Okay, it’s officially a monster. 40 years ago, a bunch of kids decided to start up a comic book convention. This was back in the days when such things were given no respect by anybody, even the people who were in the industry. San Diego was too far away from LA do drive for such a thing, and if you remember back then, which you probably don’t, animation was at it’s nadir, literally dying.
The first REAL convention was in 1970, the Golden State Comic-Con at the U.S. Grant Hotel, which has since been renovated. 300 people showed up, which is normal for that kind of thing. After all, comics were for kids and if you went to one of those thing you were considered weird. But the artform was changing. only two years before the first preliminary meetings, the historic Zap #1 came out, bringing forth a revolution.
During the 1970s, it moved from one hotel to another, and was no bigger or better then any of the other confabs of it’s kind. The BIG one was in New York, Phil Seuling’s Comic Art Convention, where he REAL comic artists would go and hang out. It was there I learned the fine art of gate-crashing, but that’s another story.
Seuling died in 1984, and while they tried to replace it in NYC, other venues around the country began picking up the slack. Foremost was San Diego’s.
The LA crowd was beginning to go, and the hotels, which in most parts of the country would treat the conventioneers with total distain, actually were pretty nice. Hollywood would send some people publicize their films, and soon what was a medium sized comic con was COMIC CON, and as the ‘90s progressed THE COMIC CON. People began to complain that there was more movie stuff than comic stuff. That wasn’t true, at least not the times I was there.
I first went there to promote a book back in 1992, They had what was called a “pro-con” for a couple of days, a trade show for the independent comics industry. I stayed at a dive in the pre-trendy Gaslamp district that no longer exists but only cost ten bucks a night. Then came the con itself, there were about 30 thousand people there, and then they gave out the Eisner awards, which were handed out by Will Eisner himself. As the comic artist community moved from the NY area to the LA area, San Diego was the place to be, and the local government , who were mostly right-wing Republicans new it.
In 1995, The Republican party chose San Diego to be the site of the next year’s presidential nominating convention. They didn’t like Comics fans, and demanded that Comic-Con be cancelled. Mayor Susan Golding, refused, saying “You’ll be here next summer, and that’s great, but they come back year after year. You won’t.”
As the ‘90s became the ‘00s, Comic-Con International grew exponentially, breaking the hundred thousand mark by the middle of the decade and last year the Convention Center, which is huge, was busting at the seams. A fifth of million were there last year and more are expected now.
Part of the reason is Hollywood. This is THE place to start promoting SF/Fantasy films and TV shows. They show a number of films at their “film festival” but most of the stuff shown are trailers and sneak peak featurettes. But for Hollywood, it’s worth it because this is where they make half their money. So if you’re not part of the industry and want to see what’s going to be out in the next year or two, this is the only place to see it. That is if you’ve already bought tickets, which have been sold out for a couple of weeks.
There’s something here for the 12-year-old in all of us.