How a Bunch of Unemployed Comic Book Fans Launched a Powerhouse

San Diego Comic-Con has become one of most influential pop culture meetups on the planet.

July 21, 2017 5:00 am
San Diego Comic-Con's Humbler, Dorkier Roots
Preview Night of Comic-Con International 2017 at San Diego Convention Center on July 19, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

The San Diego Comic-Con, which opens today and runs through Sunday, has become one of the most written and talked about events in the pop culture ecosystem. Sweep the front pages of publications like The Hollywood Reporter or Variety today, and you’ll find multiple announcements, photo galleries, and the like. Hundreds of thousands of fans attend Comic-Con.

But the event has much more humble beginnings, as Rolling Stone reports. Below, we’ve distilled their quasi–oral history into some of its most shocking facts.

-The first “meeting” of what would become Comic-Con resembles more a Stranger Things basement party than a scene from Wall Street. In 1969, the six brains behind the event had their first meeting at 36-year-old Sheldon Dorf’s parents’ dinner table—all of whom, beside Dorf, were either teens or pre-teens.

-To show the others what he wanted to accomplish, Dorf placed a rotary call to Jack “King” Kirby—a comic legend and co-creator of Captain America—whom he’d only met a few months prior. He passed the phone around to each kid at the table. He wanted to show them that comic book royalty were approachable. He then set up a field trip to Kirby’s house, where they met with the man himself.

-Kirby—along with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury—would end up being the star figures at the boys’ first convention. Kirby also advised them to open the convention up to not only comic book fans, but also other forms of entertainment. So the San Diego Comic-Con has Kirby to thank for its ethos.

-The first Comic-Con was held in 1970 at a hotel basement—that was still under construction—in downtown San Diego.

-The reason the convention is a nonprofit is because of Bradbury; he demanded the kids still pay his speaking fee of $5,000 at the time (now, more like $30,000), so to talk him into coming for free, they said they were running a nonprofit.




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