Chatting with San Diego Comic Fest’s Chairman Matt Dunford

Bleeding Cool contributor Jimmy Leszczynski writes:

The grass is green and growing, the birds are chirping and it has finally stopped raining in Southern California which can only mean one thing. The Comic Book/ Pop Culture Convention season is is getting ready to bloom for 2019. One of the first of the year is one of my favorites, the San Diego Comic Fest. San Diego Comic Fest is being held March 7-10 at the Four Points Sheraton in sunny San Diego California, and always proves to be an intimate, laid back event where fans can meet and mingle with industry professionals and local artists on a very personal level. However to truly know the history of San Diego Comic Fest, we have to look into the history of the pop culture behemoth San Diego Comic Con itself. Event Chairman Matt Dunford took some time out of his busy schedule to do just that.

“The idea of comic fest came about in 2009 when several of the founding fathers of San Diego Comic Con were invited back for the 40th anniversary of the convention.  When all these people who put together the original convention, the original event back in the day, “The California Golden State Comic book convention” (Now known as SDCC) they had such a great time together, and asked “Why can’t we do this more often?”  So the ida of San Diego Comic Fest came about. “To create a small intimate environment where you still have these legendary comic book creators that you could just hang out with. (It) Reflects the conventions of the 70’s before things grew too big.” As the years went by we kept growing and growing but still retained the intimate environment, the vision, of what comic con was originally- comics, science fiction, film, and animation.

Matt has been going to SDCC since he was a wee lad of 8 and says now it can be a little overwhelming for some fans. Although it still has something to offer everyone, some people get intimidated. That’s why at San Diego Comic Fest “We want to provide an intimate experience that is accessible to everybody. “ Dunford continues, “We have grown and we are in our 7th year. We are being called “America’s Best Small Convention by Forbes, that’s a pretty cool title to have. The goal is the best convention experience anyone can have.”

Dunford is excited to announce this year’s Guest of Honor is Sergio Aragones (Groo, Mad). Described by Matt as the “World’s Greatest Living ‘Toonist” he tells us “There is not a person on this planet that doesn’t love his work. He is so friendly and genuine. The reaction to everyone wanting to see him has been so amazing, I am trying not to fanboy out that he accepted my invitation!“

San Diego Comic Fest is also excited celebrate 25 years of Spiderman: the Animated Series (S:TAS) with show creator John Semper, and the impact it had on the rest of society.

“This is literally the show that got me into comics and animation and into all this material . On November 19th, 1994, when S:TAS debuted “Night of the Lizard”, that’s what drove my my inner fanboy into overdrive. He was the first black showrunner back in the 80’s when Jim Henson gave him the reigns to the (Fraggle Rock) cartoon and then Stan Lee tapped him to do the Spiderman cartoon (S:TAS) he really made something special of it. It is my all time favorite cartoon because it brought me into a greater Spiderman Universe. It had all the Marvel heroes interacting together and arguably laid the groundwork for the MCU.”

That is quite a bit of talent right there, but hardly enough to fill an entire weekend.“What or who are you excited about?”

Without hesitation Dunford excitedly launches into his description of The Three Tooners, who have been entertaining fans since the golden age of animation.  Willie Ito (The Jetsons, The Flintstones) started at Disney animating the infamous spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. Hanna Barbera writer Tony Benedict (the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Magilla Gorilla, Huckleberry Hound) will be on hand as well as Barbera producer, animator Jerry Eisenberg (Wacky Racers, Jetsons, Johnny Quest, Super Friends) to share memories and tales from the “Good old days”.

Returning to San Diego Comic Fest for the 5th year is Disney Legend, animator, writer, comics creator Floyd Norman. Matt tells me that in 1956 Norman became the first black animator at Disney and worked on Sleeping Beauty. He then spent the next decade working with Walt Disney himself. A true “Must-Meet” for any Disneyphile.

Eisner Award winning comic scribe James Robinson (Starman, Batman, Squadron Supreme, Grendel Tales) shares tales and advice from his genre crossing, decades spanning career .

“The cool thing about this intimate environment is that you just get to hang out with these people. If you just want to grab a coffee or drink at the bar with them,” Matt fondly reflects, “People I used to call heroes, now I call them friend. And that is the environment we seek to create.”

Matt leaves me with a hint at a pending guest that he cannot announce- but can’t say who he is. “(He’s) a heavy hitter, interested in doing the show, an artist that everybody loves. 16 letters in last name, (I have)trouble pronouncing it. I like his work so much I am tempted to die just so he can draw me” I think it may be worth tuning in just to find out who he is willing to lay down his life for! Tons more guests are coming, too many to list here but you can check out the Full Guest list here

Don’t forget about the The Digital Artistry Workshop will be going on in the earlier part of the day, and Matt tells me that several of the Artist Guests will be giving educational lectures as well as local artists. “You will hear from the perspective of people who have a background in graphic design, people who do logo design, people who do comics, because we do want to reach out and help the local aspiring artists.” There will also be workshops from San Diego’s own Little Fish Comic Book Studio (@littlefishCBS), which will give some educational workshops on storytelling and artwork all throughout the entirety of the event.  You can view the entire workshop schedule here

The Chairman’s work is never done as Matt has to run and get back to the never ending grind of Convention promoting, but promises to keep us updated on any news and surprises in store for attendees, and fill us in an whether he landed that big fish or not!

San Diego Comic Fest 2019 takes place March 7-10 in San Diego- full details here at SDCOMICFEST.ORG

Follow them on Twitter for news and updates @Sdcomicfest

About Bill Watters

Games programmer by day, geek culture and fandom writer by night. You'll find me writing most often about tv and movies with a healthy side dose of the goings-on around the convention and fandom scene.

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