I have been going to Comic-Con since I was a teenager in the 1970s.
I barely remember the first years I went because it was not a big deal to go. It was a small geeky gathering. My first clear memories are of my parents dropping me off at Golden Hall and walking into the dealers' room, which I could see the entirety of from the top stairs. Greeting me at the entrance was Leith Adams, dubbed "Flipper" by Quentin Tarantino who used to shop at his vintage poster booth. Leith used to have to flip his posters one at a time so I would spend hours there. One time I even stood next to Tarantino who had not yet released "Reservoir Dogs", so I had no idea who this geeky guy was spouting all sorts of movie trivia as we looked at each poster. Leith had seen an early screening of "Reservoir Dogs" and alerted me to who he was. Leith and I soon became good friends, bonding over movies.
When I was working at the former local Fox affiliate XETV in the 1990s, I started shooting video for Comic-Con's promos and for their internal use. Back then the city looked down on the geeky gathering and did not believe it brought any economic benefit. So I was asked to get interviews where people said where they came from to prove the Con brought in out-of-towners and to get footage of people walking around Gaslamp to show they were eating at restaurants and staying at hotels and not just crashing on friends’ floors.
Then I started covering Comic-Con for KPBS and collecting even more video and memories. So while KPBS calls me a reporter, I am first and foremost a geeky fan attending my favorite pop culture convention. So here are some videos pulled from the archives to hopefully show why I love Comic-Con and to get you excited for the upcoming event.
1. Filmmakers give advice
I shot this footage over multiple years and gathered what I feel is some of the absolute best advice for any young filmmaker from Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Guillermo Del Toro. Listen to these guys!
2. Hall H
This year, with the writers’ and possible actors’ strikes, Hall H may not live up to its brightest moments from the past but here's a look at the fandom that fills the room.
3. 501st Legion
As a fan of Star Wars and someone who had stormtrooper armor sitting in a box unassembled for eight years, I loved doing this story about the 501st Legion. This group is made up of incredibly talented and passionate folks who create screen accurate costumes to express their fandom. They also devote a huge amount of time in costume to doing charity work and occasional film appearances as extras.
Comic-Con is the perfect place to express both your fandom and yourself, and few do it better than Dragpool. So while we are on the topic of costuming and cosplay I just want to share my love for Dragpool. It's especially important to celebrate a sassy drag cosplayer like Dragpool as we see a rise in anti-drag sentiment and legislation across the U.S. Look for Dragpool, strutting defiantly and drawing crowds at this year's Comic-Con.
5. Comic-Con First-timers
Seven years ago filmmaker Stephen W. Martin went to his first Comic-Con to screen his short film as part of the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. He was so excited on preview night that he could barely contain himself. But by Friday, he looked like a beaten man. He confessed the lines were terrible and only DC had thick padded carpet where standing in line was even remotely pleasant. But then he got into the "Star Wars" panel where attendees got led to an outdoor concert with all the cast there. And by Friday night he was posting on Facebook that meeting his wife, getting married, and the "Star Wars" panel/concert were the best moments in his life. This year he returns with a panel called Perfecting and Pitching the Picture Book. And that’s what Comic-Con is all about: highs and lows, exhaustion and exaltation, defeat and triumph. It’s about having plans and having them fail, and finding something altogether different from what you expected happen.
6. IDW: Behind the scenes of running a booth
Here's a look at what San Diego-based IDW Publishing went through in 2017 to run a booth at Comic-Con. You can also check out what Toho went through bringing an original Godzilla suit to their first booth at Comic-Con to celebrate the Japanese icon’s 65th birthday.
7. Fans speak out
Here's a video postcard I made after speaking with fellow geeks and nerds at Comic-Con. It pretty much sums up how I feel about the pop culture convention.
8. Why do you go to Comic-Con?
Here's another old video I did for Comic-Con back in the 1990s of fans explaining why they attend the pop culture convention.
9. Artists and exhibitors
Artists and exhibitors talk about running booths at Comic-Con over the years.
10. Masquerade Madness
Comic-Con Masquerade is a big deal. Some entrants spend months preparing not just costumes but skits and musical numbers to present at the masquerade. Some costumes are spectacular like a massive dragon, or gorgeous like Mucha's the Four Seasons paintings come to life. While others are wildly inspired like kaiju as Vegas showgirls stomping a cityscape. Here's a portrait of one group who tackled Rococo X-Men.
11. Portfolio review
Every year Comic-Con offers people a chance to have professional companies do portfolio reviews for artists and offer feedback on what they are doing right and where they might improve. Artists have been hired off the floor at these portfolio reviews. Here are some artists who had sessions with Committed Comics and Clover Press at the first in-person Comic-Con after the pandemic.
12. Geek girl
Rebecca Hicks of "Little Vampires" web comics is a geek girl extraordinaire! Her enthusiasm for all things geeky and pop culture is infectious. She epitomizes the way a lot of people feel about attending the convention. I interviewed her as part of a series on people remembering Comic-Con on its 50th birthday. You can check out more videos with people like Mark Evanier, Jackie Estrada, Scott Shaw!, Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura and more by digging into my the archives on the Cinema Junkie presents Comic-Con playlist. Hope these video memories get you as excited as I am for Comic-Con 2023.