UPDATE: As promised below, with the 2023 San Diego Comic-Con in full swing this weekend (June 22nd and 23rd), here are four more images taken from the 1976 Comic-Con program book, kindly provided to us by our long-time pal (himself a comics historian!), Bill Chadbourne. Feast your eyes below on a convention-themed “Snoopy” contribution by Peanuts maestro Charles “Sparky” Schulz — a piece by the late, great Neal Adams (yes, Howard the Duck was all the rage in 1976, and Neal had done some Conan work for Marvel only a few years previous) — a “smorgasbord” page featuring “captured conversation” text with Steranko, accompanied by a Dave Stevens illo, with a salutation from Smilin’ Stan Lee thrown in for good measure — and a Milton Caniff original “Madame Hook,” revealing considerably more than she ever did in the panels of Steve Canyon (yes, we’ve done some strategic blocking to keep this site “family friendly”). Viewing the unexpurgated artwork, a waggish friend titled it, “Attack of the Killer B-Cups!”
Whether or not you’re prowling the San Diego Convention Center this weekend, we hope you enjoy this look back at Comic-Con’s fledgling days — and if you missed the original posting, with even more artwork from the ’76 program, well, keep on reading after the dashed line below!
ORIGINAL TEXT FOLLOWS: Continuing our occasional series, begun here last month, that spotlights material the longtime Friend of LOAC, Bill Chadbourne, has shared with us.
In this case, Synchronicity reared up its head, since this year’s San Diego Comic-Con is near at hand (July 20-23, 2023) and Chad sent us the program book for the convention’s seventh event, held in 1976. He was in attendance to interview Noel Sickles (a meeting he had arranged through his acquaintance with Terry and the Pirates/Steve Canyon impresario Milton Caniff); subsequent to the convention he went north to Los Angeles for his first meeting with the Genius, Alex Toth. Here’s the program’s cover, by the one-and-only Sergio Aragones:
Shel Dorf was one of Comic-Con’s founders, and he was still serving as its president, though in his page two editorial he also announced a major milestone in his personal career: “The ultimate fan experience is of course to someday work for one you admire. Since I saw you last, this has happened to me.” wrote Shel. “I am proud to be part of Milton Caniff’s staff as lettering man on ‘STEVE CANYON,’ the adventure newspaper strip. It’s fun to be on the inside, and of course to work with the master.”
This was the year the Comic-Con shifted to legal status as a non-profit corporation, and for the first time the city positioned itself to support the convention by proclaiming July 19-25, 1976 as “Comics Art Week.” So if you attend Comic-Con this year, and if you look about to realize how the show is now an annual capital-E Event in the city, please take a moment to reflect on how Today’s roots extend back forty-seven years.
The 1976 show featured a varied and stellar guest line-up. Caniff and Sickles were there, of course, and so were Jack “King” Kirby; Sergio Aragones; Russell Myers; Don and Maggie Thompson; Mell Lazarus; science fiction authors Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson (Star Trek, Logan’s Run), and Theodore Sturgeon; Mark Evanier; Dale Messick; Frank Brunner; Jack Katz; and media celebrities June Foray, Bob Clampett, Mel Blanc, and Jock (Tarzan) Mahoney.
The bulk of the convention program features thirty-seven original illustrations by professional contributors. We’re sharing a handful of them with you here, beginning with Jack Kirby’s Eternals piece, inked by a then-twenty-year-old Dave Stevens:
Advertising space in convention programs is a longstanding tradition, and the 1976 Comic-Con book is no exception. Warren Publishing bought the inside front and back covers, with the Pacific Comics retail locations taking the back cover. Full-page interior ads were placed by Byron Preiss’s Fiction Illustrated and Weird Heroes publications, as well as by DC, the Edgar Rice Burroughs Comic Book Company, and Marvel.
There’s even more to be found in the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con program book, of course – so check back here during this year’s Comic-Con, when we’ll publish more wonderful images for you. And if you’re at this year’s show, please look for our friends Brian Walker and Lee Weeks. They’re both 2023 Comic-Con Special Guests and of course now, on top of his many other top-flight credits, Lee is a bona fide Terry and the Pirates artist!