Saturday, November 19, 2016

Schweitzer-Man meets Stan Lee!!!

I had gone to the Calgary Expo many times over the past few years and despite getting the autographs of some actors, artists and writers, I never sought one from the man who was arguably the main attraction to each and every convention he went to: Stan Lee. 

You'd think a huge nerd and history buff like me would want the autograph of one of the few living legends left from Marvel's golden age but, and I must be honest, sometimes I'm not the biggest fan of Stan Lee himself. 
I'm not going to deny his accomplishments but I think a lot of times people give him too much credit undeservedly and he's very unwilling to share that credit. 

For example, everyone thinks that Stan Lee created Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Daredevil etc. 
And if you read anything that qualifies as a news article, you'd believe that since Lee is usually credited as sole creator of those character instead of co-creator. You can make an argument that he can't control what people write about him and human beings are flawed; they can make mistakes. 

However when Lee himself can't bring himself to say that artist Steve Ditko co-created Spider-Man, instead saying that he "considers him to be the co-creator", that's where I take exception. In an interview with Jonathan Ross for the BBC, Lee still couldn't bring himself to say it.

ROSS: But do you, yourself, believe that he co-created it [ Spider-Man]?"

LEE: (Pause) I'm willing to say so.

ROSS: That's not what I'm asking you, Stan. 

LEE: (chuckling) No and that's the best answer I can give you.

ROSS: So it's a 'no' then, really?

LEE: No, I really think the guy who dreams the thing up created it! You dream it up and then you give it to anybody to draw it.

ROSS: But if it had been drawn differently it might not have been a hit or successful...

LEE: Yeah, but then I would have created something that didn't succeed. 

Lee keeps tap-dancing a bit going on about how if Steve thinks he should be called the co-creator of Spider-Man, then he deserves it. But there shouldn't be any thought that goes into it. People don't think the sky is blue; it is blue! If it had been a different writer or artist, that what we know to be Spider-Man would be completely different from what we know today.

Regardless, over the years I've softened a bit towards Stan Lee and since this year he was going to be making his final round of convention appearances, I thought I would finally do what I'd always passed on and get his autograph. 

With my trade-paperback containing the first 13 issues of Spider-Man, I made my way to the line about an hour before he was due to arrive. There was a fair amount of people there but I knew if I got in now, I'd get it quicker than if I decided to come back in twenty minutes. 

In front of the line-up was the strangest thing. There were a group of people selling individual comic books. Their intention was, you buy the comic, pay to get in line and once Stan signs that comic, they would buy it back from you for a higher price. I think it was part of some sort of Stan Lee museum. I can't remember but I thought it was a bit ridiculous. If I'm paying money to get Stan Lee's autograph, I want to keep it for myself. 

So after forking over $120, I got in line and began the waiting game. Thankfully, I had the trade-paperback which I read along with other comics and graphic novels I'd picked up since I'd arrived.
Once the clock struck three, the line was at full capacity but some were wondering, "Where's Stan? Shouldn't he be here by now?"

Well he was just finishing up his photograph session and that can probably run pretty long because you want to make sure everyone gets a good photo with the man. Then you have to give time for a bathroom break and then it involves getting across the mob of adoring fans and bystanders. However once he arrived the whole line erupted in a jubilation of cheers and shouts of "EXCELSIOR!"

From then one it was just another waiting game but this one was a bit more exciting. You could see glimpses of Stan but there were still quite a number of people in front of me. That was when I noticed the men in the suits. It's natural that someone like Stan Lee had security but I was surprised that they actually had earpieces and microphones in their lapels. Stan Lee was probably getting better protection than the Prime Minister.

So as I was getting ready, I noticed that Stan was sandwiched in between two people. The man on Stan's right was asking where you wanted the autograph to go on whatever you wanted signed. When it was your turn, he would quickly point to that for Stan. By his own admission, Lee is losing his eyesight and can't even read the pages in comics any more.

The man on Stan's left was...I almost want to say an avatar for Stan.
Stan is 93 and senior citizens of that age don't always have a lot of energy. Yes, he always seems like a very vibrant guy but it wouldn't shock me if in real life he got tired very easily after doing so much of these shows week after week. So the man on his left was conveying the fan's excitement to Stan and probably helping the fan get excited too.

As the little kid in front of me got his picture of Spider-Man signed and got to shake his hand, the man on the left finished with, "You're going to remember this for the rest of your life!"

"Or at least until tomorrow," Stan reasoned. That actually made me chuckle and when it was my turn, I opened my Spider-Man trade paperback and I will admit, I got very giddy.

As he signed his name I started to just mention how this was a great honor for me and how I knew a lot of people who were going to be jealous. As the book was handed back to me, I held out my hand like the little kid in front of me had and said, "Thank you, Stan."

Stan's eyes were off of me and already working on signing the next piece.

Time slowed down to a halt as I stood there with my arm out extended for a handshake that was never going to happen. In my mind, a loop of that loser horn from The Price is Right kept playing.

As I was about to get out of the way, the man on Stan's left stopped me.
"Sorry, sorry," he pleaded. "He can't shake hands. But he'll do a fist bump."
He gently nudged Stan.
"Stan? Fists."
"Hmm?" grunted Lee as he jotted his name down.
"Fist bump."
"Oh!" He turned his attention back towards me and exclaimed, "Sorry!"
He held out his left fist and I quickly tapped it.
"It's cooler this way," he explained with a chuckle.

I smiled. After all the standing, waiting, I not only got an autograph but a fist bump from Stan Lee. Not a bad day...
Yeah, I'm never selling this

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