The Founders of San Diego Comic Con

Comic Con International LogoI’m writing this as kind of a public service. San Diego Comic Con (aka Comic Con International) is the largest and most well-known comic convention in North America, maybe even the World. I’ve been going to it since 2008 and It’s one of my favourite comic conventions.

Over the years I’ve attended panels about the origins of the convention and met many of the founders. The convention was originally called The Golden State Comic Con and began in 1970, making it one of if not the oldest currently ongoing comic book conventions today. There were 2 conventions that year, a 1 day mini-con on March 21 that was done to test the waters to see if enough people would come to a convention, then a 3 day convention on August 1-3rd.

One of the things that happens on occasion that bugs me is when other people who weren’t involved in starting the convention call themselves a founder of it. It’s historical inaccurate and feels like stolen valour when that happens.

I’ve reached out to many of the surviving known founders and asked them for a definitive list of names of people who were involved in founding the first comic con. Mike Towry, Barry Alfonso, Scott Shaw! and Will Lund have confirmed this list of names as those who founded comic con.

The agreed upon names of founders are:

Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Bob Sourk, Mike Towry, Barry Alfonso, John Hull, Bud Jamison, Greg Bear, Dave Clark, Scott Shaw!, Roger Freedman, John Pound, Steve Shipman, Dan Stewart and Will Lund.

If you ever come across somebody claiming to be a founder of San Diego Comic Con and they are not one of the above names don’t believe them.

Soon joining to help out as self-described gophers was David, Pat and Steve McGlone.

You don’t have to take my word for it, founders Mike Towry & Barry Alfonso have written their own recollections on how Comic Con began and who was involved. They are both very good detailed course of events that describe how Shel Dorf pitched the idea of doing a convention in San Diego to Richard Alf and his friends. Shel had prior experience putting on conventions when he worked with Dr. Jerry Bails & others to do the Detroit Triple Fan Fair convention from 1965 to 1969. Shel also introduced the group to Jack Kirby, then the group expanded to include others to do the work of putting on the show. Shel advised the group what steps had to be done to put on the event, while the mostly group of teenagers did the work.

Noted historian R.C. Harvey also wrote the founding of Comic Con via his profile on Shel Dorf.

Below is the 1 page welcome sheet of the very first 1 day San Diego mini-con that listed some of the people that worked to put on the convention. It took place on March 21, 1970.

1st Golden State Comic Con Welcome Sheet.

Image courtesy of and the from the Richard Alf archives.

The 2nd event took place on August 1-3rd, 1970. Below are pages from the program guide, again with a list of names that helped put on the event. The names Bill Hupp, Ron Cearns and Gary Pagel are added to the crew. Bud Jamison and Roger Freedman are not listed, but I’m told Roger Freedman was there and involved.
1970 Golden State Comic Con Program Book The above image is courtesy of Greg Koudoulian, who houses archives from Shel Dorf, Richard Alf and others.


Founder Will Lund’s wrote me his memories of his involvement on the beginnings of comic con and gave me permission to post them:

I returned to San Diego following a tour in Vietnam and was assigned to then-Navy base Miramar. I was contacted by Shel Dorf regarding a group of Co Dorfman or Richard Alf had seen a letter of commercial I had made in a Comic pr fanzine (I don’t recall) and contacted me through the address I had given. Anyway, I was invited to join their at a small gathering of comic book collectors. It was either at that meeting or later that plans were made to do a convention. I don’t recall who was in attendance at those earlier meeting but they included Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Barry Alfonso, John Hull, Scott Shaw, Mike Towry, John Pound, David Clark, Roger Freedman, Steve McGlone, Patrick McGlone, Ron Cearns, Gary Pagel, and others whose names have escaped my memory.

Shel had worked on the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, while Ken Krueger and John Hull had previously worked on other conventions so we were not going into this venture blindly. Ken was the first chairman and operating funds were put up by Richard Alf from his mail order business. I was busy with my Navy duties then so I wasn’t around a lot in the beginning, but I was there.

Another young man who was there among the founding members and shouldn’t be forgotten was science fiction writer Greg Bear. He made his success as a writer after working on the convention and was involved in many ways in Fandom earlier. He helped with obtaining Ray Bradbury as our major SF writer guest as well as Ken Krueger. Comic Con wasn’t only known for Comic books but also for other interests.

The second year was held on the UCSD campus to save money and Richard Alf was the chairman. I believe it was because he was attending the university. Others had joined our group and helped us expand, including Jean Peacock, Pam May and Donna McGary. I was originally to be the chairman the third year but the Republicans were going to hold their convention in San Diego and all hotel space was booked and we were locked into our dates although we tried to change them. Fortunately the Republicans moved to Miami and I went back to the El Cortez with Ken Krueger and Shel Dorf and we signed a contract with them. Others were unhappy that it took too long to obtain a hotel so that was relieved of my chairmanship.

The following year others were going to run the convention and we ended up holding just our meetings. Eventually the ones who going to take over decided to disband and the small group took a vote and with around six months left we decided to put on the San Diego Comic Con. New memberships to the group included Richard Butner, Bill and Steve Shane’s, and Chuck Graham, among others. We held it at the Sheraton Hotel since the El Cortez wasn’t available. We needed an artist to really get memberships in so I called up Neal Adams and he agreed to attend. And the rest is history, so to speak.

And that’s the early history of Comic Con, Jamie, as much as I recall.