includes these little moments of autobiography, celebrations of place, and attempts at understanding his relationship with the world around him.
I could easily see a lazy critic making the argument that a book like this teeters on the edge of sensationalism – that Krumpholz is holding up wreckage for ridicule – and then castigating 30 Miles of Crazy as capitalizing on the misery of others. But to make this argument misses the heart of what Krumpholz does with his art.
Though 30 Miles of Crazy has, as its subtitle, “True-ish tales of derelicts, bars, and denizens of other low places,” the book is a love story, really. It documents Krumpholz's love of his town, his friends, his lover, and, above all else, other people. Certainly there are moments in this book that focus on the raw, fucked up, and desperate aspects of humanity, but Krumpholz's portrayal of everyone and everything, while not exactly reverential, is suffused with understanding and affection.
It's also pretty fucking funny in parts.
Here, the reader gets to know the creator through what he has created. Through the choices he makes in both story and art, Krumpholz reveals himself to be intelligent, loving, confused, and, most importantly, empathetic. Many of the characters featured in his work are the outsiders or the defeated, the mentally ill or addicted, the unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed. He presents them for what they are, and, in doing so, presents them for what they mean. For a place is made up of people as much as it is its locale. To understand place, you must understand those who inhabit it. By understanding this, then, you get a sense of home. Here you have access to understand yourself.
Krumpholz came from the East Coast to Colorado and his outsider's sensibility allows him a more objective view of his surroundings. Through the act of creating his comics, he is able to channel that view into a personal sense. He moved to Denver for love, and, in the process, fell in love with Denver. 30 Miles of Crazy is a document of this.