If all goes well, San Diego will host two Comic-Con events this year. There will be an online-only event during the traditional July window, and then around Thanksgiving, the event will return in person.
These conventions have become part of our popular culture. They’ve grown from a celebration of comic books into a powerhouse of public relations for some of the largest companies in the world. Comic-Con may embrace its geekiness, but it’s really something that affects all of us.
It wasn’t always like that
Before there was Comic-Con, there was this. If you were a young sci-fi fan in the 1970s and 1980s there was no better place to be than a Star Trek convention. I personally attended my fair share back then and it was a lot like the video you’ll see below… cheesy and silly and just a lot of fun. It was every bit as exciting as Comic-Con but you had a much better chance of actually running into someone from a TV show since at that time, these were poor struggling actors who really relied on income from shows like this.
It was at a convention in 1986 that I got to hear Leonard Nimoy speak. He’d just finished directing Two Men and a Baby and was anxious to talk about that, and about his father who just passed. I remember it vividly. Mr. Nimoy was one of the rare success stories to come out of televised sci-fi, having worked continuously since his days as Spock. He’d also achieved success as a recording artist, on Broadway, as a writer, and now as a director.
Sadly most actors in sci-fi didn’t fare as well. Most were typecast and had trouble finding work after a successful stint on a sci-fi show. By the 1980s many of them had no real income. They scraped together a living by traveling the country. They hawked signed photos and posed with fans. It’s hard to remember today when comic book movies are the biggest grossing ones in the world, but there was a time when comics and sci-fi were thought of as children’s entertainments. The actors in them were not thought of as serious and they were just as likely to end up broke after one successful show.
Conventions were great for the fans, though
Comic book and science fiction conventions were also a great place for the outsiders. It was a perfect place for people who were “out of the mainstream” to come together. Remember this was a generation before we even thought about the internet. If you cared more about space than sports, there was a chance that few people in town agreed with you. These conventions let the most outside of the outsiders feel like they were the cool kids. And you know… they were. The people who went to shows like this went on to great success. They would become tech titans, successful writers, and they spawned the massively successful culture we have today.
This convention wasn’t the first — conventional wisdom says that was back in 1972 — but it may be the earliest one from which we have video. Enjoy, and of course LLAP (if you don’t know what that means, perhaps this isn’t the article for you.)