, , , , , , ,

Amazing Arizona Comic-Con was well underway by the time I showed up for my four-hour volunteer shift. Holly gave me a volunteer t-shirt and sent me off with Amy, who had an assignment for me. From the original description of the volunteer position, I expected to be moving fifty-pound boxes around all afternoon. But Amy explained to me that Mat Nastos was scheduled to moderate the Chris Claremont panel on the main stage, and I was going to watch his table for him!

I’ve never been to a comic-con in my life, so this was quite an unexpected way to spend my first hour. Mat told me to feel free to sketch, and pointed to his bag of pens and markers. It held several Sharpie markers and one of the same Pigma micron fine point pens I like to use. This launched a discussion of brush tip pens in which Mat showed me his refillable Pentel brush tip and told me about a refillable kuratake pen from Japan with a sable tip, not synthetic like the one I’ve been using this year.

As if having a chance to discuss tools of the trade with a professional wasn’t fun enough, I then spent an hour on the artist’s side of the table instead of the fan’s. Thanks to my bright white volunteer shirt, only two people mistook me for the real Mat. Everyone else I greeted with a smile, asked them how they were, and let them know Mat would be back at 4 p.m. Several of them stayed and chatted with me about Mat’s artwork and prints on the table, or indie comic books, or a new tattoo, or that it was their first comic-con, too.

But what most impressed me in that hour was the unfailing enthusiasm Rob Liefeld showed each and every fan in the massive line waiting to meet him. Rob’s table was the next one over from Mat’s, and I have never seen anyone so genuinely cheerful to be posed and photographed over and over and over. I was in awe of his ability to project a positive energy and make every fan feel like he cared.

From Mat’s table, I also had a view of the other biggest line that afternoon: the one to meet George Pérez. Once Mat got back, I got sent to “float” for a bit and check on other volunteers, see if they needed anything, and lend a presence to any lines that needed tending. After making a few loops around the hall and chatting with people, I relieved the volunteer who was watching over George and his fans.

George’s table had no merchandise or books on it. He only had his sharpie markers, pads of Bristol paper, a donation jar, and flyers for the charity he works with: The Hero Initiative. That’s it. It was explained to me that people had numbered tickets in this line, and we were accepting them in numerical order, and anyone without a ticket could get in line but there was no guarantee we would get to them.

Neither the ticketholders nor George were in any hurry. This line barely moved, because each and every fan got George’s full attention. And I realized that made their wait worthwhile. In the meantime, whoever was in the front of the line got to chat with me about things like Perez’s work on Crisis on Infinite Earths and Teen Titans. One fan told me he had been in line for six hours, and laughed when I suggested that instead of a sketch he request a full-body Sharpie tattoo.

George was gracious and cheerful, and even addressed one fan as “my son” when posing with the sketch he had drawn for the young man. Fans brought up entire stacks of comics for George to sign. One fan had a large Bristol paper full of empty panels, and George drew Batman in the center panel. He signed a two-meter-wide Marvel poster one fan had collected many signatures on. One fan had George sign a huge plastic infinity gauntlet. One had his comics bagged and boarded, but with areas of the bag sliced out and bordered with electrical tape so George would know just where he wanted a signature on the cover. And George delivered sketch after sketch after sketch after sketch. For hours.

I have never seen anything like it in all my life.

Before the night was over, everyone with a numbered ticket did make it through that line, and the donation jar was full. In honor of the tireless joy and attention George and the other creators at the convention showed their fans, consider donating to the organization George was promoting: The Hero Initiative. Funds for Hero Initiative are raised and disbursed by comic book artists and industry leaders to comic book artists in need, especially aging artists who need major medical treatments or surgeries. Please visit HeroInitiative.Org.