January 06, 2012 at 06:01 PM EST

Richard Alf, one of the cofounders of San Diego’s Comic-Con, has died from pancreatic cancer at age 59. Alf joined up with a band of volunteers in 1970 to start the now-annual convention celebrating comic books. Friend and fellow Comic-Con cofounder Mike Towry says Alf fronted a few thousand dollars to pay for the convention for the first three years and gave other cofounders rides in his car.

In 1970, the first Comic-Con was relatively modest compared to the convention that now draws more than 125,000 people to San Diego every summer for a 4-day extravaganza.

Alf also founded the Comic Kingdom shop in North Park in the 1970s. Alf was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in December. He is survived by his mother.

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Comic-Con 2011

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