Robert Kirkman Signing
Like I mentioned in my NYCC 2013 review, I walked right in with the very first people to hit the con on Thursday due to our VIP Badges. It’s sooo overwhelming when you first get there. Just getting acclimated to the booths and where things are…it’s intimidating. One of the things I knew I wanted was the NYCC Exclusive Black & White Variant of the 10th Anniversary Walking Dead #1. I didn’t really know how limited it would be but I knew that Walking Dead fans are as rabid as the zombies in the comics. So, as soon as I saw Skybound, I went right for it. I was one of maybe a few dozen (at first) there and they were unprepared for the opening. To be fair, they let us VIPs in 15 minutes early for some reason (I wasn’t complaining) but they weren’t ready to sell us anything. I just wanted my comic so I could run around and get more exclusives. There was no line just a growing crowd pushing us into a clump. I said to the guy next to me: “All this for an exclusive cover, huh?”. He looked at me weird and said, “this is the line for Kirkman’s autograph.” Right after he said that I found out that the Image guys picked my side as the front of the “line”. They said he was only taking 75 people to sign books so I figured if I was lucky enough to be in the right place I might as well take advantage.
I got a Skybound wristband and was told that the signings would begin for the 75 of us in 45 minutes. Since I knew the line wouldn’t be that bad, I went to the other end of the booth and bought the Exclusive cover I wanted and a couple of issue 115′s variants I didn’t have and preceded to look around the floor. What I missed was the other half of us nuts who queued up around the Marvel booth to get a Rocket Raccoon plush.
I figured I missed that boat so I went in line to wait for Kirkman. While in line I noticed that everyone else in line had a short box of comics with Walking Dead issues bagged and boarded with cutouts like real pros. Also, I noticed that everyone looked less like your typical comic fans and more like regular guys (not really sure how I would back up that statement…more of a feeling). We were told that we could only have 10 items signed by Mr. Kirkman and that devastated most in line.
Let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with The Walking Dead comic and Robert Kirkman. My friend Mark Welser is and has been one of the biggest Savage Dragon fans on the planet. Year ago, Mark told be about Robert and that he was also a big Savage Dragon fan and a member of their message board. He self published a book called Battle Pope which I picked up at the 2001 Wizard World Chicago Con (Kevin Smith even mentioned it in his panel as loving the concept – “A Battling Pope. What’s not to like?”). When Image put an effort into producing some new super hero comics, I noticed Invincible and have been reading it since.
Which takes us to the Walking Dead. I have been a zombie fan for a long time and it wasn’t that hard of a sell for me to pick up a zombie book written by a writer I already quite liked and was pulling for. It was even easier when I saw the art of Tony Moore. I was hooked and telling my friends about the book for the first few issues all the time. The idea that the first trade came out the same day as #7 (collecting 1 through 6) and was only $10 helped me convert a few non comic readers to pick this book up.
Skip ahead a year to the 2004 Wizard World Chicago. I’m there with my friend Mark (who even did a pin-up in a Super Patriot mini-series Kirkman wrote) and convinced him to get the past year of Walking Dead comics. I mean…why not…they were all still cover price and they had piles of them (oh to have a time machine…). We then went to Kirkman and Moore and talked to them about the the series and where it was going and it was great. This book was still really small and hadn’t nearly blown up yet. I collect Daredevil sketches and I even had Kirkman draw one for me. He was working on Captain America at the time so he said he could draw Cap with Horns.
I asked Tony if he would draw Daredevil as a Zombie because I loved his zombies and I’d remember it as him then. It turned out great and I told Kirkman he should bring back the obscure Marvel character Mort The Dead Teenager. He told me he’s not a one trick pony and wasn’t going to be working on any other zombie books. Keep in mind, this is BEFORE Marvel Zombies (which I should get some credit for…don’t you think?).
All that story is suppose to illustrate my history with the comic. I am one of the few who had been there since day one because I was already a Kirkman fan. I’m not trying to sound like a hipster Walking Dead fan but it’s why I didn’t see Kirkman as a Rock Star or a Celebrity. I see him as a solid comic book writer and a real person. So when these guys in line were grumbling that they couldn’t get their 90+ books signed, I didn’t get where they were coming from. I mean…I do. They’re scalpers and not fans. The guy behind me asks me, “how many books are you having him sign?”. I thought about it for a second and I said, “I guess…three?” I then told him: “They’re for me so I mean one is actually fine but I figured I’m here so I could get these ones signed too.” He looked at me like I was the village idiot. My books weren’t even bagged and boarded with windows cut out for him to sign (I just bought them). He told me he had 90 books he wanted signed (seriously 90) and wanted to know if he could pay me to have 7 of his books added to what I was allowed to be signed. I said no problem but I didn’t need money…I wasn’t really doing anything.
Looking back on it now, I wonder if I should have just said no. I wanted to help the guy out because look…everyone has the right to make some money and if people are willing to pay and if Kirkman was willing to sign, where’s the harm? Well, he then did the same deal with a few others in line and he made sure everyone had the maximum number of books. By the time I got to Kirkman he was…despondent, head down, and out of it. I don’t blame him at all and felt terrible for him. Here’s a guy who is Hollywood big. He doesn’t need to be here and doesn’t need to even still be writing all these great comics. I’m sure he does this stuff for the fans that got him to where he is today. Meanwhile, he could be personalizing each of these signatures to eBay for all it meant to these people.
I tried to cheer him up with the 2 minutes I had. I told him not to worry that the line was almost done. I then said that I’ve been there since the beginning and thanks for all the great stories. More than anything, I wanted a quick photo of him to remember the show by. I asked him if I could get the obligatory selfie and if he could look like he just saw a ghost. That made him smile for a second and he looked up. I got the shot and made my way out of the line.
He added a poster for his next series, “Outcast” and the title’s artist, Paul Azaceta, signed it as well. More than anything, I’m excited he’s got a new series underway. Bottom line, I’m a big Kirkman fan and getting to see him again in all his success was really great. He’s the real deal. A comic book fan turned pro turned celebrity all the time giving back to the fans time and again even if some of them are just trying to make a buck from him.
Image/Skybound guys – Might I make a suggestion? Why not a lottery for signings? The others in the line knew the system that I just stumbled into and took full advantage of it. I’m glad I got my time but I think most in that line were just using Robert to sell goods.
Robert Kirkman sent me a tweet about this which means he read this rant. I took him away from creating great comics and TV. To all the fans, I apologize! Seriously though, what a great sport. He’s got a fan for life in me.