Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
By the time you all are reading this, I should be long gone.
Julie and I are hitting the road this weekend; we are off to celebrate our wedding anniversary with a rambling road trip through the Cascades south to Hood River, along the Columbia Gorge, then over to Portland and back up to Seattle somewhere around the middle of next week. Just a few days, but it’s the first real vacation we’ve had in years. So I’m afraid it’s going to be a short column this week. Gotta pack!
Thinking about the wedding anniversary, one thing occurs to me — this is a hobby that is not really kind to ladies in general, and especially not girlfriends or wives. I am continually amazed at what a lucky fellow I am to have found a girl who was so willing to follow me into the weirdness that is the world of comics. Julie married into all this, she really had no interest in comics or cartooning before meeting me. (Well, except for Peanuts… when we’ve gone to the San Diego Comic-Con, Julie pretty much camps out at the Schulz Museum booth.) But most of it’s been new to her, which makes for an interesting perspective. It usually takes an outsider to really see how nutty the whole comics world is.
This in turn reminded me of a very fine book that I have been meaning to recommend in this space for a while now.
I Have To LIVE With This Guy! profiles the spouses and partners of a bunch of different comics folks, including Alan Moore, Will Eisner, John Romita Sr., Howard Cruse, and many more. It’s fascinating if occasionally startling stuff, whether it’s Deni Loubert’s frank discussion of the breakup of her marriage to Dave Sim or Adrienne Colan talking about the battles between her husband Gene and Marvel editor Jim Shooter. It’s one of the more inspired TwoMorrows projects, and a view of the comics business we don’t often get to see.
Fair warning — if you harbor any romantic illusions about the joys of a life in the arts, this is not the book for you. Freelance artists and writers will often downplay the hardships involved in working in comics when they are interviewed, but I assure you, their significant others have no such inhibitions. It makes for compelling reading, but if you’re one of those that has dreamed for years of working in comics, you’ll definitely be having second thoughts about it by the time you’re done.
As long as I’m reminiscing about my wife and her introduction to this geeky world we inhabit, just for fun I thought I’d tell the story about our Ultimate Nerd Honeymoon Souvenir.
Julie and I were married in July 2004, a week before the San Diego Comic-Con. We did this specifically so that our comics friends like Lorinda from Atlanta and Stephen from Edinburgh, who were already planning to hit San Diego for the convention, could stand up with us at our wedding without having to shell out for two huge airline fares to the West Coast a couple of months apart. (We knew what a struggle it can be, especially for those of us who work in and around the arts, to manage just one big airfare.) Then we figured we’d honeymoon on the road, ambling down the coast for a week and ending up in San Diego just in time for me to work the show.
Most of our non-nerd friends were horrified. “That’s your honeymoon? A comics convention??” No, no, we explained over and over, the honeymoon’s the week-long drive down the Pacific Coast, through the redwoods, majestic vistas, allathat stuff, then Greg was working in San Diego for four days doing press for CBR and teaching a class for Comic-Con’s Kid’s Day on Sunday; then we’d drive back up and have the rest of the honeymoon then. Nobody got it. Finally we gave up: when people expressed their dismay we just said defiantly, “Yeah, we’re huge goddamned nerds.”
Even though it was a working trip, it was a lot of fun, and Julie had a great time meeting all her geeks-in-law. Certainly the con wasn’t a chore for her, though the crowds occasionally made her a little claustrophobic. (Me too, to be honest; it’s why we’ve skipped it the last couple of years.)
Anyway, I have said that the world of comics was new to Julie, and that’s true — but this is not to say that the Dork Side is not strong in her. (After all, she married me, for God’s sake.) She likes Star Trek and V and Godzilla movies and all sorts of geek stuff like that. When we were dating, she’d come over to my place and we’d watch Firefly, it was “our” show…. and we got the DVD player in the first place specifically so we could enjoy the boxed set of the show’s one and only season. Julie’s not really a Whedonite — she never got into Buffy and Angel was only mildly interesting for her — but she loves Firefly.
So — remember, this was summer of 2004 — the one panel that was a must-see for both of us was the big Serenity rollout in the ballroom on Sunday.
Our friend Bret has known Jewel Staite for years, as it happens, and he’d tipped us that the whole cast was making a surprise visit to the convention for Sunday’s panel.
We were so amped for this, and so determined to get good seats, that we actually went way early and sat through some truly horrible stuff (to this day, I still wince when I think of Jennifer Tilly gamely trying to field audience questions about Seed of Chucky. I don’t know if she was embarrassed or not, but we were certainly embarrassed for her.)
The wait was worth it, though. There must have been at least three or four thousand people in that room cheering wildly for Whedon and Firefly when he walked out, it was an extraordinary thing to witness. And we were in the tenth row or thereabouts. Geeking big-time.
There was a palpable sense of joy about the whole thing — the Serenity movie was still shooting, and at the time we were all afire with the idea that it wasn’t over, there were going to be lots more movies and this thing that we loved so much hadn’t been taken away after all, despite those anthracite-hearted bastards at the Fox Network.
The thing that made the panel so much fun is that Whedon and the cast were clearly just as giddy about this turn of events as we fans in the audience were. It was a marvelously festive event, almost a gathering of the tribe.
Anyway, not to go on and on about it. If you’re not a Firefly geek then you’re probably nodding off by now. But the point of the story is that this was a big treat for us to see, we were and are huge fans of the show.
Afterwards, there was an autograph signing in the Sails Pavilion.
I asked Julie if she wanted to go, and she regretfully shook her head. “It’ll be a zoo,” she said — and it was. So, dodging the stampede, we went back to the pro lounge; our usual hideout at Comic-Con, it was a quiet corner where we could have some lemonade and I could figure out where I was supposed to be next.
We had been there about ten minutes when Lorinda came careening into the room. Rin has a bone condition that keeps her in a wheelchair most of the time, and I think she took the corner on one wheel as she skidded up to our table. “Guys! For you!”
And she handed us a Serenity one-sheet signed by Whedon and the entire cast, To Greg and Julie. “Happy honeymoon,” Rin said, beaming. And Bret waved at us from the door.
Apparently, between Bret’s connection with Ms. Staite and Rin’s wheelchair status, the two of them had managed to somehow finagle their way to the front of the line, whereupon they’d explained that they had these friends who were here on their honeymoon and they were huge Firefly geeks….
It was a lovely gift and it hangs framed above our fireplace today.
…that’s not the Nerd Honeymoon Souvenir of the story.
All that was just the preamble, so you understand what a delight the actual souvenir is.
Flash-forward a year and a half or so, to the release of the Serenity movie on DVD. We loved the movie and of course the DVD was a must-have. One of the extras on the disk was a little featurette called Re-lighting the Firefly, the story of how this weird little canceled TV show had such a groundswell of fan support that a movie was eventually greenlit.
So we’re watching this thing and suddenly Julie says, “Hey, there’s San Diego!”
Sure enough, there’s video coverage of the panel we were at, intercut with Whedon and the cast commenting about what an amazing experience it was —
— and then, Julie and I both exploded, “Hey, that’s RIN!!”
We froze the frame and stared. Right there, frozen on our TV screen, was a shot of the autograph signing… and there’s Rin in her wheelchair, getting our card signed, with Bret standing right behind her.
If you’ve got the DVD, and watch this featurette, look for the dark-haired girl in the wheelchair, with the bald goatee’d guy in the black T-shirt standing behind her. That’s Julie’s bridesmaid Lorinda and our friend Bret. Getting us a really cool honeymoon gift.
That’s the souvenir. For us it’s a little home movie clip that somehow ended up on the Serenity DVD. (Other friends of ours swear they can even see “Greg and Julie” on the card they show being signed in the next moment, though I think that’s probably wishful thinking. We didn’t see it, and believe me, we’ve looked.) Still, as a souvenir, that’s pretty damn cool: one of our favorite honeymoon moments that we didn’t actually get to see, and it turns out the makers of the Serenity DVD thoughtfully included it on the featurette. How awesome is that?
Here’s the kicker. I went looking for pictures from that 2004 Comic-Con Firefly panel and signing to include with this story today … and by God, here is Rin AGAIN, in this one.
She’s that dark-haired young lady making the slightly-perplexed moue towards the camera in the foreground, between Jewel Staite and Summer Glau. No, she’s not a midget, she’s sitting in a wheelchair. Bret’s not in this shot — I assume he’s who Rin is looking at.
I guess that was just the moment when everyone took pictures. Anyway, that’s where we all were, three years ago this weekend.
Just as a footnote, I should add that Rin got married a couple of years later herself — to sometime Comics Should Be Good contributor Tadhg Adams. Proving once again that the world of comics is really, REALLY tiny.
And with that, it’s time to hit the road.
See you next week.
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