Comic-Cons are HUGE business these days, regularly drawing tens of thousands of people and serving as showcases/marketing petri dishes for multi-billion dollar entertainment corporations. But it wasn’t always like that. In the ’70s and ’80s, most conventions were sparsely attended affairs held in dingy hotel ballrooms, featuring little more than a dozen or so booths selling bins of moldy old comic books, and maybe one or two original Star Trek crew members signing autographs. Oh, and Lou Ferrigno, of course. (Actually, to be fair, many smaller cons across the country are still like this.)
No one showed trailers of upcoming superhero or sci-fi blockbusters, no one camped out for 48 hours in front of “Hall H” to see studio heads and actors make earth-shattering announcements, there were no stations set up displaying the latest video games, no one was selling con exclusive variant action figures, etc. It was just the fandom gathering in a big room to be together and maybe grab a rare issue they were missing or meet one of their old Battlestar Galactica crushes. And now a video has surfaced on YouTube that provides a rare glimpse back into this primitive, proto-geek era.
This 10-minute, fuzzy VHS-quality recording of the 1989 Atlanta “Fantasy Fair” is a fascinating time capsule of a misty era before the monstrous Dragon-Con (which begins in Atlanta in late August) drew tens of thousands of cosplayers, gamers, and geeks of all kinds to what is probably the third-largest convention in the nation. This video also illustrates the fact that cosplay has been around for a lot longer than many of us think; it was just done with much bigger hair.