Comic-Con co-founders Mike Towry and Richard Alf

Comic-Con co-founders Mike Towry (left) and Richard Alf (right) in the early 1970s.

Considering the mega-event that Comic-Con International has now become, it’s hard to believe that the engine driving its creation was a small but enthusiastic cadre of local teen-agers. But that’s exactly how it came about.

One of those teen-agers was Richard Alf, a San Diego native and son of an SDSU psychology professor. Richard not only had a galaxy-size knowledge of comics, he had three things his fellow co-founders did not—a car, some cash from an already thriving mail order comics business, and a genius for organizing. In 1970, he served as co-chair of what was then “San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con.” The following year, he became its chairman. Richard eventually gave up his volunteer positions at Comic-Con, opening his own comic book store—Comic Kingdom—in the mid-1970s, and later branching out into other businesses. However, he remained a well-known and respected authority on comics and all things Comic-Con.

Richard passed away in January 2012 at age 59. His mother, Martha Alf, gifted his papers to the SDSU Library’s Department of Special Collections in summer 2012. The new collection, “The Papers of Richard Alf,” consists of approximately 20 linear feet of various materials and document types related to Comic-Con conventions, his comic book business and store, original art by Jack Kirby and Scott Shaw, and material on the Empire Sign Company and other ventures he was involved in.

At Comic-Con 2012, a session titled “A Tribute to Richard Alf” was held on July 13, honoring the late co-founder. Rob Ray, the library’s head of Special Collections, served on this panel. The program description read: “Richard provided business sense, funds, transportation, energy, hard work, enthusiasm, good cheer, and social vision that proved essential to establishing Comic-Con as a viable institution.” The Alf papers should help document how Richard achieved this, and they’re a vital addition to the library’s unique and growing comics collection.

More about comics at the SDSU Library:
Comic Arts Committee Web Page