Comic-Con At 50 Looks Back To Its Roots And Ahead To Its Future

On March 21, 1970, a group of teenage comic and movie enthusiasts under the nominal adult supervision of a superfan named Shel Dorf mounted a one-day comic “minicon” at the US Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego, similar to a convention that Dorf had staged in Detroit. The event was successful enough that they decided to do a bigger version over the summer. Over 300 fans turned up to buy, sell, talk, live and breathe all things comics, sci-fi and fantasy with special guests Ray Bradbury, Jack Kirby and A.E. Van Vogt. They called it the San Diego Golden State Comic-Con, eventually settling on the pithier moniker “San Diego Comic-Con” by 1973.

As you may have heard, San Diego Comic-Con is still around. The 50th edition of the show kicks off this week, bringing hundreds of thousands of fans to San Diego for an annual festival that has become a centerpiece of the 21st century media/entertainment industry and global popular culture.

Comic-Con has always been a big deal for the comics and publishing industry, but it really rose to global prominence in the early 2000s, coinciding with the first wave of big superhero-driven blockbusters and the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, which enabled the show’s attendance to balloon from 45,000 in the late 90s to well over 135,000 unique attendees that it draws today. The success of SDCC paved the way for other huge fan events around the world, creating an industry that now contributes billions of dollars in economic impact to host cities.

Through it all, San Diego Comic-Con has persevered, pursuing its mission to promote comics and the popular arts despite the thick fog of entertainment industry marketing hype that now blankets downtown San Diego for the week. Though the days of exponential growth are behind it, at least until San Diego decides to expand its facility further, SDCC remains a magnet for media attention, marketing dollars, exclusive merchandise, and fan frenzy. It’s also put long-simmering speculation of an imminent  move to another locale on hold with the announcement of a new deal to stay in San Diego through 2024.

Read more of the Forbes article HERE.

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