San Diego Comic-Con: Then vs. Now

Before we sucked into the black hole of the awesomeness of the San Diego Comic-Con, I thought it would be fascinating to take a look back. Birthed in 1970, this year marks the 45th anniversary of our beloved convention. So with the thanks of guest contributor, geek writer Lydia Mondi, take a journey with us down the Gaslamp Lane…

M057Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Comic Con has ‘gone Hollywood’. This gripe is more common than your average Joker sighting and far more of a cliché. I would like to counter that it’s Hollywood who has ‘gone comic book’ (along with the rest of the planet). Remember the days of yore when Comic Con was solely dedicated to bringing graphic novels together with children fans? Neither do I… If that day existed, it’s a distant memory by now.

Yep, SDCC has come a long way, baby. Blame Star Wars, blame the internet, blame an excellent marketing division – whatever. Even in the last decade, the convention and its brethren have exploded, sealing its fate as an all-inclusive phenomenon. Let’s take a look at the early days of Comic Con versus the cultural behemoth we all know today…

con70sTHEN: Primarily focused on…comics (though founders wanted a broad base of genres since day one).
NOW: SDCC is a pop culture powerhouse. There isn’t an ‘entertainment’ medium that isn’t included in the round-up these days. Comics, film and television, video games, LARPing, cosplayers, sci-fi/fantasy books, music, merchandisers – there’s even a couture fashion show on the docket this year.

THEN: The biggest ‘stars’ around were Ray Bradbury and Jack Kirby (but hey, that’s nothing to scoff at!).
NOW: In addition to the Who’s Who of comic artists in attendance, Hollywood A-listers pour through the gates, likely eager to get a little “street cred” in nerd world. Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, the cast of…whatever your favorite thing is – they’re all probably there. Rubbing elbows with you.

THEN: Around 100 fans in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego.
NOW: Oh, about the same…times a thousand or two. The San Diego Convention Center will be packed to the gills for four days straight, with weekend passes selling out within minutes. Every year sets a new record.

cover-Comic-Con-Logo-1970_t670THEN: Promo materials are made on a typewriter and Xeroxed.
NOW: SDCC could probably refuse to do one stitch of advertising and it wouldn’t matter a whit.

THEN: ‘We wuz robbed!’ Reportedly, around $12,000 was stolen from the treasurer of ComicCon’s home in 1979; organizers asked for fan donations to cover the costs.
NOW: ComicCon International (a non-profit organization) rakes in revenues estimated in the multi-millions. Not to mention the fiscal boost for San Diego, in general. But, naturally, fans are still footing the bill – and happy to do so.

1973-Env-B01THEN: At the 6th Annual SDCC, Charles Lippincott, marketing director for Star Wars: A New Hope, brings slides of the upcoming film. No one really cares.
NOW: Well…expect one out of five costumes to be a Star Wars reference. Rumor has it that 2014’s Star Wars exhibition will simply be another notch in Disney’s enormous belt. 2015, however…

THEN: Matt Groening was wandering around, formulating ideas, soaking up the atmosphere.
NOW: ‘Mr. Simpsons’ receives an Eisner at SDCC 2012; akin to the Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

THEN: Sporting costumes was a novelty. The first Masquerade Ball in 1974 featured fans in homemade garb.
NOW: What, you’re not going to wear a costume? A ‘Marvel Universe’ tee-shirt counts! Whether you’re getting gussied up as, say, the cast of Twin Peaks, Battlestar Galatica, or just a bevy of superhero mash-ups, expect that your group’s costumes will fit right in.

43comic-conHere’s what it comes down to, folks: If it’s good enough for Stan Lee, it’s good enough for me. I’ll risk bruised elbows and ego fighting my way for peek into Hall H. I’ll hold my tongue while sad, little ‘Geekstapo guy’ pesters cosplayers about their knowledge of minor character trivia. I won’t roll my eyes and sigh to everyone within earshot that Comic Con was better ten or thirty years ago. I’ll even stand in line for an overpriced gyro! I’ll do all these things, with a smile on my face. And you know why? Because I’m a fan, that’s why.

Lydia Mondy is an admirer of comics, conventions and rampant fandom. Clearly, this is a match made in geek heaven (that’s where the angels all look like Han Solo).

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