It’s been many years since I’ve made the journey to San Diego Comic-con. Sure I’ve attend numerous Wonder-cons over the years, as a fan as well as a Pro and Press, a perk of Wonder-Con’s origins in the San Francisco Bay Area. But San Diego is at least a 10 hour drive from my art room here on Alameda island and so I’ve turned down more invite to attend than I’ve actually gone. Of the times I did go, my most memorable was my first (of course).

I was not evening living in California at the time, but instead jumped onto a late night greyhound bus departing from a sleepy Tempe Arizona bus terminal, during my brief time wandering the desert of the North American Southwest). It was an overnight trip which landed me in San Diego early the next morning. As I was planning to only spend one day there, before catching the last bus back to Arizona I was determined to make the most out of that mission. The convention was much smaller back in the summer of 1994.

Being so radically mobile left me little room for purchases. Instead I dutifully made my rounds with portfolio in hand. I reconnected with the small number of editors I’d gotten to know via antics at THE SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS as well as New York’s own comic-cons; and my work for 90’s micro-comic-publisher Double-Edge Comics; Amazingly, still online (I aught to reach out to ’em – I digress). Among the highlights of that day include a brief reunion with the legendary Walt Simonson, whose influence on my early development as an artist I wrote about here.

As a young aspiring artist, I could, on those rare Saturday afternoons, dispense with the usual chores to gather samples of my comic art. I would go out with a handful of friends to meet a real artist. In this case, it was the comics artist Walter Simonson who was on the verge of taking over the writing and illustration of the then nearly-canceled comic titled Thor. He was generously tearing out pages from his sketchbook to provide drawings for those who came to see him. I however, happened to have a piece of pink “oaktag” paper in my makeshift portfolio so I asked that he draw a character on it with the purple magic marker I had in hand. At the time, he promised he would never forget such a request. To this day I find myself wondering if remembers that drawing.

THOR: RAGNAROK (& Roll) by Patrick Lugo

But it’s really the Klingon wedding that really stands out as the ultimate memory of San Diego Comic-Con. It was the end of a long day and I’d sought out a secluded location at the far end of a spacious balcony/atrium at some upper level of the convention center. As I ate my final rations of fruits and nuts I noticed the growing congregation of Klingons. Each pronouncing their name, titles, family affiliations and notable victories, in Klingon (naturally) and English; at the top of their lungs. With the formalities of the wedding concluded, it seemed legal enough to me, the gathering quieted down to a more collegial murmur before I discretely took my own exit heading back to the desert and quietly letting fate decide I’d have to continue heading west; and maybe a bit north.

So that’s my San Diego Comic-Con story. It’s one you won’t find in the pages of Fanagraphics’ new book SEE YOU IN SAN DIEGO: AN ORAL HISTORY OF COMIC-CON,FANDOM AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE, and that’s okay. You this thick book is stacked with such tales by writers, artists and — for lack of a better term: influencers of the time. Many of which you’ll surely have heard of.

  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 480 pages
  • 8.1 x 1.7 x 10.1 inches
  • Weight ‏ : ‎ 3.51 pounds

“Finally! An unexpurgated history of Comic-Con and fandom that comes directly from the horse’s mouth – actually a whole herd of horses. The overall result is as pleasantly chaotic as the Con itself. What a relief!”

— Scott Shaw! (cartoonist; Comic-Con co-originator)


Featuring Forewords by USAGI YOJIMBO creator Stan Sakai and BONE creator Jeff Smith, An Afterword by RZA, 400+ Photos and Art Bursts, And Stories by Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Kevin Smith, Bruce Campbell, Felicia Day, Scott Aukerman, Sergio Aragonés, Trina Robbins, the Russo Bros., Lloyd Kaufman, Tim Seeley, Kevin Eastman, and More.

This fall Fantagraphics will publish SEE YOU AT SAN DIEGO: AN ORAL HISTORY OF COMIC-CON, FANDOM, AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE, a comprehensive chronicle of the rise of fandom and pop culture nostalgia throughout the past century. Over the course of 480 pages, author and pop culture historian Mathew Klickstein presents the rise of both Comic-Con and modern geekdom itself, with behind-the-scenes observations from the likes of Ho Che Anderson, Sergio Aragonés, Scott Aukerman, Bruce Campbell, Felicia Day, Kevin Eastman, Mark Evanier, Neil Gaiman, Lloyd Kaufman, Frank Miller, the Russo Brothers, Stan Sakai, Scott Shaw!, Kevin Smith, Brinke Stevens, Trina Robbins, Tim Seeley, Maggie Thompson, and more. The book also includes forewords by Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai and Bone’s Jeff Smith, as well as an afterword by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. 

“Fandom is a tribe of people,” said Klickstein. “Geeks, nerds, fanboys/fangirls, misfits, outsiders, weirdos — all bonding over pop culture nostalgia. People who speak a shorthand based on the singular universe built around certain niche passions. It’s more than a subculture, but rather an entire network of interconnected and often overlapping nodes of fandom. The Marx Bros, Ray Bradbury, Flash Gordon, Bride of Frankenstein, Bruce Lee, Sailor Moon, all melding together and burbling a certain effervescent energy. I wanted to help organize and tell the story of how this all came together over the last century, focusing on the thrust of the before-during-and after the creation and expansion of Comic-Con over the past five decades in particular. These are my forebears, my people, and I think we together are telling the story of the progenitors of modern fan culture today. And at less than $50. What a steal.”

From THE TWILIGHT ZONE to Ray Bradbury to STAR TREK to FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND to STAR WARS to Bruce Lee flicks to TWILIGHT, SEE YOU AT SAN DIEGO: AN ORAL HISTORY OF COMIC-CON, FANDOM, AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE explores how fandom has transformed popular culture. Featuring more than 400 photos and art bursts, the book is an essential and defining resource of the forces that have transformed popular culture over the course of the past century. 

“Having attended Comic-Con from the early ‘70s to the present, I’ve literally experienced it grow from a small, intimate con to the frenetic, hyper commercial mass media extravaganza it is today,” said Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth. “ I can say with some authority that Klickstein’s oral history captures evolution of the convention itself and the concomitant devolution of American culture — a sociological spectacle told with verve and humor by the participants.”

“Mathew Klickstein might be the geek guru of the 21st century.”

— Mark Mothersbaugh

See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture is in stores on September 6, 2022.