Farewell Suspect Press

-Amanda E.K., Suspect Press editor-in-chief

I was working as an assistant preschool teacher when I approached the Suspect Press table at the inaugural DiNK in spring 2016. I’d discovered the magazine a year prior at the Issue #6 release party at Mutiny Info Cafe and had been trying to get published in the mag ever since. I’d never seen anything like it, and when I learned that one of the editors was also a former evangelical from Iowa, I was determined to get involved. I was shy, self-conscious and shaking when I asked Josiah Hesse and Kaela Martin if they could use a volunteer for the summer. I was looking to get connected to the literary community in Denver, and was tired of letting my anxiety hold me back from my dreams. It turned out Suspect Press was in a transitional phase and were eager to have some help.

I started small—counting inventory, creating spreadsheets and setting up a basic website—followed by helping with events and distribution, and attending editorial meetings in the office above City, O’ City (I remember a pet tortoise nipping at my toes during my first meeting). By then I’d lived in Denver for four years, but I barely knew the city. I was intimidated by it, having only lived in small towns previously. I was new to understanding the world and how to fit into it, and I was still under the impression I wasn’t supposed to be “of the world,” though by that point I’d left the religion that had instilled that belief in me. 

I wasn’t used to being sociable or fitting in with any particular crowd, when all of a sudden I found myself in what I deemed the coolest community in Denver. I looked up to the SP team like they were the Beats incarnate (the writers who influenced my exit out of Iowa) and I hardly knew what to say when asked my opinion about what to publish in the magazine. It didn’t feel like my place. I didn’t know the people they knew. I didn’t know the city they represented. I was just some quiet girl, easy to overlook, who was yet to learn how to use her voice.

When the following school year started, I continued to show up to the SP office every Friday afternoon, earning the title of Assistant Editor in Issue #11. My knees went weak when I saw my name printed in the masthead. I felt I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t cool enough. Experienced enough. But I loved the work and the people I got to work with and I eventually earned my way up to Managing Editor, then Fiction Editor, until October 2017 when I purchased the company with Josiah from Dan Landes and took over as editor-in-chief. I’d just left my reliable teaching position to put all of my energies into the magazine and help build a book publishing branch, risking my financial security. I doubt I would’ve had the courage to do so if it weren’t for Dan and Josiah believing in me and inspiring me on the path.

 I grew up in the Church hearing that women shouldn’t have a say over men. It was uncomfortable at first, directing Josiah and Lonnie (and then Brice, Jack, Shimma and Padideh). Who was I to tell them what to do and when to get it done? But these guys weren’t just colleagues—they’d become two of the best friends I’ve ever known. They were kind and patient, encouraging me to make the final call about cover art, or a story for an upcoming issue. My confidence grew, along with my skill and drive, as the space I had in which to strengthen my voice expanded.

I started trusting my own opinions about art and literature and how to best communicate with the people I interacted with: the local business owners, events coordinators, contributors and other publishers. I learned that I didn’t have to look at my feet when face-to-face with someone in an authoritative position, or simply a position that I deemed more important than mine. I started meeting people’s eyes, initiating meetings, expanding my social world, and collaborating on multiple projects. I started trusting that I knew what I wanted and it was okay to ask for the things I needed to get them. I’d never pictured myself going into business. I graduated college with an impractical English degree and no career goals other than the vague “I want to be a writer.” I think that most of us, as young adults, have some idea of what we’d like to do with our lives, but life surprises us with opportunities we can’t imagine until they happen. As someone who’s always hated working with numbers, I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d one day be my own business accountant or tax preparer. I still dread these tasks, but the fact that I taught myself to do them in order to be my own boss is something I’ll never regret.

Not only has my time with Suspect Press taught me that I’m capable of much more than I ever dreamed possible, it has been my catalyst for making nearly all of the friends I have today. Suspect has also been my catalyst for coming out queer, for teaching my weekly writing class, and for writing my memoir about growing up in evangelical purity culture—a project that allowed me to acknowledge that I have a story worth sharing. Telling our stories is what gives others the confidence to tell theirs, and when we share our stories, we grow in empathy, awareness, and understanding. That is the power of community, art and literature.

These past four years, I’ve viewed Suspect Press as something like my child. I’ve nurtured it, had fun with it, watched it grow, and learned countless lessons from this business. My heart breaks to let it go. I wouldn’t be the self-loving, self-confident person I am today if not for this beautiful DIY subversive weirdo creative community. Thank you all for supporting our magazine, books and events. You’ve made an unbelievable difference in my life, even if we’ve never met. Thank you for hearing my voice and for trusting the authenticity of the content we curate for you. 

From here, I’ll be moving on with the gumption to do anything I set my mind to. I have a book to publish. I have a screenplay to produce. My ambition knows no end.

My advice to anyone looking to achieve their dreams: Keep showing up.

Amanda is the editor-in-chief of Suspect Press, a writing instructor and a longstanding member of the Knife Brothers writing group. Her work has been featured on the Low Orbit podcast and on Mortified Live. She has stories in Suspect Press, Birdy, Jersey Devil Press, the Punch Drunk Press Poetry anthology, and Green Briar Review. She’s currently pitching a memoir about her sexual development while growing up in evangelical purity culture, and she’s working on projects for film and TV. Follow her on instagram @amanda.ek.writer

Shimma Ali, Suspect Press intern and contributing writer

Not too long ago I found myself staring do

wn a deep and dark pit. Looking below I could see nothing and I knew not how far I would have to dive or whether or not I was ready. This pit symbolized my future and

my feelings of being unsure about whether or not publishing was an achievable dream. 

I found myself sending emails and scanning websites for publishing companies all over Colorado, as I scattered to quickly gain any type of experience that would help me get a grasp of what lay before me. 

I remember sending an email to Amanda, not knowing who or what she was like and formally asking her if she would be interested in offering me a chance. Luckily, she accepted, and soon I found myself part of the Suspect Press team. 

Alongside everyone, I learned more about what it was like to work for a publishing company, I learned more about Denver and its people, I learned more about having confidence in doing what you love, and ultimately I learned that publishing the work of passionate and creative artists was what I wanted to do. 

It hurts my heart to hear that Suspect Press will be coming to an end and I hope and pray to the universe that in time the magazine will be reborn. 

Being able to be a part of the team was an amazing experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’ve been able to meet a handful of awesome individuals because of the magazine and work alongside some great leaders. My future seems a little more clear now, and because of my internship with Suspect Press I’ve been able to leap off that cliff and dive right down into the darkness below.

–Forever grateful for the opportunity, 
Your intern Shimma

Shimma Ali is a college student from Aurora just trying to get by. She writes poetry and short stories at night to keep her sane for when she must venture out during the day. One day she hopes to end up in publishing so that she can get paid to read for a living. This summer she was let into the Suspect Press lair as an intern and went on one hell of a journey. Find her on Instagram @shiimma_ to read some of her work.

–Jack Orleans, Suspect Press volunteer and contributing writer

I still have the first issue I ever picked up from Roostercat: Issue 13. I instantly fell in love with the cover, which looked like a personification of the gritty Denver that I love and miss. 

While looking for the next issue, I met Amanda at DiNK 2017. What she didn’t know then was how much I’d already come to idolize her as one of my personal heroes for having a hand in the up-and-coming indie arts world of Denver, and for being editor-and-chief of one of its most prominent starchildren. 

I started doing magazine distro for the team. I loved walking through Denver, to all of my favorite and yet-to-be favorite places with a purpose. It gave me an appreciation of the hard work that goes into making something look like it just popped up one day by magic. And magic it was.

Eventually, all of that splendour culminated in Josiah’s book release. I couldn’t have pictured any better way to spend what was my last day in Denver. I then had a short story published in the magazine, and seeing strangers dig into it from a distance gave me a sense of pride. 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that anything that I like about myself, and any iota of confidence that I have, has in one way or another been polished, shaped, and disciplined by the beautiful people at Suspect Press. What hurts the most about losing the magazine is all the lives that it will no longer be able to touch. I grieve for Denver that one of its lights has gone out for now, but I maintain hope of its ripple, and for another incarnation of it in the future. Thank you Josiah, Amanda, and Lonnie. You are treasures more than you could ever know.

Jack can’t seem to fall asleep. He takes the bus late to have coffee. While taking the bus, he’s happy until someone fucks up on the bus. After, he’s happy but with caveats. He knows that he’d be awake regardless of having had coffee. He prefers to be awake and alert over awake and tired. He just doesn’t know what he wants, but it better involve lots of undeserved perks or skymiles.

-Addison Herron-Wheeler, editor at OUT FRONT Colorado

Suspect Press is more than publishing. I know it’s a cliche, and it sounds like a bad advertising campaign. But it’s very true, and here’s why. 

A few years ago, I was completely miserable, working at a local energy company that made me feel like I was getting further away from my dreams every day. I was either going through the motions at work or earning extra money and drowning my sorrows in nightlife. From that period of my life, when I was able to dig myself out of it, “Respirator,” the story and eventually the book, was born. 

For a while, the story went unpublished. No one else seemed to be getting on board with its darker imagery, but after meeting Josiah Hesse and chatting with him briefly about his Carnality book series, I sent it over to Suspect Press, figuring it might be a fit. 

That decision changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. Getting that story published marked the difference between me publishing stories here and there, and being confident as a fiction writer. Suspect Press published the story and had me read it at a Halloween event, which I did, despite my stage fright. 

The collaboration didn’t end there. After realizing Suspect was queer-run, I decided a partnership with my day job at OUT FRONT was in order, and through profiling Amanda E.K. and Josiah, I got to know them both. 

I don’t make friends easily or intentionally, so when I say Amanda and I became good friends, that’s huge. After an interview with Amanda, Josiah, and Lonnie Allen, Amanda asked if I had time to grab a coffee to discuss some pitch ideas she had for OUT FRONT. That turned into an hour-long conversation about polyamory and non-monogamy and a much deeper connection than I expected. 

From then on, my love for Suspect Press and Amanda only grew. I encouraged Amanda to teach a writing class, which has since given me so much guidance and confidence. Now her class is a local staple, and I also rely on her for personal coaching and editing. Because of her, I had the confidence to keep writing and sending out fiction. 

Lonnie has also been a huge source of support. After first glimpsing his illustration for the short story version of “Respirator,” I knew I wanted the art on t-shirts and a book cover, and now it is. And chats and collaborations with Lonnie revealed that we have a similar vision for sci-fi, for fiction, and for the future. I couldn’t imagine moving forward on creative projects with another illustrator, and he’s even the reason I discovered Spaceboy, my book publisher. 

In short, Suspect Press does more than just publish stories that are subversive and socially important. They provide a valuable community resource. Regardless of what happens in their next chapter, I know the company and the people behind it will remain a valuable resource. I can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Addison Herron-Wheeler is editor of OUT FRONT, web editor of New Noise, and author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now. Her short story collection, Respirator, is now available from Spaceboy Books.

–Rebecca Hannigan, Suspect Press volunteer and contributing writer

When I first heard someone cite certain coffee shops or bars or public spaces as their proverbial “third place” (first being home and second being workspace), I thought back to some spots that I’ve identified as such a space for me. One Denver-space that immediately comes to mind is the Suspect Press office, a warmly-outfitted, sage-smelling room with desks and a swallow-you-whole leather couch, as well as racks and stacks of archived issues. I looked forward to Friday afternoons, when I’d come to assist Amanda and Josiah with whatever tasks needed assistance. We’d work and chat and laugh, going down to City O for pizza or beer while working or after, enjoying the easy transition – just a flight of steps – to enter the socially-buzzing, veggie-heavy place full of happy people. I remember walking from the office to Deer Pile right down the hallway, carrying votive candles and tapestries and whatever miscellaneous decorations for the lit and music events held in that large, cozy room. Although Deer Pile is no longer Deer Pile, and the SP office is no longer the SP office, I’ll remember them as such, and I’ll still think of them every time I walk into or past City O.

Rebecca Hannigan is a staff reviewer for Into the Void and junior editor for F(r)iction. Her work is forthcoming in Juked, and can be found in Stain’d, wigleaf, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and elsewhere. For further reading, go to rebeccahannigan.wordpress.com.

Josiah Hesse, long-time Suspect Press senior editor

Mike Birbiglia once said, “I think that if it weren’t for denial, I wouldn’t be a comedian. Because to be a comedian you have to go on stage those first few years and bomb—and then walk off stage and think: That went great! Because otherwise you’d never get on stage the next night.” 

Looking back at the early years of Suspect Press, I’m not sure we were in denial so much as delusional, but the sentiment still applies. Had we known about the mental fatigue of accounting and business plans, the self-loathing misery of cold-calling potential advertisers, the social anxiety of networking, the existential panic of realizing how many people depend on this thing you created to pay their rent . . . well, I can’t speak for everyone on the team, but I sure as shit would’ve abandoned the whole thing and gone to law school or something. 

But I’m glad I didn’t. 

From the day it was founded by Ken Arkind, Brian Polk and Dan Landes (when I was just a sassy contributor), to the day I took it over as editor-in-chief and owner, to when Amanda EK became my business partner and editor of the magazine, I always thought of Suspect Press as a kind of weirdo playground. We all had day-jobs—some lucky enough to work in a creative field, but not always on their own projects—and Suspect Press was the place we could stretch our creative legs, drifting into a flow-state of humor, curiosity and mischief.  

Before Suspect Press, I’d been working as a freelance journalist from my bedroom office, sometimes going weeks without making eye-contact with another human. When my three drinking buddies from City, O’ City (who also happen to be very fine writers) said they were launching a newsprint zine funded by the restaurant, I jumped at the chance to get out of the house and join a team. 

I never wanted to lead that team, so when the baton was slapped in my hand I was forced to grow up fast. A lifetime of entry-level jobs had not prepared me for such responsibility, but it gave me the opportunity to live out my DIY mogul fantasies, attempting to emulate the success stories of scrappy record labels like Sub-Pop, Rough Trade and Factory Records. (I suppose McSweeney’s would be a more appropriate analogy, and while Dave Eggers’ hipster-lit empire was a source of inspiration for us, I ultimately had a more lowbrow, working class sensibility than that art-school memoirist.)

It also gave me the privilege of curating a magazine with my favorite Denver poets, photographers, cartoonists, essayists and short story writers. Sofie Birkin’s lesbian-twee illustrations never failed to light up my tender heart, and choosing our favorite one-liner jokes from comedian Zach Reinert for the series “Misanthropic Musings” was something we always saved for closing the issue—the treat we rewarded ourselves with after weeks of hard work. 

Collaborating with death-metal cartoonist Jake Fairly on infographics about Charles Manson’s White Album/Book of Revelation prophecy, or the Jason Vorhees autopsy (cataloguing every Friday The 13th injury throughout the series), tickled my boyish penchant for cartoonish horror. Just as sponsoring the events of local dark-magic drag queen Noveli—whose queer-punk dance party, God Save The Queens, and occult drag show, Koven, offered some of the most aggressively sociopathic art in town—comforted the evangelical closet-case still living inside of me. 

Sitting here now, typing these words, I find myself choked up thinking of how many Denver small business owners believed in this project enough to fork over what little marketing dollars they had to advertise in our goofy vanity project. We honestly couldn’t have pulled off half of what we did without the support from Mutiny Information Cafe—a sentiment echoed by countless bands, writers, magicians, stand up comics and cartoonists in this city, I’m sure. 

The same could be said for SP co-founder Dan Landes, who funneled a tremendous amount of cash from his restaurants into countless arts programs around the city. He was not only a source of great emotional comfort when the pressures of running a business were driving us all to the brink, but also a kind of social safety net for Suspect (and many more) when any of our projects needed a little fiscal boost.  

Mammoth Tattoo have bought a full page ad in every fucking issue of this magazine from the start, keeping the bottom from falling out on more than one occasion. Tattered Cover took on a lot of risk in allowing the 56-piece art-rock marching band, Itchy-O, to perform at midnight at the release party for our book, Carnality 2 (fueled, like every SP event, by free beer from Ratio Brewing).  

Things only got weirder when Meow Wolf gave us $125,000 for no obvious reason. To get into the surreal details of that adventure might possibly rouse some litigious sleeping giant—we all signed NDAs with “non disparagement” clauses before receiving the cash—though I will say two things: 1.) There were a tremendous amount of talented, sincere, admirable human beings working on amazing projects within that company (both in business and art), and 2.) I don’t believe there is any way to operate a business at the billion dollar level without compromising a majority of the creative, social and ecological ideals that any conscious artist is endowed with. 

I am seriously going to miss arguing with Lonnie Allen every day. 

There are so few humans that can debate any side of any issue—from K-pop to Texas culture—yet are also such genuinely enjoyable people, but Lonnie Allen walks that line. Our in-house graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, comics editor and vaporwave enthusiast, Lonnie was the aesthetic engine behind our company. If you have an image in your head when you hear the words Suspect Press, it’s likely something Lonnie dreamed up. 

Amanda EK’s transformation from a shy, mousy, fiction writer humbly requesting an internship at barely an audible level, to the commanding, power-queer, I-know-who-I-am-and-what-I-want businesswoman we all know and love today, is nothing I can take credit for. There was a short period of months where I thought of her as my protégé, but it wasn’t long before her energy, enthusiasm and undeniable talent for art and business made it clear she should be running this shit. Most gifted people only excel in areas of the left or right brain regions—the logical, mathematical side, or the intuitive, creative side. Rare is the mind that can juggle both, and Amanda is that unicorn. 

I’m so grateful to have a front-row seat to her transformation, and am excited to see what her rabid heart unleashes on this world in the years to come.  

While I don’t have any regrets (mistakes were made, to be sure, but a lot of valuable lessons were also gleaned from them) I do have plenty to be sad about. I’m sad that I didn’t have the emotional endurance to show up for this thing when it needed me most. I’m sad that so many people are losing their artistic home (not to mention the pride that comes with making money from your art). I’m sad to lose the office above City, O’ City, where long work hours fueled by coffee and weed and scored by endless Of Montreal and Belle & Sebastian songs would fizzle into nights of dark humor and esoteric trivia. 

I’m also a bit embarrassed. 

Having recently scored a big advance from an NYC publisher, while simultaneously watching the DIY business I believed in so deeply slowly die, I’m reminded of the years I spent spewing my idealistic rants to anyone within earshot about the virtues of underground economics and the compromising poison of big business, only to find myself leaping into the warm, powdered arms of the bourgeoisie when it all became too much. This must be what evangelist Ted Haggard felt like when he was caught with a male prostitute and a bag of meth. 

I guess I’m just too tired to be idealistic anymore. 

So here I go, off into the sunset with my jingling bags of money, off to write a book about cannabis athletics, off to a sedated, temperature-controlled life of security and insincere flattery. The punk rock angels have flown away from Denver, and all that’s left are the developers, bloodthirsty police, and a lot of cold hard cash. 

Oh god, someone please build us a new playground.

Author of psychological horror novel Carnality: Dancing on Red Lake, and regular contributor to VICE and The Guardian, Hesse aims to blend journalism and the arts within the pages of Suspect Press, making it both a reflection of our time and an innovative force of creativity. He’s recently released the second book in his series, Carnality: Sebastian Phoenix and the Dark Star, available at several Denver booksellers and on the Suspect Press website. Contact: josiah@suspectpress.comjosiahhesse.com & @JosiahMHess

ElizaBeth Whittington, Suspect Press contributor/poet

The first time I picked up a copy of Suspect Press, I was hooked. Beautiful art from local artists, poetry from authors I’d been fan-boying since my teenage years, witty comic strips and salacious articles and photos, not to mention advertisements from local businesses I respected and patronized instead of page after page of marijuana porn (Ahem, Birdy, Westword). I submitted my first poems to them that month, and had my poem, “Treat Me Like You Treat the Earth,” become the first poem I ever got published, a poem, I thought, that was too edgy for almost any other publisher. One year later, the first publisher I sent my first poetry manuscript to was Suspect Press, and instead of sending out a polite and generic rejection email, as I’d been taught to expect, Josiah and Amanda called me personally to tell me they were excited and proud to publish my work. Denver’s literary community will have a huge hole in it with the absence of Suspect Press, but knowing Denver’s art scene, folks will be filling in the gaps.

Eliza is a poet, parent, painter, carpenter, singer/songwriter, queerdo and preacher to choirs. They like to hike, garden, and scream with the punk band Black Market Translation. Their new book, Treat Me Like You Treat the Earth, is available through Suspect Press. You can find more of their work and contact them at ElizatheBeth.com.

Nicole Hagg, Suspect Press contributor

“Write for me!” Dan gave me a chance. Issue No. 1. It was my first published piece and Razorcake even took notice. Who knew we were killing it in L.A. I had great mentors in Dan, Brian, Ken, and Josiah. It was a raw, anything-goes space. When we transfuse the suspicion with our real stories, on the other side is freedom.

Ms. Hagg’s work is published in Suspect Press, Elephant Journal and Rebelle Society. Her essay work was chosen for the national production “Listen To Your Mother,” and featured in “The Forum Stories, Process.” Speaking engagements include The Mizel Theater, McNichols Building, and Civic Center Park in Denver, as well as Justice Snow’s Salon in Aspen, Colorado. You can find out more at nicolebhagg.com

–Cori Redford, Suspect Press contributor

Suspect Press for me has been a great way to see work from new artists, or at least artists new to me. I’ve been honored by the opportunity to share my art in these pages. Once someone approached me and said that when he went to a friend’s house for the first time, he saw one of my comics from Suspect Press on the fridge. That shared experience cemented their friendship. I was so flattered, and grateful that Suspect was the catalyst for that friendship. I’ve loved seeing the diversity of work, and hearing the voices of Colorado artists. I hope that Suspect continues to be a conduit for fresh voices. 

Cori Redford was born several years ago, and still has not lost her faith in humanity. She still thinks dick jokes are funny, and dresses like a toddler. You can probably find stuff she’s done all over the internet with a quick search, and maybe you’ll want to buy one of her t-shirts or zines. She hangs out with a bunch of groovy art kids, who battle with drawings instead of guns or dance like regular gangs. She is cool. You can find her strip at the Colorado Sun, or follow her on Facebook.

–Ken Arkind, Suspect Press founding poetry editor

I am late writing this. If there is one thing I can say about my time as the poetry editor at Suspect Press, and any involvement afterwards, it is that I was often late. My thanks and love to Brian for his understanding during those early years and then again to Amanda, Josiah, Brice, and Lonnie for their patience. 

I am leaving Dan off that list because he once fired me for being late and I deserved it. I tell this story a lot because I think it’s funny but I am sure it annoys him. Truth is, it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was my last real day job and losing it forced me to become a full time poet. So actually, thanks Dan.

There are countless artists in Denver that were once employed by Dan Landes. For me it was as a prep cook at City O. In 2008 we had a party to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the place. Dan gave a passionate speech. After all, he knows how to write. Plus he owned the place so no one got uncomfortable when he climbed onto the bar top and started drunkenly waving his arms around. 

The kitchen manager Pablo gave a speech that really stuck with me. He wasn’t a great speech giver and didn’t have much to convey really. He simply said, “We are in the business of making people happy. And there is nothing more noble than that. Cheers.”

Beyond any aesthetic or notion of grandeur, the truth is that feeding others, in any form, is the most noble of things. I think for some of us art and the service industry are intrinsically linked in that way. Not just because so many artists have had to work in restaurants, venues, and bars, but because those same spaces go on to house artists as they grow, and come of age within their communities. Art feeds us. What a gift it is to create something that a person can experience and then feel less alone or empowered because of it. 

The original business model of Suspect Press was inherently about that link between service and art. A tiny raft drifting to different ports of call across the Metro area. Each business a unique island where misfits gathered and Suspect Press felt like a familiar lighthouse you could recognise at each one. 

Art is about reciprocity. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you are reading this, and you are sad to see the magazine go, then get dinner at the Mercury Cafe. Or donate some money to their fundraiser. And when I say Mercury Cafe what I mean is the Mercury Cafe OR any of the local businesses that used to carry the magazine, and even those that didn’t. I think that’s a pretty simple way to keep Suspect Press going. 

Feed the World. By poem or plate.
Either way, good job team.

Ken Arkind is an American National Poetry Slam Champion, Tedx Speaker and published author who has performed his work in 49 States, 6 countries and at over 200 colleges and universities. He is the founding Program Director of Denver Minor Disturbance, an independent literary arts organization dedicated to helping Colorado youth find voice through the mediums of poetry and performance. Ken is the author of Denver, and Coyotes.

–Brice Maiurro, Suspect Press poetry editor

Suspect Press is Colfax Speed Queen if Colfax Speed Queen was a magazine. If Bar Bar went to English class. Suspect Press to me is Ken Arkind reading “Denver” in Deer Pile (which was secretly a sauna) while the band has technical issues. Suspect Press to me is Charly Fasano’s baritone voice reading about bowling alleys and prostitutes. Suspect Press is Suzi Q. Smith reminding you what Park Hill was, in the words of Gertrude Stein, when there was a there there. Suspect Press is Christie Buchele in a pagan headdress surrounded by the laughter of a family that is more like a community. Suspect Press to me is Josiah Hesse smoking a cigarette in a pile of vinyl records. Suspect Press is a queer fist inside of a city that I so badly want to always be a queer fist. Suspect Press is the magazine I’d open to see my friends’ comics next to my heroes’ poems. Suspect Press is like Christmas without the Jesus every time I wandered into Mutiny for a CBD kombucha only to find the newest issue shining there like a new tattoo. First you read Westword to find the deal on “medicinal” marijuana and then you read Suspect Press after you pick up the “medicinal” marijuana. Suspect Press is Amanda EK reading her letters to the lord in lingerie on a Tuesday evening. Suspect Press is Eli Whittington seducing Buddha in the back of a bookstore. Suspect Press is some artsy androgynous portrait of a human with blood dripping down from the eyes. Suspect Press is an intimate conversation with someone who secretly has the same kink as you. Suspect Press is a Molotov cocktail thrown through the window of a cop bar. Suspect Press is Lonnie Allen’s anatomically correct drawing of Ken’s poetically correct heart. Suspect Press is a family that doesn’t wait for the holidays to love each other. Suspect Press is your non-binary punk parent who packs you a vegan lunch for the concert and reminds you to pick kids up if they fall down in the pit. Suspect Press is the shiniest dildo in the window of the Pleasures next door to Kitty’s Video Arcade just North of Alameda on South Broadway. Suspect Press is Paul Bindel’s perfect mustache telling you how to survive as an artist. Suspect Press is the survivor and those who aren’t so lucky. Suspect Press is Nico Wilkinson’s poem in which the word “fingernails” is replaced by “gender.” Suspect Press is a poem in which the word struggle is replaced by love. Suspect Press is Molina speaking, Erica reframing, Cliff genuflecting, Jane flowercursing, Eric grieving, Liza worshiping, Megan lamenting, Lucifury honoring, Tolu teaching, and so many of us congregating at an altar built for everyone to speak truth to power in this magazine published on delicate paper that you probably read when you were two Happy Meals in at Nob Hill, or maybe preparing to sage up at Herbs and Arts, or maybe on the night stand of that shitty one night stand who smoked menthols and talked too much about The Smiths. I am beyond honored to have had the chance to serve as an editor for this magazine which raised me out of so much of the thick muck of white colonizer heteronormative patriarchal capitalist body-negative sex-negative bullshit that I was born into. Every stitch of its ink is forever tattooed onto my tender Denver boy heart.

Brice Maiurro is a poet. For several years now, he has been an active member of the Denver and Boulder literary community as a writer, performer, organizer, publisher, editor and activist. His poetry has been featured by The Denver Post, Birdy Magazine and is forthcoming to Stain’d Magazine online. His first collection of poetry, Stupid Flowers, was released in 2017. He likes to drink the CBD kombucha at Mutiny Information Cafe. He has a growing collection of Hawaiian shirts.

–Lonnie MF Allen, Suspect Press Art Director

When I saw Suspect Press on a magazine rack six years ago, I wanted to be in it. I wanted that badly. Brian Polk ran things in those days, and I submitted several times, but never got a response. Now, I’m not throwing shade on Brian, especially as I now know what it’s like being on the other side of the magazine: how difficult it can be to decide what to put in each issue with limited resources. However, I plotted in those days through Ken Arkind, whom I knew. He and I discussed collaborating on a piece of his that would run in an issue of Suspect Press. Finally, I thought, but the piece ended up being too painful for him to want to publish when all was said and done. Seeing it illustrated was a little too concrete for him. So, I still wasn’t going to be in Suspect Press. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but that piece got in front of the eyes of Josiah Hesse and he pushed hard to publish it. Then there it was…I was published in Suspect Press. 

Josiah wanted more comics from me after that, I proffered that I could also illustrate prose pieces if they wanted. From there, my involvement with Suspect Press accelerated pretty quickly. Amanda E.K. and Josiah soon afterwards wanted me to be the comics editor which I was more than happy to oblige. When I was there for my first meeting with Josiah, Amanda, and Dan Landes they began to discuss issues with design. I mentioned that I was a professional freelance designer, and that was added to my many hats for Suspect Press and I loved it. As things went on, I never did less for Suspect, only more.

At times it was difficult. The pay was crap and there were several changes during my years with Suspect. I fought with the others over editorial decisions and who and what to include. We are all so opinionated and passionate about art and writing. My biggest victory during this time was convincing the team to go with a new printer. I so badly wanted to get past our fights about the printing quality as I found it unnecessary compared to the ones that mattered about the content of the magazine.

Like any relationship, it takes time to understand the others involved. Which is what happened with the Suspect Press team. And they got to know and trust me which was pretty cool. Through them I posted about my anger at Stan Lee and Quentin Taratino, and released a very personal eulogy of my dear friend. After a bit, we could sense what the other needed and often filled in the gaps. After a time, Suspect Press became my favorite job ever. How could it not be? The pay was still pretty low, but I was making art all the time for it and building the magazine.

We’ve had many great people throughout my time at Suspect Press, too many to list, that contributed pieces, helped logistically, and often both. Those people did nothing but enrich my life. Especially Josiah and Amanda whom I worked most closely with at Suspect Press. Josiah and I argued about a lot of things, but Josiah always took big swings and when they paid off, they paid off. He nearly single-handedly created Suspect Press’s partnership with Meow Wolf. He ramped up the book publishing of Suspect, and threw one hell of a release party with Itchy-O. He continues to take big swings. He’s working on a book that he secured with a big New York publisher. But that also meant he had to step away from things at Suspect.

When Josiah left, it was: Amanda, Brice, Padideh and myself remaining. Brice had so many other projects that his focus was narrow and Padideh was new to us. Josiah had been the driver for so much of Suspect Press when he was with us, but Amanda continually did the heavy lifting. Then the whirlwind of change swept up everything. Covid-19 affected our advertisers including: Meow Wolf, Mammoth Tattoo, The Oriental Theater, Sexy Pizza, Benny Blancos, Iris Piercing, DAM, and numerous others. We’d always had a more personal relationship with our sponsors than just a “thank you for the check.” We collaborated with some, had drinks with others, and sometimes both. Their inability to support Suspect Press definitely caused delays in publishing, along with doing more with less, Suspect Press became a herculean task to run. Amanda also became increasingly busier with projects for television, a memoir, and plans for another business (on top of her writing class and Suspect Press)!

I asked if she’d be willing to hand over the keys to me even if I wasn’t sure I wanted that at the time. I did a lot of thinking over the next few weeks on whether I wanted to take over Suspect Press, and finally, I decided I definitely did. There were so many things that I wanted Suspect to be when we were all together and when this iteration of it closes, I’ll have that chance. I’m sure some of it will succeed and some of it not so much. But I’m a nostalgic kind of fellow, and I can’t shelve the thing that has brought me so much joy and feeling of accomplishment. I will miss working with Amanda tremendously. We were a damn good team. 

But I remind myself it’s not like Josiah and Amanda are dead. They’ll still be my friends, just not my co-workers and that’ll be a damn shame, but the show must go on. 

Lonnie MF Allen made his start in comics in the ’90s DIY zine culture. Since then, his work has appeared in The WestwordBirdy, and Out Front magazine. He has done comic book writing for Image Comics, and was named one of Westword’s “100 Colorado Creatives.” He has won a DiNKy award for the best Colorado Comic, and was called one of the best cartoonists around by the Denver Post. He’s illustrated for the Colorado Sun and both illustrates and art directs for Suspect Press. His latest project, Chrome Seoul is a Korean cyberpunk comic book series.

Liked it? Take a second to support Suspect Press on Patreon!