Richard Alf is a legendary figure in my life. I first met him in the fall of 1969, at the apartment of Shel Dorf’s parents in Clairemont. I was 12 years old. We were getting together for the first time to start a comic book club and make the first steps towards launching the San Diego Golden State Comic-Con. Except for Shel, Richard was about the oldest among us. He immediately took a leadership role, but in a way that wasn’t at all domineering. That was how Richard struck me from the start – a good, capable sort of guy who genuinely liked people and wanted to help fandom. He never gave me reason to change that opinion.
As we worked on the first several Comic-Cons, I came to see Richard as a kind of big brother. He wanted everyone to feel a part of the Comic-Con organization, even a much younger kid like me. Richard set a tone for how we did business – he was serious about the details of putting on the convention, but always good humored and full of positive feeling. He was modest – I don’t remember him making a big deal about financing the first Comic-Con. What I do remember is his big, friendly smile and his jokes. He was considerate and thoughtful, the kind of person who would do something for you for no special reason. Richard recognized the huge potential of the San Diego Comic-Con but didn’t use it to fulfill his own ego. He was inclusive in his vision, someone who recognized that sharing a good thing was more important than claiming it all for yourself.
I recall riding around in Richard’s VW bug to help promote the Comic-Con in ’72. He and Mike Towry stepped in to keep the convention going that year after a shaky start. As usual, Richard did it with his quiet, jovial aplomb and generous spirit. The ’72 Comic-Con was a success in large part because of him.
I didn’t see much of Richard after he moved on from the Comic-Con group in 1973. I recall stopping by his Comic Kingdom store and visiting him at his house in the late ‘70s. It wasn’t until 2009 that we spoke again. The 40th anniversary of Comic-Con brought us back together and I was pleased to find Richard to be his same old friendly, warm-hearted self after all those years. I know his life was not free from troubles; we talked about them as well as the positive things. But the essence of the man hadn’t changed. Richard still cherished his friends, loved fandom and wanted everyone who had worked on Comic-Con to receive their due. His penchant for jokes — including some real groaners – hadn’t changed either.
Like I said, Richard is legendary for me. He truly made a difference for me at a crucial time in my life. We shared in a great adventure in the Comic-Con’s early days. He will always be a hero for me, as well as a dear friend.
Barry Alfonso was the first local comic fan whom Shel Dorf met after his move to San Diego in 1969. Barry referred Shel to Richard Alf, thus beginning that long, strange trip know as Comic-Con. You can read about what Barry’s been doing since his Comic-Con days at http://www.barryalfonso.com/.