1975: My first comics convention

1975 Comic Art Convention program book cover

July, 1975 I boarded a train in New Brunswick, NJ and rode to Manhattan for my first comics convention, the annual Comic Art Convention run by Phil Seuling, that year in the Commodore Hotel. I imagine I learned of the con in the pages of The Comics Buyers’ Guide, then published by Alan Light, which I had started subscribing to not long before. I had been reading comics since childhood, though really only collecting them seriously for a few years at that point, and I was looking forward to meeting some of the creators as well as shopping in the dealers’ room.

When I got to the Commodore, I remember entering from the blazing hot summer heat into an air-conditioned, somewhat claustrophobic, dealers’ room full of great stuff and crowded with comics fans. Previous to this I had only met a few fellow adult comics readers, even then a rarity, and it was heartening to see so many gathered in one place. By gosh, there must have been at least a thousand of them! And pros were easily accessible either behind tables, selling their art and such, or walking the aisles just like me. I met several people I would later work with at DC Comics that way.

Autograph page 1

The program book had two blank pages near the end for autographs. Here’s the first of them. One of my early stops was the Charlton Comics table, as I was a fan of their books, even though they were hard to get where I lived. I often had to drive to several other towns to find issues, and still missed many. One of the pros at the Charlton table were John Byrne, then doing a strip called Rog 2000 in some of the Charlton books. I told him I was enjoying it, and he wrote “Best Wishes, John Byrne” with a little Rog head. I believe that was the first of only two times we spoke, the other being a brief hello in San Diego one year, much later.

The real star book at Charlton, at least in my mind, was E-MAN, and I was glad to meet artist Joe Staton at the table. We later worked together a number of times at DC. Joe was and remains one of the nicest comics artists in the business.

I don’t recall meeting Bobby London. I would have known him then for his Dirty Duck comics in National Lampoon, I think.

Jim Steranko’s signature is highly stylized and flamboyant, perhaps not unlike the artist. Howard Chaykin signed in light pencil, hard to see, under Byrne. Jim Starlin’s signature is a scrawl, while writer Len Wen’s is extremely neat, like comics lettering. Those two should have been signing each other’s work!

At the bottom is “To Todd from “The Shadow” & Walter Gibson (Maxwell Grant)”. I remember being impressed by this friendly, classy elderly gentleman, and startled to meet the creator of The Shadow, even though I hadn’t read any of his pulp novels, and only knew the character from the comics. To be honest, I’ve only actually read one of his Shadow novels to this day. Always planned to get around to them, but…

Autograph page 2

Here’s the other autograph page, with Craig Russell’s classy signature at the top in pencil. I remember telling Craig (no P. at the beginning of his name then) how much I had enjoyed his work on the War of the Worlds feature in AMAZING ADVENTURES from Marvel. Craig is another artist I still love, and have had the pleasure of working with a number of times.

Next is Walt Simonson’s cool dinosaur signature, though I didn’t notice that’s what it was at the time. Walt was perhaps the friendliest pro I met at the con, and seemed to enjoy talking about the Manhunter stories he’d done in DETECTIVE COMICS not long before.

In an area of the con separate from the dealers’ room, perhaps a lobby of some kind, Jack Kirby was sitting down holding court, surrounded by a dozen or more fans and friends, telling stories, and talking about his work. I think I was too shy to say anything except that I loved his work when he signed my book.

Below that is Barry Smith’s signature (no Windsor yet), surprisingly angular. I was a big fan of his work on CONAN, and I’m sure I told him so, though I remember Barry being rather cool and not very friendly. In fact, the one other time I met him, at a party, he was much the same.

Nick Cuti, the author of E-MAN and many other Charlton stories I’d enjoyed was so delighted to talk to me about his work he signed his first name in my book twice. Then, to balance that, he wrote “Best” twice, and we had a good laugh about it. I got to know Nick pretty well some years later when he and I were both on staff at DC.

Murray Bishoff was a columnist for The Comics Buyer’s Guide, which I must have told him I enjoyed reading, hence the comment.

And last is Larry Hama, whose work I only knew from WULF THE BARBARIAN for the short-lived Atlas Comics line. I later worked with him at DC as well.

There were plenty of other pros I met that year, but I attended several Seuling cons over the next few years, so it’s hard to remember which year I met which ones. I’m sure I would have met Michael Kaluta that first year, and I recall him being very friendly to me as a fan. I think I went to a panel with Stan Lee on it. I’m pretty sure I saw Vaughn Bode at this show, though I don’t think I talked to him. Was that the year artist Gil Kane came storming into the show to track down a dealer who was selling some of his Marvel Comics covers that had been obtained from Marvel without Gil’s knowledge? I think Gil got his covers back, or at least some of them. Original art returns were a subject of much controversy then, and companies were just starting to give art back to the artists rather than storing or destroying it.

Two years later I went for my interview at DC Comics and got a job there. Going to comics conventions was never the same after that. I was no longer just a fan. Still had fun at them, though!

5 thoughts on “1975: My first comics convention

  1. gorjus

    What an amazing treasure. I have to admit I’m stunned by just seeing the names–I mean, you’ve got Simonson and Kirby next to each other and–I almost fell out of my chair.

  2. RodrigoCL

    this is so nice! I dream I get a treasure like these one day!

    Love your work and website! keep up the good work!

  3. Pingback: Chaykin

  4. Dan Felty

    Wow, everything Craig Russell does is beautiful and elegant!

    I have a great time looking around at this blog, Todd!

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