The following story was totally cribbed from this week's Cup O' Joe at Comic Book Resources. Yeah, I'm cutting and pasting entire posts now. Roll with it. Anyway, it's a funny story, in a creepy, "I'm gonna make you squeal like a pig" kind of way.
Several years ago, I had done an over-the-phone college radio interview with a couple of guys in Vermont. Chat went fine, I remembered to mention what a genius Alex Ross is the requisite nine times, and we probably moved some trade paperbacks in the process. So once the interview was done, one of them explained that they ran a store in one of Vermont’s largish towns and asked if I’d be interested in doing an in-person signing. “Sure,” I said. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn, so it would be a short flight, and I’d never been to Vermont before. Fly up late on a Saturday morning, home on Sunday morning, see the sights, meet some fans. “Great,” I said. Set me up.”
The flight--on one of those twin-engine jobs where they discount your ticket if you bring your own helmet--was, despite the tiny cabin, spectacular. Honestly. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky at any point during the trip, and I just stared out the window at the beautiful farmland below. Landed around noon. My hosts were there to pick me up. They were a little younger than I’d figured they were going to be, but at least they were there at the gate like they’d promised they’d be and, besides, I’ve never been very good at picking up on Giant Red Flags.
So they piled me into their 1932 Hupmobile and, though we didn’t have a whole lot of time before the signing was scheduled to begin, they decided they wanted to give me a tour of the city. “Here’s the college,” they remarked as we drove past.
“Cool. Store’s probably nearby, right? Where’s the store?”
“And here’s the business district. This is the downtown area. And over here is restaurant row.”
“Nice. Very pretty. Very picturesque. So where’s the store?”
“Now, down here is the old mill. Been closed for a while, but it’s still a big tourist draw.”
“That is something. Yes, sir. So where’s the store?”
“Well, Mr. Waid...about that...”
There was no store.
Let me repeat that.
There was no store.
There. Was. No. Store. Instead, there were, in this town, two comics fans who had pooled their lawnmowing money to pay for a LaGuardia-to-Vermont plane ticket for their very-soon-not-to-be-favorite writer so they could meet him and own him for a day.
There. Was. No. Store.
I’ve seen the movie Misery. I’m ahead of you. I’ve told this story often enough that I know exactly what your response to that is. You want to know how quickly I reached from the back seat of the Hupmobile, snapped their necks, and took the first plane back to New York. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to wonder, but you have the dual benefits of hindsight and perspective. I had neither. For me that afternoon, it was just such a surreal, slow-dawn unfolding of the bizarre that the indignant neck-snapper in me was internally at war with my analytical-writer side, and I was forced to fully assess the situation rather than follow my murderous instincts. The arguments against Hulking out were compelling. First, I was completely dependent on these guys for transportation, and we were so far from the airport that finding, much less paying for, a taxicab was out of the question. Second, I already knew for a fact that there were no more flights back to New York that day. Third, this was long before I had a cellphone in my pocket at all times so, on the off-chance the cops would be able to fingerprint these guys’ necks before I could hitchhike over the state line, I had no easy way of letting my friends and family know whatever became of me. And...and, I admit, this was the single most pertinent factor...the morbidly curious part of me, the part that loves a good story, was dying to know what was going to happen next.
Here’s what happened next: Nothing.
I don’t mean, like, nothing bad. I mean, like, nothing. We drove around some more. I answered a lot of questions about what Alan Moore and Paul Levitz were really like. I signed a few of their comics, I lied about being hungry and made them change our dinner reservation from 7:30 to 5:00, I met their nineteen fanboy pals at the restaurant, I inhaled my food, and I was finally alone at the Sav-On-Inn by six.
There was no cable TV. I spent most of the next several hours watching fishing shows.
The next morning, they and all nineteen of their friends--each and every one of them holding in his trembling hands a mini-series proposal for the resurrection of some obscure DC character no one will ever, ever, ever care about--swung the Hupmobile by to grab me for breakfast before the flight home. I begged off on the meal, asked politely but firmly that they simply get me to the airport, and then, once I was there, where there were plenty of Federal marshals around to keep any of us from doing anything regretful, I politely read these guys the riot act. I explained how so very uncool this was, how it was flattering and their hearts were in the right place but how freakish this whole experience had been, and that before I would ever even consider referring any other comics pro to them, comic books would no longer exist. They got it. I saw in their sad, puppy-dog eyes that they got it. There was no question that they got it.
Six months later, another pro called me for info. He remembered that I’d been invited to Vermont and he was interested in taking a trip there if they’d fly him in. He’d tried calling ahead, but for some reason, directory assistance didn’t have any comics stores listed in the area.