Maggie’s World 030: Comic-Con Memories
When Archie Andrews and Chuck Clayton had a great time at San Diego’s convention on the cover of Archie Giant Series Magazine #601, it was 1989. They’d earned the trip with Chuck’s poster promoting a blood drive. In “Comic Con Conniptions” by George Gladir, Stan Goldberg, and Mike Esposito, Comic-Con’s Shel Dorf and John Rogers escorted the two to the Pro Registration desk. It’s safe to say that, outside the world of comics fans and pros, not many people in 1989 even knew that such a special comics event existed. As the cover said, it was the 20th such annual festival in the city. Nevertheless, despite its two decades in existence, it was still pretty much Our Own Special Secret.
The first time Don and I were lucky enough to go, it was as guests, thanks especially to our column in The Buyer’s Guide to Comic Fandom. The publisher thereof, Alan Light, was there to encourage our participation, and we made a family event of it. It was July 1976, and 9-year-old Valerie and 4-year-old Stephen managed to maintain their cool throughout an event that could have overwhelmed less fannish offspring. The El Cortez Hotel was the site, and there were many attendees; estimated attendance topped a whopping 3,000.
In the following three years, it expanded into the San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, and attendance eventually seemed to stabilize at about 5,000, which is what it was when we returned in 1983.
It Began to Grow
That return came because we had become editors of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which had morphed from that Alan Light publication). That change meant that our hobby had become our job—and that meant that even our Comic-Con attendance had become part of that employment. (On the other hand, it was the sort of job we could only have dreamed of having in years earlier.) And then Comic-Con began to grow again. In 1991, it moved to the San Diego Convention Center. On the other hand, Comic-Con’s 15,000 or so attendees occupied only a small chunk of the territory covered by that venue. Who could have guessed what would happen next?
By 2004, Comic-Con had grown to fill the hall—and then kept growing; more than 95,000 people joined the party. Pop culture gained legitimacy, and an increasing number of fans and creators found it was a delightful place to hang out. I met creators whose work I’d admired for years. I found old comics that were on my wantlist. I bought new comics I had to have. I bought so much stuff, I started to have to ship it home, because there was no way it would all fit in my suitcase.
Even while I acquired collectibles, I also acquired memories. Who, for example, could forget the Eisner Awards moment when, following a mention of Madonna and Britney Spears kissing, British entertainer Jonathan Ross grabbed Neil Gaiman? How many people do you suppose noticed when Mark Hamill (wearing a fake name badge) worked a dealers’ table? Or how many, another year, observed him and his cast of voice artists making an improv movie that paid tribute to Comic-Con? (Have you seen Comic Book: The Movie? Full disclosure: I’m in it.) Magazine articles and online commentaries alike began to swell with coverage of a variety of memorable moments.
Some of those memorable moments can be personal triumphs. In 2014, for example, daughter Valerie and son Stephen attended with me for the first time since 1976. While Valerie had attended with me several times recently, it was the first time Stephen had been able to attend Comic-Con since he was 4. (On the other hand, some memorable moments feature our failures. That was also the year that Stephen defeated me in a public quiz on comic books. Sigh.)
Comic-Con is a plot device on TV and in the movies. Comic-Con is on magazine covers. Comic-Con is a dream. Comic-Con is a huge party made up of countless little parties. Want to spend the weekend in costume? There’s a party for that. Want to goggle at celebrities? There’s a party for that. Want to chat with creators while you get your comics autographed? There’s a party for that. Want to buy the best comics old and new? There’s a party for that. Want to see a celebration of the best comics had to offer in 2014? There’s a party for that. Want to watch cartoonists compete to show off how funny and fast they can be? There’s a party for that. All of these “parties” are part of Comic-Con.
A vast variety of more mundane parties occur throughout the year. At each, chances are that you’ll find opportunities to find new fun, new friends, and new memories.
The bonus of the gigantic Comic-Con party is that you’ll find all that—and comics.
That’s what Valerie and I will be looking for this year.
And, hey, something else just occurred to me.
In the 1980s and 1990s, when I’d say, “I’m going to the San Diego Comic-Con,” folks used to say, “Oh, San Diego? Will you be going to the beach or the zoo or Sea World?” And I’d say, “No, I’m going to Comic-Con!”
These days, when I say, “I’m going to the San Diego Comic-Con,” folks say, “Comic-Con? Wow! That must be fun!”
And I say, “You bet!”
See you there?
Maggie’s World by Maggie Thompson will return the first Tuesday in August … be here!