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Comic-Con Origins: How kids from San Diego sparked the event

Original Comic Con committee members
Mike Towry and Richard Alf
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Posted at 4:23 PM, Jul 20, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Comic-Con is quintessential San Diego, but to understand just how strong of a connection the event has to America's Finest City, we have to go back to 1969, when a group of kids craved a community of fellow comic book fans.

"Barry was 12 years old, Richard is in his early teens as well. These are some of the only people who are really into comic books publicly [at the time] and are selling them, talking about them," said Mathew Klickstein, the author of "See you at San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture."

Klickstein explains Barry actually took out an ad in a paper looking for people to sell and exchange comics with.

That's how they met Sheldon Dorf, who had moved from Detroit and came up with an idea after working at a fan convention in his home city. Fan convention is the best way to describe it, because really "The Triple Fan Fair" was about everything from comics, to old movies, animation, and other elements of what Klickstein calls "geek culture."

That combination became the foundation of Comic-Con.

"It was always very important for them to bring in all these different sort of niche fandoms, who would come together and meet and congregate for what was truly a convention of all of these different people," Klickstein said. "And that's what these kids in San Diego, some as young as 12 years old, really wanted to create and really wanted to do, and of course at the time had no idea what it would turn into 50 years later"

Before fans packed the Convention Center and downtown, they met at Ken Krueger's bookstore in Ocean Beach. That's where the Comic-Con Committee was formed. They brought the first Con to the U.S. Grant Hotel's basement, And they called it "Golden State Comic-Minicon."

"You really have the 'Jaws' element that 'We're going to need a bigger boat.' You can see that in the story of, you know, the urban myth of Comic-Con starting in a basement, which it more or less did, and it went from a little hotel basement, to one year they were at UCSD, they were literally on campus, and even that was a little too crazy," Klickstein said.

Crazy because they kept growing, and still do. From just a few hundred in 1970, to the 135,000 we saw in 2022.

It's important to note these are just some of the names of those early Comic-Con committee members. San Diego State has the Comic-Con Kids Archives online, with interviews from each one.

Here's a list of more of the founding members, whose interviews you can watch via the link above:

  • Richard Alf
  • Barry Alfonso
  • Wendy All
  • Greg Bear
  • Jackie Estrada
  • Mark Evanier
  • Roger Freedman
  • Igor Gouldkind
  • Jeanne & Chuck Graham
  • Peter Jones
  • Gary Pagel
  • Scott Shaw!
  • Mike Towry
  • Jim Valentino
  • Philip Yeh

You can follow this link to find Klickstein's book.