(Hey kids, I'm the new guy. You may know me from RackRaids... or maybe not. Anyway, I'm honored to be here amidst such prestigious company as Jon, Ben, Big Mike and that other guy. I've got much to live up to. Apologies in advance for any Canadianisms that slip into my posts [like our predisposition towards apologizing for stuff]. And now, content:)
"Hey," a gruff voice called out to me, my back turned as I was straightening out the product on the convention floor racks, "how much for all those Amazing World of DC books?"
I turned around, looked at the man and then back at the top shelf where about a dozen issues of the official fan magazine of DC Comics from the 1970 stood apart.
"These," I said, pointing. There was something familiar about this guy.
"All of them?"
"Just a second and I’ll grab the calculator."
I punched in the numbers, calculated the figure, and told him what it was. He didn’t bat an eye. He repeated the number. Then it clicked: I was, staring eye to eye with Darwyn Cooke. I have 9 action figures he designed sitting on the book case above the TV. I just finished reading Catwoman: Selena’s Big Score. I’m not his biggest fan, but dammit, I am a fan.
There was a pause.
I knocked the price down.
He repeated the number. He seemed pleased.
I had met Cooke once before, on the airplane on the way back from San Diego last year. We talked about my newly purchased Green Lantern baseball cap and the Hot Wheels Batman floor display. I’d heard stories about him being kind of chilly, and he is to an extent, but I don’t think he means anything by it. Really, he could utter Ron Burgundy’s quote "I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal" and you’d likely think "he’s right", but he’s not pretentious, just a little standoffish, and probably unintentionally so. I didn’t actually realize it was Darwyn Cooke until I returned to my seat and my wife asked "What were you and Darwyn Cooke talking about?"
"I’ll probably be back for those," he said.
And I said "I’m not sure if anyone else will give you the same deal or not, so if you come back, flag me down."
I was caught too off-guard by the moment to react in any way but professionally, as a sales person and a representative for my Local Comics Shoppe. Just after he walked away, one of the actual store employees working the con said, "What were you and Darwyn Cooke talking about?"
I told him what went down (like I being Lee Van Cleef and he being Clint Eastwood, staring each other down), and within five minutes half of the other people working the massive booth came over and asked me about it. Or maybe I went and told them. I don’t recall. I don’t know why, but there was certainly that level of "starfucking" that we all get a kick out of whenever someone notable swings by. The only thing is, I’m horrible at talking to pros, and I don’t even like contemplating it. I could've met Keith Giffen, but I would probably reduce myself to a puddle of Boy Blob in the process.
I had a conversation with the former manager of my LCS a few months ago. We were talking about meeting comics celebrities, and he stated how much he enjoyed it (the number of artists and writers who will come up to him at the Convention and say hi is pretty staggering), while I stated how much I’d rather not, about how nervous I get. He said some profound words akin to "Just remember, they’re regular people just like we are. Treat them as such and everything will be fine."
But I can’t. My connection to them isn’t personal, it’s their work. And if I appreciate their work, it’s hard to look past what they do to see them as something more. It’s also hard not to get excited.
The more people I meet, the better I get at staying calm and cool, but I’m still not, how would you say… smooth? It’s not quite - but almost - as awkward as when I’d try to approach the girl I had a crush on in high school, when the heart starts beating faster and you get a little mealy mouthed, and your thoughts come out of your mouth like buckshot, scattering everywhere, rather than precisely, like a bullet. Eventually that nervous tick worked for me and I landed myself a fantastic lady who’s sexy, smart and loves comics (I didn’t even have to convert her), but I’m still rather clueless when it comes to making talk-talk with most comics professionals.
I don’t have the raving fanboy in me, for which I am grateful, and I’m always wary of overstaying my welcome when approaching a pro at their booth/table. And quite frankly, there’s only so much you can (or should) say to someone whom you don’t know personally, even though you may know much about them , they know nothing of you, and getting too into their business is kind of creepy.
Is it like the art of enticing a woman, asking them questions and only talk about yourself if invited? Or do you just need to relax and greet them as you’d greet any stranger (for some, greeting strangers falls somewhere between public speaking and communal showering on the comfort level).
Writing about and reviewing comics has given me a bit of an in, I can approach people with the confidence of journalistic professionalism, letting them know that I’ve reviewed their work and that they might have seen it (unlikely often though it is), or else asking them to let me know about future work and dispensing a card. I’m not going to be one of these guys who has an email exchange and suddenly proclaims, "I’m friends with XXX" on my blog.
More often than not, though, I just say to people, "I really enjoy your work," and ask them about what’s up next for them, even if I already know. Like, did you know that Cliff Chiang is working on an adaptation/continuation of Neil Young’s Greendale album? That’s kind of crazy (horse).
So, Second Printers, you have any tips for meeting your favourite creators? Jon’s already covered celebrity encounters, but dare you admit your embarrassing encounters with comic pros?
P.S. Darwyn Cooke did come back for those books the next day, he did hunt me down and I may have given off the impression of an excessively nervous Nelly. In reality I wasn’t nervous that it was him, but shaking because I hadn’t eaten much yet. Seconds later everyone else in the booth knew that a) Darwyn Cooke was here, b) what books he bought and c) how much he paid for them. It kind of got incredibly geeky and out of hand.