Full circle: The intersection of Comic-Con and career

By John Ball, Principal/Creative Director

Comic-Con Blog Post

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Comic-Con, and just like previous summers, this epic extravaganza will once again take over our city. So now, more than ever, it’s a good time to reflect on the impact of the event, personally, professionally, and as a San Diegan.

Early days pave the way.

I first attended Comic-Con as a teenager in the 70’s. Back then, the event wasn’t even close to what it is today. A fraction of today’s size, it took place at the old El Cortez Hotel— in those days one of the swankiest venues in town. For comics! Fans mingled easliy with pros at a cozy affair that seemed more cult than culture. Today, the passion surrounding Comic-Con is larger than life, celebrating pop culture of every flavor—and an industry that spawns billions in economic impact. For so many, our Managing Director Holly Houk included, it’s a yearly, can’t-miss milestone circled on the calendar months in advance.

For me, you might say comics are responsible for my whole career. A dream of becoming a comic book artist faded quickly when I went to art school and realized I couldn’t draw like Neal Adams or paint like Frank Frazetta. Luckily, graphic design and typography saved the day and I found my own path creatively. But working with words and pictures—the building blocks of comics—is still at the core of what I do, even to this day.

Fast forward, full circle.

Those very same “non-drawing” skills came into play as we began our work for the nascent Comic-Con Museum, focusing on questions of both style and meaning to communicate a permanent, year-round facility based on the annual event. What do we say? How should it look? Will people understand? And more importantly, will they embace it?

In this case, keeping a strong visual connection to Comic-Con made sense. So did calling it a museum. The end result might seem pretty simple, but getting there often isn’t—sometimes our job is as much about navigation as it is destination. What’s most important is making sure people get it, and even in the organization’s early stages, they do—and they want to be a part of it.  

A city with super powers.

Comic-Con Museum will be a game-changer in Balboa Park, bringing new energy and audiences to a quiet corner. And as a San Diegan, I’m excited about the what this brings to our city, which at times still lives in the shadow of Los Angeles and San Fransisco.

Comic-Con Museum will bring not just visitors, but also recognition and respect. Along with other vibrant pockets—think UCSD, the life sciences community, even the blossoming restaurant scene—it brings energy and economic benefits to the area. Add it up, and just maybe, people across the country will start to see what many of us already know: this once-sleepy cul-de-sac of a city offers riches you just can’t find anywhere else.

Happy 50th Comic-Con. And welcome to San Diego, Comic-Con Museum.

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