This is the week of Comic Con in San Diego. I will, as usual, be staying home. In fact, in the four decades that San Diego has been home to the world’s biggest (and increasingly less comics-centered) comic book convention, I only attended once. That was in 1987...or... was it 1988?
It was a big freaking deal to me at the time so I remember a LOT about it. But there’s a problem. I can’t verify what year it was.Ten years back, I wrote about it on this blog and said it was 1988, even though I posted the 1987 program book cover.
It’s my recollection that I did San Diego in ’87, then Chicago in ’88. We planned on returning to San Diego in ’89 but didn’t for some reason but then I was at Chicago again in 1990.
In 1987 I had just switched from Waldenbooks in Crestview Hills to Waldenbooks in Florence Mall. I actually took a demotion from Assistant Manager to Bookseller but got higher pay due to it being a larger store in a busier mall. It’s my recollection that my move took place in summer which made it unlikely I would have been able to get any immediate time off to fly to San Diego.
When I went to San Diego, the woman who would be my future wife gave me a card wishing me a safe trip and offering me tips to meet new people. She didn’t start there until October of 1987 and Comic Con was in August.
I get motion sick if I turn around too fast. Always have. That’s a big reason why I never learned to drive until I was 32. In 1987 I was only 28 years old. When my father and I flew west, I had to take several Dramamine tablets in order to be able to fly safely and calmly. I had only flown once before, 5 years earlier, and this was a lot further. I was flying all the way to California! I remember the pilot dipping the plane to show us the Arizona Meteor Crater. I remember coming in very low over a residential neighborhood when we touched down in San Diego.
After that, the issues begin.
I have two program books. The first, with a Moebius cover, is from 1987. The second, with a Wayne Boring Superman cover, is from 1988. I also have Progress Reports from 1987 and 1988. The first ’88 Progress Report has a clipped coupon on a page where one would send for tickets. My name is listed in the ’88 book as an attendee. (The ’87 book doesn’t have such a list.)
Things I recall from the year I was there— Waiting in line to get in behind Art Spiegelman and Francois Mouly who had their new baby with them. Following Stan Lee down the Embarcadero as he and some friends headed for lunch. Standing next to Moebius as he drew. Meeting Baba Ron Turner (who I just transcribed several interviews with in 2016), buying Air Pirates comix from Dan O’Neil, opting to see the largely unknown George R.R. Martin over “An Afternoon of Hellfire and Brimstone with Harlan Ellison.” Seeing various Superman costumes and memorabilia on display. Meeting ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN co-stars Phyllis Coates and Robert Shayne (who turned out to be in the hotel room next to ours) at a Superman 50th birthday celebration (with cake!). Seeing Scott Shaw! with his Oddball Comics presentation. Talking with Mark Evanier. Seeing Joe Rubinstein’s talk on inking so I could be already in the room for June Foray’s voice acting seminar. Meeting my pen pal John at the First Comics table by accident two full days after our planned meeting fell through. We hung out with his friends (including PSYCHOBLAST artist Robb Phipps) and went to Jack in the Box for hamburgers. I also attended the Awards presentation and sat near Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Miller who won several awards. Will Eisner and Jack Kirby gave out most of the awards. Earlier I had tripped and knocked Jack into Will—my only time actually meeting them. I wasn’t paying attention because I had just snapped a photo of Gil Kane walking by, looking very much as if he’d been drawn by Gil Kane.
Okay. Now here’s where it gets weird. Superman’s 50th anniversary was in 1988. I have a cassette I recorded of Phyllis Coates and June Foray and it is dated 1988. The first Eisner Awards were given out in 1988 but neither Sienkiewicz or Miller won that year. They DID win at the last Kirby Awards in ’87. I have the daily schedule from ’88 with the seminar and various panels I saw circled, as well as a penciled in notation that several guests had canceled. The ’87 program book specifically refers to the Ellison presentation that I skipped. Also, the Spiegelmans were guests of honor in ’87 and the program book shows them with their new baby.
Keeping in mind that my name is IN the ’88 book as an attendee that year, my friend John has a journal from back then in which he writes about our first and only meeting...in ’87. 1987 was his only year there in the 1980s. I also have a letter from him dated February of 1988 in which he mentions the canceling of PSYCHOBLAST, the comic his friend was drawing when we met. So this pretty definitely seems to date it to 1987.
BUT! One of the reasons I wanted to go and one of the reasons I recorded the June Foray seminar was that I was hoping to write a book on cartoon voice actors. I have a page dated January of 1988 listing several possible book ideas and that was one of them. One of the reasons I thought it might sell was the popularity of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?...which was released in ’88. All of my correspondence with voice actors and publishers for the never-completed book is dated 1988.
So I have lots of pretty substantial evidence that I was there in 1988...and yet some seemingly very definite evidence that it was 1987. And I absolutely guarantee you I was only there once. I assure you I would remember flying to California twice (and from here in Kentucky, I’d definitely remember any alternate route of getting there!)
So yes, I attended the San Diego Comic Con once and only once. I’d just like to know when that was.