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San Diego Comic-Con: A Con For More Than Comics

It’s that wonderful time of year again. The temperatures are rising and the distant smell of barbequed meats fills your nostrils on an almost daily basis. Pools are full of both water and people trying to escape the heat of the unforgiving sun. That can only mean one thing. Nope, not summer. Well, yes, summer. But besides that, it’s also time for the San Diego Comic-Con again! That’s right, an internationally famous comic book convention that invades the streets of San Diego once a year for the last forty-seven years is back! But, as you probably know, it’s much more than just a comic book convention. Over the last four and a half decades it has evolved into something much bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. However, to fully understand how far this event has come since its inception back in 1970, you’ll have to go back to the beginning.

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Humble Beginnings

As I previously mentioned, the first ever Comic-Con happened almost forty-eight years ago in 1970. Its original creators were Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf, a group of science fiction, comic book and movie fans. It was originally called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con and happened between August 1st and 3rd of 1970 in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel and had just over three hundred attendees. There was a smaller event on March 21st to raise funds for the main event. The mini event was aptly named San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon and was inarguably the first gathering in a long line of gatherings designed to bring comic book and science fiction fans alike together. The events have seen compiled attendance numbers well into the millions. That’s quite a lot of fun had for just a few like-minded friends creating a place for people that share their interests to congregate.

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Current-Con

Lately, the attendance numbers for Comic-Con have been quite a bit higher than the low 300s – In fact, their current venue and ticket capacity (130,000) has been consistently selling out for years. Even more recently, the event broke records by selling out all hundred and thirty thousand tickets in just one hour. That’s right, just a single hour. As you can imagine, that means that a lot of people have a hard time getting tickets. But not to worry for those folks. There are lots of satellite events at local hotels, parks and other venues for the inevitable overflow. All of those people must be locals, right? Nope. In fact, over half of the annual attendees are from out of state. You read that right. Over sixty thousand people fly, drive, hitchhike, walk, ride the train, bus or Falcor all the way to San Diego for three days of science fiction, comic book, movie-related festivities. That must be a bit of a strain on the city, but it’s also a bit of a blessing in disguise.

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Benefits To The City

Sure, having a big event come to any city is going to bring lots of money, along with lots of traffic, upset locals and in this particular case, people dressed like creatures and characters from all corners of the universe. Real and imagined. While some locals may not be too happy with the addition of drive time around town for a few days but it’s impossible not to smile when you’re caught up with all of the stresses and worries of life, just to look up and see Darth Vader, Deadpool, Ant-Man and Chewbacca crossing the street holding iPhones and Slurpees. Even if you don’t think you like the convention at all, if you live in San Diego, you definitely benefit from it, whether you know it or not. Those 130,000 people (half of which are from out of town) spend a lot of money. About 170 million dollars on average, to be specific. For an event that only encompasses a total of four days, that’s about 42,500,000 each day! Lots of that money ends up going back into the city.

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Evolution Of Comic-Con

While it was always an inclusive event, more generally centered around comic books as well as other forms of science fiction, like movies, television, and literature, it has grown into so much more in its last 48 years. It now includes celebrity panels, costume contests, film screenings, meet and greets, and so much more. The first celebrity panel consisted of comic book artist Jack Kirby, as well as science fiction authors A.E. van Vogt and Ray Bradbury. This year’s list of special guests is five pages long on the event website. Them, along with the famous actors who attend and participate in the event, make a list so long that to name them in this post would be impossible. You’ll just have to go to find out who all will be there too. And while you’re there, take the time to see just how the event has expanded over the years. Just to name a few attractions within the convention this year, there is an art show, a place to get autographs, a film festival, a children’s film festival, films and film screenings, games and game previews, and a masquerade costume contest.

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The Masquerade Costume Contest

As an admitted newbie to the Comic-Con world, and a person who has never actually attended, I’ve got to be honest and let you all know that the masquerade sounds like the most fun part to me. It’s been going on for 74 years and has evolved from just a costume contest to a full-on theatrical performance that brings popular science fiction character from comics, movies, and TV to life in a way you can’t see or experience anywhere else in the world. It also focuses on inclusivity, letting not only professionals but also amateurs with a crafty creative side show off their skills on the big stage in front of hundreds to thousands of encouraging fans. It has been an extremely important part of Comic-Con since the first edition of the Masquerade in 1974. Many people attend the convention solely to watch and/or participate in the costume contest. Not into cosplay? No problem, the scale of Comic-Con means that there is something for everyone if they look hard enough.

There you have it. The comic-con season is back and I can’t wait to see pictures and video of all of the craziness that happens this year. So go out and get yourself a costume, or an autograph book and head to San Diego for the 48th annual San Diego Comic-Con. Watch a movie, play a game, meet a hero. The only thing you might have a hard time doing at Comic-Con this year is finding something you might have a hard time doing at Comic-Con this year. Have fun and be safe out there. We’re not all Superman, after all.

By Bill L. Wallis

Categories: Featured, Geek Culture

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