Welcome to Comic-Convention Memories

December 10, 2009

In November 2009, we lost two key figures in the history of comic conventions: Shel Dorf and Ken Krueger. And with their passing, we lost further access to their stores of knowledge.

We also lost the opportunity to publish well-deserved words of appreciation and tribute while they could still enjoy them. However, we at least have been able to do this for their family and friends through the ShelDorfTribute.com and KenKruegerTribute.com web sites.

But there are many other people who have contributed to comic conventions to be honored, many others with stories to be told.

My personal focus has been on the San Diego Comic-Con because that’s the one I helped start and it’s the one I still go to every year. However, when my friend Greg Koudoulian recently told me about the conventions he put on in Los Angeles in the seventies with Shel Dorf’s help and encouragement, I wanted to be able to read about them. When, another friend, Charlie Roberts, who was also a good friend of Shel’s, told me he was co-founder and sponsor of Orlando Con in Florida (1974-1979), co-founder of the Lancaster Comic Art Convention (1975-1976) in Central PA, and was one of the co-producers of the first major exhibit of Frank Frazetta’s art at Frazetta 77 in Stroudsburg, PA, I thought, there must be so many stories there to tell.

Then recently I read in Alter Ego an article about the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, which Shel had helped produce before he moved to San Diego in 1969: that convention served as a template for the San Diego Comic-Con and reading that article made me want to know more about it. Then I read on Mark Evanier’s povonline.com site about the time that Phil Seuling had been on the Mike Douglas Show along with Wendy Pini – of Elfquest fame – dressed as Red Sonja. I never knew Phil Seuling, but it’s my impression that he was a very cool guy and had accomplished things of major significance with his New York Comic-Art Conventions in the sixties and seventies, not to mention his impact on the way comics are distributed: I wanted to know more.

And then there’s Richard Alf. He did so much to get the San Diego Comic-Con started, and keep it going, and grow it in those essential early years, and he made some real sacrifices to work on the con as much as he did, and yet sometimes it seems that all people think that he did was to put up the money for the early conventions. He did do that, and that was important, of course, but it was only a small part of what he did, and the full story should be told. And then there’s Dennis Smith, who was chairman of the 1966 Westercon science-fiction convention in San   Diego, and who gave Richard and I so much help and encouragement during difficult times in 1972 when we were Chairman and Co-Chairman of the first of the El Cortez conventions: who knows of his contributions? Or what about Bob Sourk? Bob was a friend of mine and Richard Alf’s and, like the two of us, Bob was a teenaged comic dealer at the time we first met Shel Dorf in 1969. Bob was our first Chairman, being Chairman for the March 1970 San Diego Golden State Comic Minicon. Yet, whenever anyone speaks of Comic-Con’s first Chairman, who remembers Bob? And what of other forgotten early contributors to Comic-Con: the McGlone brothers from the Society for Creative Anachronism, Pam May and Donna McGary from the Mythopoeic Society, William Caron who oversaw our art show in 1972 and gave us other much-needed help, and so many others from those early days down to the present. They all have stories to be told, that should be told and preserved, for their families and friends, for those interested in the fruits of their labors, and for their own personal satisfaction.

So, I had an epiphany of sorts. I’m already running the Shel Dorf and Ken Krueger tribute sites: why not do one more that can encompass all comic conventions and all the people who have worked on them and made them work.

But, obviously, I can’t do it without your help. Do you have stories to tell related to comic conventions, their producers, guests, and attendees? Would you like a venue for telling them? Well, here it is and you’re invited. You can tell touching stories, funny stories, crazy stories even. No need to sanitize things: feel free to tell it like it was. Just keep it positive. Don’t be mean-spirited toward other people or write things that would embarrass others, or at least keep them anonymous if you feel the story requires it. And, of course, memories – or what we perceive as memories – may contradict: let’s just do our best to document what happened and accept it won’t be perfect. Being good natured and well meaning will help.

So, why don’t we have pages for every comic convention, a page for everyone who’s worked on a con or been a guest or dealer at one, for anyone who has a good story to tell, as long as someone is willing to contribute the words and pictures. Data storage is cheap and no trees need be injured in the making of this site. Just click on the “Tell Your Story” tab at the top of the page and let us know what tales you have to tell.

Best wishes,

Mike Towry
Founding Member of the San Diego Comic-Con Committee
Chairman of the 1972 San Diego’s West Coast Comic-Con (the first El Cortez Con)

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