Have you ever gotten that smile from someone that let you know that you are indeed a dumbass but they still appreciate you in spite of it? I have gotten it more times than I can count, but I would like to share one experience with you.
Several years ago, I was attending Wizard World Chicago for the second time, and the show was on a steep decline from what it had been. Which, to be perfectly honest, was never an incredible height of glory, but for it being held in the middle of the country, it was about the best a corn-fed comic dork could hope for.
At that time I was heavily into the game HeroClix . . . which if you don’t know (and shame on you) is a collectible miniature game that had you picking your favorite super heroes and villains to wage an epic 45 minute war against each other. I had a little success in playing the game at large tournaments, but I will be the first to admit that I was never going to win one of those damn things. For me, it was an extension of my love of comics, a way to craft my own comic tale with a co-plotter (my opponent), who was often much more skilled at writing the combat scenes to their favor!
Wizard World Chicago had a very large HeroClix tournament at the time, one of the best in the country, and attracted great players from all around. Needless to say, there were several days where my adventures with my plastic army ended early, and then I was free to run away from the game table and head to my second love of the conventions: the creator panels.
Sitting in a room on an uncomfortable folding chair – with air circulation as poor as most slaver ship holds, very poor lighting that makes everyone look 6 shades off in a random direction from their original color, and in the company of people who obviously didn’t realize their hotel room was equipped with a shower – would normally be the last place I would want to be. But then there were those people at the front of the room that make the stories I read every week! And that made all the humiliating conditions totally worth it.
I should clarify that I am not drawn to meet creators, have them sign theirs hastily scrawled names across the front of my reading material, or shake their hand and tell them that I named several beloved pets after their creations. No, I am very content to admire from afar, but panels are one of those experiences where you can get the best of both worlds, especially at these smaller shows. It cuts down on the awkward interactions between you and someone you admire very much, but you are still able to get a glimpse into what they are all about. A room full of stalkers and loyalists who agree to have some sense of decency as long as their desired target makes their appearance.
Now, there are the creators who have the sales pitch down, and get up there, throw out the same rehashed bile they long ago shoveled into the darkest pocket of their gullet. But then there are the ones like Jill Thompson, Ryan Browne, Ed Brubaker and Mark Waid who are there to have fun, share their love of comics, and ultimately make friends with a room full of strangers. And present at this particular Wizard World was another creator I adore . . . Gail Simone.
Anyone who has meet Gail at a convention or even follows her on Twitter knows that she is a class act. Warm, kind and enthusiastic. Not just enthusiastic about her work and the comic medium, but about the culture that surrounds it. Gail Simone goes out of her way to be accessible and accommodating to fans of her work, and in return, her fan base keeps growing. It’s about respect, taking and receiving, and she understands that. Even in those rare times when what she is doing can be construed as pandering, it is so genuine and done with a wink and a nod that you can’t help but like her more.
The DC panel that she was part of finished up, and I made my way out of the room. Several large panels finished up at the same time, so bottle-necking of the small exit occurred and movement basically stopped. I reached in my bag, grabbed my schedule to figure out were I was headed next, and in doing so I looked to my left. There was Gail Simone, also caught in the crowd. She looked over at me and smiled, and I nodded and said “I am a big fan, I really love what you are doing on Suicide Squad.”
Now would be the time to admit that I am a terrible writer, as I will reference something that was the very first sentence of this story but have not referenced since, so you may have forgotten it was even said. But Gail gave me knowing smile, said “Thank you” as politely as an English nanny, and the crowd started moving and we were both off in our separate ways.
Gail Simone didn’t write Suicide Squad. What she had written were two limited series called Villains United and Secret Six (which later turned into the ongoing series). Sure, we can split hairs and say some of the characters were also in previous Suicide Squad comics, but I made a mistake. Nothing major, of course, just a dumb slip of title names. I didn’t realize this until I sat down at the next panel, and I think I legitimately slapped my palm to my face and groaned. But then I caught the meaning of the sly smile.
I just told Gail Simone I loved her work on a series she never worked on. She didn’t correct me, but at the same time she didn’t just ignore me and didn’t catch it herself (which it would be easy to do with a convention full of people saying they love her work, it must get repetitive). No, she heard my exact words, inferred what the dummy in front of her meant to say, and gave a very genuine and real expression back of “thank you”. I like to think she smiled and thought in her head “Oh, that guy is gonna realize what he said in a minute, and feel a bit embarrassed.”
That may seem like a stupid thing to dwell on, but at a time when creators are taking to Twitter to bash each other left and right (some quite justly, though), it is nice to have a memory of one creator who did so much right with an encounter with a fan. Gail Simone made a giant impression on me with two words, I can only imagine the memories people have from stopping by her booth.
When John is not busy putting off real life responsibilities so he may read “Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe” for the 400th time, he is blabbing on mindlessly about comics on the Burnt Weiners Comic Book Podcast. He makes a hobby out of knowing next to nothing about comics, but loving them all the same. We strongly discourage you from checking out Burntweiners.com. They cannot even spell “wieners” correctly.