“We always try to make it clear that we’re not on some kind of anti-Comic-Con crusade,” says San Diego Comic Fest co-founder Mike Towry. “We just miss the kind of event we had back in the early days of Comic-Con.”
Towry was 17 in 1972 when he and five other local cartoon fans organized their first San Diego Comic-Con at the El Cortez Hotel. Launched two years earlier at the U.S. Grant Hotel as the San Diego Golden State Comic-Con (“We put in ‘Golden State’ because people in other cities might not have heard of San Diego”), Comic-Con’s El Cortez debut was attended by around a thousand collectors and dealers.
In 2012, around the same number attended the first Comic Fest, launched by Towry alongside several other Comic-Con founders. The event happening March 7-10 at Four Points by Sheraton has maintained its low-key retro vibe, while still growing with each edition. “Attendance last year was about 2500, which is a good number but still remains around the number a small convention aims for,” says Comic Fest Chairman Matt Dunford. “It seems like a lot, but remember this is just one percent of the number San Diego Comic-Con does, so it’s much easier to manage.”
Dunford notes that “Music has been a part of Comic Fest since the beginning. You can expect the Digital Lizards of Doom to make a comeback at our evening parties,” he says, referencing the local comic book-inspired sci-fi rock band. “Music fans will find much to enjoy… we do have a few artists who’ve done some pretty cool album artwork, and of course our usual rock and roll in comics panel will bring a new group discussion together.”
One guest is album cover painter William Stout, who illustrated sleeves featuring the Ramones, the Who, Iggy Pop, the Beatles, Smithereens, the Beach Boys, and many others. “When you look at his 50-year career, he’s done everything,” says Dunford. “If he wants to talk about his bootleg album artwork and how it became legitimate album artwork, if he wants to talk about his concept art for 80s movies or his museum murals or his Antarctica paintings for National Geographic, we’ll let him. He has a story for all of his amazing art.” Rhino Records artist (and former San Diegan) Scott Shaw! will also appear. He'll be staging an evening presentation of his longtime Comic-Con slideshow Oddball Comics, geared mainly for the adult crowd.
Music-themed panels will feature creators of comics starring NOFX (Michael Aushenker), Metallica (James Hudnall), and Opeth (Spike Steffenhagen).