Friday, September 13, 2013

The Mystique of San Diego Comic-Con International

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The Mystique of San Diego Comic-Con International

By Sakura Honda
The Daily Magi
October 30, 2052


San Diego Comic-Con International is a multigenre convention held annually in San Diego, California, United States. It was founded as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970 by a group of San Diegans, which included Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger and Mike Towry; later, it was called the "San Diego Comic Book Convention". The name, as given on its website, is Comic-Con International: San Diego; but it is commonly known as Comic-Con or the San Diego Comic-Con or "'SDCC". It is a four-day event (Thursday-Sunday) held during the summer in San Diego, in southern California, United States. On Wednesday evening, there is a preview for professionals, exhibitors, and some guests pre-registered for all four days.

Comic-Con International also produces two other conventions, WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo (APE), both held in San Francisco, in northern California. Since 1974, Comic-Con has bestowed its annual Inkpot Award on guests and persons of interest in the Popular Arts industries, as well as on members of Comic-Con's Board of Directors and the Convention Committee. It is also the home of the Will Eisner Awards.

Originally showcasing comic books, science fiction/fantasy and film/television, and related popular arts, the convention now includes a larger range of pop culture elements, such as horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels. According to Forbes, the convention is the "largest convention of its kind in the world"; it is also the largest convention held in San Diego. In 2010, it filled the San Diego Convention Center to capacity with more than 130,000 attendees which makes it the fourth comic convention in the world for number of attendees, after Comiket, Angoulême International Comics Festival and Lucca Comics and Games.

The convention was founded in 1970 by Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Mike Towry, and Greg Bear. Detroit, Michigan-born comics fan Shel Dorf, had in the mid-1960s mounted the Detroit Triple-Fan Fairs, one of the first commercial comics-fan conventions. When he moved to San Diego, California in 1970, he organized a one-day convention (Golden State Comic-Minicon) on March 21, 1970 "as a kind of 'dry run' for the larger convention he hoped to stage." Dorf went on to be associated with the convention as president or manager, variously, for years until becoming estranged from the organization. Alf co-chaired the first convention with Krueger and became chairman in 1971.

Following the initial gathering, Dorf's first three-day San Diego comics convention, the Golden State Comic-Con, drew 300 people and was held at the U.S. Grant Hotel from August 1–3, 1970. Other locations in the convention's early years included the El Cortez Hotel, the University of California, San Diego, and Golden Hall, before being moved to the San Diego Convention Center in 1991. Richard Alf, chairman in 1971, has noted an early factor in the Con's growth was an effort "to expand the Comic-Con [organizing] committee base by networking with other fandoms such as the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Mythopoeic Society, among others. (We found a lot of talent and strength through diversity)." By the late 1970s the show had grown to such an extent that Bob Schreck recalled visiting with his then-boss Gary Berman of Creation Conventions and reflecting, "While [Berman] kept repeating (attempting to convince himself) 'This show's not any bigger than ours!' I was quietly walking the floor stunned and in awe of just how much bigger it really was. I was blown away."

The convention is organized by a panel of 13 board members, 16 to 20 full-time and part-time workers, and 80 volunteers who assist via committees. Comic Con International is a non-profit organization, and proceeds of the event go to funding it, as well as the Alternative Press Expo (APE) and WonderCon. In September 2010, the convention announced that it would stay in San Diego through 2015.

According to the San Diego Convention and Visitor's Bureau the convention has an annual regional economic impact of $162.8 million, with $180 million economic impact in 2011.

Along with panels, seminars, and workshops with comic book professionals, there are previews of upcoming feature films, and portfolio review sessions with top comic book and video game companies. The evenings include events such as awards ceremonies, the annual Masquerade costume contest, and the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which showcases shorts and feature length movies that do not have distribution or distribution deals.

Traditional events include an eclectic film program, screening rooms devoted to Japanese animation, gaming, programs such as cartoonist Scott Shaw!'s "Oddball Comics" slide show and animation expert Jerry Beck's program featuring TV's "worst cartoons ever", as well as over 350 hours of other programming on all aspects of comic books and pop culture.

Like most comic-book conventions, Comic-Con features a large floorspace for exhibitors. These include media companies such as movie studios and TV networks, as well as comic-book dealers and collectibles merchants. And like most comics conventions, Comic-Con includes an autograph area, as well as the Artists' Alley where comics artists can sign autographs and sell or do free sketches. Despite the name, artists' alleys can include writers and even models.

Academics and comic industry professionals annually hold the Comics Arts Conference at Comic-Con, presenting scholarly studies on comics as a medium.

In recent years, the number of television shows that are promoted far outnumber films. During the 2011 convention, at least 80 TV shows were represented, compared to about 35 films. The shows not only promote in the exhibit halls, but also use screenings and panels of various actors, writers, producers, and others from their shows.

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