Actor and writer John Leguizamo will sign copies of his graphic novel “Ghetto Klown” at the Denver Independent Comics & Art Expo (DiNK), April 14-15 at the McNichols Civic Center building. (Provided by DiNK)
Through dozens of film, TV and theater projects over the past three decades, John Leguizamo has gotten intimate with the never-ending process of promoting his latest project.
But even having co-starred in “Spawn,” “Kick-Ass 2,” “Super Mario Bros.” and the “Ice Age” films — among other comic book-friendly fare — the 53-year-old Emmy winner is still a relative newbie to the comic-con scene.
“This is only my second comic con like this,” said Leguizamo, who will appear at this weekend’s Denver Independent Comics & Art Expo in support of his Eisner-nominated graphic novel “Ghetto Klown.” “I’ve done them before — including the big one in San Diego — but those were more like movie panels with the whole cast. It wasn’t a one-on-one with my own graphic novel.”
In addition to signing copies of 2015’s “Ghetto Klown,” which shares a name with Leguizamo’s one-man show and HBO special from 2014, fans can catch him elsewhere at this year’s DiNK, which returns to the McNichols Civic Center building April 14-15.
The 53-year-old will appear from noon to 2 p.m., and again from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on April 14 to sign books with optional “selfie sessions.” He will also participate in a 2:30-3:15 p.m. panel at DiNK that day — as well as a VIP meet and greet and signing/selfie session 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on April 15.
A 9 p.m. screening on April 14 of the film “Moulin Rouge!” (in which Leguizamo plays Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) will conclude with an in-person Leguizamo Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at Sloan’s Lake. The event, which follows the annual DiNKy Awards (at 7 p.m. April 14), is sold out. (Full disclosure: This reporter is hosting Leguizamo for the Q&A and has participated in DiNK panels in the past.)
We caught up with Leguizamo, who’s also behind the new “Freak” comic book series, via phone from New York to talk about comics, Latino representation in pop culture and more.
Actor and comedian John Leguizamo, shown here in a still from his Broadway production “Ghetto Klown,” remains tireless in his quest to chronicle the Latino experience in America. (Provided by Slate PR)
Q: What brings you to your first DiNK?
A: My comic book, which is mostly what I’m going to be talking about. It’s sort of the missing piece of representing Latin people in comic books — especially when so many Latin people were the pioneers in the drawing of comics. Alex Schomburg was a Puerto Rican guy from the 1940s who drew Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. The Hernandez Brothers (who attended last year’s DiNK) were pioneers with “Love and Rockets.” (Alberto) Vargas was a Peruvian painter whose comic book-y pin-up girls were influential in comic books. The list goes on.
Q: The last time you visited Denver you performed an early version of “Latin History for Morons” at Comedy Works, which just finished its six-month run on Broadway. How did that go?
A: Testing it out in the comedy club in Denver was amazing because it gave me the opportunity to get into the Public Theater (in New York), which is the most prestigious theater-development center in America. “Hamilton” came out of there. “Fun Home” came out of there. It’s the birthplace of the best theater in America and I got in because I was able to workshop it and fix it in places like Denver.
Q: As with most stand-ups, clubs are ideal for testing out new material — in part because the stakes are much lower than with a theater or TV audience.
A: The comedy clubs allowed me to make the (Latin) history very palatable and very funny. And then on Broadway we had people like Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Spike Lee, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Moore and Michael Douglas showing up.
Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo (Abrams ComicArts, October 20, 2015)
Q: Intimidating fans to have. How did the show do?
A: We were the first show of the Broadway season to recoup (production costs). … I think it was something like $2 million?
Q: As a native of Colombia, you’ve been vocal about the lack of Latino representation in pop culture. Where’s the Latino equivalent of #MeToo or #OscarsSoWhite?
A: We Latin people are the most underrepresented in film, even though we make up 23 percent of the box office audience. My Broadway show recouped because of Latin people going. But Hollywood and comic books and the media are resistant to Latin people getting a chance to be the front-men and front-women. I don’t understand why an animated movie like “Coco,” which is all Mexican stories, makes so much money, or “Hamilton,” written by and starring a Puerto Rican, becomes the biggest hit Broadway has ever had, and yet comic books are so far behind.
It’s a tragedy because Latin people are the second-oldest ethnic group in America, and they’ve fought in every single war this country’s had. We were there for the American Revolutionary War; 10,000 unknown Latino patriots fought in that. So in the era of prominent Latinos in the news — like Emma Gonzalez (high schooler and gun control advocate), or Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California who’s fighting attacks on the environment and on sanctuary cities — it doesn’t make sense.
Q: Where do you look for progress?
A: I’m very excited about what we can do in the digital space, because that’s where all the innovation is happening. Cardi B, she came out of Instagram. Justin Bieber came out of the digital space. It’s the new place that’s democratizing inclusiveness, instead of highlighting the lack of it. There are Latin comedians, like the mitú group, who have huge amounts of followers online. Latin people are online, too!
Q: What’s next for you? Anticipating any award nominations this year?
A: The Tonys haven’t been announced yet, but let’s hope. It’s rough for comedies to get the same respect as dramas and musicals. I’m pioneering in this genre and breaking a lot of taboos, but it’s still hard for a one-man show. “Freak” (the 1998 HBO version of which was directed by Spike Lee) was nominated for two Tonys, and they took down the category for one-man shows when I did “Sexaholix,” and then when I stopped performing it, they put it back up! Just the luck of the Latin, I guess.
IF YOU GO
Denver Independent Comics & Art Expo, featuring John Leguizamo, Joe Kelly, Jeff Lemire, James O’Barr, Matt Kindt, Howard Cuse, Chuck Forsman and more. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. April 14 and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 15 at McNichols Civic Center Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave. Tickets: $13-$25, with VIP packages available for $50-$149. Children 17 and under free. dinkdenver.com.