UCD Advocate inFocus

BOOKBEAT: Killing time at Kilgore Books & Comics

Local store specializes in rare literature

By Jason Abdilla

Copy Editor

Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kilgore Books & Comics’ owners Dan Stafford and Luke Janes ate pizza and drank beer for lunch behind a glass case full of antique books. It was a Thursday afternoon. As uncouth as drinking on the job might seem, this is precisely the lax and eclectic atmosphere they strive to create.

“We wanted to fill a unique niche in the city,” said Stafford. “A lot of book stores [in Denver] always ran out of the stuff we liked to read.”

Kilgore opened on June 1, 2008 in, as Stafford explained, an “old shit-shop” that Wax Trax owned.

As I perused through this narrow, dimly lit enclave off of 13th Street, heaps of vintage and modern comics overflowed cardboard boxes on the floor beside swaying stacks of books ready to be shelved. Behind and within that glass case at the front of the store are more books and comics that range from heirloom pulp fiction with, as Stafford noted, “buxom women” on the covers, to graphic novels and fine art comics.

They have procured science fiction, sub-culture comics, and, as Janes explained, “other literature that you won’t find in Barnes and Noble, like [Jack] Kerouac and other Beat Writers.” Janes broods over the sci-fi section of the store because it’s what he grew up reading.

"A lot of people begin with sci-fi then move towards other areas of literature,” said Janes, “because [science fiction] is accessible to anyone.”

As for Stafford, he joked that the "erotica” section of the store was his favorite, and confessed that comics are his passion. However much of a joke his passion for erotica may seem, there is some truth in Stafford’s appreciation for it.

As a kid, Stafford began collecting “pulp books and old-junk-shop Playboys,” said Stafford, ”but my dad burned all the Playboys.“ He recalled the day his father incinerated the magazines and how one in specific was especially hard to watch go up in sexy flames.

"I remember it was one that had a [Kurt] Vonnegut story that was only published in Playboy. You couldn’t find it anywhere else,” he said. “I actually used to read them for the stories, but that was too unbelievable for my dad and most other people.”

Both owners recalled that as kids, and then as young college students, they found solace from rigid, conservative societies in dingy used bookstores.

“As a kid I only really felt comfortable reading in bookstores,” said Stafford. And Janes added that, while at Calvin College in Michigan, he would go to bookstores “to get away, to read, and to relax.”

So when the two met, it felt organic to create a shop that reflects their personalities and histories, and that also offers a comfortable place for all kinds of people to come, from students, professionals, ne'er do goods, and the “cops who want science fiction for the weekend,” said Stafford. ”We try to have something for everyone.“

Kilgore offers not only an opportunity to rummage through eclectic literature, but, as for Stafford and Janes, it also provides a way to escape rigid social norms. Like drinking on the job.