In Southern California, where it all started, a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans teamed up together and put together their first comic book convention. It all started as a one-day thing, called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, on March 21, 1970 inside the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The reason behind this one-day event was to raise money to generate interest for a larger convention. With the success of the minicon came along the first full-fledged, three-day San Diego Comic-Con, held on August 1-3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, with special guest Ray Bradury and Jack Kirby. The three-day comic con was a huge success and attracted over 300 people, filling the hotel’s basement. In the convention, it featured a dealer’s room, programs and panels, film screenings, and most important, the model for every comic book convention to follow.
From the start of all of this, the founders of the conventions set out to include not only the comic books they loved but, other aspects of the popular arts that they enjoyed and felt deserved more recognition, including films and science fiction/fantasy literature. After one more name change (San Diego’s West Coast Comic Convention, in 1972), the show officially became the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in 1973 with the fourth annual event. In 1995, the non-profit event changed its name to Comic-Con International: San Diego (CCI). The show’s main home in the 1970s was the greatly remembered El Cortez Hotel in downtown San Diego. In 1979, Comic-Con moved to the Convention and Performing Arts Center (CPAC), and stayed there until 1991, when the new San Diego Convention Center opened. Comic-Con has been at home in that facility for over two decades.
With appearances over 130,000 in recent years, in a convention center facility that has maxed out in space, the event has grown to include satellite locations, including local hotels and outdoor parks. Programming events, games, anime, the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival and the Eisner Awards all take place outside of the Convention Center, creating a campus-type feel for the convention in downtown San Diego.
With many years gone by, Comic-Con has become the focal point for the world of comic conventions. Comic-Con continues to offer the complete convention experience as it first did back in 1970: a giant exhibit hall (topping over 460,000 square feet in its current existence); a massive programming schedule (in 2104 they were close to 700 seperate events), featuring comics and all aspects of the popular arts, including hands-on workshops and educational and academic programming such as the Comics Art Conference; anime and film screenings (even including a seperate film festival); games; the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the “Oscars” of the comics industry; a Masquerade costume competition with prizes and trophies; an Autograph Area; an Art Show; and Portfolio Reviews, bringing together aspiring artist with major companies.
Comic-Con has had over thousands of special guests at its conventions over the years, bringing comic creators, science fiction and fantasy authors, film and television directors, producers, and writers, and creators from all aspects of the popular arts together with their fans for a fun and often times candid discussion of various art forms. The popular event has seen an amazing range of comics and publishers in its Exhibit Hall over the years. Comic-Con International has continually presented comic books and comic art to a growing audience. The love that the comics share continue to be a guiding factor as the event moves toward its second half-century as the premier comic book and popular arts style convention in the world.
Over the years, San Diego Comic Convention has presented other conventions and events, including Comic Book Expo, a retail trade show for the comics industry, and ProCon, a convention for comic book industry creative professionals. In 1991, Comic-Con put on a separate convention, Con/Fusion billed as “a fusion of the best aspects of a science fiction convention with the est aspects of a comic book convention.”