Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
I’m starting to feel like a stalker. We’ve been waiting in line for about an hour, hovering beside Phil Jimenez’s table, and I’ve been cradling this stack of trades in my hand for so long that my arm is beginning to stiffen and ache. But as the herd gathered by the surrounding tables begins to thin and I see the first of many incredible sketches Phil is doing for his fans, my resolve solidifies and I know the wait will be worth it.
Someone walks by and asks what he’s charging. “Free,” I say. They don’t believe me. I can’t really believe it either. A sketch from Phil is the only thing I really, desperately want from this year’s con. After missing opportunities for commissions last year with Phil Noto and Cliff Chiang, I’m determined to not let myself miss getting something from Phil, whose Wonder Woman I love. I had tweeted at him earlier in the week, asking if he was doing commissions. He replied that he usually doesn’t, but that he “might be convinced in Boston.” Hope! My husband—who is quite the trooper throughout the day as I rant endlessly about the artists I want to meet—drives us into the city early to make sure I’m one of the first few in line for Phil.
Well, we thought it was early.
I have a mild panic attack when we get to the Seaport and see the line—no, the legion—of people stretched out of the building and down several city blocks. In these moments, I resign myself to the idea that I am going to leave the con at the end of the day sketch-less, because there was no way I was going to get inside and not find a mass of people ahead of me at every artist’s table. And yet by some miracle, AKA the superior con staff, the line actually winds up moving fairly quickly. We may have waited outside for about thirty minutes total.
By an even larger miracle, I’m seventh in line for a sketch from Phil. When one of the con staffers hands me the Last in Line sign, I’m holding back tears of utter relief.
We’re into the first hour of being in this line, and Husband and I have formed something of a game plan for who we want to hit up and when. Once he has safely deposited me in my place, he runs off and does reconnaissance—which sellers are selling what, where certain artists tables are, which food vendors are in the immediate vicinity, etc. Every few minutes he comes back to me with some information (“Vendor A sold out of Transformers Generations Metroplex”), or I send him on an errand (“Go grab me a ticket for the Scott Snyder signing”).
Scanning my Twitter feed on my phone as I wait, I see a tweet from Terry Moore:
“Okay … what if someone already got him one?”
“Then he’ll have two, I suppose. He only tweeted this like eight minutes ago!”
“What do you want for a sketch if he asks me?”
I didn’t actually care about the sketch—I had met Terry a couple of years before at a previous con, and I just wanted to do a nice thing for someone who’s given me so much through his characters and stories. Strangers in Paradise had opened up a genre of comics for me that I didn’t know existed—a type of honest and straight-faced storytelling I think we need so much more of in the mainstream.
“If he asks … I want a Katchoo. Only if he asks.”
Husband disappears like a good soldier, and a few moments later, this shows up in my feed:
I head over after to chat with Terry and get to meet his lovely wife, Robyn. I ask them how the con is going for them so far, and they seem to be enjoying it. When Terry gives me my Katchoo sketch, I can’t wipe the smile off my face. Today is going better than I could have hoped.
I fight my spazzy fangirl urge to ask him for a hug.
Back in the line, I chat on and off with a gentleman in front of me named Jeff, who is super friendly and funny, and loves the Teen Titans. I decide that con people are amazing and I want to do this every chance I get. I would wait in this line forever if everyone is this cool.
Looking around the con floor, Bill Willingham’s table is next to Phil on the other side from where I’m standing, and it’s a rare moment where there isn’t the usual cluster of people talking to him. I pass some of my things to the Husband, grab my Fables trades and a few issues of Fairest, and head over.
“You look lonely over here!” I say. He tells me that he thought I was standing in line for Phil, and I explain to him that I have a placeholder as I point over to Husband. Husband motions to the ring on his finger and makes a gesture as though it’s weighing him down; his hand drops to the ground like it’s anchored, and he’s sputtering, drowning in the demanding sea of our marriage. I simultaneously laugh and fake-curse him.
Bill is as charming and articulate as I expect him to be; myself, a little less so. I tell him that I sent him a card in the mail a few months ago, and that I loved the Fables post card he sent me in reply. He asks me what he’d written to me, and I clumsily can’t remember (of course, I recall it the second I leave his table).
“Well I’m glad I made such a strong impression!” he teases. We talk about Boston and Cambridge, I tell him about where I work, and he leaves me with a humble request/assignment. (More on that once it’s mission: accomplished.)
Back in line again and I must be glowing.
I could do this all day.
Our number is slowly but surely being whittled down, and anyway, it’s not like we don’t have our share of entertainment. Both the quality and quantity of the cosplay I’ve seen so far has been impressive, from a Rita Repulsa so perfect I need to remind myself she’s not actually actress Machiko Soga, to the gigantic Bumblebee lumbering around the floor, to the two Deadpools who suddenly appear from opposite ends of the aisle, cross paths, and break out into some inexplicable yet hilarious posturing dance fight right beside us that lasts a full three minutes. Even Phil momentarily pauses on his current sketch to take in all of its outrageous glory.
There are more moments like this throughout the day. I see Batman walk up to George Perez, his gravelly voice now somehow timid as he asks for a photo. A security guard Spider-Man in army fatigues happily high-fives me as I walk by him. The identity of the colorfully-dressed man with the sash eludes me until he puts on his television set for a head and I realize he’s Prince Robot IV from Saga—possibly my favorite cosplay of the day. This geeky subculture of ours has come together wildly and passionately, and when it’s so highly concentrated in one place, it’s nothing short of beautiful.
When the next fan in line asks for a sketch of Grumpy Cat as Streaky the Supercat, we’re all in stitches at the final result.
Every once in a while, Phil looks up and apologizes for how long we’ve been waiting. We’re confused about why he’s apologizing—the way we’re looking at it, we’re at this fantastic con, getting to meet creators we admire, and line or no line, we’re having a great time. Phil is drawing for us out of kindness, not for money—he’s as sweet as I knew he’d be. My initial worry that we’re “hovering” a little too much fades away, as the setting becomes less of a line and more of a group. The conversation flows between all of us, and I nearly forget that these people are strangers. They’re starting to feel like friends.
Husband was unfamiliar with Phil and his work before now, but you wouldn’t guess that by the way he’s talking to him. When I get back to the table after a quick break, I find them bonding over their love of G1 Transformers. Phil shows us pictures of a Transformers/DC Universe pitch he did, and Husband is in love. When Phil tells him that he did the box art for the SDCC Exclusive Metroplex that he’s been so furiously after, I think I see hearts in Husband’s eyes. I wonder if he’s going to pocket his ring.
So much of my love for Wonder Woman is owed to George Perez. Everything I love about Wonder Woman, George defined, and when I found out he would be a guest at the con, I wanted nothing more than to get to shake his hand and say thank you.
I got so much more than that.
George is understandably so popular that guests had to grab a ticket number to see him. By some shocking stroke of luck—luck that is highly unusual for me to have when it comes to stuff like this—I managed to grab one of the last tickets of the day.
And George was sketching. Sketching on the cheap.
I mean, I hear “George Perez,” and I’m thinking that a drawing from a name like that is bound to cost some dough. I’ve bought commissions off of far lesser-known artists for unreasonable, if not criminal amounts of money. And here’s George Perez, charging … forty dollars a sketch. Here’s George Perez, in his bright Hawaiian shirt, drawing with a goddamn Sharpie marker.
SIGN ME UP.
Given that my ticket number was 128 and there were only two people left behind me at the end of the day, the man was obviously a drawing machine. I got him to draw me a—you guessed it—Wonder Woman within the final hours of the con. I shook his hand and
proposed to him adoringly fawned over his work. I’m somewhere outside of myself, acutely aware of the presence of this man who influenced so much of what I love, and as such, so much of who I’ve become, and it’s surreal. He gives me my completed sketch and I thank him—and then I thank him again—and then I shake his hand—and then I thank him a third time.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you for today.
I’m up. Phil is drawing for me now; he’s drawing the first of the three Wonder Women I wind up getting that day. She’s coming along like the beauty that she is. I’m already picturing her framed and hung up on the wall in our designated “reading room.”
“You’re all she’s talked about for the last week and a half” Husband tells Phil. I’m not sure why he’s confessing this, other than the fact that he loves any opportunity to embarrass me. I shoot him a look that says “I warned you not to,” but he just grins back at me with his full set of teeth; I need to change the subject before Husband dominates the conversation.
I tell Phil about a paper I wrote my freshman year of college that was about the depiction of female characters in comics. It centered on Wonder Woman, and at the time I had reached out via e-mail to several creators for their opinions on certain aspects of the character’s portrayal—namely that of her sexuality, or arguable lack thereof at that point in time.
“You were the only one who responded,” I tell him.
“Did I give you anything helpful?” he asks.
“Well I got an A on the paper, so … yes, and thank you.”
What commences is a more serious and thoughtful discussion than anything so far. And as we’re talking, Phil is putting the finishing touches on my sketch. Wonder Woman looks magnificent (that hair!), and birds soar in the background Themysciran sky. I can’t believe I haven’t paid a dime for this. He wouldn’t even let us get him some snacks or drinks as he sat glued to his seat.
He gives me the piece, and as I’m holding it up in admiration, and small group of people has formed on the side of me and behind me. Another person asks me how much for the sketch, and the look on his face expresses his disbelief when I tell him it was for free.
“That is seriously the most beautiful Wonder Woman I’ve ever seen. You’re so lucky.”
There was so much more I got to experience at Boston Comic Con, and so much that I didn’t. I never got the chance to meet Joe Hill, Colleen Doran, or Bill Walko, or Chrissie Zullo. I never got to talk to the creator of Our Valued Customers, or meet any new independent artists. I didn’t see any of the celeb guests or sit in on any panels. And I left on Saturday night with the onset of one of the worst migraines in recent memory (keep hydrated, kids), and yet I was blissfully happy.
Because I did get to meet Ming Doyle, who showed up to the con dressed as Jubilee and totally rocked it. Because I met Amy Reeder, who is friendly and adorable, and has a great-looking book called Rocket Girl coming out soon. Because after some hunting and some patience, I got to meet Scott Snyder, who was easily the most popular guy at the con. Husband now owns a photo of me with Scott where my eyes are half shut and I look completely drunk, so yay for that.
I met Yale Stewart, creator of my current favorite web comic, JL8, which everyone should be reading. And I met Aaron Lopresti, who drew me yet another little Wonder Woman doodle in one of the hard covers I’d brought along. I surprised him when I whipped out this epically ridiculous comic called The Marriage of Hercules & Xena, which is apparently the type of the thing I was into in 1998, and for which he had done some art. Oh, the lulz.
But I genuinely believe that had I done nothing other than stand in line and talk with Phil, getting to watch his drawing process, listening to his thoughts on comics, and engaging with fellow fans, it still would have been the best day. Everything else was just delicious, dreamy icing.
A Peter Parker sketch drawn for Husband was Phil’s last for the afternoon, as he had a panel to run to; we expressed our sincere gratitude and said goodbye. I flashed him a huge smile, and we leaned over the table for a hug.
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