Comic-Con belongs to everyone. It is a shared experience. And it has a unique history full of heart. There’s a clarity of purpose and pure simplicity about the original Comic-Cons that you can still find at Comic-Con today many times over. Of course, it is not what it used to be. The history is priceless, beginning with a band of kids, ranging in age from 12 to 17, who were integral in putting together the first Comic-Con in 1970. Since 2011, San Diego State University Library has been collecting personal histories through a series of interviews with individuals involved in San Diego’s early Comic-Cons. SDSU Library takes a big step forward with a new website that explores the cultural history of Comic-Con.
If you are heading out to WonderCon, you will definitely want to set aside time for a very special panel discussion on the wonderful world of collecting comics. This panel is moderated by an important player in the world of comics and Comic-Con, Greg Koudoulian. Greg goes back to the beginning of the San Diego Comic-Con and has many friends to show for it. He started out as a film contributor for the early Comic-Cons and even went on to host is own mini-monthly cons in LA in the early ’70s.
It was in 2009 that an idea took hold that has been growing ever since. Shel Dorf, the leading founder of Comic-Con, was in hospital and did not have long to live. Greg, and a close group of friends, which included George Clayton Johnson, Richard Alf, William Clausen, Mike Towry, and Clatyon Moore, created The Shel Dorf Fan Club and Entourage. It was a beautiful gesture that pleased Shel very much and a wonderful way to say goodbye. Since 2009, the club has honored numerous talents in the industry with plans for much more to come, even an art museum. Then, early in 2012, SDCC co-founder Richard Alf passed away. This sad event has only spurred the Fan Club and friends to greater action. It is good to mention here that Richard Alf and Mike Towry were working on San Diego Comics Fest, a return to a more intimate event reminiscent of the early years of Comic-Con. And San Diego Comic Fest held its first annual event in 2012.
Through it all, Greg Koudoulian has remained a trusted, active, and much loved part of Comic-Con and its legacy. There are some special plans up ahead for the cartetaking of valuable archival material. While no formal announcements are ready to be made, it is what Greg is doing today that will lead to some exciting prospects for securing Comic-Con history in the future. One project is a documentary of the early San Diego Comic-Cons of the 1970s. The documentary has a working title of “Planet Cortez, A Legacy in Time.” The work involved is multi-layered: everything from digitizing a vast collection of material as well as creating essential new material.
When asked about his thoughts on the emergence of geek culture, specifically the evolution of the comics collecting culture, Greg is ready with an answer: “When Charles Kuralt, of CBS, went to Cherokee Books in Hollywood in 1973 and said that there might be a goldmine in your grandma’s attic, things went through the roof. When you’ve got Walter Cronkite endorsing your hobby on national television, that got it booming! The prices in the Overstreet Comics Price Guide began to inflate. For example, I bought ‘Superman #2’ in 1974, in fair condition for $125 and, a year later, sold it for $250. Around that time, Johnny Carson had on as a guest on ‘The Tonight Show’ someone who’d bought a copy of ‘Action Comics #1’ for $1,800. I was interviewed for the pilot to Tom Snyder’s ‘Tomorrow Show’ with my comics collection. And I managed to get a copy of ‘Action Comics #1’ lent to me to show but my interview never aired.”
And this leads us back to the WonderCon panel, “The Business & Hobby of Collecting Comics,” March 31, Sunday, 3:30-4:30 PM, Room 213AB. The panel will offer a variety of insights and stories to tell. Plus, stick around for some fun giveaways. Go to the Facebook page here. You can also call the hotline: 858-215-3659
Here are the details:
“The Business & Hobby of Collecting Comics,” March 31, Sunday, 3:30-4:30 PM, Room 213AB
From personal collections, working with museums and art galleries and even a little bit of hoarding, George Clayton Johnson, Barry Short, John Ellis, Eric Hoffman, Michael Hamersky, Alan Williams, and Dave Arshawsky are all fans and collectors of most things related to science fiction and comics. Collecting is a major industry these days; just watch the cable shows dedicated to it! Join moderator Greg Koudoulian to discuss how we can make sure that our histories and legacies are preserved for future generations, in both museums and art galleries and your own home!
George Clayton Johnson, wrote 8 original “Twilight Zone” stories and screenplays, wrote the first episode of “Star Trek” to be broadcast, and co-created “Ocean’s 11,” and “Logan’s Run.”
Barry Short, was a former Program Director for SDCC from 1982-86 and owner of 21st Century Comics from 1986-2003.
John Ellis, Partner in the Milton Caniff Estate, a Special Effects artist and writer.
Greg Koudoulian, Moderator, Early SDCC film program contributor, also produced first Mini Cons on the west coast in 1973-74 and a Collector too.
Eric Hoffman, Writer, Film Historian and collector of most SF Genre! Early SDCC film program contributor too.
MICHAEL HAMERSKY, Comics Dealer, blogger, and expert on the Comics Industry, past, present and future.
Alan Williams, former Comic Book store owner, Fanzine expert and writer.
Dave Arshawsky, Comic Book Artist, Toy designer, Sculptor, writer and Collector.
George Clayton Johnson makes his living by daydreaming, as he has put it. And those dreams have led him to some amazing places. You may know about him already or, perhaps, you’ve heard of his work. The story that he co-wrote with Jack Golden Russell was the basis for the 1960 and 2001 films, “Oceans Eleven.” He wrote the first aired episode of “Star Trek.” With William F. Nolan, he co-wrote the novel that was the basis for the cult classic film, “Logan’s Run.” Along with other remarkable television writing and countless science fiction stories, Mr. Johnson wrote some of the most poignant and beloved episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “Kick The Can,” which was remade in the movie version.
Mr. Johnson’s life is the stuff of legend. He was born in a barn, in 1929, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and not exactly set on a path for the success he has achieved. But with a strong force of will, George Clayton Johnson gave his life shape and purpose. Leaving behind a troubled upbringing, he set out at the age of fifteen to make his living as best he could. He started out as a shoeshine boy. Later, in the army, he mastered the job of draftsman and was involved with charting the intricate underground wiring systems related to the Panama Canal. By the late ’50s, he had set his mind on being a writer and this led to his story about an outrageous Las Vegas casino bank heist. This became his calling card and led to his joining a group of elite science fiction writers in Southern California. From there, he met Rod Serling who just happened to be preparing for a new show that would chart a new course for television, “The Twilight Zone.”
Where to begin with such a talent? One big point of interest: the remake of “Logan’s Run.”
For those of you interested in the history of the comics industry, and the roots of your local comics shop, I want to pass this on to you. This is a good time to share this since it connects very well with the upcoming Comic Fest, a festival that returns to the roots of Comic-Con that takes place October 19 thru 21.
Jackie Estrada, a supporter of the San Diego Comic-Con from the very beginning and administrator of its Eisner Awards since 1990, has some vivid recollections to share about the early days of buying comics as a kid. She provided some good stories at a memorial for Richard Alf, the co-founder of Comic-Con, who passed away this year. These are priceless memories that give a new generation a sense of what it was like before comic book shops and organized comic book collecting took hold. Enjoy this look back right after the jump: Continue reading →