Monday 22nd December 2014,
Comic Booked

Remembering Richard Alf, Father of Comic-Con (News)

T Campbell 02/28/2012 Reviews

San Diego has always been something of a mecca for creative types, but oh, to have been there in the 1960s! That was when Richard Alf, the 6’6″ teenage firecracker salesman, was building his business ventures. Alf died January 4 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 59, but, sad to say, we missed the story until a profile by Inc. Magazine brought him back to our attention.

When one of Alf’s customers elected to pay in comic books rather than cash, Alf’s entrepreneurial spirit sensed a fresh market, and he assembled some 20,000 comics to buy, sell and trade. Eventually, Alf met a fellow dealer and comic-book convention organizer, Sheldon Dorf, and they decided that since Dorf’s convention in Detroit was working out, Alf could try one in San Diego. He had the benefit of Dorf’s knowledge and experience, but the first few years of funding the convention were all him, thanks to the profitability of his comic-book sales.

Comic-Con itself was always nonprofit, and Alf’s position was largely a volunteer one. This might seem out of character for a young entrepreneur, but Alf did see the growth potential involved, and the importance of keeping his for-profit comics-trading separate from an event that ran on fun and enthusiasm. Still, he never rode comics all the way to riches. He founded a store, Comic Kingdom, which did business through much of the 1970s (well before such specialty stores became comics’ primary node of distribution), but eventually sold it off to pursue greener pastures in day-trading and outdoor advertising.

Elsewhere in the news…

Wired Magazine makes the jump, endorsing Viz’s new manga reader for the iPad.

Zombies Eat Republicans sees an innovative HTML5-based release, including its own app independent of the Apple store… and its content restrictions. Developer Scott Ownbey, who shows an entrepreneurial streak Alf would have appreciated, says, “We have Republicans getting killed, mixed with nudity. We’re not going to waste development time creating an app we know will never see the light of day in the Apple Store. We didn’t want to have our hands tied creatively or technically.”

MangaNEXT returned this year with a lot of energetic discussion about the manga industry’s possible futures. The attendees agreed on little except that new models needed to be tried… and it seems likely they will. The last few years in the market haven’t left publishers with much of a choice.

Finally, the no-budget film Pulp, set in a comic-book store, has generated quite a bit of heat with its YouTube clips, which have reached a #1 position in the “Film and Animation” category and #2 in YouTube overall. (Obscenity + Star Wars = views.) They’re a bit too raunchy for us to embed directly, but you can see them here.

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About The Author

T Campbell is a prolific writer, co-scriptwriter of Guilded Age, and writer of QUILTBAG, Fans, Penny and Aggie, Rip and Teri, and more. He's also the creator of the world's largest New York Times-standard crossword puzzle.

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