31 Facts About San Diego Comic Con

Flickr user PACsWorld
Flickr user PACsWorld / Flickr user PACsWorld

Today is the beginning of the four-day comic book and pop culture convention universally known as San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). Every summer since 1970, fans gather in the sunny city to experience the very best in pop culture. Here are 31 facts about Comic-Con International: San Diego.

1. San Diego Comic-Con was founded by comic book artist and letterer Shel Dorf, comic book storeowner Richard Alf, and publisher Ken Krueger. They wanted to give Southern California its first comic book convention—and probably had no idea they'd created what would one day become the biggest comic book and pop culture convention in the world.

2. To raise money for the convention, the founders held a one-day event on March 21, 1970, called the Golden State Comic Mini-Con, in San Diego's U.S. Grant Hotel. About 100 people attended.

3. The first official San Diego Comic-Con was a three-day event held from August 1 to 3, 1970.

Courtesy of Comic-Convention Memories

4. From 1970 to 1972, the convention was called the Golden State Comic Book Convention. The first year, it was held in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel; 300 people attended.

5. Special guests for the very first convention were comic book artist Jack Kirby and science fiction authors Ray Bradbury and A.E. van Vogt.

6. From the very beginning, SDCC's founders wanted to include not only comic books, but also many different aspects of pop culture, including films and science fiction/fantasy literature.

7. The first Masquerade Ball, a fan-made costume and makeup contest, took place in 1974.

Courtesy of Flickr user parlance

8. The first Hollywood panel at SDCC was, appropriately, about Star Wars. Charles Lippencott, the film's marketing director, showed off slides from the film. Reportedly, only a handful of attendees showed up. The capacity for the 6th Annual San Diego Comic Con was approximately 3000.

9. In 1979, $12,000 in receipts was stolen from the Comic-Con International Treasurer’s home. As a result, the organization behind Comic-Con had to ask fans for donations to pay off the debt.

10. In 1984, San Diego Comic-Con was held one month earlier than usual in June because of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles in July and August.

11. Since 1987, Comic-Con International has also been host of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, which are the Oscars of the comic book industry.  

12. San Diego Comic-Con expanded to two smaller sister conventions called The Wonderful World of Comics Convention (or WonderCon) in San Francisco in 1987 and the Alternative Press Expo (or APE) in San Jose in 1994.

13. In 2012, WonderCon moved to the Anaheim Convention Center and was re-named Comic-Con International Presents WonderCon Anaheim.

14. SDCC moved to its current home at the San Diego Convention Center in 1991.

15. In 1992, the convention hosted comic book icon Jack Kirby’s 75th birthday party.

16. Since 1992, SDCC holds an annual Comics Arts Conference, which is devoted to the study of comics; it was recently expanded to WonderCon as well.

17. In 1995, the convention changed its name again to Comic-Con International: San Diego—its official name.

18. In 1995, graphic designer Richard Bruning developed and created Comic-Con International’s iconic “eye” logo.

19. Since 2000, San Diego Comic-Con has hosted an annual film festival called the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which highlights the best in genre moviemaking. 

20. Thanks in large part to the popularity and box office success of 2000's X-Men, films and television shows were becoming a bigger part of SDCC by 2001. Franchise movies like Spider-Man and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones were the big highlights of the convention that year.

21. Director Kevin Smith has made guest appearances at San Diego Comic-Con since 1997. In 2007, Comic-Con organizers asked the geek icon to close out Comic-Con Saturday Nights in Hall H with an hour-and-a-half long “Geek State of the Union Address.”

Getty Images

22. In 2008, San Diego Comic-Con sold out all days and passes for the first time in the long-running convention’s history.

23. San Diego Comic-Con was featured on various TV shows throughout the last decade, including The O.C., Weeds, and Entourage. The comic book convention was also featured on the reality shows Beauty and the Geek and MTV’s Punk’d and The Real World: San Diego (watch the episode here).

24. For his sci-fi film Paul, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, director Greg Mottola set up and filmed in the Albuquerque Convention Center, which was designed to look like the San Diego Convention Center during SDCC 2010. Only exterior shots of the San Diego Convention Center were used in the film.

Paul /

25. In 2011, director Morgan Spurlock made a documentary about the history and fan experience of San Diego Comic-Con titled Comic Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope.

26. SDCC hit its highest capacity in 2012 with more than 130,000 attendees.

27. San Diego Comic-Con isn't just a pop culture fan convention. It’s also made up of smaller events, including the Comic Book Expo, which is the official trade show for the comic book industry; the ProCon, an annual event for comic books industry creative professionals; and the Con/Fusion, which offers the best in science fiction and comic books.

28. The convention also hosts an annual Portfolio Review for aspiring comic book artists. This event places industry leaders with amateur artists and provides the artists with insightful criticism about their work. The event is also a recruiting event for comic book publishers to find new talent for their organizations.

29. The last day of San Diego Comic-Con is Kids Day, which features film festivals, events, and activities solely for children ages 12 and younger (who get into the convention for free with a paid adult admission).

30. Comic-Con International: San Diego generates an estimated $165 million each year in revenue for the city of San Diego.

31. The comic book convention has stayed in the city of San Diego since 1970, but as the convention expands, it might move to another city to accommodate its growing size. Cities like Anaheim, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles are making a bid to host the pop culture convention in the future—but the convention has a lease with the city of San Diego and its convention center until 2015.