Back in 2014 around this time, I was waiting in line with countless other fans. I got there about an hour early to avoid the crowd and every time I looked back at the line forming I was glad I did. Finally, the line started moving. When I got to the front and looked behind the curtain I could see him, Stan Lee. If you don’t know, he created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Black Panther, Daredevil, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and many other characters. He’s a living legend.
It reminds me of how Allen Iverson described the first time he played against Michael Jordan in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him. And, for the first time in my life, a human being didn’t really look real to me. You know what I mean? I don’t know if you all watch the Chappelle Show, but he talked about in a certain incident where somebody’s seeing Rick James. Like I literally seen his aura. It looked like he was glowing.” I marveled, no pun intended, at this unassuming 90-year-old man, who couldn’t be more normal but appeared to be anything but.
To date, no one else has elicited such a response from me. I almost didn’t know what to do when the photographer said next. If you’ve ever done a photo op like this, you know they rush you in and rush you out. So I rushed in, stood next to him, and put up my web shooter like Spider-Man, who is my favorite character. Stan looked up and said “Atta Boy.” I still smile when I think about it and it broke the ice enough for me to say “Thanks Stan,” as I walked out.
That was probably the fifth comic convention I’ve been to since I started going in 2008. I’m going to one this weekend. I’ve met so many great people but meeting Stan was always on my bucket list. I treasure a copy of Spider-Man #700 he and other Spider-Man creators signed for me that weekend. It’s among my favorite stories from all of my misadventures at cons.
Anybody who knows me knows I’m a big comic fan. I started reading in 1998. The first comic I bought was Sensational Spider-Man #28, off a rack at a convenient store. From then on I would stop at every rack I saw. Reading comics is an expensive hobby though and they weren’t as easy to find as they are today. I didn’t start buying and reading them regularly until 2005.
Comic books are big conversation starters now because of the movies but for a long time, I was the only person I knew who read them. I would even venture to say it’s one of the reasons I got discouraged about it. When I started reading regularly I was so excited about the stories I looked for other fans to talk to, which led me to message boards and eventually conventions.
Outside of fandom, conventions get a bad rap. Believe me, I’ve heard every stigma around it over the years from people who’ve never been, which made me leery. By the time I went to my first convention I realized they couldn’t be more wrong. I immediately felt like I belonged, which is not something I can say about many places I’ve been. I love being around so many people who are just as passionate as I am about comics. Fans can walk up to random strangers and instantly connect with them.
Meeting creators and celebrities is an added bonus and they are often just as passionate. My favorite thing to do at conventions is hang out in Artists’ Alley. I always see people I know or strike up conversations with creators about comics or anything! From talking to Dan Slott for hours about comics and Al’s Beef to joking with Rick Remender, or watching Skottie Young do a sketch for me; I’ve had so many memorable experiences that couldn’t have had anywhere else.
I always have so much fun at cons and the experiences have helped me grow more confident. A common thread in my writing is the urgency of discovering and accepting who you are. It’s an important lesson I’m still learning and the best advice I can impart. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Live the life you want to live. No risk no reward!
Thanks for reading and see you in the funny pages. Excelsior