COMIC-CON’S VERY FIRST PROGRAM BOOK!
Our goal each week with Friday Flashback is to present rare photos and art from the Comic-Con archives. Well, we can’t go back any farther than this week’s featured item! Here is the complete program book from the “1970 San Diego Golden State Comic-Con” (Comic-Con’s original name), held on March 21, 1970. This was the minicon that preceded the first official Comic-Con, which was held August 1-3 of that same year. The purpose of this minicon was to finance the bigger event later in the year, which (as you’ll see in the ad on page 6 of the book, featured Jack Kirby and “fans from all parts of the U.S.A”). And no – we don’t know who’s coffee cup stain that is at the top of some of the pages. That has been lost to history, unfortunately.
Cover / Page 1
The cover was a stock cover sheet given out by the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and imprinted with the Comic-Con logo and minicon date. That’s the California Tower in Balboa Park in the color photo, still a landmark in San Diego. This first minicon, like the first actual convention, was held at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown.
“The Fan’s Fan! FJA.” Forrest J Ackerman was just that for all his life and a beloved guest at Comic-Con over the years. Besides editing the fan-favorite magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, Forry was an agent for science fiction authors (such as Ray Bradbury), was a member of science fiction’s First Fandom, and had one of the largest and most impressive collections of movie and science fiction memorabilia in the world.
The official welcome notes that “The years to come will see us grow and San Diego will take it’s [sic] rightfull [sic] place in the world of fandom.” That worked out pretty well, didn’t it?
More on Forry, one of the minicon’s guests of honor . . . or as they put it, “Ghost of Honor,” since Forry had just finished a guest spot in a movie (Blood of Frankenstein with Lon Chaney Jr. and J. Carroll Naish) in which his character was killed. Parts of Forry’s impressive career are briefly outlined on this page.
Mike Royer was another minicon special guest, and he provided a self-portrait and wrote his own biography. This is probably right before Mike became the primary inker and letterer on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World books for DC Comics (Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle), as his bio mentions his work as Russ Manning’s assistant on the Tarzan books for Gold Key.
Here’s the ad for the first official San Diego Comic-Con in August, along with one for the science fiction convention Westercon XXIII, held in Santa Barbara, CA, in July of that year, plus the remainder of Mike Royer’s bio. “Comic book artist Jack Kirby in person!”
Oh, to be able to travel back in time to visit some of these places! The Cherokee Book Shop in Hollywood was a legendary place with comic fans in that era, and Wahrenbrock’s Book House in San Diego was a downtown fixture up until just a few years ago.
The program schedule includes a couple of classic film showings (the silent version of The Lost World, featuring special effects by Willis O’Brien, and Rocket Ship, the feature version of the first Flash Gordon serial), “Chalk Talks with Cartoonists” (including guest Mike Royer), the first-ever special guest spotlight panel with Forry, and time allotted for everyone to visit the Dealers’ Room again and again to buy stuff.
That’s it! One day, 9:00 am to the proverbial “? ? ?,” a couple of great guests, a Dealers’ Room filled with comics and all kinds of things to buy, some programs, and movie screenings . . . does it all sound familiar? This first-ever San Diego Comic-Con (albeit a minicon) set the stage for every show that came after it, each one increasing in size—and scope—over the years.
Want to read more about the history of the San Diego Comic-Con? It’s all in the deluxe hardcover book, Comic-Con: 40 Years of Artists, Writers, Fans & Friends.