History of San Diego Comic-Con: The Annual Temple For Comic Book Fans
One of the most emblematic events in the world of comics is the San Diego Comic-Con, whose history is fascinating. It is the largest event of its kind in the United States and the fourth largest in the world. It is only surpassed by the Lucca Comics and Games held in Italy, the Angoulême International Comics Festival held in France, and the Comiket held in Japan.
This event evolved over time, becoming a convention attended by between 300 and 500 people until the San Diego Convention Center collapsed. This event takes place annually and showcases the best in the comics industry, science fiction, and film productions.
What is the San Diego Comic-Con?
Image: Fred Seibert
The San Diego Comic-Con is an event that takes place annually in this city in the United States. It aims to present new elements of the comic area and panels with favorite characters from science fiction movies and series. It also offers contests such as the best costume associated with a comic, film, or video games.
This event is usually used to present the novelties that companies have. For example, Marvel and DC showed their upcoming films to be released to the cinema. In the case of Marvel, Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever was presented, and DC showed Black Adam.
It also has a video game area, offering arcades with new and old games for those who like retro titles. They also presented the new titles that will be coming for the different consoles.
As you can see, this event is complete, and for this reason, it lasts four days. To enter this comic convention, you must pay an entrance fee, although the event itself is not for profit. The proceeds go to cover the expenses of the event and are used to finance other events such as SAM: Storytelling Across Media and WonderCon.
Origin of San Diego Comic-Con
San Diego Comic-Con 2011 – Marvel movie prop replicas (Thor’s hammer, Cap’s shield)
The origin of the San Diego Comic-Con dates back to the 1960s when Sheldon Dorf started comic book conventions with the Detroit Triple Fan Fair. In the 1970s, Dorf would move to San Diego, and the event itself gave rise to the San Diego International Comic Convention, or San Diego Comic-Con for short.
The first event that took place in San Diego was a mini-comic convention that was called Golden State Comic-Minicon. This event was attended by 300 to 500 people and was held at the US Grant Hotel.
The initial committee that founded the event consisted of Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Mike Lowry, Barry Alfonso, Bob Sourk, and Greg Bear. They were in charge of securing the venue for the convention and even prepared other spaces in case the number of fans increased.
During the first events’ development, Dorf alternated positions in the event’s organizing committee. He was an administrator, manager, president, and other administrative functions. However, he had conflicts with the other committee members and was excluded.
Later the organizing committee would be chaired by Alf and Krueger, who sought to expand the impact of the Comic-Con. To do so, they sought the help of different networks and fan organizations to publicize the event. The convention’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds, and in ’77, it had an audience of more than 3,000 people.
Appearances of Comic Book Celebrities
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
At the first conventions, they had renowned visitors that you have undoubtedly heard of. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby showed several of their new designs and volumes in comics. With the momentum given to them by science fiction films like Star Trek, this convention grew until it had to move to the San Diego convention center.
The impact has been so explosive that now even the San Diego Convention Center doesn’t have enough space for the people who want to attend. In fact, in 2015, ticket sales had to be halted because it nearly caused the event to collapse. The number of people who stayed outside on that occasion was almost the same as those who entered, according to the event’s organizing committee.
In 2021 the convention was not physically held because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in 2022, despite remnants of the disease and some fear in the population, the convention had a full house.
Today, the San Diego comic book convention brings in more than $160 million annually. According to magazine publications, such as Forbes, this event is considered the largest comic book event in the United States and the world.
Events Held at the San Diego Comic-Con
Image: Howie Muzika
Initially, the events at the San Diego Comic-Con revolved around comic books. They featured illustrators such as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, part of the founding team of Marvel. DC illustrators were also present, especially during the rise of characters such as Superman and Batman.
However, the event evolved and incorporated new events. For example, the fans’ habit of dressing up as their favorite characters resulted in the yearly costume contest. The best costumes worn by those attending the event are chosen.
Other events that were incorporated are the panels with actors representing characters. An example was the presentation of actors from the famous Power Ranger series. This attracted many young people who wanted to meet their heroes. Even nowadays, actors are often seen representing panels of these productions. One example is Jason David Frank, who visited his character Tommy Oliver several times.
Image: SCG Power Rangers
Also popular are the Star Trek character panels, which usually occur annually. There can be several versions of this production, which generally collapse due to the number of fans present.
Other attractions that have been added over time have been video games. They have attracted many fans of Arcade devices and the new consoles. Many enjoy older titles such as Mortal Kombat and Marvel Vs. Capcom.
However, there are also demos of new titles that will be released soon. Some are games with an online mode, and others are single-player games. They also usually hold tournaments of fan-favorite titles and offer great prizes to the champion.
Movies and Series at the San Diego Comic-Con
Image: HBO Max
Movies are also present at these events. Lately, there has been a more significant presence. This is because fans are interested in different science fiction productions. For example, the DC and Marvel productions significantly impacted the previous Comic-Con.
We can also highlight the announcements of series that will be transmitted on streaming platforms. For example, HBO Max made a presence with the announcement of the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon.
In Search of New Scenarios
The event committee has stated that it is looking for a new venue larger than the San Diego convention center. This is due to the last incidents in the year, where assistants fully occupied the space, and many fans were left out. However, this is more complicated due to the new venue’s requirements.
This is necessary because every day more and more young people go there looking to see their favorite characters, have a good time and have a different experience. They have yet to determine a definite location, so we will likely see it again next year at the San Diego Convention Center.
Inconveniences Presented at Comic-Con
(Image: Comic Years)
In this kind of event, security is quite high, so shocking events do not happen so often. In addition, each person is checked to prevent the introduction of weapons into the venue. However, some events occurred at Comic-Con, which were somewhat negative news.
For example, at one of the conventions, one fan wanted to jump from a venue window to demonstrate that he could fly. However, before he could jump, he was stopped by security volunteers and escorted out of the facility.
Another event during Comic-Con was a group dressed as zombies marching down the street before entering the event. However, a speeding car ran over part of the group, injuring several.
Other events reported at the San Diego Comic-Con are the confrontations between fans. Indeed, DC Comics and Marvel do not compete with each other, as stated by the head of DC Studio, James Gunn. Fans of both comics often argue about which comics or heroes are better, which generates altercations.
About the latter, reference can be made to the fans’ discussion with Gunn himself on social networks. He promoted the filming of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, being one of the presidents of DC.
Number of People at San Diego Comic-Con Over Time
Image Credit: Comic-Con International
Disregarding the Detroit event in the 1960s, Comic-Con has shown a clear upward trend since its inception. As mentioned above, in 1970, the first convention was held, but it was not attended. That same year, a second event was held at the Grant Hotel in the USA, with 300 attendees.
In the year 71, its attendance almost tripled, reaching 800 people in total in Muir College, University of California facilities. The following year they increased to more than 900 people at the event, changing the venue to the El Cortez Hotel.
In 73, they moved the venue again, and now the place chosen was the Sheraton Hotel, Isla Harbour, which had more than 1000 people in its facilities. In 74, it was more than doubled, with more than 2500 attendees in the facilities of the El Cortez Hotel.
Image: by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG
They repeated the event in these facilities until 79, in which they had an attendance of 5000 people. In 1980, they began to use the Convention Center of the San Diego Hotel as the venue for the event. In that year, they had 6000 spectators. Until 1987, the number of spectators was between 5,000 and 6,000 people.
From 1988 to 1995, there was an increase in the number of people attending the event. In 88, there was a total of 8000 attendees, starting an exponential rise until 2015 with 167,000 spectators. The latter is the record so far. Subsequent events have ranged from 130,000 attendees to 140,000.
This lets you see the San Diego Comic-Con’s growth, from its beginnings in the year 70 to the present. By the number of people who attend, it is considered one of the largest comic book events in the world.
An Event that Has Contributed Greatly to the World of Comics
Image via Comic Years
Comic-Con is an event you can enjoy every year, although ticket sales are a challenge because of the number of people who want to get in. Every day more and more fans want to enjoy a part of the production of the characters they admire and enjoy in movies, comics, and animated series.
Despite being a non-profit event, it has a significant collection, even though everything goes to finance the event. This movement, more than comics, brings joy to the fans who can live a real closeness to the world they love so much. This is evident in the multiple aisles of the conference hall, with many happy people enjoying and posing with their favorite stars.
Featured Image Via Gage Skidmore
I am a circus aerialist influenced by Dick Grayson and Spider-Man. Fortunate to write about the characters that inspired me. I also have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in International Trade.