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Preserving Comic-Con History

The SDSU Library's Comic Arts Committee will unveil a new website about the Comic-Con kids, the teenage founders of what is now one of San Diego's largest annual events.
By Roberta Niederjohn

Comic-Con 2013 will kick off next week, and the origin story of the conference will be presented during a poster presentation by the San Diego State University Library’s Comic Arts Committee.

The presentation is part of this year’s Comic Arts Conference, an academic gathering held in conjunction with Comic-Con.

The presentation highlights some of the committee’s recent efforts to archive pertinent materials for use by researchers and other comic enthusiasts.

"Preserving Comic-Con’s Cultural History: the Richard Alf Collection and the Comic-Con Kids" will include both print and multimedia components.  

“Comic-Con is one of San Diego’s most exciting events, and it has a lot of interdisciplinary appeal,” said Markel Tumlin, chair of the SDSU Library’s Comic Arts Committee. “We’re very happy to be participating.”

What to expect

The presentation will cover the the soon-to-be published, interactive website, The Comic-Con Kids: Finding and Defining Fandom. 

Funded in part by a Cal Grant for the Humanities, the website provides recorded interviews with several of Comic-Con’s founders and early participants, most of whom were teenagers when Comic-Con began in the early 1970s. Many later became SDSU alumni.

The site features more than a dozen interviews with such people as noted science fiction author Greg Bear, the Grammy Award-nominated Barry Alfonso and award-winning comic artist Scott Shaw.

The personal stories of the interviewees help weave together the cultural history of California, particularly San Diego and Comic-Con. 

“There is a palpable, enthusiastic energy surrounding our interviewees,” said Pamela Jackson, project manager for The Comic-Con Kids. “Their stories draw the early Comic-Cons as an inclusive environment, where young people’s talents were mentored, and a mutual love of comics, popular arts, and reading was nurtured.”

Comic-Con history

In addition to the interviews, the Comic-Con Kids website features materials focusing on the event’s early history.

"Some of the early founders started a new convention held in San Diego every October called the San Diego Comic Fest, which strives to recapture the ambiance of the earlier, more intimate Comic-Cons,” said Michael Lapins, head of the SDSU Library’s Media Center and Comic Arts Committee member.

“They generously provide us with space to record interviews, which is wonderful because some of the people we want to interview have left San Diego but return for the fest.” 

A passion for comics

The poster presentation will also spotlight the SDSU Library’s acquisition of the Richard Alf papers, now located in the university’s archives. 

Alf, who was just 17 years old when he helped found Comic-Con in 1970, was involved throughout the early years of the convention, and went on to found one of San Diego’s earliest stores dedicated to comics, Comic Kingdom. 

"Alf's papers will provide significant insight for both researchers and fans not only into his own life and passion for comics, but the larger phenomenon that shaped Southern California as a comics mecca starting in 1970," said Anna Culbertson, SDSU's Special Collections and University Archives librarian.

Alf was honored along with other early founders at Comic-Con, in 2009. While he had planned to participate in the Comic-Con Kids project, Alf passed away before his interview could be conducted.  His family donated his papers to SDSU after the 2012 Comic-Con.

Event details

More information about the SDSU Library’s Comic Arts Committee on its website. "Preserving Comic-Con’s Cultural History: the Richard Alf Collection and the Comic-Con Kids" will be presented at the Comic Arts Conference at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 20.