The Big Book of Comic-Con

San Diego's Comic-Con International will doubtlessly make another giant splash into the world of comics and pop culture when it gets underway July 23. With tickets for this year's event already sold out and a talent lineup that includes names from Mike Allred to Geoff Johns to Peter Jackson, the show looks to keep its crown as the reigning champ of the summer convention season and the highlight of many a fan's calendar year.

But along with this year's guest list of pop culture creative types, the Comic-Con organization is taking time to look back on its four-decade history with the 200-page coffee table book "Comic-Con: 40 Years of Writers, Artists, Fans and Friends," debuting at the show before a national release in September from Chronicle Books.

"What it is is a review of the past 40 conventions through pictures and memorabilia we had in our archives," Comic-Con Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer told CBR. "I think as the show's gained in popularity, we've had a lot more people asking about the origins of the event. There are people asking where we came from and how we got started. There's also been a lot of misinformation out there. For a long time, there were some who had the impression that Comic-Con was just about comic books and nothing else - that interactive media and these other aspects kind of pushed their way into Comic-Con. It's difficult to set the record straight that the show has always been about promoting comic books and the popular arts.

"In the course of being asked a lot of questions, we thought, 'Maybe now is the right time since it's a milestone year to compile some images and remembrances and material into a brief history of the last 40 conventions.' In the course of doing that, we realized that this could not be the definitive book on Comic-Con. With the amount of material that's already in the book, there's just so much that isn't in the book. But I think anybody who enjoys coming to the show and anybody who's a fan of comic books and popular arts are going to enjoy it."

Kicked off with a forward by legendary science fiction author (and guest of the first ever San Diego Comic-Con) Ray Bradbury, the $40 tome breaks down past conventions decade-by-decade and year-by-year with content ranging from rare photos to program and badge reproductions as well as writing from some of the most celebrated names in comics. "We've been very lucky in that we've got a lot of people who have been with the show since its early years, and we have a lot of people who give of their time and are great friends of ours who we can chat with about stuff," Glanzer said. "The board is very keen on us making as good a record of shows as we can. My office alone has binder upon binder upon binder of photographs from our early days up until stuff became electronic and then hard drives of photos from past years. We're very conscious of trying to keep a record of what it is we do, who comes to visit and some of the accomplishments we've had."

Aside from Bradbury's involvement, the Comic-Con book comes with contributions from luminaries Dave Gibbons and Todd McFarlane, executives like Lucasfilm's Steve Sansweet and Dark Horse's Mike Richardson, and historians like Maggie Thompson. "There's reminiscences from a variety of people. It's cool to see that. I think people tend to forget that as big of a show as it is, for a lot of us it's still this little event that we put on to make it as best as it possibly can be," Glanzer said.

Photo memories include appearances by the likes of Will Eisner, Rick Geary, Frank Capra, Kirk Alyn and Sergio Aragones, who also provides the cover for the 40th anniversary volume.

Glanzer continued, "One of the things that we tend to stress is that this is not all-encompassing. It's amazing how after we went through literally thousands of photographs and pieces of material, we'd only scratched the surface. But I think for any longtime attendee, I think it'll be fine to remember where we came from - and for any newer attendees to see what they missed and our origins.

"We tried not to make it so expansive that it would be boring and instead focus on anecdotes and images and where we came from - how we grew from year to year, decade to decade. One of the most remarkable things about working for Comic-Con is that I'm a relative newbie with the show in that I started to volunteer in 1984. There are people who started long before I did. Having worked on the show for over 25 years, I think I'm finally no longer the new kid on the block. People have been with the show for a long time, and I think it's a great testament not only to the people who have given their time and energy but also a real testament to the show itself. We really try to put on the kind of event that we ourselves want to attend. There's a ton of people that have been to the show. And it really is an amazing tribute to comic books and popular art that these people gave of their time in an effort to meet their fans. It made us what we are today."

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