Today, San Diego Comic-Con is a pop-culture phenomenon. Because the four-day event isn’t your average comics convention. It transforms an entire city into a safe haven for geeks, nerds and fans of all ages, shapes and sizes. Tickets are nearly impossible to get. And the most sought-after collectibles are even harder. But it hasn’t always been the beast it is now. At its start, San Diego Comic-Con was nothing more than a modest show held in the basement of a local hotel. Lovers of comics, science fiction, and fantasy spent a few days buying trades and chatting with industry speakers. Here’s the story of how the convention went from small time to the $180 million behemoth it is today.