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San Diego Comic Fest Marks Its 7th Year

Convention expands to four days and returns to Four Points by Sheraton

Photo credit: Matt Dunford

Matt Dunford (right), with Alvin Hernandez Revilas, promoting Comic Fest last month at the San Diego Comic Show.

GUESTS:

Matt Dunford, chairman, San Diego Comic Fest

Beth Accomando, arts reporter, KPBS News

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Most San Diegans probably know Comic-Con, but not as many may be familiar with San Diego Comic Fest, which also focuses on comics and pop culture.

Seven years ago Comic Fest announced itself as “the friendly, intimate” comic convention experience offering a more casual atmosphere and smaller scale than Comic-Con International, which now attracts well over 135,000 attendees.

The website traces the convention's roots back to 1969, when Mike Towry was a teenaged San Diego comics dealer and "was part of the small group of fans who founded what became known as the San Diego Comic-Con. After the celebration of the 40th Comic-Con in 2009, he and other Comic-Con veterans agreed that San Diego needed a second convention, one reminiscent of the early Comic-Cons. Thus, San Diego Comic Fest was born in 2012. (The two conventions, however, share no official affiliation with each other.)

Comic Fest proudly boasts of keeping attendee numbers to just a few thousand so everyone has an opportunity to meet and spend time with the artists and guests. Each year Comic Fest picks a theme that crosses over comics, books, sci-fi and movies. Two years ago, it was the centennial of Jack Kirby. Last year it was 200 years of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." This year it’s 50 years of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

"Some people might say what does that have to do with comics?" Comic Fest chairman Matt Dunford asked. "Well, actually the thing is, it influenced so much of our culture. It influenced our comics, our science fiction and our films. You look what the space age did through the 1950s and 1960s, just about everything was influenced or inspired by space travel. Even down to our cars that became rocket shaped. It gave us 'The Jetsons,' it gave us 'Star Trek' and even into comics you look at 'Fantastic Four.' The 'Fantastic Four' got their powers from a space shuttle mission. And even our esteemed guest of honor Sergio Aragones, his first comic strip that he did at 'Mad Magazine' was a Mad look at the space program."

Dunford began working at Comic Fest as a volunteer for the convention's first two years before becoming its chairman three years ago. As a convention organizer, he said he tries not to let what he calls his own personal "fanboy" tastes influence the programming. But this year he is overseeing a celebration of 25 years of the animated "Spider-Man" TV series. There will be multiple panels with the show's producer John Semper. Dunford and Semper will revisit the "Spider Wars" and discuss the origins of the "Spider-Verse."

Comic Fest offers attendees panel discussions; guest programs; an artist alley; tabletop gaming; cosplay; steampunk; and an exhibitor hall featuring comics, books, toys and collectibles. The four-day convention opens Thursday with a reception and returns to the location of Four Points by Sheraton on Aero Drive this year.

The programming schedule is available online and tickets are just $50 for a full four-day passes.

You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Most San Diegans probably know Comic-Con but not as many may be familiar with San Diego Comic Fest, which also focuses on comics and pop culture.

You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

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