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Photo ©2007 Alan Light

Everyone always complains about how big Comic-Con has gotten. Now thanks to a recently unearthed series of photos by former CBG publishers Alan Light we can relive the 1982 San Diego Comic Con. Light gives permission on Flickr to show the photos — we’ve picked a handful just to give you a taste, but you MUST go to the website to see them all and bigger! IT IS A MUST!

Above: yes this is really what it looked like walking in. (We first went to San Diego only two years later and it hadn’t changed very much.)

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Photo ©2007 Alan Light
A classic “Women in Comics” panel of yore. We can spot Carol Kalish, Trina Robbins, Cat Yronwode and Carol Lay.

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Photo ©2007 Alan Light

While there weren’t that many “pros” in these photos, what there was was cherce and you could see them eating banquet food if you were lucky. Above, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby and Roz Kirby at what must almost surely have been the old Inkpot ceremony.

Link via Mark Evanier, who has this to say:

Boy, are some of you going to love this. Alan Light was the founder of what is now the Comics Buyer’s Guide and he used to be all over every comic book convention with his camera. He recently came across a huge stash of photos that he took at the 1982 San Diego Comic Con, back in the days before it was called the Comic-Con International. I’ve helped him identify a number of people in the photos and there are still more whose names escape us at the moment. If you can identify anyone who is presently anonymous, drop Alan a note at this address.


  1. Hollywood had a big presence at SDCC that year- one of the big events was a preview of Return of the Jedi.
    Those photos are a hallucination. I attended the Con at the Civic Center in 1989 and 1990. Of course, everyone was wearing a Batman shirt in those years…
    I also remember being able to walk up to Jim Lee and get an autograph with no sweat.
    Try doing THAT at CCI now…


    Those Image founders made a BIG difference, and forced Marvel and DC to make some changes they might otherwise have not had to…

  3. THose photos are SO fantastic!!!

    What I love is that the whole thing looks like the Artist Alley section. That is inspiring. Just a table, maybe a small backdrop… the artist and the readers meeting and mingling.

    What I wouldnt give for a time machine.

  4. Richard: Also, without Image, no CATHEDRAL CHILD, CLOCKWORK ANGELS, RUMBLE GIRLS.
    (The first two due to Jim Valentino, the third picked up during Larry Marder’s stint as publsiher, and continued under Valentino’s return.)

    Image isn’t for everyone (it wasn’t always for me), but they’re still creator-friendly, and exactly the right fit for my work when I was there.

  5. Walking up to Jim Lee? Big whoop. Imagine being able to walk up to Jack Kirby, Milt Caniff, and Carl Barks!

    I’ve never been to San Diego, always wanted to go. I wish I’d been able to swing it 15 years ago when I was in college; I’m hoping to actually go next year but from everything I read it seems like maybe it’s more of a hassle than fun to go.

  6. Great pics, Heidi! I remember my “first time!” It was 1989 and the convention still hadn’t changed much either, from what I can see. The convention is completely different today, but so is the CITY. Each year I’m stunned by the transformation of San Diego. It’s a much more interesting place to visit now, IMHO.

  7. That great eclectic mix that is Comic-Con was already happening in the years prior to 1982. There was plenty of Hollywood at Comic-Con in 1982. It was quite a mix, with movie/TV/animation folks like Gary Owens, Bill Dana, Frank Marshall (Star Wars presentation), Chuck Jones, and Walter Koenig. Golden Agers were well represented by Barks, Kirby, Eisner, Bill Woggon, and more. You can also see it was very big for undergrounds (the one panel had Robert Williams, Kim Deitch, Dan O’Neill, Melinda Gebbie, and Ron Turner, to name a few), for comic strips (Stan Lynde, Leonard Starr, Mell Lazarus, and more), and for female creators (also on that women’s panel were Dori Seda, Jo Duffy, Melinda Gebbie, Lee Marrs, and a couple more whom I can’t Identify). There were a lot of other cool folks there that year that Alan didn’t capture on film, including the late great B. Kliban.

  8. Thoae are amazing photos. As Heidi says please, follow the link, don’t just comment on these few shots. The work for the art auction alone is mind blowing. Nice to see Cat Yronwode, too. She gave me my very first print artwork in the Comics Buyer’s guide, when she ran different headers for her column at the time.

    What is truly wonderful is seeing all these greats so casual and enjoying themselves, and contributing to the industry. So many faces that I still know today. Seeing their younger versions only cements their dedication to the medium. Yes, SDCC is bigger badder and all that, but it still has heart.

  9. My first convention, if it can be called that, was the Erlangen Comics Salon, in Germany in 1994. Set in a medium size university city, it was a popular, yet not crowded, convention. I met Scott McCloud, Don Rosa, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Joe Kubert, and many European names I’ve forgotten. Also met a nice Studentin at the dorm where I was staying.
    And after that, I took an overnight train to Brussels to see the comics museum there. Beer, chocolate, comics. and a nude sculpture pissing into a fountain!

  10. What a nice trip down memory lane.

    My thanks to Alan for making this possible.

    This was my second or third SDCC and yes they were simpler times, and a lot less harried, but I still wouldn’t trade the growth we’ve shown for anything. Although a time machine would be nice.

  11. My favorite caption of Alan’s:

    “Legendary Donald Duck artist Carl Barks (1901-2000) shakes hands with Burne Hogarth (1911-1976) at the 1982 San Diego Comic Con…”

    Read it again if you didn’t catch the boo-boo.

  12. That’s actually John Byrne’s sign. I was standing about two feet from that scene, watching Frank Miller sketch, right then. Byrne’s sign said he didn’t want to draw any X-Men but Kitty (which you can see). The sign Frank Miller put up, after he looked at Byrne’s sign and smiled, said he would draw ANY X-Men, except for Kitty, and I think he even undercut John’s price, but I can’t be sure.

    I remember that vividly, because John Byrne eventually noticed Frank’s sign and tore his own down and left. Not exactly in a huff, but not enjoying Miller’s joke.

    It was weird how seeing all those pictures made me vividly remember that convention year. I was 16 that year, and it was my 9th Comic Con already.

  13. Those pictures are great, I was 17 that year and didn’t know anything about a comic book convention. I didn’t go to my first one until my early 20’s and it was local. How time flies, now I wish I’d known about it. Then again how would I have know? This is pre-internet, and it’s not like it would have been advertised on the radio or TV where I live.

  14. Ahhh…that does bring back the memories. While my first show Comic-con was ’88 – it certainly looked more like these pictures than it does today. I agree with Rory – would not trade the growth of the show for anything in the world.

  15. I’m glad so many people are pleased with the pictures. I was very surprised to stumble across the negatives the other day in an old box. I thought they had been destroyed. You’re going to cringe (I certainly do every time I think about it) when I tell you that virtually all pre-1983 photo negatives related to fandom were burned in a big barrel outside my folks’ rural home along with various papers and records, shortly after my business was sold to Krause Publications. Stupid, stupid. I am glad these survived. Thank heaven they got misplaced and so were saved by being in a different place.

    At the same time, in the same box, I found 25 negatives from the 1982 Minneapolis comic-con. There are several shots of C. C. Beck, including a pretty nice one of him holding a lightning bolt in front of him a la Captain Marvel. Here is the link to those photos, or you can click on my name above, in red, I think, if the website box in this comment area works properly.


  16. Alan,

    Thanks so much for sharing these photos! Man, Caniff, Eisner, Hogarth,… Any appearances of Frazetta, Wrightson, Kaluta, or Jeff Jones in your collection?

  17. Alan has done a great service posting these, for the nostalgia factor (sure) and the hero-watching (Barks! Miller! Kirby!).

    As for me, I was practically looking for myself in the crowd scenes, but I would not attend until 1985 when I was 15 years old and was getting back into comics as a teen after having abandoned them as a youngster. I have all my badges from my attendance in the 1980s and 1990s glued into a scrapbook.

    Indeed, there were lots of movies on offer, at least at my first con, movies and animation rooms — there was always something novel going on at Comic Con. Great photos.

  18. CBrown wrote: “I’ve never been to San Diego, always wanted to go. I wish I’d been able to swing it 15 years ago when I was in college; I’m hoping to actually go next year but from everything I read it seems like maybe it’s more of a hassle than fun to go.”

    I’ve been a comics fan since 1967, but never made the trek to San Diego until 2005. Not only did I not regret it, I went last year and this year as well. I had a great time! This year alone, I finally met about a dozen people I’ve corresponded or worked with over the years but never actually met. I also bumped into old comics pals, such as Don Rosa and Bob Ingersoll.

    If one has the time and the funds to go, I highly recommend going at least once in one’s life — after all, it is like a Mecca for comics fans.

    Hey, Alan — Thanks for sharing these cool pics. I wish I’d gone to San Diego when so many of my creator heroes were still around.

  19. Guy, unfortunately all other photos were destroyed, including a couple of Frank Frazetta from 1971. I went to MetroCon in Washington DC in 1971 and my friend John Fantucchio invited me over to his house for a pizza. When I showed up, I found out he had also invited Frank and Ellie Frazetta. It was just the 5 of us – the Frazettas, the Fantucchios, and me. I remember being incredibliy awestruck and hardly saying a peep but a couple of pictures were taken. I wish I still had them. As for Wrightson, Kaluta, Jeff Jones – yes, I had photos of them to, and many others. The only existing copies of those photographs would be found in old printed copies of TBG (now CBG), on yellowing newsprint.

  20. <That’s actually John Byrne’s sign. …>

    If that’s the case, then I love John Byrne’s sign and Frank Miller’s sign. :)
    But not John’s sense of humor.

  21. Yeah, Paul Smith was there that year, too, and I got to watch him and Byrne talk about drawing the X-Men for a while.

  22. Michael, I tried to scan the negatives myself but results weren’t so hot, so would you believe… I took them to TARGET! They made prints for 20 cents each and put 100 pictures per CD for $1.99. I agree they did a great job.

  23. >>>The sign Frank Miller put up, after he looked at Byrne’s sign and smiled, said he would draw ANY X-Men, except for Kitty, and I think he even undercut John’s price, but I can’t be sure.

    Wait a minute. Frank Miller SMILED??

    I think your whole story just fell apart there, Ed.

  24. Wow…I was still too young to go to anything further than the mall cons in Kansas City at the time. That looks great. Everyone seems so relaxed.

    Thanks SO much for the pictures. I can’t stop looking through them.

  25. The ‘unknown’ person on the women in comics panel sitting next to Trina Robbins is Jan Duursema.