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The U.S. Grant, site of the both the first Comic-Con and the first Comic-Book Con.

"You know, the first ever San Diego Comic-Con was held over in the U.S. Grant Hotel," says Bob Platz, owner of Comic Books Are Awesome, a retail outlet in Bloomington, Indiana. "Back then, it was a place for people who loved - surprise! - comics. People came to meet the creators and artists behind their beloved comic-book heroes, and to browse through the amazing collections that the vendors brought. It was a genuine community, built around shared interests. Now it's all...this." He gestured at the Convention Center floor, a seething mass of distracted consumers drawn in by the Con's promise of you-saw-it-first privilege and by its sheer gravitational pop-culture pull.

"Nobody talks to each other any more," observes Platz, "because nobody has anything to say to each other. The gamers want nothing to do with the toy collectors, who want nothing to do with the film buffs, who want nothing to do with the anime enthusiasts. It's pretty much the opposite of what the founders intended. So we're pulling up stakes."

This year, Platz and a small group of his friends in the comic-book world have rented a basement storage space in the U.S. Grant. There, they have set up their cardboard boxes full of Mylar-sleeved back issues of Green Arrow and The New Mutants and declared the opening of the first-ever San Diego Comic-Book Con, a convention "by and for the people who made the Con great in the first place."

To get the word out, they're passing out fliers all over the Big Con, as they call it. "Don't believe the hype!" reads the text. "Come see what it's really all about!" The flier features an image of the Marvel Comics superhero Dr. Strange, a sorcerer, casting a spell that allows the convention-goers to see the Big Con for what it is: "a cash-munching, soul-sucking monster."

"Not everyone will be interested," says Platz - but, he says, that's okay. "We're after the True Believers, if you know what I mean."

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