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Richard Alf, a Comic-Con founder, dies of cancer

General view of the atmosphere during Comic-Con 2011 on July 24, 2011 in San Diego, Calif. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO (CBS/AP) Richard Alf, a comic book shop owner and one of the co-founders of San Diego's Comic-Con, has died from pancreatic cancer at age 59.

Pictures: Comic-Con 2011

U-T San Diego reports that Alf joined up with a band of volunteers in 1970 to start the now-annual convention celebrating comic books, which has grown to become a major media and entertainment-industry summer event.

Friend and fellow Comic-Con co-founder Mike Towry says Alf fronted a few thousand dollars to pay for the convention for the first three years and gave other co-founders 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, many of them in costume, to San Diego every summer for a 3-day extravaganza. Many of the studios use the convention to give fans a first look at their science fiction or comics-based offerings and serve up stars to get headlines.

Smaller Comic-con events are now held every year in cities across the nation.

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.