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The Temple of Gaiman - Part Two

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With my fan boy hat firmly in place, and my comic book convention tested patience at full strength, I made my way over to the immediately forming line. As I explained in part 1 of the recap, even though they announced that Neil Gaiman was only going to sign one book per person, Rob (my fellow Gaiman-ite and worker at my local comic shop, Brave New Worlds who attended the lecture with me) was kind enough to agree to get a book signed. After initial confusion as to which one I wanted to hand to the Dream King, Rob carefully explained to me that since he had not read Murder Mysteries, he didn't feel right getting it signed. So as we got into the line, that had already stretched around one half of the room's length, I handed him my copy of Brief Lives.

Soon after we were joined by a few other friends. I finally learned that they were selling Anansi Boys at the event as Kyle explained that he had to buy the last copy in order to have something nice (and that he hadn't read) signed. Andy, who was another worker at Brave New Worlds (located in Jenkintown, PA, Brave New Worlds is second only to Penn State's Comic Swap as the best store I've ever been in) had Kyle's worn copy of American Gods in his hands. And TJ stepped up with his own hardcover copy of American Gods, which just happened to be a Borders' exclusive signed copy already (we joked that after tonight he would really be able to authenticate it). Upon seeing the worn copy of American Gods in Andy's hands, Rob made a quick trade with him. Being something of a comic book snob (who isn't), Rob clearly decided that since Andy had not read American Gods, he was not allowed to get it signed and traded him my copy of Brief Lives for it. And so there we stood. And so there we waited.

After about 20 minutes without moving one inch, the fellas had started to get antsy. Rob decided that this was not worthwhile and that his time would be much better spent at the bar playing Nintendo (remember, just 2 blocks away was a classic Nintendo tournament). Andy quickly joined in not wanting to stand in an unmoving line anymore. And even Kyle, who had just purchased the last copy of Anansi Boys to get signed, felt that he had had enough. They all put their hands in and were ready to go, deciding that their majority should rule, when TJ and myself casually explained that they could leave if they wanted, but since we were the 2 people who had driven down, it might be difficult for them to get home. We all decided that if we didn't get to a pillar about 15 feet in front of us within the next 30 minutes, it would be time to go home. Well, the other fellas decided that, my fan boy hat was still firmly in place and not about to move. I came to see Neil Gaiman and by God, I was going to wait as long as necessary to get my book signed.

Comparisons were then made about who we had waited the longest for at conventions. This lead to me questioning Rob on how he didn’t want to wait 1 hour for Neil Gaiman, but he had once waited longer than that for Greg Capullo! (Not that there's anything wrong with Mr. Capullo.) After we had all shared our little horror stories about waiting in line for certain comic book professionals, it was a little easier to convince everyone to just wait it out. And then an amazing thing happened. After about a half an hour after getting in line, it finally started to move. And as we moved, we turned our attention to some of the other people in line.

It seemed like, whereas during the reading Anansi Boys was the book everyone had, now, people all throughout the line were reading Sandman books. What is most impressive about the audience was that it was almost majority female (note to self, if you're going to become a comic book writer, write a Sandman rip off first so that you get more chicks.). In looking around, it seemed that quite a few people had the same tastes as me, as Brief Lives was all over. But there were some odd choices as well. Rob had to stop me from yelling at the person in line who had brought the trade collection of 1602 (I'm almost positive this was the same guy that asked about Gaiman's next Marvel project; odd since if he had 1602, he should have already known about Eternals). Then I returned the favor by stopping him from getting vocal about the person in front of us who was holding A Game of You, which Rob refuses to believe that Gaiman himself wrote.

Then, after we had talked ourselves out of getting thrown out, and debunked every idea we could come up with to get everyone to leave (a Tori Amos concert was the winner for a while, until we realized that Gaiman might have her on his cell phone), the conversation got a bit quiet. Sensing a lull in the action, and needing to fill his Nintendo fix, Rob pulled out his DS, and was setting himself up to play Mario Kart when I had a bit of a brainstorm.

“You should draw something in pictochat to show him.”

“I should get him to sign my DS! My friend has his signed by Miyamoto and this would totally trump that! Greatest DS ever!”

Well, to say the least, Rob was excited about this idea. The only problem is that he has no artistic talent (his words), and anything he would try to draw would appear like chicken scratch. But Rob was undeterred. First he started off with just a few basic things, just to see how bad it would be and how much he could get away with. In jest, he did a quick one of himself greeting Neil Gaiman at the table. At least he tried to do that. It ended up a couple of stick figures. In an attempt to fix that, Rob drew Gaiman’s jacket on a chair, but that didn’t help either. Finally, he just wrote it in, “Me… Neil Gaiman… Sweet British Jacket.” He showed it off and we all agreed that it was probably the best he was going to do and more than likely the most original thing Gaiman would see all evening. Not merely content with that, Rob decided to add another one underneath it. This one was a face with a beard. Or at least that’s what it seemed like he was attempting. However, each of us did not guess the proper person. Having just listened to Samuel Delaney introduce the writers, we immediately assumed it to be him. Angrily, Rob wrote in a description for this one too, “Alan Moore… His beard.”

“There, now when I get up to him, I can show him my drawing of me meeting him with his sweet British jacket and my picture of Alan Moore and his beard since they’re friends.” Rob apologized to Kyle that he would not be getting his American Gods signed in favor of the DS and closed the DS to save battery life and preserve the picture. It was very important that Rob not turn the DS off or even start a game as these pictures would be lost forever. But at this point in time, I realized I had more important things to worry about.

We were now close enough in line where we could see and hear Neil Gaiman as he was signing the books. And it turned out that he was personalizing each one. Now, this normally would not be a problem, but Andy was holding my copy of Brief Lives, and while Andy isn’t an idiot, he was certainly one to forget exactly who the book belonged to. Realizing that a copy of Brief Lives signed to “Andy” wasn’t something I was particularly interested in owning, I went ahead preparing Andy for what he was to say.

“What’s your name?” I even added a British accent.

“Andy.” He looked back at my blankly. If this were an episode of the 3 Stooges, I would have now hit Andy with a hammer.

“No, your name is Sam.” I slowed down when saying my name to make sure he understood why he was supposed to say that.

“Oh right.” Every time we moved closer from there on out, I would ask Andy what his name was. It took 2 more attempts before he got it right. “My name’s Sam.” I stressed the importance of this to him as we heard Gaiman tell someone at the front that he was only signing one per person. Proud of the work that I had done, I remained silent for the rest of the line. In fact, just as we did when he walked in to the room to speak, we all got silent in the presence of Neil Gaiman. We pushed Rob to the front of our group, as each of us wanted to see him explain his artwork. And soon it was his turn.

“Mr. Gaiman… I just wanted to show you what I did while in line. Since I didn’t have a book with me, I started to draw some stuff in my DS… See, here’s me meeting you with your sweet British jacket…”

“And that’s Alan Moore and his beard!”

Now, whether he was just humoring us, whether or not he looked ahead on the screen and read the words, or whether or not he just wanted this crazy kid and his video game out of his face, it really sounded as if Neil Gaiman was excited when he saw this. His words were enthusiastic and true. It was Alan Moore and his beard. And in complete awe, Rob closed the DS and handed it to Neil Gaiman to sign the front. Not only did he sign it, but he also added a small drawing of Dream, this one in Sharpee on the front so that it wouldn’t go away when the power was turned off.

It was almost too much to have to follow something like that. And the rest of us simply walked up and had him sign our books. Personalizing each one with a little phrase or picture (why he put a heart in between my name and his I’ll never know), it was simply amazing. When he handed me back my book, I felt compelled to reach out and shake his hands, simply saying the words “Thank you.” And Andy did come through for me, although not in the way I thought. When asked what his name was, instead of saying the same as mine, he said…

“This one’s for Sam too.”

“Well, at least you’re another body.” It was like he didn’t even miss a beat.

As we walked away, and TJ checked the two signatures in his book, Rob was still in shock. “And that’s Alan Moore and his beard!” we all just kept reciting it, knowing full well that it would never leave our memories. Knowing at that moment that Neil Gaiman was as real and enthusiastic and honest as we all hoped he would be.

And yes, everyone did thank me for making them stay.

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