This is the 50th year of Comic-Con. Comic-Con more known to us as San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) has been attended by generations. The Golden State Comic Book Convention which became SDCC was founded in 1970 by a group of San Diegans that included Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, and Mike Towry.
This year as one of the first legacies will be the opening of the Richard Alf Time Capsule (Richard left instructions for it to be opened at the 50th San Diego Comic-Con). I and other historians are looking forward to seeing this treasure trove of artifacts and some of us are also interested in making another capsule to be opened at Comic-Con 100.
Image from Greg Koudoulian:
Now let’s think about this, Comic-Con has been around for 50 years. That’s 25 years older than the median age of the age fans who have been introduced to pop culture through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and are a part of what I call the Cinematic Generation. (The Cinematic Generation was introduced to comics and pop culture through multimedia adaptions for the most part, TV, movies, and videogames.)
Studios and creators have built legacies at SDCC. The same with individuals and companies. All these things become part of the larger tapestry of pop culture.
From the beginning there was the sharing of ideas and culture, people interacting with their favorite comics creators as they do now, but back then you could buy a ticket the day of show, which is something almost impossible to do now.
While it’s not the biggest event at SDCC the Eisner Awards is one of the if not the longest existing awards in comics. For a very long time Will Eisner himself would present the awards to the winners while Sergio Aragonés would draw fast caricatures. Some of this can be seen from Jackie Estrada’s Comic Book People (Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, and Comic Book People 2: Photographs from the 1990s) and she herself has a rich legacy in Comic Con including being the Eisner Awards administrator. Will Eisner is one of the main reasons that we have comics culture as we know it today. The Spirit has a legacy in comics that many do not know but this will be changing.
For many there are various legacies that are created, whether is be the artists, writers, and other creators. To those who host memorable panels, to those have made their own legacies of and within Comic-Con.
One example of the various legacies would be the Game of Bloggers hosted by our own Tony Kim now while this not happening this year it has always been known as a gathering for bloggers, journalists, and more. Before this though Tony was known for his styling of the complementary bags into very stylish menswear. Tony’s legacy continues with his various panels that he has hosted for years as well as this site which he founded. Though what may be the biggest contribution and legacy is his Hero Within brand and it’s growing selection in licensed wear, which are all amazing. This is of course an abbreviated legacy of all that Tony does.
In the offsite and parties side Bernie Bregman the Geek Gatsby arranges some of the best afterparties and entertainment he has worked through the years to build these making a more and more wonderful experience each year. Our own Kari has written about these: https://crazy4comiccon.wordpress.com/2019/07/02/sdcc-2019-parties-info-and-tickets/
I myself am a historian. While I started on the east coast with my works my works at SDCC have further cemented my legacy as a historian, so much so that university archives are interested in my collections and the years of history I have documented. This is something I will continue to do as long as I am able.
More people have founded various podcasts, blogs, more all from SDCC Aaron Nabus of the Hall H Show Podcast, Leonard Sultana of An Englishman in San Diego (who unfortunately can’t make it this year) have made entire presences around the celebration of SDCC. Each has continued to grow and become a resource for people.
There are many stories like this about how SDCC has inspired people to create from their experiences at SDCC and to share it with others.
SDCC has also been a key place that also legacies are celebrated for many of the creators have been honored. The Eisners aside from honoring the current creators of the year also honors with the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award.
There are also many panels and events that honor creators and beloved members of fandom who have passed. I have captured several in photo and video such as Irwin Hasen , Len Wein, Jon Schnepp.
This year there will be tributes to Batton Lash creator of Supernatural Law and known as the Best Dressed man at Comic-Con, always had wise words.
And of course Stan Lee will be remembered in multiple panels, events, and multiple projects.
People also take up these legacies Matt Dunford of Chairman of San Diego Comic Fest (and many other projects) has started to continue stylish legacy of Batton by sharing pictures and posts of styles inspired by using the lessons he learned from Batton.
Others like myself work to introduce the works of Will Eisner to new generations of fans, and as the works of Jack Kirby who has been getting more known with more of his characters and concepts being used Marvel and DC movies.
Certain aspects have changed over time such as how some of the panels have been done, the rise of Hall H, and even after events.
They did there was a loss of intimacy and while that is true for the convention as a whole, same with the experiences outside. Intimate experiences can happen as you find them or you, such as being to talk to your favorite author in a small group. I saw this with George R.R. Martin in the Marriott one year. I have had plenty of amazing experiences with known people (writers, artists, celebrities, etc) myself simply because we were there at the same time, including lunches and dinners.
It’s all about what happens, the experiences you keep yourself open to, and by being friendly and kind. You can meet these people when they are on the floor, go incognito in cosplay, or just by random chance like when I gave David Bradley directions. The idea is not to look for them but be open to them when they happen.
As the con grew more and professionals in many industries have become a part of it. People have invented new jobs and industries because of pop culture. Some companies even have fandom relations departments. People have been able to make fandom a part of the their income or their complete income and this has also evolved in many ways. From making gear, pins, clothes, video games, or running companies that build the booths themselves. This is after all the writers, artists, actors, etc.
It is true that we have lost the creators from the Golden Age as they have passed on and we are losing members of the Silver Age but I and others work to document their talks and experiences so that it can be shared for generations to come. This is why I do video as much as possible so that people can hear and see the creators tell things in their own words and people can see the expressions on their faces as they do.
Representation has indeed increased it has gone from a mostly male field and attendance to a very diverse once with all reflecting the full range of gender (and gender identity), ethnicities, nationalities, political, and sexual orientations. This is something that is now common at almost every convention.
The Tribune says it lost Old School Spontaneity:
“Kirby flinging cherry bombs down a hotel stairwell. Skinny dippers enjoying nearby hotel pools. Bargain-priced lodgings. Lining up at Seaport Village to buy a ticket to that day’s Comic-Con” but I would saw it evolved instead while we might toss bombs around anymore we’ll do random things like Pokemon hunt, photoshoots in places all over towns, hitting the offsites.” Bargain priced lodgings depend on how far you want to be from the con center, but as I can tell you can sometimes find Airbnbs for very low prices if you go super basic. The getting tickets has changed so you do have to plan on it, but you can go to offsites same day or even some afterparties.
It says we gained a kingdom and this is somewhat true all as of downtown San Diego becomes a place that is huge celebration of pop culture and more people are welcomed every year. They look forward to us coming in our huge numbers, in all wonderful cosplay, and with few exceptions welcome us. We bring so much energy, tourism dollars, and creativity. There is no other experience like it world wide.
As always it retained the spectacle, from the wows of various costumes on the floor, to seeing reveals of all kinds of new works, favorite artists, trailers, actors, etc. To the experiences that will wow yourself and that you’ll be telling stories of years to come.
That is the true legacy of SDCC, it was founded by and on storytellers who brought the fantastical to life in sequential art and other mediums, and it comes to be a place of storytellers, big and small, the personal and the profound, becoming shared and expanded on for generations.
What are your legacies and what are some of your favorites?