I stole this link from Tom Spurgeon, and I’m just as fascinated by it as he is: it’s a photo of the 1969 Comic Art Convention Luncheon Photo, July 5, 1969 at the Statler Hilton Hotel as annotated and archived by old time fanzine artist John Fantucchio. (Hit the link for a big version — wow negatives are cool!) Here in one place you see Comics 1969 — from legendary Marvel production manager Big John Verpoorten in the back to (gasp) teen Gary Groth in the front row. Fantucchio has been trying to identify everyone in the photo and he’s made a pretty good stab at it.

As always when I look at these old timey wimey photos, the first thing I always notice is that EVERYONE WAS SO SKINNY. Big John is tall for sure, but he’s just a normal sized guy now. The young Bill G. Wilson in the front would probably have been considered a bit chubby at the time and he’s petite for these days. The reason I bring this up (besides more proof of how over fed we are now) is that the stereotype of the “fat fan” didn’t come along until later. It’s true that when I started going to conventions in the 80s there were quite a few people around who would be considered large and in charge—and there were some prominent comics folks who were considerably overweight—but at the protoplasmic stage this wasn’t true.

Also, Gary Groth is still skinny, 45 years later. Someone needs to investigate that.


  1. People were skinny back in 1969 because they ate fast food once every six months instead of once every six hours.

  2. I loaned my copy of this photograph to Bill Schelly for his book on the history of Comic Fandom. The guest of honor for the dinner was Hal Foster and Gil Kane introduced him. I somehow got on the elevator with Foster and Kane on the way up to the dining room and was so tongue tied, all I could do is ask Foster to sign one of the Valiant books I bought.
    At the table in the front left, starting with the dark jacket, it’s Al Williamson, Jeff Jones, Me (Gary Brown), Unknown, Archie Godwin, Angelo Torres, Gray Morrow, Unknown, Sal Trapini and Jerry Weist.
    At the table to the left with a dark jacket facing away from the camera is Dick Giordano, who, along with many of us, were laughing at the photographer who had a big box-type camera and was standing on a wobbly chair to take the picture.

  3. They dressed nicer, as well.

    The Statler Hilton is better known as the Hotel Pennsylvania.

    I wonder if there are any pictures from the first* Star Trek convention, held there in 1972, when the fire marshall was called in?

    Hey… elephant in the room question:
    Why don’t conventions schedule “Great Day” photos like this for all of the attending professionals? Schedule it right before the show opens for the day, perhaps Saturday morning.

  4. The reason I was in the front row is because our table —all of us in the front row— was off to the right (i.e., the worst table in the room) and the camera couldn’t catch us, so they moved our chairs across the front. I still have an original of the photo! Many of the people have been identified. I must say, Al Williamson looks like a movie star.

  5. Hi Heidi.

    Let me do a bit of correction for you. This is not actually John G. Fantucchio’s site, it’s mine! I used to have a Fantucchio tribute site up but I shut it down for reasons I won’t get into here. But this page survives so I’ve been trying to identify everyone in the photo for the past 4 years. Gary Groth emailed me a hi-res scan of his original photo (thanks so much Gary), and I contacted a slew of people who were kind enough to send me there opinions on who was who. Generally, I will provide an ID notation if I can get multiple people to positively identify a person – or if the actual person identifies him/herself.

    There were a few interesting controversies. There was a long running debate on who the mystery man at #25 was. Irene Vartenoff (#45) and Michelle Nolan (#28) swore it was Roy G Krenkel. But John Benson (who was involved in setting up the luncheon) said it definitely was not Krenkel and contacted Bill Spicer and Mike Kaluta, who reaffirmed his belief. Benson said that while Roy was at the convention, he was too “thrifty” to pay $6 for the luncheon (he wanted a freebie). In addition, he explained the hair was all wrong (Roy had longer hair at the time) and that Krenkel would never had sat at that table in the back with people he didn’t know – he would have sat with Al Williamson, Jeff Jones and Angelo Torres. Finally, the controversy was resolved when Gary Groth (#67) sent me an email stating “That gentleman in the back that looks like Roy Krenkel is actually my dad, Howard G Groth.” Apparently, Gary (13 or 14 years old at the time) was too embarrassed to sit with his dad and made him sit by himself at a back table …

    Another interesting issue involved the table where Len Wein (#43), the Vartenoff Sisters (#44 & 45) and Alan Weiss (#49) — Several people claimed that the woman sitting to Weiss’s right was Flo Steinberg and I had referenced Flo as #47 for almost a year. But then Alan Weiss contacted me and made the correction: it was his ex-girlfriend Pami Texler. Weiss, Trexler and Mary Skrenes (#50) had all driven in from Las Vegas together, and it was a trip he’d never forget!

    I get many questions on certain people. Like who is the the long haired bearded dude sitting between Gray Morrow (#54) and Sal Trapini (#53)? He looks maddeningly familiar. And who are the distinguished looking couple standing in back of John Benson (#23) and Bill Spicer (#24)?

    I’m still looking to complete the ID’s so please send me an email (aaron AT fantucchio DOT com) if someone looks familiar. I’m especially interested if you actually attended the luncheon.


    Aaron Caplan

  6. Hi Gary Brown, The “unknown” guy sitting directly to your right, identified as #59, is Tom Long from Richmond VA. Tom published/edited classic fanzine Graphic Showcase 1, 2 & 3 in 1967. It was a pro-zine that featured some of the earliest published works of Bernie Wrightson, Mike Cody, Tom Yates, Steve Harper and Mike Kaluta. Graphic Showcase 2 featured the first printing of Wrightson strip “Uncle Bill’s Barrel,” which I still think is one of his best stories ever. Unfortunately, Long passed away a few years ago. We’re gettin’ old …

  7. Would the mustached guy smoking a cigarette between John Verpoorten (#1) and Stu Schwartzberg (#2) be Al Hewetson, later the editor of the Skywald “horror-mood” magazine line?

  8. David Hall – you are absolutely correct! Last week, Sharon Karibian sent me a link to photo’s published in Fantastic Four Special #7 which would have been taken around the same time as this photo (Summer 1969) — it was confirmed that Al Hewetson is the cigarette smoker in the back. See:


    When I examined the photos, I now believe the mystery couple way in the back on the far right wall to be Stan Goldberg (aka Stan G) and his wife Pauline. Although the glasses are different in the Luncheon photo than in the FF Special #7 photo, I think it’s a match. It’s an absolute slam-dunk like the Hewetson match, but what do you think?

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