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San Diego Comic Fest Returns For 8th Year

San Diego Comic Fest celebrates the centennial of filmmaker and stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen, left, and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury.
San Diego Comic Fest
San Diego Comic Fest celebrates the centennial of filmmaker and stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen, left, and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury.

Comic book convention calls itself "friendly, intimate"

San Diego Comic Fest bills itself as the "friendly, intimate comic convention experience." The convention kicks off its 8th year tonight with a reception party at the Four Points By Sheraton on Aero Drive and then runs through Sunday.

San Diego Comic Fest bills itself as the "friendly, intimate comic convention experience." The convention kicks off its eighth year Thursday night at the Four Points By Sheraton on Aero Drive with a reception party.

San Diego Comic Fest is focusing its attention on two pop culture icons celebrating their centennial this year: science fiction author Ray Bradbury and stop motion animator and filmmaker Ray Harryhausen. It's hard to believe that these two men were born the same year and had such an impact on pop culture. So this year the Comic Fest Cafe is being dubbed the Rays Cafe in their honor, plus there will be panels all weekend long looking at the works of these two men and the impact they have had on pop culture.

Comic Fest shares the same town as Comic-Con International and will always exist in comparison and in terms of size, in its shadow. But that's fine with Comic Fest Chairman Matt Dunford.


"The keyword here is intimate," Dunford said. "It's friendly. It's intimate. It's small. San Diego Comic-Con is always going to be the behemoth. It's going to be the giant in the room. It's a big event and I think it's run beautifully for everything that goes on. But I understand that's not the ideal experience for everyone. Sometimes they can be flustered by big crowds or too much going on. But the thing that Comic Fest can offer is it's just a smaller presence where it doesn't feel so rushed, where you can take your time with creators and just have a blast with them and, you know, something I often said about Comic Fest is you go in on day one and there's all these great comic book creators around you, it's like you look up to them as gods. But by the end of the weekend, you just called them friend."

San Diego Comic Fest runs Thursday night through Sunday at Four Points By Sheraton in Kearny Mesa.

San Diego Comic Fest Returns For 8th Year
Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

UPDATE: Please note that after this interview guest of honor J. Michael Straczynski regretfully withdrew from attending because of concerns regarding spread of the coronavirus.

Panel recommendations (panel descriptions provided by Comic Fest)

Friday, Mar 6, 2020 12:00PM


Collection Care and Preservation (Palm A, Pamela Jackson)

Pamela Jackson, Popular Culture Librarian from San Diego State University's Special Collections and University Archives will share some struggles and tips about caring for and preserving your comics collection.

Friday, Mar 6, 2020 1:00PM

The Genius of Ray Harryhausen (Montgomery Theater, John Field)

A look at the creations and films of this master craftsman. Modern directors interview Ray as he discusses his creative process and shows clips from his finest films. A special tribute to Bernard Herrman and his many fine music scores to Harryhausen films as well.

"That's not for girls!" (Palm A)

A panel about women creators doing stuff they're not "supposed" to do. Boys get to write anything, whether they've been there or not - and when they write girl characters, they don't always do it well. Girls, on the other hand, are too often expected to write from ONLY an Everyday Female viewpoint, even though when they write guy characters, they often do it well. Why is that? Our panelists Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, and Diana Leto seek to answer that question.

R is for Ray (The Rays Cafe)

From his first published story, "Hollerbachen's Dilemma," in Forry Ackerman's fanzine Imagination in 1938, Ray Bradbury would go on to a decades-spanning career that saw him become our most honored and recognized and most beloved science-fiction author. A great author of science fiction and fantasy, Ray was also a great fan and a great supporter of fandom who helped put San Diego's Comic-Con on the map by being a guest at the first Comic-Con in 1970 and returning regularly thereafter. Panelists include Richard Pini, Wendy Pini, Paul Sammon, William Stout.

Friday, Mar 6, 2020 2:00PM

A Tribute to Ray Harryhausen (Montgomery Theater)

In 1992, when Ray Harryhausen was recognized by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awarded him the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for "technological contributions," presented to him by his boyhood friend Ray Bradbury, Tom Hanks, the Master of Ceremonies at the event, said "Some people say Casablanca or Citizen Kane...I say Jason and the Argonauts is the greatest film ever made!" No filmmaker or special effects master more directly influenced and inspired an entire generation of directors and visual effects masters who made the fantasy and science fiction films that have conquered Hollywood and delighted fans around the world. Please join our panelists in paying tribute to this film legend in 2020, the centennial of his birth.

Friday, Mar 6, 2020 4:00PM

They Called Us The Underground (Palm B)

What are Underground Comics? Weird sex? Strange politics? Big Daddy eyeballs on headshop racks? Who is an underground author? What underground authors are still laying ink on paper - or pixels on screens! - to this day? What made the old days great or awful and how have the veterans on this panel survived and thrived? Even more importantly - how did the underground give rise to the Young Adult books of today?

Friday, Mar 6, 2020 5:00PM

Spotlight on Guest of Honor Bill Sienkiewicz (Montgomery Theater)

San Diego Comic Fest Guest of Honor and Eisner Award Hall of Famer Bill Sienkiewicz has been dazzling readers with his revolutionary approach to art and storytelling for four decades. He'll discuss his career, his influences, his artistic approach, and his obsession with toasters in conversation with comics journalist Rob Salkowitz (FORBES).

Midlife Crisis: Crisis On Infinite Earths At 35 (Palm A, TJ Shevlin, Marv Wolfman)

It was the story that shook the world, every single one of them. 35 years later people are still talking about Crisis On Infinite Earths and impact it had on the DC Universe and the history of comics. The iconic story was revisited 15 years ago in DC's Infinite Crisis and recently in the live action DC television Universe. Marv Wolfman wrote the original series and came back to lend a helping hand in the television crossover. Let join Marv as we talk about 35 years of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Friday, Mar 6, 2020 9:00PM

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM FEST (Montgomery Theater, John Field)

The late night festival returns with more wacky, amusing and downright odd films and t.v. shows. What will be unveiled?. Drop by and see.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 12:00PM

Ted Adams on Clover Press (Palm B)

Join IDW cofounder Ted Adams as he discusses his newest publishing venture, Clover Press, which he says will focus on the book trade and the direct market (comics shop market) with an extremely eclectic list of titles, including genre fiction and licensed properties. Learn what is to come from this "boutique publisher" that aims to produce a carefully curated and lovingly created combination of new titles and reprints of classic works.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 1:00PM

The Editors Panel (Palm B)

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when you're working with the biggest names in comics? Well, you came to the right place. We are bringing together some of the comic industry's most seasoned editors to tell some very cool tales. Panelists: Anina Bennett, Kevin Dooley, Barbara Kesel, Chris Ryall.

We Drew (and Draw) for Disney (The Rays Cafe)

Mike Royer (AKA "The Pooh Man"), Willie Ito, Ken Mitchroney, and Disney Legend Floyd Norman will share stories from their decades of experience drawing animation, comics, and product designs for Disney. They will be joined by Ricardo Delgado who is working on a new project for Disney animation. Panelists: Ricardo Delgado, Willie Ito, Ken Mitchroney, Floyd Norman, Mike Royer.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 3:00PM

Mock Trial: Mandalorian and Baby Yoda Custody Hearing (Montgomery Theater, Joshua Gilliland, Leasly Salazar, Claudia Salinas, Judge Emily Spears.)

The Armorer told the Mandalorian, "A Foundling is in your care. By creed, until it is of age or reunited with its own kind, you are as its father. This is the way." Can the Mandalorian legally adopt The Child as his own son? Our would a court appoint the Mandalorian as The Child's guardian? Join law students as they argue to a Judge for the right of the Mandalorian to care for The Child at San Diego Comic Fest.

The IDW Panel (Palm B, Scott Dunbier, Chris Ryall)

For over 20 years, IDW Publishing has been San Diego's local comic book publisher. Things have been shaking up with Chris Ryall rising to the rank of President, Publisher and Chief Creative Officer. There are some big things in the works so hear from the IDW crew about their past, present and future.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 4:00PM

The Kaiju Panel (Palm B, Beth Accomando, Ricardo Delgado, Ramie Tateishi)

There is just something about a giant monster that remains an interesting concept, no matter how many times you do it. From King Kong to Godzilla, Cloverfield and Pacific Rim we love big freaky looking monsters that can smash our cities to bits.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 4:30PM

David Lynch's DUNE (Montgomery Theater, Paul Sammon)

Since it's first publication in Analog magazine in 1965, Frank Herbert's Dune has been considered one of the classics of science fiction. The first attempt to turn this epic novel into an equally epic film was David Lynch's 1984 film of the same name. In recognition of this year's centennial of Herbert's birth, Paul Sammon, who worked on the Dune set at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City and has known David Lynch for decades, will give an insiders look at this controversial film.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 6:00PM

The Offensive Panel (Palm A, Michael Dooley, Mary Fleener, Jim Thompson)

In FAHRENHEIT 451, Ray Bradbury depicted a world that was bereft of books, and the offense they might give, by popular demand. Are contemporary demands to limit or ban speech that some might find offensive lead to such a world? Must giving offense be avoided at all cost or is the freedom to write and draw as one wishes still an important right to be exercised?

Wonder Woman, Witches and the Feminine Mystique (Palm C, William Nericcio, Walter Penrose, Elizabeth Pollard)

Join three professors from San Diego State University as they explore Amazon mythology, female empowerment and Latina identity on TV! Dr. William Nericcio, Professor of English, will discuss Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Dr. Walter Penrose, Associate Professor of History, will explore Amazon mythology and female empowerment in the Wonder Woman comics. Dr. Elizabeth Pollard, Professor of History, will explore how witches in comics of the mid-60s and -70s picked up on ancient concerns about witches while engaging contemporary concerns about Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique and the passage of the E.R.A.

Saturday, Mar 7, 2020 9:00PM

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM FEST PART II (Montgomery Theater, John Field)

The late night festival returns with more wacky, amusing and downright odd films and t.v. shows. What will be unveiled?. Drop by and see.

Sunday, Mar 8, 2020 10:00AM

Bradbury is from Mars. The Eternaut is from Argentina: National Identity and the Invasion Narrative (Palm B, Alex Grand, Dr. N. Scott Robinson, Jim Thompson)

The panelists will compare the narratives and themes of The Eternaut and The Martian Chronicles; discussing how aspects of national identity, such as the U.S.' foundational myth of Manifest Destiny or Argentina's history of military authoritarianism, influenced their respective narratives. Secondly, we will examine how their countries of origin responded to the cultural and political critiques presented therein. While The Martian Chronicles' "There will Come Soft Rains" was adapted by EC in 1953, it is doubtful that story, or many other chapters, would have received a Comics Code Authority Seal by the end of that decade.

Ray Bradbury at EC (The Rays Cafe, Thommy Burns, Mike Catron, Orty Ortwein, Steve Ringgenberg)

Join us for a slideshow discussion of Ray Bradbury's stories as they were adapted by writer/editor Al Feldstein for EC comics by some of the greatest comics artists of the 20th century - featuring work by Wallace Wood, Al Williamson (with Angelo Torres and Frank Frazetta), Jack Kamen, John Severin and Will Elder, Joe Orlando, Graham Ingels, Johnny Craig, George Evans, Jack Davis, Reed Crandall, and Bernard Krigstein. Presented by J. Michael Catron, editor of The Fantagraphics EC Artists' Library (27 volumes and counting!).

Sunday, Mar 8, 2020 12:00PM

Art During the Holocaust (Palm A, Matt Dunford, Trina Robbins, Sandra Scheller, Stephen Smith)

What is propaganda and why would it be targeted against innocent Jewish people? This panel will discuss the comic and graphics used pre-World War II along with art found during the Holocaust. Trina Robbins, renowned American artist will share her knowledge of the female cartoonists, while Sandra Scheller, creator of Art During the Holocaust and curator of RUTH: Remember US The Holocaust will give a more person point of view and lessons learned from her mom, Ruth Sax a Holocaust Survivor. Matt Dunford blends his world knowledge of history and comics during pre WWII until 1945. Stephen D. Smith, USC Shoah Foundation will moderate this blend of speakers into an unforgettable panel of history and "herstory."

Will Eisner's Graphic Novels (Palm B, Jackie Estrada)

Will Eisner is known for popularizing the graphic novel (although he did not "invent" the term, as is sometime claimed). What graphic novels did Will himself write and draw? Jackie Estrada (administrator of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards) helps celebrate 2020's Will Eisner Week by offering insights into more than a dozen of Eisner's works, starting with 1978's A Contract with God and including The Dreamer, Dropsie Avenue, A Life Force, The Name of the Game, To the Heart of the Storm, A Family Matter, and The Building.

The Hidden History of the Atomic Bomb (Palm C, Dr. Roger Freedman)

75 years after the first atomic weapons were used in World War II, there are still aspects of the science and technology behind the bomb that are little known to the public. In this nontechnical talk Dr. Freedman will discuss the basic physics of nuclear fission; how Allied scientists got the physics right and how German scientists got it wrong; how a wartime issue of Astounding Science Fiction almost gave the atomic secrets away; and how plans to deliver the atomic bomb to targets in Japan contributed to one of the largest industrial projects in American history, the building of the Boeing B-29 bomber.

Remembering Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen (Palm D, Greg Bear, David Clark, Scott Shaw!)

San Diego fans and fans turned pro Greg Bear, David Clark, and Scott Shaw! reminisce about their fondly-remembered, decades-spanning encounters with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen that began when they were teenage fans attending a talk given by Bradbury in San Diego in the 1960s.

Sunday, Mar 8, 2020 1:00PM

Native Americans, the U.S. military, boarding schools, and comics (Palm B, Chag Lowry )

Author Chag Lowry (Yurok/Maidu/Achumawi) will share about his graphic novels titled Soldiers Unknown and Reflections. Soldiers Unknown, with art by Rahsan Ekedal, is a World War One story about the California Native American experience in the Meuse-Argonne, which remains the largest battle in U.S. Army history. He will also discuss his upcoming comic anthology Reflections, which contains a story about the boarding school system that Native people in America were forced to endure. Reflections will feature art by Weshoyot Alvitre, Eli Hyder, and Rahsan Ekedal. Soldiers Unknown and Reflections (Fall, 2020) are published by Great Oak Press.

Sunday, Mar 8, 2020 2:00PM

Little Fish Comic Book Studio (The Rays Cafe, Alison Flynn, Alonso Nunez, TJ Shevlin)

Little Fish Comic Book Studio has been grown as San Diego's premier center for comic book education. Now as Little Fish enters its 8th year, it continues to grow with the help of a strong community. Learn how Little Fish helps nurture a community and keep going strong with a love of comic creation.

Sunday, Mar 8, 2020 4:00PM

2nd Annual Tribute to the Animation of the Fleischer Brothers (Montgomery Theater)

Max & Dave Fleischer created some of the most iconic characters in the history of motion picture animation. Following up from our presentation of last year, you will see an all new assortment of animated gems. Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman are highlighted John Field