Richard Alf, one of the co-founders of the San Diego Comic-Con and a busy comics dealer of the early ’70s, has died of pancreatic cancer at age 59, it is being reported. While only a teenager, Alf provided financing and transportation for early con founders, as well as inspiring Shel Dorf with their shared love of comics.
But if Dorf was the main man, Richard Alf was the indispensable teen. The 17-year-old senior at Kearny High School possessed two things Dorf did not: a car and cash. “He was a really good businessman,” said Mike Towry, a friend and fellow co-founder of the Con, which now draws more than 125,000 people each summer to downtown San Diego. “For the first three years, Richard would front the money — and it could have been as much as a few thousand dollars — to the convention and then get paid back afterward.”
The UT San Diego story has much more of the early con history. Mark Evanier has some background:
Richard was a tall, friendly fellow and I do not recall him ever not being in a great mood and smiling. He was something of a wunderkind: As a teenager, he began dealing in old comic books and he was so successful that when the first San Diego Con was being assembled, Richard was able to front much of the money that was needed to launch the project
He also had later dealings with comics history as retailer, Chuck Rozanski recalls, in this post on the early history of the direct market.
The above picture shows the early con founders with Jack Kirby — Alf is the tall man in the back.