With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

This weekend a Central New York comics show promoter, Teddy Hanes restarted his long-running Syracuse Comic Con series. It had been about two years since the last one. Hosting comic artists like Joe Jusko and Luke McDonnell as professional guests made it great fun for all, but I think that the fans and dealers were even more excited to just see each other and search for treasures in long boxes. There were so many smiles and so much laughter; it was lovely to get this convention “back on its feet” and for folks to gather amongst their tribe again.

The smiles, laughter and comradery of geek culture and conventions comes through loud and clear in Mathew Klickstein’s new book: See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture. It was just published by Fantagraphics, and it’s a treasure too. This oral history is about the size of a phone book (anyone remember what those were?), and it’s packed full of stories and photos telling the birth, and perhaps adolescence, of the San Diego Comic-Con. (Now also called Comic-Con International).

Mat Klickstein spins his tale using the oral history format. This allows the folks who were there from the beginning to share their memories of it all. It’s great fun, and although the format is new to me (I did just interview author Ed Gross about his excellent Star Trek oral history here), I just love it. It’s kind of like reading, instead of watching, a documentary.

Klickstein goes the extra mile too, as the book is designed to look like an archival tome that you just excavated from some tucked away back corner room at San Diego Comic-Con HQ. You can almost smell that wonderful musty aroma of old paper, although the book smells perfectly new.

Klickstein has rounded up all the usual suspects as well as some surprises. How wonderful it is to hear about the behind-the-scenes thinking of San Diego Comic-Con from folks like Scott Shaw!, Mark Evanier, Brinke Stevens, David Scroggy, Bill Schanes and so many more. How especially nice to read the thoughts of the recently departed Len Wein.

The book is arranged in a such a thoughtful, organized fashion. Klickstein cleverly lines up the various observations and quotes in such a way that the reader doesn’t even realize the big ideas being nudged center stage until “it’s too late”. Like the very best dinner party conversations, it all flows naturally and yet – somehow -tags all the bases.

This book is tailor-made for both those who have a historical passion and those fans who have a simple, natural curiosity to understand where it all came from.

Mat Klickstein zoomed in to speak with my ITHACON students about this book in the spring. The excitement and enthusiasm he had for it was very evident. And after reading the book, it’s 100% warranted. I’m grateful we have this expansive document to celebrate this “triumph of geek culture”.

See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Fantagraphics (September 6, 2022)
Written by Mathew Klickstein
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 480 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1683966511
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1683966517


The book is available at Fantagraphics and Amazon.