As I mentioned in my last post, I went to the Pittsburgh Comicon a few weeks ago - the sole reason for me to go was so that I could meet Stan Lee, one of the most important creators in comic book history (and that's not doing him any justice).
Let me say right away that if this were any other creator still alive or if Stan were about 30 years younger, there's no way I would have gone - the people who run the Pittsburgh con overcharged for just about everything going on at the show (which isn't really anything new), and this was the defining example - $40 for one autograph, and that didn't include admission to the show itself, which was another 18 bucks.
Knowing that I was getting bent over a barrel kept me in the right mindset for this meeting, I think. I feel bad for anyone who was expecting to get to really meet this key figure in comic book lore, to shake his hand and have a conversation with him. I understood coming in that this encounter would be strictly regulated, though I didn't expect the assembly line mentality guests were ultimately greeted with. You gave your book (or whatever you had to get signed) to a convention worker and kept right on moving as Stan signed over and over and over again. You couldn't stop for pictures or anything more than a "hi, Stan", and that itself was a rarity. The entire experience was just...weird. It was a fairly dehumanizing event.
As much as I feel bad for the people who spent a bunch of money to be herded through a line, I think I feel bad for Stan even more. Here he is, a legend in his own right, and people are shuttling him back and forth, making him sign his name as many times as he possibly can. That's not to say he isn't benefiting from this at all - I'm sure he got a nice percentage of the overall cost, and at $40 a pop, there were at least 800 people in line...so you can do that math if you'd like.
Overall, I realized when I bought the tickets that I wouldn't be getting much more than an autograph and a glimpse of "The Man", and that softened the blow of this debacle quite a bit. Stan is 86, and I think it's understood that I might not get another chance to meet him (that's not to say he looked bad; to the contrary, he jogged to and from his booth each time he took a break and seemed his overexcited self throughout) - and I REALLY wanted to meet him...so I took the financial hit and stood in line as they churned out signature after signature.
It's something I'd do again if I had the chance to do it all over; I just wish it didn't feel so parsimonious!
Oh, and for the record, I had Stan sign a copy of Fantastic Four #51, one of my favorite books all around. And I have no idea what Spider-Man was doing at the signing...he just sat there the entire time, looking bored. I wonder if Stan gave him a ride after the show was over.