I'll tell you how long it's been since I've been to the Comic-Con in San Diego.
The last time I went, the thing was held in a couple of rooms of the El Cortez Hotel (that's up on the hill near downtown S.D.) and there were a bunch of people running around dressed in Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia costumes.
It was like, 1977. Maybe 1978. The main things being hawked at the Con in those days were ... comic books. Big surprise. Variety's Brian Lowry remembers the way the Con used to be:
Back then Comic-Con was truly about comicbooks and the only stars one was likely to see there were the artists and writers who created them. The confab itself was so strapped for cash that each year the artists donated work -- which they dutifully sketched out on easels as a small crowd watched -- that were auctioned to help support the gathering.
In those early days, the entire convention of a couple thousand people could be held in a single hotel. One large ballroom functioned as a dealers' room, where vendors displayed their wares, and an adjacent space housed panel discussions. Gradually, studios began to preview movies there, but as often as not those events were disasters, irritating fans as opposed to whetting their appetites.
Although it was more than 30 years ago, for example, I keenly recall a preview of the 1978 feature "Superman," where the studio rep described the campy villain Lex Luthor, played by Gene Hackman, as a real-estate mogul, not a master criminal. He was practically hooted off the stage ...
So the festivities start again next week, but the small, hardy band that roved about the tables at the El Cortezn has now grown into a mob in the hundreds of thousands.
Progress. Or not.
President Koch has plans to attend. I have plans to decide what I'm going to do later.