The History of Comic-Con

If you have lived in San Diego long you may have heard of Comic-Con. Comic-Con is more than a comic book convention. It is a celebration of popular culture that has been around for over 50 years. The very first San Diego Comic-Con was held in 1970. It was started by a group of comic fans who wanted to create a way to meet other comic fans. The first Comic-Con fit in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel and was attended by 300 people.

The seeds of what Comic-Con would become were sown at the very first Comic-Con. One of the founders of Comic-Con knew Jack Kirby, the co-creator of the X-Men and other characters. Jack Kirby urged the founders of Comic Con to not limit the convention to comics.

He said, “Do it all. I know that comic fans have also been interested in the movie media, they’ve been interested in the pulp media, and all that has some value to them. I think they want to see it. I don’t think they want to concentrate on comics alone. If you can widen the scope of the convention to include all these, I think you’ll have a larger crowd and a more interesting crowd. And I think you’ll have a great time.”

Comic-Con included popular culture as well as comics from the very beginning. The very first Comic-Con included both comic book guests (Jack Kirby) and science fiction guests (Ray Bradbury).

I benefited from the broad focus of San Diego Comic-Con. I went to my first Comic-Con in 1978 because I enjoyed science fiction conventions and wanted to go to a local convention. I have been attending ever since (except for one year, when I was out of the country). Over the years I have seen the convention’s location grow from the basement of the El Cortez Hotel to the San Diego Convention Center, neighboring hotels, and SDPL’s Central Library. There are still panels about comics, anime, and creative writing but now Hollywood sends their top stars to promote their newest movies. For example, a little movie called Star Wars did a presentation in 1976.

Comic-Con is now an important part of San Diego. In 2019, Comic-Con was attended by 135,000 people from 80 countries. Media personnel from 30 countries covered the event. It is estimated that Comic-Con attendees brought $88 million to San Diego. The regional impact for San Diego was $149 million.

Why do I attend Comic-Con? Different people go for different reasons. I go to catch up with fan friends and meet new ones. I also go to make my favorite shows come alive by meeting the creative talent behind them and through immersing myself in the movie universes through costuming.

Comic-Con is a very large event, but I have been able to briefly connect with the creative talent behind my favorite shows, from Lord of the Rings to Black Panther. What am I most looking forward to this year? Many years ago, at Comic-Con, my sisters and I met someone from Weta Workshop (the special effects company that worked on Lord of the Rings). He told us that we had encouraged him because my sisters and I were wearing hobbit costumes when no one else was wearing them. He has a booth at Comic-Con every year and I am looking forward to seeing him again. And that is the magic of Comic-Con.

For more information, see:

Breaking Down Comic-Con 2019 By The Numbers

Check Out the First Star Wars Comic-Con Panel in 1976 From Before the Film Even Came Out

San Diego Comic-Con Is Turning 50: Here’s Its Origin Story