Old WonderCon video reveals primitive comics prehistory

Joe Field, inventor of Free Comic Book Day and owner of Flying Colors in Concord, has passed along a video called WonderCon 1988 Review, created as a promo tool to get more exhibitors and publishers to attend the ’89 show — then called the Wonderful World of Comics Convention. With next week’s show being the 25th anniversary of the Bay Area confab, he’s been posting several historical videos to his YouTube account, and this one will blow your mind with its vivid depiction of the primitive conditions our comics forefathers labored under. In addition to a younger version of Joe himself playing Anderson Cooper, you see younger Stan Lee, young Fabian Nicieza, young Tom DeFalco, and several other young ‘uns in local TV coverage of the 1987 event.

Several interesting factoids emerge from the coverage. For instance, the size of the comics market is given as a $300 million a year business. (Today, it’s $680 million.) It’s also noted that about “3/4 of the comics readership is adult!!” Amazing prices of anywhere from — brace yourself — $12,000 to $20,000 for back issues is marveled at. The show’s 4200 attendees — up 25 percent from the previous year! — make it one of the biggest comics shows in the country. And Mark Bodé’s MIAMI MICE parody comic is reported to have sold over 180,000 copies.

180,000 copies.

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Field mentions that there are about 100 comics shops in the northern California area in the video — compared to about 60 today.

The funniest thing about the video is how the news reports look like — instead of being a mere 25 years old — they could be 50 years old. The anchors are so slow and grave they could have stepped out of a Superman movie serial.

On the other hand, the convention scenes could be from today, if you just lowered the shoulder pads and jeans’ waistbands a bit.

Comic-Cons — an eternal pastime.

Comments

  1. mauvecanary says:

    When I think of the convention scene in the 80s I think of the Ray Liotta line from Goodfellas…”It was a glorious time”.

  2. Amazing. What a time capsule!

    Videos like these make me feel fortunate in becoming a Comics fan when I did so in the mid-80s and started attending Conventions… and make me feel sorry for modern fans and attendees.

    Having a chance to meet Writers and Artists before they have passed on/ or have become Convention superstars— am sure glad I got into the whole “Comic Con” thing when I did.

    I don’t think Blog videos of the metatasised SDCCs nor those of the past years’ NYCC or C2E2
    will have that same sense of quaintness and Nostalgia 25 years from now…

  3. Al™ says:

    If you like old videos about comics, this will interest you:

    Television Ontario (TV)) in Canada has posted many of its archived television shows online.

    The streamed episodes of Prisoners of Gravity in the 1990′s include interviews with Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Will Eisner, Peter Kuper, John Byrne, Robera Gregory, Mike Ploog, Walter Simonson and more.

    Archive search: http://archive.tvo.org/

  4. And then you hear that MIAMI MICE sold 180,000 copies.
    ??????????

  5. DJ Coffman says:

    Check out the first interview with Stan Lee, he always claims to have a bad memory when he sees comics with his name on them and he doesn’t remember working on them… It’s because Jack Kirby was the one actually plotting and putting the entire stories together. Love how he made up BS to get around super fans questions. At least he’s grown a little wiser and gives some credit these days… But not much!

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    I found a few copies of Comics Interview and Amazing Heroes in the quarter bins at C2E2… I started collecting in 1984, and I do get a bit nostalgic. Then I look at the publisher listings, and wonder… did anyone actually buy this stuff?

    I also found a copy of Marvel Vision from the 1990s. The garish colors and typography discouraged me from trying to read the articles. Which pretty much sums up Marvel Comics in the 1990s.

    Of course, if you want to experience a comic-con from the 1980s, try this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comic_Book_Confidential

  7. oh man that is some classic video. i’m totally with DJ on Stan’s “magically disappearing memory” trick, BTW. and… WHERE CAN I SCORE A COPY OF THAT AWESOME SYNTHESIZER BACKGROUND MUSIC? hahaha

  8. If I recall, that “awesome synthesizer background music” was by the rock-jazz fusion band called Brand X.

    That dates the video almost as much as my hair color!

  9. David S says:

    Uh, I worked at this convention!
    Weird! For a guy who owned “Best of Two Worlds” on Haight in SF.
    I got out of collecting comics at that point (girls in SF!) but thought it would be fun to go. I did meet Dave Stevens and Eisner and talked with them for a short while.
    I was looking for a 21 year old me with long hair during those news clips.
    Four thousand attendees? Thats the first 30 seconds on Wednesday at SDCC.

  10. Up until now, all I have read on this article is extremely boring, and seems to be written by writers that lack education. You’ve done a very good job conveying your passion with accurate information.

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