A few weeks ago in Anaheim, Ca there was a comic book convention known to the world as Wonder Con. Wonder Con is a lot like San Diego Comic Con, except it's a lot smaller and a lot less busy. Normally, it's held in San Francisco, but for some reason this year they moved it to Anaheim, which was good for me because I live not too far away from Anaheim. So The Lady and I bought tickets, packed up a bunch of hardcovers for people to sign and went.
We both had a really great time. Spent way more money than we should have (half off trade paperback/graphic novel booths will be the financial death of me someday), but it was a blast. You've seen pictures of cosplayers, I'm sure. I don't think I'd ever do that myself, but I have to give them a lot of credit. A lot of them put a lot of work into their costumes and, really, they play a big part in why comic conventions like this and San Diego are so much fun. You could just sit along a wall somewhere and people watch for a few hours before you go home and probably still have a good time.
There were a number of people attending Wonder Con this year that I was interested in meeting and/or getting autographs from. When I was going through my shelves picking out stuff I wanted to bring, I tried to stick mostly to hardcovers or trade paperbacks that were still in nice condition. I didn't want to lug single issues around because I don't really care all that much about getting those signed. I want my autographed stuff on my bookshelf.
Anyway, of all the names on the guest list for Wonder Con, the one that stood out the most to me was Bill Sienkiewicz, pronounced Sin-KEV-itch. He is, without question, my favorite artist of all time and has been for probably a little more than a decade. He has a very distinct style that I refuse to try and describe because I think I'll just sound dumb, so instead I will
I'm not entirely sure when I first saw Sienkiewicz's work, but I definitely remember the first time I noticed it: Elektra: Assassin
. Something like 14 or 15 years ago, I was the type of comic book collector who would find a writer he really liked and would proceed to try and acquire everything that author had ever done, and one of the writers I was attempting to be a completist of was Frank Miller. I found the entire Elektra: Assassin
mini-series in a bargain bin somewhere, bought them and brought them home.
I can actually remember sitting at the kitchen table in the condo I lived in with my parents, reading the first and issue and being completely bewildered. I had no idea what the hell was going on. It was so difficult to tell what was happening, who was talking, what was being talked about and the art was REALLY fuckin' weird and completely unhelpful in regards to conveying what was happening on the pages. I remember thinking to myself "Is this the same Frank Miller that wrote Sin City
?" and actually wasn't sure if I wanted to even try reading the rest of them. I decided to soldier on, though, because it was Frank Fucking Miller and that meant it was going to be Worth It.
And it was.
By around the 3rd or 4th issue, I had gotten the hang of the way the story was being told and by the time I finished it, I was completely head over heels in love with it. I read it again. And when I got to this page:
My love affair with the artist Bill Sienkiewicz had begun. Sometime soon after that, he became my favorite artist, but after reading tons of his other stuff, nothing ever hit me anywhere near the same as the way Elektra: Assassin
did. Or still does. It is, easily, my favorite comic mini-series even to this day. You can have your Watchmen
, The Dark Knight Returns
and V For Vendetta
. I'll take Assassin
over them any day.
Fast forward to 2012, a couple days before Wonder Con. I'm going through my massive stacks of books and trade paperbacks looking for stuff to bring and have signed. I look at, and put back, some of the more rare Sienkiewicz stuff I've got (Big Numbers
, Brought To Light
, etc) because they're not hardcover and I don't really want to risk them getting damaged by carrying them around in a backpack all day. I come across my copy of the Elektra: Assassin
collection and I hold it for a minute. It's worn, the spine is dented and fucked up, the corners are bent... I decide not to bring it. I figure, I'm going to a comic convention, I'm sure I'll be able to find a nice, new looking copy there. No worries. I continue going through my stuff, but don't find much of anything that I want to have Sienkiewicz sign. Nothing. I can't find my copy of Stray Toasters
for some reason. But, again, I figure that I'm going to a fucking comic convention, there should be plenty of stuff there for me to have him sign.
Then I remember that a few years ago, Marvel released an Elektra Omnibus
that included Assassin
How fucking cool would it be to have that signed by him??? Shit, maybe I'll even pay him to draw a sketch inside the cover. That would be the coolest thing ever on the goddamn planet in the fucking universe. YES.
Oh, it's out of print. Goddammit, Marvel, why do you do that?
BUT WAIT. There's a hardcover of Elektra: Assassin
listed on Amazon!!! The Amazon iPhone app says it's only $15!!! YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh, it's not out yet. Comes out, like, a week after Wonder Con. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU
The next day or two, I spent a goodly sum of time trying to find either online retailers or local comic shops that might have the Omnibus in stock and might possibly also be able to overnight it to me or, at least, get it to me before the Con was over. I don't care how much it costs (sorta). No luck.
I even had the bright idea to just go ahead and buy a new copy of the trade paperback
online beforehand so as not to have to worry about it. S'nothing. Probably cost me $20. That's cool.
Oh, all the previous trade paperback versions are out of print. FUCKING REALLY? GODDAMMIT.
Ok, alright, calm down. You're going to a big comic book convention. Bill Sienkiewicz is going to be there, people will have stuff of his to buy and you can just buy it there and not have to worry about it. Hey, maybe someone will even have the Omnibus! Wouldn't that be sweet?
Well, after searching every frickin' booth that had even a single trade paperback on display for all three days, The Lady and I were completely unable to find any copies of Assassin
I was lucky enough to find plenty of other stuff he'd done, including a Moon Knight hardcover
, the 30 Days Of Night
book he did, a Superman
book and various other assorted titles, but no Assassin
. Thankfully, the hole that this left in my heart and soul was filled somewhat by some Elektra prints he had available at his table and some sketchbooks I was able to find at the Alex Ross table, who he had given a bunch of his original art to for them to sell for him.
I was able to get all of those signed, and, really, my Sienkiewicz-related haul was pretty substantial, even if it was missing the crowning jewel. I know it sounds lame, but I was seriously stressing/upset about not having a copy of Assassin
for him to sign and getting the prints and sketchbooks (one of which had Elektra on the cover and a bunch of Elektra sketches inside) made me genuinely feel a lot better.
You might think that the opportunity to meet with him again will probably come up again someday. I hope it does, but to that point I had not seen his name on the list of any conventions I'd been to save one. He was, supposedly, at San Diego one year that I was there, but I never saw him. I saw his table. I saw stuff on it, including a print of that Venture Brothers picture posted above, but I never saw him sitting at it. It was always empty. And I checked it a whole bunch of times.
So I don't know. We'll see.
Now let me skip back a bit.
The first time The Lady and I walked by his table at Wonder Con, he wasn't there. I had a brief moment of worry, but didn't dwell on it. I didn't have anything for him to sign anyway yet and if he didn't show up, at least it wouldn't be like I missed him.
Later on, we saw him at the table. I was really surprised at the way he looked. He's a small guy. But, man, was he ever nice. I'm a little older now and I don't get awestruck as much as I used to by meeting people I admire (don't ask me about the time I shared an elevator with PJ Harvey), so I was actually able to talk to him some without stuttering or making a complete douche of myself. He was pretty disorganized, probably because he had just recently arrived, but he had a stack of prints and a bunch of original art to look through. I asked him if there was any Elektra stuff and from his pile, he dug out a couple of Elektra prints, which I immediately purchased and had him sign. SUCCESS!
Looking at his original art pages was awesome, but I already knew that they'd be well out of my price range, so I only looked. And maybe drooled a bit.
The Lady and I walked around, and we looked for copies of Assassin
and other shit to buy. I would find something else Sienkiewicz had done, buy it and put it in my bag to have him sign later. While waiting in line for Scott Snyder to sign stuff, I saw the Alex Ross table with the sketchbooks and another print:
Bought all that. All in all, I think we were at Bill's table five or six times. The Lady was a little embarrassed by the last time, but she let me have my thing and stood by me while I was geeking out and stressing out the whole weekend. Every time we were at his table, Bill was incredibly nice and cool, willing to talk to anyone who was there. He was truly cool.
One time, I was at his table and he had to get up and take some stuff to the Alex Ross art table. While I was waiting, I was going through his art books and I came across a sketch that made me double take. It looked a hell of a lot like a rough sketch of what was eventually used as the cover for Criterion's recent release of the original Godzilla
The cover for which was done by Mr. Sienkiewicz. He also did the cover for Criterion's release of Robinson Crusoe On Mars
. Anyway, the Godzilla sketch was inked, but it was just Godzilla. No buildings or fire anywhere. It also had his feet showing. Otherwise, though, it was the same image.
We talked a little bit about it (and Criterion stuff) and then I asked him how much it would cost to buy. He said he normally charges around $400 for things like that, but that he'd be willing to work with me on the price. That was not the first time that day I wished I was rich, but it was probably the most earnest. He really did seem willing to deal on it and when I turned it down he said he'd work with me on the price again, but... well, if I hadn't just spent a buttload of money on other stuff and if I wasn't also trying to save a little for my wedding in October, I probably would have seen if I could have gotten him down to $100. Maybe even $200.
Oh well. It was really cool of him to offer the way he did and I really think he would have sold it to me for that cheap, even if just because it was obvious that I was in love with him.
One the last day of the Con, before leaving, we stopped by his table one more time. I handed him a couple books I had found since the last time I'd seen him and he signed them. I asked him for a picture and he stood up and put his arm around me.
What a cool guy.
For the record, the Elektra: Assassin hardcover
is currently selling at Amazon for $15.66, which is an insanely good price. There is also a new Elektra: Assassin paperback
due out in August that you can pre-order for $10.52. It isn't for everybody, but... I kinda like it.
Tags: comic con, comics, heroes