Detroit Triple Fan Fair
The Detroit Triple Fan Fair (DTFF) was a multigenre convention held annually in Detroit, Michigan, from 1965 to 1978. It is credited as being the first regularly held convention featuring comic books as a major component. The Triple Fan Fair also gave balanced coverage to historic film showings (often running all night long for the convention's duration) and science-fiction literature, in a manner that provided a template for many future convention organizers — most of which have yet to attain the same level of equal service to this sort of linked fan base.
On May 24, 1964, at the Hotel Tuller, teenagers Robert Brosch and Dave Szurek organized a Detroit-based convention for fans of the comic book medium. Jerry Bails, the "father of comics fandom," was on the organizing committee, along with members of the Michigan Science Fiction Society (the so-called "Misfits.") The next year Bails and local comics enthusiast Shel Dorf took over the event, christening it the "Detroit Triple Fan Fair" (referring to fantasy literature, fantasy films, and comic art) and organizing it as an annual event. The first official DTFF took place July 24–25th, 1965, at the Embassy Hotel in Detroit. Admission charge was $2.00 for both days.
In what soon became a trend, aspiring local comic book creators flocked to the early events, and often became involved with organizing the annual show. For instance, the then-18-year-old Carl Lundgren was co-chairman of the 1965 DTFF, and Rich Buckler also attended the initial shows as a teenager, eventually "running things" along with originator Robert Brosch. The 1968 DTFF took place June 15–16 at the Fort Pick Shelby Hotel.
Co-founder Dorf left Detroit and the DTFF for Southern California in 1970, where he immediately founded what became the San Diego Comic-Con. Local artist Greg Theakston became a major player in the DTFF from 1970 to 1978, coming to "own" it after working on a dozen shows.
Letterer Ken Bruzenak attended the 1969 convention, where he met his hero Jim Steranko, and also crossed paths with future collaborator Howard Chaykin for the first time. Arvell Jones recalls many members of the so-called "Detroit Mob" making appearances at various shows, including Buckler, Theakston, Tom Orzechowski, Keith Pollard, Jim Starlin, Mike Vosburg, Al Milgrom, Terry Austin, and Michael Netzer (Nasser).
The 1972 convention was the 7th edition of the DTFF; it took place October 19–22, 1972, and official guests included Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Vaughn Bodē, Jeff Jones, Russ Heath, Bud Plant, Dale Manesis, Jerry Bails, Phil Seuling, Gene Roddenberry, and Majel Barrett.
The reputation of the convention was such that a number of other industry professionals would appear at the event unbilled. Other DTFF guests over the years included film special effects creator Ray Harryhausen, film animation artist and director Chuck Jones, magazine publisher James Warren, and film director George A. Romero.
Demise and legacy
The DTFF would continue sporadically through the 1970s; late in the decade new organizers took over the show. There was a final Triple Fan Fair held in the late 1980s at the now-defunct Troy Hilton in Troy, Michigan. The guest of honor at that event was Jack Kirby.
From 1982–1986, Gary Reed (later publisher of Caliber Press) ran a local convention known as King Kon. Starting in 1989, comics retailer Michael Goldman launched a for-profit endeavor called the Motor City Comic Con; it continues as an annual show to the present day.
Detroit has a very strong connection with comic conventions and fandom. Some of the earliest fandom magazines came out of the Detroit area in the late 1960s and the Detroit Triple Fan Fair was the first convention of its kind. ... Detroit Fanfare is both proud and excited to bring back home some of the major participants that helped to grow the comic industry into the behemoth it is today. There will [be] panels and discussions where the people who started so much will have a chance to discuss the early days, and reflect on their memories of the great stars that attended the convention. They will provide rare pictures and original drawings of some of the masters of the medium.
In another nod to the DTFF, the Detroit FanFare also distributes the Shel Dorf Awards.
The 1970 program was dedicated to Jack Kirby. It has a Western-themed cover by Jim Steranko and interior art pages by Neal Adams and Bernie Wrightson. The 1972 program had a cover by Neal Adams. The 1974 program featured a cover illustration of The Spirit by Will Eisner.
- Henrickson, Eric. "New comic convention, Detroit Fanfare, coming this fall," Detroit News blog (July 7, 2010).
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- Cooke, Jon B. "Rich Buckler Breaks Out! The Artist on Deathlok, T'Challa, and Other Marvel Tales," Comic Book Artist Collection, Volume 3 (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005).
- Detroit Triple Fan Fair program book (Detroit Triple Fan Fair, 1972).
- Thompson, Maggie. Newfangles #8 (Mar. 1968).
- Rowe, Peter. "Obituary: Sheldon Dorf; Comic-Con co-founder," San Diego Union-Tribune (November 4, 2009).
- Morrow, John. "Greg Theakston Interview," Collected Jack Kirby Collector (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004), p. 97.
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- Ayres, Bruce. "Editorials," The Vault of Mindless Fellowship #2 (Wildwood Press, Ltd., 1972). pp. 30-32.
- Rozanski, Chuck. "The Summer of 1973 - Part I: Detroit Triple Fan Fair," Tales From the Database. Accessed July 8, 2010.
- "Con Reports: King Kon Strikes Again!," CBGXtra.com (Aug. 22, 2008).
- Henrickson, Eric. "A feast for geeks," Detroit News (28 Oct 2010), p. M.14.
- "Panels," Detroit Fanfare website. Accessed July 8, 2010. [dead link]
- Shel Dorf Awards official site. Accessed Dec. 13, 2011.