Ken Krueger, a co-founder of the San Diego Comic-Con and an influential figure in comics publishing and retailing on the West Coast in the formative era of the Direct Market, passed away over the weekend. Krueger owned Alert Books in Ocean Beach and helped Shel Dorf and other comics enthusiasts get what would eventually be known as The Con up and running, and by all accounts, was a level-headed, stabilizing force. He also managed the warehouse for Pacific Comics, one of the early indie comics publishers and distributors, and helped publish the first work of many important figures. One of them, Scott Shaw writes:
Jim Valentino just shared the sad news that Ken Krueger, who was not only one of the founders of the San Diego Comic-Con — and who also attended the very first science-fiction convention in NYC on July 4, 1939 — has died. No details of Ken’s death are available yet, but Ken recently appeared at SDCCI’s ’09 for its 40th anniversary. Although he was not in good physical shape (to be kind), Ken’s mind seemed sharper than ever, with a memory for details of the past that were quite impressive. Ken published my first comic book story; he also published the first pro work by SF author Greg Bear, GARBAGE PAIL KIDS painter John Pound, Dave (ROCKETEER) Stevens, Jim (Image Comics) Valentino and others. I and many of my friends owe him a lot. When Pacific Comics was a major comic distributor, Ken oversaw the operation of their warehouse. Ken was a down-to-Earth guy who never sought titles or fame, but added legitimacy to the formation of Comic-Con due to his experience in fandom and as a publisher and retailer.
Mark Evanier has more, of course:
His experience with s-f conventions was one of many things he brought to the nascent Comic-Con when he signed on in 1970 as its first chairperson. Another was his lifelong love of comics and fantasy. Professionally, Ken operated a string of bookstores throughout this life and also dabbled in distribution and publishing. As a publisher, he gave many talented artists their first in-print experience, including Dave Stevens, Scott Shaw!, Greg Bear and Jim Valentino. (He was the Best Man at Valentino’s wedding and an obvious father figure to Jim and others who came up through the San Diego fan community.)
But perhaps his greatest contribution to the early cons in San Diego was that he was the Grown-Up.
Krueger attended several of the 40th Anniversary events at this year’s con — he can be seen in this photosetby Roger Freedman of several events.
I recall several pleasant conversations with Krueger in my own early days of con going and socializing. He clearly loved comics but also knew a lot about the business side of things, and managed to balance the two. Our condolences to his friends and family.