SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON in the ’70s: When Giants Roamed the Aisles

13th Dimension contributor PETER BOSCH takes you to Bronze Age nirvana…


It is hard to imagine that the San Diego Comic-Con has been around since 1970. Comics that were on the newsstands at that time are now collectors’ treasures. My first convention there was in 1976 at the El Cortez Hotel and, if the pile of convention booklets sitting before me is correct, I have been to a total of 18 of them.

It’s changed since 1976. At that time, they say the attendance was 3,000 people, but it certainly never felt like that. It was a calm event, with no lineups, and you could do the dealers’ room in just a few minutes (to this day, I still regret not buying those Frank Robbins original art pages from the seller in the far right corner), as well as a small costume contest one evening.

From the 1976 program

I remember the expansion of the convention space when they moved to occupy a good percentage of the San Diego Convention Center… and as big as that was, as years passed the convention has taken over the entire center. Now, lacking space in the convention hall, some exhibitors have taken to outdoor display tents nearby. And the crowd size has expanded far beyond what the original Con creators could ever have imagined.

In 2019, the last time there was a convention, due to COVID shutdowns, there were 130,000 attendees.

While I am always in awe when I attend (believe me, you have not experienced fandom at its fanniest until you witness firsthand all the costumed folk walking the aisles), after 18 conventions I have to admit a lot of that spectacle blurs in my memory cells. What I do remember clearly is meeting comic professionals I have long admired. At that 1976 convention, I got to talk to Russ Manning, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Milton Caniff, Joe Shuster, Mel Lazarus, Sergio Aragonés, Russell Myers and Ray Bradbury. Giants all.

For the 30th anniversary SDCC program, they asked past attendees to share their thoughts of the previous conventions. For this 1976 page, they chose — well, you can see. P.S. That’s Mel Blanc above my quote, not me.

If I can give just one piece of advice to all attending this year’s convention, it is to meet the people you admire and thank them for their work. In some cases, you may never have the chance again.

I just picked an old souvenir program at random from the stack, and it’s the one for the 1999 convention. The guests for that year included Will Eisner, Arnold Drake, Jerry Robinson, Forrest J. Ackerman, June Foray, Sam Glanzman, Irwin Hasen, Dave Stevens, Chuck Cuidera and Miguel Ferrer.

I regret to say that none of them are still with us, and I wish I had met them all. I am always glad for those I did meet.


— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My Comic Con Scrapbook — PART 1. Click here.

— SAY CHEESE! 13 Times Celebrities Were Photographed Reading Comics, by PETER BOSCH. Click here.

PETER BOSCH’s first book, American TV Comic Books: 1940s-1980s – From the Small Screen to the Printed Page, has just been published by TwoMorrows. He has written articles and conducted celebrity interviews for various magazines and newspapers. Peter lives in Hollywood.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On


  1. Over the years, I was able to meet Will Eisner, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, Darwyn Cooke, Stan Lee, George Perez, Tim Sale, Neal Adams, Len Wein, Russ Heath – they’re all gone now. I consider myself lucky to have met them.

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: