When I found out Brian Bendis and Dave Marquez would be at a local comic shop in Portland signing the first issue of Civil War Issue 1, I had to be there. Bendis has been consistently one of my favorite writers in comics, what with his work on Ultimate Spider-Man as well as creating one of the next great comic heroes in Miles Morales. Marquez is an amazing artist whose work on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man speaks for itself. He found a way to embody the spirit Steve Ditko brought to his work in early original Spider-Man work to a modern setting while still being original.
The store holding the event was Things From Another World in Portland, Oregon, located at 2916 NE Broadway Street. From the outside, it would be easy to think the place was an optometry shop. In fact, I walked past the place without realizing it because it didn't have the gaudy signs in the window you usually see at comic shops. Once I got there, the place was a nice mix of comics and collectibles without being overcrowded. I’ve been to some shops that have boxes set up on tables jammed with comics which make it hard to navigate. This place was airy without feeling like a showroom for a real store. The staff were quite busy when I arrived so I let them do their thing. Working in retail as I have, I know how insane events like these can be so interrupting them in any way would disrupt the event for everyone and that would be the last thing I would want to do.
Folks began lining up more than an hour before the event. Included in line was a friend from my nine to five job Sterling Wilson. When I told him about the event at work, he found his copies of Ultimate Spider-Man number 1, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man number 1, and Invincible Iron Man number 1 and brought them to be signed. Now I’m pretty tall. I’m 6’5”. With my fedora I stand out in pretty much any crowd. Sterling is one of the few people that makes me feel like a member of the Lollipop Guild. He stood head and shoulders above everyone and the moment he got up to the table where Bendis and Marquez were doing the signing, Brian Bendis called him Mr. Tall Guy. Maybe he would have had a different reaction if he had seen us and a few other co-workers at my nine to five job cackling like fourteen year old girls at a boy band concert the time Bendis came to our place of employment.
The luckiest person there was the first person in line, Carlos Rivera. A shy, quiet gentleman, he was there to get his copy of Civil War 2 signed. I call him lucky because Brian Bendis, in doing his impression of a hipster Santa Claus, brought a bag of goodies that he handed out to folks in line and Mr. Rivera was the luckiest one of all. He was given an exclusive figurine from Marvel that is not currently out in stores. Carlos, after getting his autographs, took a seat next to me and started packing up the stuff he had. He tried opening the package but I urged him not to. At least not in the store. Being a cheap guy, I was thinking of how much more valuable it would be if it remained sealed in the package.
One observation I had of the whole proceedings was how laid back Bendis and Marquez were. I’ve read horror stories, and have heard stories from friends who have attended other signings, of artists and writers who were not the most friendly when it came to interacting with their fans. While I understand that some fans can be a little obnoxious and ask too much from the people doing the signing, most folks there are simply looking to thank the creators of their favorite stories. To see Mr. Bendis and Mr. Marquez have no qualms about taking photos with anyone who asked and to see them be as personable and joke around with everyone in the line as they did was great to see.
For me, the single moment that encapsulates how great this event was involved my daughter. I brought her along since she’s been interested in comics for a long time, thanks to being a Daddy’s girl, as well as trying her hand at being an artist. For her age she’s pretty good. I bought her a copy of Invincible Iron Man number 1 and had her get in line for the signing. With as many people that were there, it took her about a good twenty minutes to get to the signing table but she, along with everyone else, waited patiently. Once she reached her destination, she told David Marquez that she liked his work and that she wanted to be an artist when she grows up. David took a few moments to encourage her to continue with her art and that one day she can make it a career.
That interaction with her was one of many that happened that day. For an artist and writer to give of themselves like they did, being personable with people as well as encouraging young ones, especially young women, to prosper in their art left a warm feeling in my heart. I thought of Stan Lee that night. While Stan Lee has a complicated past in regards to who gets credit for the characters that were created during the Silver Age of Marvel, the one good thing about his public persona is how warm and inviting he is. Stan gives encouragement to folks and makes them feel that they too can create the stories that they’re currently enjoying as readers. He makes you feel as if you are truly a part of the Marvel family.
Bendis and Marquez have taken that mantle and have gone above and beyond what they were obligated to do. Most folks would have been satisfied with an autograph but to have the writer give away free gifts and the artist strolling in with a beer looking like a young Tom Savini, the warmth they gave their fans was quite genuine and was much appreciated by this writer. Heck, Mr. Bendis gave the event a family feeling by having his wife and children show up. My daughter in fact ended up giving the fancy Latino Review keychain that we were handing out to folks to Mrs. Bendis as well as a surprise guest David Walker, writer of Power Man and Iron Fist as well as Shaft. I kicked myself the next day when I realized how silly I was for forgetting that Mr. Walker wrote the Shaft comics. I would have loved to have given him praise for such amazing work and for bringing back the one character that helped inspire some of my writing in John Shaft. The whole event, from the folks in line, to the Things From Another World staff, to the artist and writer themselves, put on a great signing and epitomized what I love about comic books. Regardless of your position in life, comics can bring folks together. Whether you’re in a suit or tie or like the gentleman who showed up in a leather jacket with a huge Hydra logo on the back, we’re all apart of one family.
The only real issue I had with the event was the choice of beverages that were given out. The Things From Another World staff were gracious enough to give out free food and beverages. The beverages included beer to people of age. One of their choices of beer was Pabst Blue Ribbon. That folks is not beer, it is an affront to humanity. Other than that, if you’re in the Portland area and you see Things From Another World is holding an event or you're looking to just buy a few good comics to read, you should do yourself a favor and stop by their shop. This a great place to buy comics.