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Dilettante 030: Comics Convention Memories

Steve Lieber

With cartoonists everywhere finding ourselves deep in the Spring-Summer convention season, and the big one Comic-Con International getting closer ever day, I thought I'd take a moment to share some of my peers' and my favorite comics convention memories.

For me, one of my favorite moments was also my most stressful. At WonderCon in the ‘90s, I was tabling in Artists’ Alley and someone brought me a huge jam piece. This was a big sheet of drawing paper on which a number of artists had drawn convention sketches of Hawkman, a character I'd drawn for DC Comics a few years prior. The paper was about three feet tall by four feet wide, and all the other drawings on it were big and impressive. They were all drawn by a pantheon of artists who had worked on the character, including Tim Truman, Murphy Anderson, and even my teacher and primary influence, legendary comics artist Joe Kubert. I settled in to work on the last remaining space and felt the pressure to not screw it up. About 40 sweaty minutes in, I lifted my pen and felt a big hand grasp my shoulder. Someone said "Nice job." I turned and looked up and there was Joe Kubert, smiling. He'd been standing behind me, watching me work for fifteen minutes, but didn't want to interrupt.

Natalie Nourigat (Over the Surface, Deadpool)

Sleeping outside overnight to see Miyazaki speak at the Ponyo panel in 2009! I made friends with some teenagers who were camping out for Hall H every night in order to skip hotel costs, and they let me get a couple hours of sleep on their air mattress.

Erika Moen (Oh Joy Sex Toy, DAR)

Meeting my future-husband.

Leila Del Duca (Shutter)

My best comic book convention memory is a tie between a lot of things. When a lady cosplaying as Alana from Saga gave me a hug and started tearing up when she was telling me how much she loves Shutter, which then made me tear up. Every time someone tells me Shutter was what got them reading comics again. When any industry professional who I've been reading for years comes up to me and compliments my work. When I sat next to my writer, Joe Keatinge, and debuted the comic of my dreams at AwesomeCon in Washington DC, and people I've never met before told me they dug my art. The idea that something I'm creating is affecting someone else in a way that inspires and excites them makes my heart swell. It's the thing I'm most sentimental about in this world and I'm tearing up again just thinking about it.

Dylan Meconis (Family Man, Outfoxed)

I love the folks who come by every year at a show.

I have one pack of ladies who commission me to draw philosophers every time (and apparently mull over their choice for months in advance)—they couldn't make it to their show this past year and sent me a personal apology over Twitter (adorable!); a mother-daughter pair who started out by buying a single sticker from me in passing and now own everything I've ever made and have given me their phone numbers in case I ever pass through their hometown; the woman who takes and delivers coffee orders for all her favorite creators and the young family that smuggles in a stash of tiny airplane bottles of ridiculous novelty liqueurs (may they never be caught!) and who will show baby photos on request; the cosplayer who hand-makes elaborate little felt and wire action figures of people's characters (I have one on the window sill next to my desk) … the list goes on.

Lucy Bellwood (Baggywrinkles, Cartozia)

Doing shows near sailing towns is always the best thing for me. This year at VanCAF I had two girls stop by my table, both crew from a schooner in Victoria, who were dying to buy every issue of Baggywrinkles because a shipmate of theirs had gotten some at the con a couple years ago. We had a great time swapping sea stories and eventually I sent them on their way with many warm fuzzy feelings about women in maritime careers. About an hour later the shipmate they knew stopped by to thank me―not for Baggywrinkles, but for encouraging her to start drawing her own stories when we'd talked at the show two years ago. She'd worked her ass off, gotten a table at VanCAF, and was debuting a mini that put my early work to shame (thank God it wasn't about boats), so we did a trade. It was totally staggering to feel like I'd directly influenced the start of someone's career in that way―definitely a Heart-Grew-Three-Sizes kind of show.

Ron Randall (Trekker, Catwoman)

I've had some incredible interactions with generous and wonderful fans at cons throughout the years. But for me, the moment that means the most—and it grows more so over the years—was getting to shake Jack Kirby's hand at a San Diego Comic-Con. This was back around 1990 or so, and I was able to thank him for everything he did for me and for our entire industry. Jack was being honored at some dinner event, and I just took the chance to approach him. He was warm, soft-spoken and very genuine. It's virtually impossible to imagine American comics today without Jack. He was the heart that drove everything as comics came into their own in the ‘60s. And his art lit a fire in me and, of course, at least a couple generations of cartoonists. My thanks couldn't have meant much to the King, but it's a moment I'll always feel lucky I had.

Karl Kesel (Fantastic Four, X-Files: Year Zero)

Answering this was easy. At last year's Rose City ComicCon, a woman came up to me dressed in a Harley Quinn outfit, one she had made herself, and made quite well. She said
she'd really enjoyed my and Terry & Rachel Dodson's run on Harley. We chatted for quite a while. At one point she told me, surprisingly casually in retrospect, that it was because of reading my Harley that she realized she was in an abusive relationship, and she got out. I was absolutely floored. I like to think I produce entertaining comics, and I believe art can change people's lives, but I never thought anything I'd done would do more than produce some smiles or suspenseful nail-biting. That Terry's and Rachel's and my Harley stories actually made someone's life better ... I still don't know what to say to that. Except: That was the Best Day of My Entire Career.

Dilletante by Steve Lieber will return the second Tuesday in August here on Toucan!