I have met a few of my favorite authors, gotten autographs and thanked them for the great stories I’ve read and enjoyed. This weekend I met a man whose creative ideas have inspired my imagination since I was a kid. I met comic book legend, Stan Lee. Then I did something that I’m still surprised by, I gave him a literary journal in which one of my published stories appeared.
Stan Lee created, and partnered in creating, many of Marvel Comics’ most famous characters: Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer…the list goes on. He wrote many early issues of these now famous superheroes back in the 60s, and afterward became editor-in-chief for the company. When I was a kid, he used to introduce cartoons with nothing short of exuberance. He jumped out of his seat, motioned with his arms, and spoke with love for the characters. In interviews he told stories about the creation of the superheroes. He wrote monthly news for Marvel, and was the pillar of the company for many years.
This was the first comic convention I’d ever been to. I occasionally read graphic novels, see all the Marvel movies, and love the nostalgia of comic books. I’m not really a collector though. My own fiction tends toward the unreal. My favorite reads are magical realism and allegory. I most often find myself interested in writing realistic stories with a few drops of the bizarre and extraordinary. Some of my interest in creating stories is influenced by comic books, and I wanted to express gratitude for this to Stan Lee.
The convention was wonderful. I saw the Delorean from Back to the Future. I saw a frighteningly real R2-D2 remote bot. Many people wore fantastic costumes, and though I have seen pictures of people dressed in cosplay, there is no substitute for seeing intricacies of these homemade costumes in person. I even met Elvira (she is nice as can be). The main reason I wanted to go to the convention was to see Stan Lee. I bought my ticket weeks before and began to wonder what I might say to him.
I knew it’d be crowded. I knew there would be hundreds, (there were actually thousands) who wanted to see him. I felt like I had to say something aside from that it was an honor to see him in person. I thought maybe I could try to give him a lit journal with a recent story of mine published in it. I thought I’d chicken out. I packed the journal and told a few friends and my wife what I intended to do. (You know, sort of like when a teenage boy is afraid to ask a girl out, he tells all his friends beforehand thinking he won’t go back on his word.)
I got to the show early and waited in line at Stan Lee’s booth for around an hour. I saw him walk in; he moves well for his age. He is ninety-one. He simply waved at the crowd and was fairly quiet. Watching him sign autographs, he smiled or nodded at every person who came through. He didn’t say much. I was hoping to hear a few syllables of his recognizable voice. He had assistants on each side. They set items before him and he signed and signed, mostly comics which were old and valuable. I opted for the simple 8×10 photo of him. As my spot in line inched forward, I pulled a copy of the New Plains Review (Fall 2013 issue) out of my backpack.
I have a story appearing in it called, ‘Unseen.’ It is a short piece essentially about how I imagined someone would have to adapt to life in the scenario that they were turned indefinitely invisible. I held the journal tight under my arm, and Stan took the photo from his assistant to sign for me. I then began to blurt things out.
“You were a big inspiration to my imagination,” I said. “I want to thank you for that.”
He nodded and smiled.
“I even write fiction now,” I said.
“You do!” He exclaimed. He may as well have screamed Excelsior, as he so often used to, “That’s great.”
I opened the journal and had my story bookmarked. I pointed to the title and my name.
“I just wanted to give you this to say thanks.”
He smiled, thanked me and even asked his assistant to set the journal somewhere safe. I took his signed photo and backed away. He had many more people to see after all. One of his other assistants said Stan was always looking for stuff to read on the plane. I left the booth, and if I had the room, would have done a cartwheel across the convention floor.
I’ve only had a few stories printed in magazines or journals thus far. I’ve written much, continue to work on more, and hope to someday share stories with a wider audience. Compared to Stan Lee, I’ve accomplished so little, but it is a true wonder to think that Stan Lee might read, and hopefully enjoy, a story I wrote. It couldn’t have been more extra-ordinary had I met Spider-Man himself.