The 2016 edition of San Diego Comic-Con kicks off this weekend, and though its only become a legit geek phenomenon in the past decade or so. But, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a boatload of interesting stuff happening in the previous few decades.
SDCC was founded way back in 1970 by a few geeks just wanting to get the gang together, under the moniker of the Golden State Comic Book Convention. The first installment attracted just 300 attendees — while SDCC now draws a crowd of around 150,000+. But, any ol’ geek probably knows that.
But, there could still be a few SDCC secrets buried in the vault you didn’t know about.
Check out our list of little-known tidbits below, and let us know which ones surprised you.
Before they were stars, George R.R. Martin and Matt Groening were guests at SDCC 1988
They’re rock stars in the geek world these days, but George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire) and Matt Groening (The Simpsons) actually attended SDCC long before they made it big. The duo were guests at SDCC in 1988, back when Groening was getting ready to launch this risky little show called The Simpsons, and Martin was just an up-start writer.
The first-ever Star Wars posters were sold for next to nothing at SDCC in 1976
Back when SDCC was pretty much still all about comics, the folks promoting a little up-and-coming sci-fi flick called Star Wars decided to use the convention as a way to generate some buzz. So, they put together some early concept art and merch to sell, including what turned out to be the first ever Star Wars poster made available to the public. The panel was only half-full, but it still helped build some buzz. Those posters sold for about $1 each at the time, but can now fetch prices for hundreds of dollars at auction.
Guests for the first-ever SDCC included comic book artist Jack Kirby, as well as sci-fi authors Ray Bradbury and A.E. van Vogt
Though the first edition of SDCC in 1970 only attracted about 300 people, the event (known as the Golden State Comic Book Convention at the time) still brought some A-list talent for geeks to meet. The first SDCC brought out comic book artist Jack Kirby, as well as sci-fi authors Ray Bradbury and A.E. van Vogt. Not bad for an up-start event, right?
Mike Mignola’s long-running Hellboy made his first appearance in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 in 1993.
The character has been in print for more than 20 years, spanning multiple comic runs and building out a giant, paranormal world along the way. It also managed to spawn two excellent genre films, with fans still clamoring for a third. But, it all started at SDCC. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy made his debut in 1993 in an issue of San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2, when the character was introduced in a short story brought by the fled gelding little published Dark Horse Comics.
Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola hosted a panel to at SDCC in 1992 to promote his adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The legendary director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) didn’t make many stops by SDCC, and might seem like a strange fit looking back, but he did visit in 1992 to help build some buzz for his horror adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You just know that had to have been an interesting set-up, and a rare chance to see the cinema legend within the geek-friendly setting.
To help build additional buzz for The Hobbit, Legendary literally expanded the screens in Hall H in 2012 to show off the footage
By the early 2010s, the battle to blow fans away in Hall H was reaching a fevered pitch among studios. So, to make sure The Hobbit didn’t get buried amongst the various other announcements, Legendary decided to take up a bit more screen space — or, like, all of it. The studio surprised fans by basically putting the audience in the center of a gigantic, IMAX-esque set-up to show off the footage in about the most epic way possible. It worked, and The Hobbit footage premiere remains one of the coolest moments in SDCC history.
The Dark Horse comic Concrete dominated the first Eisner Awards at SDCC 1988
Along with a boatload of other things, SDCC also hosts the Eisner Awards — basically the “Oscars of comics” — to reward the best work in the space. So, who cleaned up at the first edition hosted at SDCC? The Dark Horse comic Concrete, by Paul Chadwick. The run won best continuing series, best new series and best black-and-white series. If you’re unfamiliar, Concrete focuses on a man how has his brain transplanted into a hulking artificial body which is made up of a substance that closely resembles concrete. He uses his new abilities to help people and go on adventures, and the series was a huge critical hit for the period.
The SDCC staff had a real-life cat mascot in the early 2010s
Back in the early 2010s, a little black cat wandered into the SDCC offices and never really left. So, the staff essentially adopted the kitty, and named him “Mooch” (after the little black cartoon cat in Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts comic strip). They added the cat to the staff sign-in board, and even gave him his own ID badge. He’s since retired from his SDCC career, but the kitty left a lasting impression.
Fans saved SDCC in 1979 by kicking in cash after a robbery
Considering its a multimillion dollar enterprise these days, it’s hard to believe that a mere $12,000 nearly bankrupted the event in 1979. The SDCC treasurer’s home was broken into and $12,000 in receipts were stolen. With the event on the verge of collapse, fans came through in a big way, kicking in the cash to cover the lost funds and keep the convention alive for another year.
Harrison Ford didn’t attend SDCC until 2010 while promoting Cowboys & Aliens
The guy has starred in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but legendary actor Harrison Ford never actually attended SDCC until 2010… and it wasn’t even for one of his popular flicks. Ford hit up SDCC for the first time while promoting the box office dud Cowboys & Aliens. Sadly, not even Ford’s star power could save this one.
You can track down the highlights from SDCC 1975 on vinyl
Alan Light, founder of the Comics Buyer's Guide, recorded all of the panels and speeches at SDCC 1975 and put together the highlights. Then, this being 1975, he compiled them all on a limited-edition 12-inch LP record. Could there be anything more retro geek?
Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan hosted a panel in 2008 for a movie that never got made
Back in 2008, Robert Rodriguez was on th everge of putting together that long-gestating Red Sonja film, and even hosted a panel with would-be star Rose McGowan. Of course, despite the SDCC buzz, the movie drifted into development hell and never actually happened. Maybe someday…