With the world slowly returning back to normal, many events are going back to being held in person and thankfully, Comic-Con is one of them. New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego have all announced various dates for their Comic-Cons, all of which will be held in person. The return of in-person Comic-Cons has made all of us appreciate how much these events really do mean to comic fandom, making it a good time to reflect on past years’ Comic-Cons and highlight some interesting Comic-Cons factoids that are often forgotten.
Comic-Con is not One Organization
When was the first Comic-Con and how did this popular event take off? Clayburn Griffin and Nikhil Kasbekar of the nerd-adjacent superhero-focused podcast, We Understood That Reference, dive into all of this and more in their Comic Conversations episode. Clayburn highlights the fact that many comic fans are unaware that Comic-Cons in various cities are actually different organizations. More specifically, San Diego, LA, and New York Comic-Cons are all different organizations that put the event on themselves. In fact, the San Diego comic con is actually a nonprofit organization while the New York Comic-Con is a for-profit organization that started back in 2006.
The First Comic-Con was Held on the Streets of NYC in 1964
In Comic Conversations, Clayburn explains the first official Comic-Con was in New York in 1964. Comic fans had been gathering in the city long before, but this was considered the first official Comic-Con and over 100 people attended. It was held on 14th street and Broadway and was the basis for two influential ideas in the comic world. Bernie Bubnis, who had the idea of holding a convention, had invited Tom Gill, the Lone Ranger artist for a “chalk talk.” This conversation ended up being the groundwork for the notion of fans and creators being able to discuss their love of comics in a panel format. Additionally, Phil Sueling, a comic collector, provided refreshments for this event and realized this was the perfect setting for distributors to sell to collectors, particularly their older issues to complete the buyers’ collections. Prior to this make-shift Comic-Con, there was no easy way for collectors to seek out comics they had missed buying when they came out.
Comic-Con is One of the Most Profitable Events for Its Host Cities
What started as a gathering on 14th and Broadway has grown to be an event that is held nationally, although by different organizations. The San Diego Comic-Con is one of the city’s most profitable events. Over half of the event’s attendees arrive from different cities and countries and over the course of four days, the event makes approximately $170 million. Thus, the event makes $42.5 million a day, making it one of the profitable events the city has ever seen.
Fans Single-Handedly Saved the San Diego Comic-Con
Fans are the lifeblood of any event and this is particularly true with Comic-Con. In 1979, the San Diego Comic-Con treasurer’s home was broken into and $12,000 of receipts were stolen. Compared to the $170 million Comic-Con brings in now, this does not seem like a lot, but back then this was enough to cripple the convention. In this time of financial crisis, organizers worked with fans to pay off the debt allowing for the success of the convention to continue. In this case, the fans were the heroes at the convention.
Comic-Con Has Never Been Just About the Comics
Despite its name, Comic-Con has always been about more than comics. Comic-Con was founded with the idea of encapsulating all aspects of pop culture, valuing books and movies equally, and allowing a safe and fun space for fans to be themselves and enjoy what they love. However, it did take movie panels to gain momentum with the first Star-Wars panel only being spectated by a handful of fans. The X-men films are what really changed the conversation of movies at Comic-Con as fans were beyond eager to attend.
Comic-Con has always been a highlight in the cultural conversation around comic books and films as it adds a new dimension to the conversation.
If you would like to learn more about Comic-Cons history as well as hear Clayburn and Nikhil discuss their personal experiences at the convention, check out the We Understood That Reference podcast. They also cover superhero movies and comic book stuff in general. You can find them on their website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. They’re all over the place!