When You Wish Upon A Star…
This weekend, something happened that I never, ever thought would: I met Stan Lee.
Well, “met” may be too strong of a word. “Awkwardly attempted to talk to him and stand next to him for a picture” is probably a more apt description of the weekend, but still, it’s Stan Lee, the man who not only shaped a massive part of my childhood, but created Spider-Man, the inspiration for the man I am today.
Stan was the guest of honor for Super MegaFest, the Framingham, MA convention that’s most known for bringing hundreds of celebrities (and porn stars) in one place for people to meet (and pay a ton for their autographs). I left my apartment with a buddy of mine at 5:30 in the morning, which let me arrive promptly at 8. Of course, my preplanning was pretty much all for naught, as my friend Chris and I were the 30th and 31st people in line, respectively.
However, that didn’t change my resolve. I was going to meet Stan and thank him, no matter what. Luckily this bull-headedness paid off, and I ended up first in line for the autograph section of the day. Stan was only appearing on Saturday, and his schedule was locked: Autographs at 10, photo op at 12:40, Autographs again at 2, and another photo op at 4. After acquiring my tickets for autographs and the photo op, Chris and I were sent into a small conference room with a giant projector on the end of it, which was convieniently playing the Marvel movies to keep us anxious nerds docile and entertained. Within minutes, the room was packed. People of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life were in that one room, all to see one man.
The fact that I was not only going to the first autograph session, but also going to be the first person to walk through the doors to see him was mind blowing. Here was a man that I’ve literally seen on television or in comics since I was five years old, and now I was going to meet him. With my copy of Amazing Spider-Man annual #26 (the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson) and Spider-Man #23 (the first comic book I ever got) in hand, I was ready. I had it all planned out: I’d walk right up to him, shake his hand, and say “thank you sir. It’s an honor. You’ll never know how much Spider-Man has meant to me, and still continues to mean to me. Thank you”. He’d probably say “Thanks, True believer!” or even “Excelsior!” and sign my books. Hell, maybe he’d even tell me he preferred Andrew Garfield to Toby Maguire as Spider-Man.
Then, about an hour into Incredible Hulk, the call was made. Stan was ready. The kind people who came into the room after myself graciously allowed me to go in first, which they didn’t have to do since I had royally fucked up the line system that the convention runners had set up (in my defense, they didn’t come up with their system until after Chris and I had entered the waiting room). I walked up to the double doors containing one of my idols. I had the script in my brain, my two comics removed from their bags and boards (a perilous move since my palms were extremely sweaty), and a sense of anxiousness and calmness. The doors opened. And there he was, flanked by two of his assistants. I’m sure the look on my face was one of either absolute joy or stunned awe, as he looked at me, RIGHT at me, smiled, and said in a voice I’ve heard millions of times growing up as a comic book fan:
“Hey, how ya doin’?”
And everything I’ve learned about responding to a greeting evaporated from my brain. What I meant to say was “hello, it’s an honor to meet you”, but what actually came out was something more along the lines of this:
He smiled though, and signed the books I handed to his assistant. Apparently the Megafest staff was very cautious of people getting too close to him (either because of his fame or the fact he’s 90), as they not only placed two tables on either side of him, but also one in between you and Stan, pretty much guaranteeing that I wouldn’t be able to try and hug him and find out what he smelled like (stetson, in case you’re wondering).
I did attempt to recover from my fan boy moment as he signed Spider-Man #23. I awkwardly squeaked out “that’s the first comic book my Mom ever bought me”, to which he replied “that’s wonderful!”. But then at that point, some guy who was third in line butted in and asked him who his favorite character he created was, to which he responded “Spider-Man” (duh). I was then handed my books back by another assistant and told to keep the line moving. And that, was that.
Or was it? Remember the 12:40 photo op? I had a ticket for that too, and by some weird nerd luck, I was the third person in line. Chris and I were also somehow admitted into the VIP room, a fact that we were not alerted to until about an hour before the photos. Luckily no one working the show asked to check our passes, or else we would’ve had to wait in the 150+ person line outside the room. This time, I did get the chance to talk to Stan, if only for about 20 seconds. I also got as close to a living legend that I will probably ever be.
The photo op line, in an attempt to keep the massive line somewhat manageable, cycled people through at a rapid succession. Stan ambled in, and shook hands with nearly everyone who was working on the photo op lines, something that struck me as very cool. Here’s a guy who’s been around for decades, is known around the world, yet he stopped to shake the hands of people who are trying to do their jobs in an extremely high stress situation. Stan took a seat on a chair, and you were called up, asked to look at the camera, the picture is taken, then you had to immediately exit. Luckily after my photo with him was taken, I was able to get in a quick “thank you so much sir” before exiting (to which he replied “you’re very welcome”).
And that was it. An 3 hour round trip drive, 2 1/2 hours in line. All for maybe half a minute of dialogue with Stan Lee. And you know what? It was completely worth it. This was something that I not only never thought I’d be able to do in my lifetime, but also something that will never happen again. I know that Stan was obviously getting paid an obscene amount of money to appear at Megafest (which was apparent from the price of the autographs and photo op), but meeting him, having this story to tell my children about later, is something that will stay with me forever. As corny as it sounds, I literally had a dream come true this past weekend, and all I can say is this: