Thursday, July 16, 2009

Convention Stories: Foot-In-Mouth Disease

So I was reading Peter David's new collection of "But I Digress" columns, and he had a whole section set aside for his convention anecdotes--mostly positive, but he did mention a few times that he had to deal with fans that were rude, annoying, and just generally jerks. In fact, in one column, he asked the reader to do some soul-searching and ask themselves if they were one of the people who made personal appearances less enjoyable for the creators they supposedly idolized.

Generally, I think I come off pretty well in that regard. I try to be respectful of their privacy, to convey my sincere appreciation for their work (one of my happiest moments at a con was just getting a chance to shake Al Feldstein's hand and thank him for MAD Magazine's role in shaping my young mind), and in general, to spend my time with the pros listening to and enjoying their "performance" as a guest. But we all have our moments of utter stupidity...and mine actually happens to involve one Peter David.

He attended a local convention in the early 1990s, during the height of the 90s comics boom. (I think it was in the fall of 1993, judging from the comics that were out around then.) Now, this was during the "honeymoon period" of my Peter David fandom--I still enjoy his work, and his name on a book is enough to make me want to pick it up, but you know what it's like when you first discover a writer you like. This was during that, "can do no wrong, everything he writes is brilliant, even his bad novels/comics are good novels/comics" phase that I'm sure everyone's familiar with. (Like the Grant Morrison fans who actually liked 'Final Crisis'.)

So my first stop was at his table, to get my books signed and ask a few polite questions. Then I went to the panel he did, which was quite entertaining (I remember getting a free Marvel baseball cap for finding Waldo in the background of the first issue of "Hulk: Future Imperfect".) Then I browsed around the dealer's tables for a while.

Now remember, this is late 1993, the absolute height of the collector boom. Everyone was anticipating that every #1, every foil cover, every "special issue" was going to be a must-have collectible that would skyrocket in value. As a result, everyone over-ordered everything, and was left with tons of leftover copies. And of course, a quick way to get rid of those was to schlep them to conventions, mark them as "3 for a dollar", and count on the convention atmosphere to help sell.

So as I browsed around the dealer's tables, any time I found a cheap Peter David comic, I'd pick it up and go get it signed. Some of them were for me, to replace my existing copies. Some of them, I had signed for friends or family, since Christmas was coming up and I did, after all, have family members who were comics fans. The point is, I didn't really make a plan to do this, it was just an impromptu decision every time I saw a comic he'd written in the discount bins.

And about the fourth trip through the line, he obviously must have recognized me, because he said, with this very polite look of concern on his face, "You know, you can take up to three books at a time to be signed."

And I, cheerfully and thoughtlessly, said, "Oh, it's not that. I just keep finding your books in the--" At which point my brain caught up with my mouth, and I realized that very few authors would take it as a compliment if you suggested that their comics littered discount bins all over the convention.

Peter David raised an eyebrow at me, and said, "Yes?" in a tone that suggested he knew perfectly well how the sentence ended.

In a tiny voice, staring down at my shoes and hoping for the ground to swallow me whole, I said, "...three for a dollar bins."

At which point, I proceeded to babble about over-ordering, and how I knew it wasn't a reflection on his talent, and I felt lucky to get such a good deal on great comics, et cetera et cetera et cetera. He took it well, and I wasn't so ashamed that I couldn't attend his second panel, later that day. (He had the last slot of the day for that room, and kept the whole crowd so entertained that the hour-long panel ran something more like two and a half hours instead. And I think we'd have probably sat there for longer if he hadn't wound it down.)

So remember, industry legends...sometimes, we're not jerks. Sometimes, we're just plain stupid.

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