NOW A HALF-CENTURY OLD!
Forgotten how crazed a San Diego Comic-Con can be until this year (2019). An estimated 135,000 were registered to attend all or part of the four-day extravaganza.
A trip down memory lane for me and my son, Eric. We stopped going four or five years ago. In my mid-Thirties, I started attending when the Con was still held in the El Cortez Hotel, across downtown from the San Diego Convention Center, home of the Con since 2003.
First took Eric when he was nine. That’s 34 years ago. Eric is a few months short of 43. I’m now 70.
But Eric could not pass up a free one-day badge. Eric is a few months short of 43. Here’s what he posted on Facebook about his single day this year (2019):
“Just got back from Comic-Con. It’s been a few years and I wasn’t sure how I would feel, but going and getting the badge the day before, I could feel the excitement starting to come back. And today amidst the reality of wading through throngs of people and running from panel to panel, I feel like I reclaimed a part of myself.
I’m realizing more and more that life really is like they say, a continuous process of becoming yourself. All the layers of emotional protection slowly peel away as you come to accept all the parts of yourself. For years, and even still today, I’ve spent so much time trying to hide parts of myself that I was taught were embarrassing and should be grown out of.
The reality is I feel like my relationship to these things change over time, but they are still a major part of what made me who I am today. Not sure where I’m going with this, my brain is tired, but I think just reaffirming this was helpful. I feel like I shut a door on a source of happiness for no real reason. And hopefully I reopened a door to dream of the future, my future.”
Eric had asked me to accompany him to the Con at the San Diego Convention Center this past July 2019 weekend, I agreed. He was picking up a free one-day Comic-Con pass. A friend of his left it for him.
I tagged along to keep him company, and also curious about the 2019 scene. Per usual, most of the attendees were outfitted in super-hero clothing or related attire. Eric and I wore San Diego Padre T-shirts.
Throngs of attendees and curiosity-seekers, including yours truly, were virtually everywhere. In addition to the harborside convention center, there were many others inside and outside the neighboring Hilton Hotel.
Bottom line: I enjoyed my Con “visit.”
Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans — including the late Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf — banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Comic-Con started in March 1970, and known as San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon downtown at the U.S. Grant Hotel. The purpose of this single-day event—which included two special guests, Forrest J Ackerman and Mike Royer, and drew about 100 attendees. Over 300 attendees packed into the hotel’s basement for that groundbreaking event, which featured a dealers’ room, programs and panels, film screenings, and more: essentially, the model for every comic book convention to follow.
From the beginning, the founders of the show set out to include not only comic books also other aspects of the popular arts that they enjoyed and felt deserved wider recognition, including films and science fiction/fantasy literature. After one more name change (San Diego’s West Coast Comic Convention, in 1972), the show officially became the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in 1973 with the fourth annual event. In 1995, the nonprofit event changed its name to Comic-Con International: San Diego (CCI).
The show’s main home in the 1970s was the fondly remembered El Cortez Hotel in downtown San Diego. In 1979 Comic-Con moved to the Convention and Performing Arts Center (CPAC), and stayed there until 1991, when the new San Diego Convention Center opened. Comic-Con has been at home in that facility for over two decades.
With attendance topping 130,000 in recent years—in a convention center facility that has maxed out in space—the event has grown to include satellite locations, including local hotels and outdoor parks. Programming events, games, anime, the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, and the Eisner Awards all take place outside of the Convention Center, creating a campus-type feel for the convention in downtown San Diego.
Over the years, Comic-Con has become the focal point for the world of comics conventions. The event continues to offer the complete convention experience: a giant Exhibit Hall (topping over 460,000 square feet in its current incarnation); a massive programming schedule (close to 700 separate events in 2014), featuring comics and all aspects of the popular arts, including hands-on workshops and educational and academic programming such as the Comics Arts Conference; anime and film screenings (including a separate film festival); games; the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the “Oscars” of the comics industry; a Masquerade costume competition with prizes and trophies; an Autograph Area; an Art Show; and Portfolio Reviews, bringing together aspiring artists with major companies.
Comic-Con has presented literally thousands of special guests at its conventions over the years, bringing comics creators, science fiction and fantasy authors film and television directors, producers, and writers, and creators from all aspects of the popular arts together with their fans for a fun and often times candid discussion of various art forms. The event has seen an amazing array of comics and book publishers in its Exhibit Hall over the years. Over its four-and-a-half decade-plus history, Comic-Con International has continually presented comic books and comic art to a growing audience. That love of the comics medium continues to be its guiding factor as the event moves toward its second half-century as the premier comic book and popular arts style convention in the world.
Cartoonist/ illustrator Scott Shaw is a long-time presenter at the Con. Scott and I go way back to the late Sixties, when were classmates at Crawford High School in San Diego.
(on right): Scott Shaw. Former high school classmate and regular at Comic-Con.
Recently, Balboa Park became home to the Comic-Con’s permanent exhibit in a Balboa Park museum. Here’s what the Orange County Register newspaper had to say…
The SAN DIEGO COMIC CONVENTION (Comic-Con International) is a California Non-profit Public Benefit Corporation organized for charitable purposes and dedicated to creating the general public’s awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms, including participation in and support of public presentations, conventions, exhibits, museums and other public outreach activities which celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.
historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.
Scott Shaw of Crawford High School, etc.