I have always pondered what an experience it would have been to claim, casually over a tankard of Port, back at my fave, Yorkshire pub, The Gargoyle’s Daughter, in my twee, riparian village of Notting-on-Scythe, “Yeah, cool. I was at this amazing party last week, in London. Yeah? Shakespeare was there. No, I didn’t get to talk to him, actually. But I saw him, yeah. Cool. Had loads of people around him. Dinna wannna bother him, yeah? He was hanging out by the wooden glove-forms, writing bits of dirty sonnet for some of the guests. Crazy, I tell you. Cool. Yeah, okay cool.”
Well, that never happened, not to Moi anyhoo. History is chock-a-block with visionaries we, today, will ne’er get to meet: Socrates, Didier, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Ben Frankin, Th. Jefferson, Mozart, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Marie Antoinette (yes), Tim Burton and, natch, Stan Lee. So, I have to ask the universe, What the heck?! More precisely, what the heck, Stan Lee’s handlers?
So, you know when Wile E. Coyote sprints off a Sedona Red Rocks cliff, giving myopic, laser-focused chase to The Road Runner? The effort, the spirit, the heart woven into that sprint? Then, suddenly, Coyote realizes he’s mid-air, sans gravity, whips out his Bye-bye! sign and plummets to the desert floor with a great Splat!? So, that feeling. Mbeep-mbeep!
Allow me to be very clear here … I speak not ill of Stan Lee. Great Odin’s Raven, who would?! Stan Lee’s generous persona, infectious cheer and historic vision are the very reasons I have a beef of any kind today. I also do not speak ill of Chuck Jones Gallery. My post-event reconnaissance with an anonymous consultant, and pre-event communications with multiple, very kind individuals, assure me the gallery is not my personal Road Runner. My Road Runner, as it were, is the team of Stan Lee assistants and/or handlers at the, personally, much anticipated Chuck Jones Gallery event during San Diego Comic-Con 2016.
See, wha’ ha’ happen was …
Chuck Jones Gallery proffered a series of fabulous, RSVP-only events during Comic-Con: as noted in my Pre-Con Recon. As my coveted gig is to cover all the geeky goodness there is at SDCC, I made certain to RSVP, personally with gallery director Mr. Michael Fiacco, to attend la crème de la crème of après-Con evening events: Stan Lee signing his latest artwork from God Woke.
To be further fair to the gallery, Mr. Fiacco not only quickly and affably welcomed my RSVP (+1, Dr. Lucy, obviously) as a GoodToBeAGeek correspondent, but also forthrightly relayed that Stan Lee would not be roaming the gallery during the Friday night event, like some free-range chicken. Instead, “Stan Lee will be entering the gallery thru [sic] a back door and only signing art and posing for pictures with people who purchase it. He will not be visible to anyone else in the gallery.” Otherwise, attendees would be free to peruse the gallery, in a reservations-only setting. Fair enough, kittens.
Perhaps there would be a brush with greatness, perhaps not. In the end, a chance to prowl casually, sans the madding crowds, through an air-conditioned gallery of Marvel, Warner Bros and Peanuts creations, even just knowing Stan Lee was in there somewhere, was a treat in itself.
To make the evening geek-parfait, my cohort, Dr. Lucy, and I switched our cosplay schedule to wear our Marvel costumes (Agent Peggy Carter and Captain America) on Friday, rather than on the more crowd- and media-heavy, Big Saturday. Not only do I always dress in a modified theme when visiting a museum or gallery – be it The Rijksmuseum, The Getty, The Louvre or Chuck Jones Gallery – Lucy and I would be perfectly outfitted for a Stan Lee event.
What a perfect night it was shaping up to be. After a full, happily exhausting day inside the Con and a quick martini at Lou & Mickey’s in the Gaslamp District, Captain America and I were off to Chuck Jones, nicely situated a few doors down from L&M. Of course, the line to enter the gallery was longer than we anticipated: mea culpa here. Still, for a 5:00 – 7:00p.m. event, we didn’t want to arrive exactly on time, like eager beavers.
So, at 5:20, we sauntered over to Chuck Jones: actually, directly outside L&M’s front door was the gallery’s end-of-line. We excitedly chatted with others in line and slowly, over the next hour, the line notably shortened. Our excitement never abated, but the heat tried its best to quell our childlike spirit.
By 6:25 our spirits were not dampened, but our hair was. Too berated by the heat and humidity to care about frizzy curls anymore, we focused on the fact we were a mere fifteen spaces, it seemed, from the front door. Huzzah! A light at the end of the Chunnel! Then, either a gallery employee or a Stan Lee handler informed us they were going to start moving folks in by small groups, rather than individually.
Huzzah! Captain America and I optimistically cried out again. The weary, non-cosplayed group in front of us did not chime in to cheer. Clearly, over the hour-plus of standing in moist heat with no breeze, they had grown irritated by our impromptu recitations of Warner Bros. episodes and Animaniacs song-bursts. “We’re next!” we added, unaffected by their solemn weariness and began a quiet rendition of Pinky and the Brain‘s theme song. Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain …
With the similar sensations to opening a birthday present, our eyes widened, pulses raced and excitable grins began to widen and adhere tightly. I had my business card in-hand, eager to proffer it in humble thanks and shake hands with either director Michael Fiacco, or the friendly gallery consultant I had met weeks before, Geoff Hampton.
Around 6:35, we scuttled forward, now only about eight folks away from the door, our grins fixed as we began lightly bobbing up and down on the balls of our feet, neither singing nor reciting anymore, simply giggling each time we looked at each other. Captain America and Agent Carter couldn’t have been happier! (Who knew they were such giddy figures? Take that, Nazis!) Though we would most likely only have about fifteen minutes to wander the gallery, presumably sans Stan Lee, this was enough for us. Besides, one never knows what Stan Lee will do. He could appear for a surprise Excelsior! Who knows?
In some slapstick, Laverne & Shirley/Absolutely Fabulous/2 Broke Girls scenario, Stan Lee would spy our costumes through a crack in the open door, insist on meeting us because he was so touched we cared so much about his characters, then learn about my Savannah of Williamsburg novels and instantly declare, “Somebody, get me a brush! I must illustrate these fantastic books as graphic novels!” and then … well, alas. Excelsior!
Approximately 6:37 and a chirpy yet firm handler (I am assured by an anonymous gallery employee what occurred next was all handler-based.) exited the gallery and addressed the now-short line succinctly with a professional smile and the following message, which I paraphrase from my burned-in, Sweeney Toddesque memory …
Thank you, everybody. Stan Lee is gone. He has sold everything he brought with him. The event is now closed. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a good night.
… and she closed the door. That was it. Not even a walk through the gallery. With only twenty minutes to go, this portion of the evening, for which we had valiantly prepared, was over and we were dismissed with what felt like a swift kick in Captain America’s vintage army pants and not so much as a plastic glass of bad wine or a toothpicked-olive-and-cheese-stack. Whether we were there to purchase or peruse, we were there first and foremost to honour and support a modern-day Shakespeare.
Aside: Be it known, Moi could not not keep up with Stan Lee’s schedule. As I feel about Queen Elizabeth II, I am in awe of his appointment calendar. Clearly, his agents/assistants/handlers have only his best health and interest at heart; for that I not only do not blame them, but applaud them. Of course, as Captain America exclaimed, “Lovely bait and switch.”
6:38p.m. and I cannot express the swath of real disappointment that coated the remaining devotees in line. If the coastal, summer humidity was heavy that July eve, the weighty defeat drizzled over us like heated maple syrup. With that, we all shrugged and wandered our separate ways. The non-cosplayers to, likely, someplace boring and relieved to escape our animated outbursts; Captain America and I off to meet a pirate, a Viking and a Rotten Tomato for Dirty Shirleys.
Whilst the literary comparisons are vast, the ubiquity and psychology of Stan Lee’s universe is as comparable and relative as all that bequeathed to us by William Shakespeare. Unbeknownst to all or not, our daily lives are tinged as much with Stan Lee as with The Bard, if not as eruditely. Next time you’re in the shower singing Spider-Pig, trippingly on the tongue, enjoying a beach bonfire and think Flame On!, or find yourself on a wild-goose chase for a Con-exclusive FunkoPop Stan Lee, you’ll recall this post.
Oh, my stars and garters! you’re thinking. What a maroon!, rolling your eyes Liz Lemon-style until you hurt yourself. Well, if you find this all much ado about nothing, your Spidey-senses are tingling. ‘Tis merely the rantings of a spoiled girl to a charmed life born, and thus nothing else this summer upon which to harp. However, the powers-that-be at GoodToBeAGeek (mortal fools!) have provided me the elbow room necessary to Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!
No, yeah, cool, jk. ‘Tis not serious, seriously. The world is replete with true tragedy and what seems like daily horror. This pseudo-gripe is meant in good humour, in a Peter Griffin “What Really Grinds My Gears” kind of style … mostly. Of course, as Shakespeare penned, Many a truth be said in jest.
In the end, Captain America and I are merely bummed we missed out on not only a possible brush with greatness, but also Chuck Jones’ special Comic-Con exhibit. I wanted Chuck Jones, Stan Lee and Stan Lee’s handlers to know we are very sorry we missed him and his latest works. Though I am loathe to wear my heart upon my sleeve, if you know Mr. Lee, or any of these folks, let ’em know, would you? Now that I’ve ranted … all’s well that ends well.
Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?