BKD Life

A Passion as Incredible as The Hulk

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Comic book enthusiast Kirk Chritton keeps adding to his massive collection.

Kirk Chritton owns more than 10,000 comic books and has a long history of professional comics accomplishments and one-of-a-kind opportunities.

Kirk Chritton owns more than 10,000 comic books and has a long history of professional comics accomplishments and one-of-a-kind opportunities.

Long before superheroes Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor interacted on the big screen, sixth grader Kirk Chritton avidly followed their adventures on the printed page.

“The Avengers turned me into a collector. I followed them for years and years,” recalls lifelong comics aficionado Kirk, now BKD Kansas City marketing and business development manager. “There was a soap opera element to it that was really compelling.”

Now the proud owner of more than 10,000 comic books, Kirk’s love for the medium’s artistry and storytelling led him to create fan comics, write comic books professionally, and publish a comics newsletter and books about the craft. He also served as marketing director and programming director for Planet Comicon Kansas City, the region’s largest comic book and pop culture convention.

“It is the highlight of the social calendar for those who follow nerdy stuff,” Kirk says.

Before the Turtles

Reading comics as a child inspired Kirk to make them as a teenager. He and a friend in high school devised a character named Sharpshooter for fanzines, which are unofficial publications that fans create for their enjoyment.

“It just seemed like a natural thing to start your own,” Kirk says.

He tried to draw comics but quickly encountered people who were more talented.

“I found I was a stronger writer than an artist,” Kirk says.

In 1983, Kirk published “Plasma #1” that featured a cover by Peter Laird, who found great success after co-creating “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” a year later. 

“It was wonderful to see Peter get very wealthy from that,” says Kirk, noting that Laird sent him a copy of an early Turtles issue as a friendly gesture.

Kirk wrote articles for professional comic book fan magazines as a freelancer. He also wrote some comic books professionally in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including nine issues of “Dai Kamikaze!” (Now Comics) and four issues of “Velvet” (Malibu Graphics). 

In addition, Kirk published “Comics Career Newsletter,” which ran for 28 issues from 1987 to 1993. The magazine featured articles about how to become a professional comic book creator. Distributed nationally to comic book shops, the publication also included Kirk’s interviews with top comic writers, artists, and editors. 

Meanwhile, Kirk did advertising work in Columbia, Missouri, as his “day job.”

“It was definitely a side job,” he says of his comics pursuits.

Driving with R2-D2 

After living in Sedalia, Missouri, for several years, Kirk and his family moved to the Kansas City area in 2007. That allowed Kirk to get involved with Planet Comicon, a newer comic book convention that then drew 5,000 to 7,000 attendees for a weekend in Overland Park, Kansas.

Kirk started assisting the convention as a volunteer and later helped with marketing. His duties included transporting guests from hotels to Q&A sessions. Kirk enjoyed driving for fan favorites such as Walter Koenig (Chekov on the original “Star Trek”) and 3-foot-8-inch Kenny Baker (R2-D2 in “Star Wars”). The latter rode in Kirk’s Chrysler Concorde after his short stature prevented him from joining other celebrities in a van.

“Being from England, he thought he was getting the limo treatment,” Kirk says. “I became his personal chauffeur for the weekend.”   

The convention accommodates a wide range of interests, including movies, television, anime, gaming, and wrestling. Patrons can get autographs or selfies with stars; purchase toys, comics, and related products; or participate in cosplay contests dressed as characters.

Viewing the artwork of local artists is one of BKD Senior Consultant Brittani Lugenbeel’s favorite activities when she attends.

“My best friend is an amateur cosplayer and the con is one of her favorite activities of the year. We have a blast checking out everyone’s cosplays and love that there is so much representation across different content at the con,” Brittani says.

So Big, So Fast

Event emcee Kirk Chritton (far right) watches as actor Lou Ferrigno (center) addresses attendees and reporters at the opening ceremonies of Planet Comicon Kansas City 2016.

Event emcee Kirk Chritton (far right) watches as actor Lou Ferrigno (center) addresses attendees and reporters at the opening ceremonies of Planet Comicon Kansas City 2016.

By 2013, Planet Comicon moved to Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City to accommodate growth of 20 to 30 percent each year, Kirk says. Attendance eventually reached 70,000 with 600 volunteers, filling the Kansas City Convention Center. The larger event attracted more and bigger celebrities, such as most of the “Star Trek: Next Generation” cast, Kirk says.

Constant expansion made advance planning a challenge for organizers. “It just got so big, so fast,” Kirk says. “We were like an army planning to fight the previous war.”  

Comic books surged in popularity as frequently released Marvel movies kept superheroes at the forefront of pop culture. 

“Shows like ‘Big Bang Theory’ that talked about going to comic book conventions helped us,” Kirk says. “The real challenge was riding that wave.”

Justice League Values

Kirk left his Comicon role in 2017 when his duties became too much to balance with his career. His convention experience helped him when he started marketing with BKD three years ago, although he says the firm’s events haven’t matched Comicon’s complexity.

The marketing manager says he’s never been happier than he has at BKD, noting that the firm’s disciplined culture reminds him of the superhero values of honor and fair play that pervaded his childhood.

“That’s something that could guide the Avengers or the Justice League,” Kirk says of BKD PRIDE values.

Though he’s no longer marketing Comicon, Kirk may return to the event’s artist alley to exhibit some of his books. With a focus on Marvel Comics from the 1960s through the 1980s, Kirk now purchases comic book issues that he wasn’t able to obtain as a boy—filling a literal hole in his collection and a figurative one from his childhood.

“It’s bringing me a lot of joy, and it’s been a great pastime during the pandemic,” he says.

Books About the Craft

Kirk published two books available on Amazon that focus on the craft of creating comics and managing a professional career.

Want to Go?

Planet Comicon Kansas City 

April 22–24, 2022
Bartle Hall Convention Center

planetcomicon.com

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