Comic-Con’s Connections to Ocean Beach

by on July 23, 2018 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Shel Dorf-ed

Sheldon Dorf


Ken Krueger

Originally posted July 23, 2018

The connections between San Diego’s Comic-Con and Ocean Beach are not that generally understood and appreciated.

But in fact, two of the founders of Comic-Con were from OB.

Sheldon Dorf and Ken Krueger were both co-founders and present at the very beginning of what’s become one of San Diego’s leading annual cultural events.

Krueger and Dorf met in early 1970. Kruegar was owner of Alert Books here in OB. The two, with a group of teen-aged fans, organized the first Golden State Comic Con, held Aug. 1-3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel.

Sheldon “Shel” Dorf, one of the founders, lived in Ocean Beach for many years. Having passed away in 2009 at the age of 76, he was a key focus in a 2017 Rolling Stone article, entitled “San Diego Comic-Con: The Untold History” by Chris Chafin.

Chafin recounts Dorf’s influence on Comic-Con and his own role as a tragic figure. Here’s a quote about him from the article:

Many of the founders [of Comic-Con] would go on to successful careers. Barry Alfonso … Mike Towry … Richard Alf … Scott Shaw … For Dorf, things were less smoothly.

In a cruel bit of irony, the man whose primary asset was unabashed fandom and an ability to connect fans with creators – skills which he used to help found the most successful fan convention of all time – lived the bulk of his life feeling slighted by his creation and jealous of the younger people who found the creative and professional success he never had.

Though everyone interviewed for this article had positive things to say about Dorf’s involvement in the con – to a large extent, it was his idea – he was also a prickly personality, hard to get along with for even those who most wanted to support him. He died in 2009, alienated from the convention and having pushed away many of those he worked with.

Stories of his bad and inexplicable behavior are numerous, from personally handing out hundreds of free tickets to the convention at a San Diego shopping center in the days when tens of thousands of people were regularly attending, to sending an original founder a note on the birth of his child which said, “If you didn’t lose weight, your son will grow up ashamed of you.”

This reporter met Sheldon in the 1970’s and here’s what I wrote upon his passing in early November 2009.

Dick Tracy, Charlie Brown and the entire comic strip pantheon lost a friend yesterday, with the death of a Comic-Con founder. Sheldon “Shel” Dorf succumbed to diabetes-related complications at Sharp Memorial Hospital. He was 76.

Mr. Dorf, a resident of Ocean Beach, spent 15 years as a leader of the annual convention, serving on its organizing committee. But even before and after his time with the Con, Mr. Dorf was a tireless promoter of comics, their creators and fans.

“The guy just lived and breathed comics his whole life,” said Mark Evanier, a TV and comic book writer. “The Con was built on his passion and his cheerleading.”

For the remainder of the U-T obit, go here.

Ken Krueger, also a co-founder was the first chairperson of the event that turned into Comic-Con International. Kevin Melrose of Comic Book Resources wrote:

“Ken Krueger was as much responsible for the creation of the Comic-Con International as anyone else, alive or dead,” Mark Evanier wrote. “… Perhaps his greatest contribution to the early cons in San Diego was that he was the Grown-Up. The majority of those on the original convention committee were kids in need of adult supervision … someone with some experience in handling business matters.

Most were too young to even sign the hotel contract so Shel Dorf and Ken did that. At the early cons, he was the go-to guy for any problem, any crisis, any decision. He didn’t get or seek the attention for all he did but believe me: He did a lot.”

Both passed away in November 2009, just 2 plus weeks apart.



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