15461Sdcc Kenkrueger-LgKen 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.


  1. Ken was a character, had a wonderful wit, a massive love for comic books and was a good friend through the years. Ken was one of the first to extend his knowledge to me when I broke into the publishing business in the mid 1980’s. As I always told him through the years, “Ken, I envy your full head of hair.”

    There won’t be another.

    Beau Smith
    The Flying Fist Ranch

  2. I never had the privilege, but I know respect when I see it. By all accounts that I’ve heard and read we owe a lot to the gentle giants like Dorf and Krueger. Our industry continues on thanks to their commitments in the past.

  3. It is really hard to capture all of the many facets of Ken Krueger. He was a very special type of mentor- not only did he have a vast storehouse of knowledge, experience and anecdotes, he had an even vaster storehouse (or several) that he called “his collection”.

    He gave so many their start. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but there are numerous top talents who got their first gig from “Unc’a Ken”.

    Even more importantly, we gave us an attitude. Irreverent, crusty, but informed by love- he was a genuine inspiration.

  4. As David Scroggy mentioned, there was, indeed, many facets to Ken Krueger. I had just returned to San Diego from Vietnam, stationed at NAS Miramar. Ken was among those I first met in the group that organized the first Comic-Con in San Diego (then known as the San Diego Golden State Comic-Con and eventually becoming Comic-Con International, San Diego). He had the business sense and signed many of the contracts with the hotels we used in those early days.

    Before my duties with the Navy ended up becoming more of a priority, I was originally to have been chairperson for the third year; I had co-chaired with Richard Alf the previous year. Well, hotel space was practically non-existent that year as the Republicans were planning to hold their convention in San Diego and no hotel wanted to give over their space to a bunch of kids…especially a bunch of kids who were not going to buy lots of liquor at the cash bars.

    Once the Republicans pulled out, I contacted Ken and Shel Dorf and the three of us went over to the El Cortez Hotel. They had shown some interest and were willing to work with us on whatever weekend we wanted to hold Comic-Con in 1972. Although I was 21 and could easily sign the papers, I especially wanted Ken there to look over the “fine print.” He showed me the things I should be looking for and, after some changes were made, we signed the agreement. I had to drop out as chairperson that year, leaving the con in the capable hands of Mike Towry and Richard Alf.

    We didn’t return to the El Cortez the following year, but it became our “home” in the years following. I will always recall the business lessons I learned from Ken during that time. I mentioned this to him earlier this year as we sat together at the banquet table during the Eisner Awards. He smiled and told me I would have done fine without his help. However, I prefer to disagree with him on that matter.

    He will be missed, yet he will live on in our memories.

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