Every once in a while, we are all presented with opportunities we simply cannot pass up. That was the case recently when I, along with a few coworkers, spent the day at the Pittsburgh Comicon.
I ended up shelling out a bit more than my friends for one simple reason. While there were many comic book creators, both well known and not-so-much, in attendance. The guest of honor this year was none other than Stan Lee.
For those who don't know, Stan Lee was among those working at Marvel Comics during its early days and is recognized as creating or co-creating some of its flagship characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk. His creations helped to bring the medium into the forefront of popular culture, and he has continued to do so over the decades since. In short, for comic book aficionados at least, he is a legend.
Fans of any genre or medium often have a desire to meet some of the legends of those businesses, and it is the same here. Some of the biggest events in the nation these days revolve around comics, science fiction and popular culture, and the bigger the guests means the bigger the crowd. Even though I had never attended this particular convention, I thought with guests like Stan Lee, as well as George Perez, Lee Weeks and many others, I had to check it out.
Since Stan Lee also happens to be 89 years old, I also figured there might not be too many more opportunities to see him. It was a no brainer.
To be completely honest about the whole situation, unless you are a fan, you probably wouldn't have found the experience worth it. We arrived at the convention center shortly before 10 a.m. that Saturday and I walked into the back portion of the building where Stan Lee was to be and began the wait.
That wait lasted for around two hours or so, as probably a few hundred people were in line to get an item signed by "The Man," as he sometimes is called. I caught a glimpse of him several times as I waited (he took a couple breaks during the signing) and then finally around noon I was standing in front of him. It lasted maybe 30 or 40 seconds, just enough time to have my comic handed over to him and for me to take a picture of him signing it. Then, it was over.
But, many of us also had another chance, and this time there wouldn't be a table between us.
In addition to getting items signed, people also could get their picture taken with Mr. Lee. It was another two hour wait, and about another 30 seconds of being around him, but there at least was an opportunity to speak if only briefly.
I walked in, we each said "Hello" and looked toward the camera. After the picture was taken it was a quick "There you are, son," from him and a "Thank you" from me.
It was definitely a memory I will cherish, and having that photo means a great deal.
It was a great point in the day, but it wasn't the only highlight.
As I mentioned, George Perez also was on hand this year. Perez has worked for many companies over the years, but is probably best known for his work in the 1970s and 80s on the Teen Titans books and also as a part of the team which literally rewrote the history of the DC Comics universe with "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
I own copies of some of his more recent work, including several issues of "Justice Society of America," and he was kind enough to take a few moments to share a story about the book I took with me. As it turns out, the writing on a notebook featured prominently on the book's cover was actually his wife's shorthand writing.
He told me at times when his wife would attend conventions with him, people would ask her to sign it as well.
It was a great experience, meeting many of the big names in today's comics business, seeing some of the costumes and just soaking in the excitement from the other fans.
It wasn't just about comics, either. As some of you may have read from one of my coworkers' columns, Larry Thomas (the Soup Nazi) and Ian Patrella (Randy from "A Christmas Story) also were on hand. Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in four of the "Star Wars" movies also was supposed to be there, but got a last-minute acting job and had to cancel. A wookie has to eat, after all.
Everyone was incredibly friendly and accommodating, whether you were in costume or not, or had one item or 10 to be signed.
I'm definitely keeping my eyes open for when next year's lineup is announced.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)