On the middle Wednesday of every month, regular Biff Bam Pop! contributor, JP Fallavollita, shares his musings on comic books, comic book art, comic book collecting and the overall comic book universe. That gives him a lot to talk about but don’t hold it against him if he speaks with a DC Comics slant. That’s just how he rolls (with the capes and the masks).
I think I’m gonna crack under the pressure.
You see, I’m one of the lucky few to get the chance to meet Stan Lee on the evening of Friday, August 27th. I’ve always been a DC Comics guy, I admit. Those that read this column or any other articles I’ve written for Biff Bam Pop! know that. Still, the man is the greatest comic book creator. Ever.
Stan Lee has contributed more to the American art form that is comic books than anyone else I can compare him against. More than those that blazed the trail before him. More than those that were and those that are his contemporaries. More than anyone to come, I’m sure. Just look at the resume of characters he’s created over the last fifty years, a veritable who’s who of household names that everyone knows, regardless of what country they call home or what language they speak: The X-Men, Iron Man, The Hulk, Daredevil, Thor, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four and, oh yeah, a little scrawny character named Spider-Man. And that’s just a start.
What a crazy, fertile imagination the man has there! All of those characters have transcended their humble, four-colour newsstand origins and leapt out into a global mainstream consciousness. Stan Lee is the single, most important reason that Marvel Comics is nicknamed “The House of Ideas”.
And meeting him has got me stressed. Here’s why: not only do I get to meet the creator of all those legendary comic book characters (and get my picture taken alongside him!) but I’ll also have the opportunity to get Stan Lee to sign…something for me, dedicate…something to me. And I don’t know what that something is going to be. I grew up on DC characters! I was never a big Marvel follower and I certainly don’t have much, if anything, that Stan Lee wrote.
Normally, in instances like these where I get to meet one of the creators of a comic that I really enjoyed, a work that I really respect as a piece of literature or a piece of visual art, I’ll bring a special issue or a hardcover compilation of that extraordinary tale for the creator to sign. I did that with Darwyn Cook’s influential The New Frontier, bringing along the hardcover Absolute version of the series for the writer/artist to sign. I did that with George Perez and Marv Wolfman, hauling the extremely heavy hardcover Absolute version of groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths with me for a full day. But this is something different, something bigger, something more important.
It’s not every day that one gets to meet Stan Lee, a man that engineered, that developed a medium that has become so ingrained into our daily lives.
And right now, I don’t have anything for the man to sign.
Really, I just want the chance to meet him and thank him for the characters, for the stories that have influenced so many (myself included) throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. That’s really all I want to do. A pretty altruistic ideal, no? But still, the opportunity to see his signature on a book, a mark on a piece of paper that crystallizes our encounter together, an event that provides a physical sense of memory, is a difficult opportunity to let pass.
There is one comic that I own, written by Stan Lee that has some meaning for me. Back in 1988, he wrote a Silver Surfer two-issue mini series, drawn by acclaimed French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud (who’s art style I absolutely adore), that has that important sense of meaning for me. It was one of the first Marvel Comics products that I actively went out to the store and bought – simply because of the creative team involved int eh creation of the comic. The story was moving and the art was sublime. It holds a special place in my ever-growing collection even today. That’s an option. But I’m not a fan of getting “comics” signed by their creators. I like comics the way they are first published, original and untouched. Call me a purist. Or mildly obsessive. I’d rather have the original comic protected by backboard and plastic bag, kept away from sun light and sticky hands, viewed only occasionally in order to enjoy the art form that is comics. Personally, I’d rather have a hardcover reprint or compilation signed so that I can display it proudly alongside others on my bookshelf and, although there is a hardcover available for those two Silver Surfer issues, I don’t currently own it. More importantly, for some reason it doesn’t feel right buying it just for the purpose of Stan’s signature.
I’m a collector but I’m not a collector looking to make a quick buck off of getting Stan Lee to sign something, anything – although there are those types of people out there.
No. I want it for me. A keepsake of sorts. And that leave me in a bit of a precarious position since I’m having such a difficult time thinking of something unique for the man to sign. And I’ve only got ten days to come up with a solution.
Could I be happy with simply saying, “Mr. Lee, I just wanted to thank you for the stories”? The more I think about it, the more I think I could.
Still, seeing Stan’s famous catch phrase of “Excelsior!” – a phrase he is sure to write – at the bottom of a special poster, a distinctive lithograph or a meaningful hardcover would be pretty amazing indeed.
Time to put the thinking cap on. Real tight!
Pressure? Of course there’s an element of pressure. But the excitement of meeting a legend like Stan Lee trumps that emotion very easily! “Excelsior!” indeed!