Attending Comic-Con is a unique experience — there’s nothing else like it on earth and the experience is different for each person, each year they attend. And as the show has grown exponentially, it’s become almost impossible to experience more than a fraction of it. Admittedly, it can at times be as frustrating an event to attend as it much more often is exhilarating and exciting.

So I was thrilled to find a review copy of what is sure to be one of the hottest items at this year’s convention: A big pictorial history book of the show, titled “Comic-Con: 40 Years of Artists, Writers, Fans and Friends.”

I guarantee: This will be the hottest item at this year’s show.

What’s in it? Well, there’s a good overall history of the show, from its earliest days through to today’s pop culture phenomenon, but even better the book is absolutely packed with photographs, artwork, profiles, vintage articles and lists of the show’s many guests and awards. All this is wrapped up in a fantastic cover by Comic-Con mainstay, Mad-man Sergio Aragones.

Among the amazing tidbits and sights I learned from devouring every page of this book are:

  • In 1975, Alan Light (founder of what became the Comics Buyers Guide) and his Dyna Pubs produced an LP record featuring programs from the Comic-Con. I instantly hit Google to search for more info on this, as I would love to listen to this, and came up empty. Anyone know anything about this? Has it ever/could it be re-issued? I love that this simply exists somewhere.
  • Vintage photographs of Chuck Norris shaking hands with Stan Lee at the 1975 show and Alan Moore with Jack Kirby at Moore’s only U.S. con appearance ever in 1985. Also pics of folks like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Harvey Kurtzman, Harlan Ellison … and it just goes on and on. This book is a treasure trove of photos of comics creators and Con attendees past and present.
  • Images of program covers, promotional fliers and ads, badges, limited-edition prints, all the official Con T-shirts, and even the covers of the updates and magazines.
  • Profiles of Con mainstays, illustrated of course, such as Forrest J Ackerman, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Ray Bradbury (who also writes the intro), Will Eisner, Dave Stevens, Mark Evanier, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Jim Lee.

I have to say I’m thrilled to see all this history out there, because it’s not been something terribly easy to come by in years past. I recall editing the first Comic-Con special for Variety five years ago and finding little published material out there on the Con’s past. I was therefore thrilled when Evanier, one of the few folks who has been to every San Diego Con, agreed to write a piece for the special. (You can read that piece here.)

Flipping through this book evoked for me much the same thrill I get from attending the show. There’s something amazing to look at with each turn of the page. This book instantly made the two-month wait for this year’s convention seem unbearably long.

The book, which was written by Comic-Con mainstays Gary Sassaman and Jackie Estrada (with lots of help), is designed and published by Chronicle Books — so I’m sure that it will be made available through normal book publishing outlets at some point.

But I’m also convinced this will be one of the hottest items at this year’s Comic-Con. The current issue of Comic-Con magazine offers a preview of the book and says the first print run will be limited and a special preordering system will be set up for folks to pay their $40 in advance and pick up at the show. Details will be forthcoming at

Don’t miss out. This one is worth it.