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Friday, August 31, 2012

When Comic-Cons and political conventions clashed

by John Jackson Miller

With the Republican National Convention just ended in Florida, it recalls a couple of trivial notes relating to comics: two previous RNCs resulted in venue and date juggling for the San Diego Comic-Con, which later evolved into Comic-Con International. And one of the political conventions ultimately wasn't even held in San Diego!

1996 saw a straightforward scheduling conflict, as the RNC booked the center during what was then the convention's mid-August dates; the show moved to July 4, instead. But the more curious happenstance involved 1972, when Richard Nixon's nominating convention caused some uncertainty beforehand for organizers.

In an ad in The Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom #14 (cover-dated April 1972), the precursor to Comics Buyer's Guide, organizers of the third annual San Diego West Coast Comics Convention sounded an apologetic note. "For various reasons, one of which was the Republican convention, a definite date has yet to be established." The italics were in order because by April, the political event had become embroiled in the ITT scandal — in which a payment to defray costs for the San Diego RNC event was tied to an antitrust decision involving International Telephone and Telegraph.

Little remembered by any but the most knowledgeable politicos, the scandal — and its impact on San Diego — is described in detail in "When the Elephants Marched Out of Town," in the Journal of San Diego History. (Another point of view on it — which brings things full circle to comics — can be found in a comics story by Leonard Rifas and Peter Poplaski in the underground Corporate Crime Comics #1.)

The Republican National Committee voted unanimously on May 5, 1972 to move the convention back to Miami, where it had been in 1968; it would not return to Florida until this week. That date suggests that perhaps The Buyer's Guide issue might have shipped in May rather than April; the magazine, which would actually run a McGovern ad, of all things, later in the year, went biweekly in August.

The San Diego West Coast Comics Convention, meanwhile — today's Comic-Con — moved to August 18-21, overlapping with the RNC's Miami event from Aug. 21-23. It found digs in the El Cortez hotel, which the convention would remain to seven more times. Guests in 1972 included Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Bob Clampett, and the recently-departed Harry Harrison.
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