Accent UK meet Stan “The Man” Lee!!
An Astonishing Tale of a Titanic Team-Up in the Mighty Marvel Manner!!!!!
Friday Feb 24th;
The “London Super Con” was nearly upon us. Careful preparations had been made, well, at least a few days before and the operation finally swung into action.
We all met, that is, Colin, Scott and I late evening at Upton Park Tube Station, a location dangerously close to the Convention Venue at The Ex Cel Arena and by sheer coincidence near to my rented house in the East End – acquired some months ago under the auspices of accommodation for a “Property Consultant”. They never suspected. Not even once.
Low key greetings were exchanged and I noted that the stock was deviously hidden away in personal luggage carriers of a size usually only reserved for Colin’s large selection of questionable hats that appear on Convention weekends. Scott sensibly declined such apparel. The passing evening travellers were oblivious to our activities.
Dave West was sadly back at Accent UK HQ “somewhere” in the North of England but thanks to the miracle of modern mobile telecommunications (and even with Dave’s antiquated handset) directed operations with all the finesse of 1960’s spymaster Nick Fury (and knowing Dave’s penchant for the theatrical he was probably unshaven and wearing an eye patch whilst chewing on an unlit cigar the entire weekend. Indeed I must ask Jemma to confirm that some time).
Saturday Feb 25th.
We travelled to the Ex Cel by Taxi. Booked merely in the name of “Chris”. No surnames. No trail.
As we unloaded the books and entered the Arena we mused that none of us had actually seem much publicity in the weeks approaching the show apart from the website. There was nothing outside the Ex Cel to suggest it was taking place and our fears were enhanced when the two receptionists at the information desk had never heard of it and had no idea in which Convention Hall it was to be held!
Thankfully Scott being considerably younger than Colin and I (and not needing spectacles to facilitate at least some elements of his lifestyle ) spotted the signs and off we went, bags and Accent UK standing banner display in tow.
We negotiated the waiting hordes of fans and door security with the mere flash of an Exhibitors
Pass, obtained our table location and began to set up. Actually Scott and I largely left Colin to set up the table. Instead we disappeared Ninja-like into the hall to check out the dealers’ tables. Deals were struck, bargains were acquired (a sealed Marvel Masterworks Warlock Vol 2 – Jim Starlin for £10! Beat that Marvel-ites.!!).
At this point I went over to find Bob Layton’s Stand. I found it together with a Man setting up. “Are you Bob Layton?” I enquired.
“Every single day” Bob replied.
The table set up, Colin and I considered our one failing for the weekend. The main event was Stan Lee.
Yes, him. The Man. The Editor in Chief. The High Prince of Hyperbole. The Creator of the Marvel Universe. The Funky Flashman himself. An idol to us both since childhood.
But neither of us had bought a ticket for his book signing. Hmmm.
Thus our chance to express our thanks, shake his hand – one of those hands which with the aid of a simple manual typewriter had birthed the Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Thor, Daredevil, The Hulk, The Avengers, The X Men and many many more – the chance to maybe even exchange a happy word and a smile had passed. Damn.
Or so we thought.
I drifted off to buy a coffee. I really should take out shares in Costas given the amount I consume. Wandering back into the Convention Hall I stopped to observe those fans who had entered and joined the queue for the Stan Lee signing. Yes THAT queue, the one Colin and I were never going to enter.
The time arrived and the Master of Ceremonies gave Stan the big intro, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. I waited to see The Man enter the arena, presumably from the doorway behind the MC.
But no, Stan sneaked in from behind where I was standing like an Octogenarian Stealth Bomber in beige sneakers! Taking the crowds applause he passed me with his PA, Photographer and Bodyguard in his wake smiling and waving.
Seizing the opportunity I attempted to shout “YO, STAN!”
Unfortunately at that moment I developed a severe disconnection between my vocal chords and (by then) slack-jawed mouth and so what emerged was some unintelligible nonsense. Not that unintelligible nonsense and I are strange bedfellows but I digress.
Stan is clearly a nice guy because as sympathy for my clearly reduced mental capacity he acknowledged the “noise”, turned, flashed that famous smile and gave a two thumbs up gesture. He had quickly recognised my inability to cope with coherent speech in any way whatsoever and reverted solely to visual communication. What a guy!
The moment over, he continued on his way, sat down at his signing table and shouted “O.K. Bring it on!!” to the assembled throng which didn’t include me. Or Colin.
However, Colin and I haven’t made it to late middle age both raising children and changing careers for nothing and anyway, Dave West’s texts were getting on our nerves so we hatched a cunning plan for a photo opportunity.
I was dispatched to purchase a ticket (actually a strange yellow disc), find the correct queue (not easy at all) and wait in line for said Photo with The Man.
Mobile phones ensured that Colin and I were in constant (and usually excitable) communication without the need for him to join me in the queue until required.
We foisted ourselves upon two more fans; Ed and Rob, adjacent in the queue. They attempted to temper our disappointment at missing the signing session by informing us that they didn’t really get anywhere near Stan during the signing due to the volume of people waiting in line. It may be true or, it may not but it did make us feel better.
(Rob and Ed if you are reading this – thank you, great to meet you and hope you enjoy the Accent UK books. Amazing guys!)
As you can probably deduce, by this time we had completely abandoned Scott to the Accent UK table and for some considerable time he WAS Accent UK for all intents and purposes. I mean I don’t feel too guilty but Colin’s his Dad for goodness sake!
But we were waiting in line for Stan Lee. It’s understandable I guess.
As we got inexorably closer to the Photo Booth our combined behaviour deteriorated into an excited schoolboy like state. We practised our most winning smiles and appropriate poses much to Rob and Ed’s amusement. I had brought my original 1975 copy of Stans’ “Origins of Marvel Comics” with painted cover by “Jazzy” Johnny Romita along with me for the picture.
We all noted that the camera motor and flash was going off VERY quickly. We then mused that maybe the picture would be like a pastiche of the Beatles’ Classic “Abbey Road” Album cover; Colin and I walking across the booth in transit with The Man in the background.
Questions racked up in our mind; would the event be silent, even monastic? Would Stan speak to us? Would we get a chance to shake the great man’s hand? What if our eyes were closed on the photograph? Would our expressions be more idiotic than usual?
Rob and Ed advanced to the booth as Colin and I were ushered into the “stacking” zone. The camera motor clicked in time with the flash. They moved on.
The moment was upon us. In we went.
Stan was sat on a bar stool in a relaxed pose. He flashed a smile at us.
“Hey guys how ya doin?
You having a good time?”
We replied that we sure were, shook his hand warmly, told him how great it was to meet him and how we were big fans. At the Photographers’ instruction we took up our positions, Colin at his left shoulder, me at his right, “Origins” book carefully cradled in my arms.
Stan laughed; “A two for one deal huh? I love these!”
We laughed in response, the shutter and flash went off simultaneously.
The Photographer told us that the picture was good, goodbyes were exchanged with Stan and off we went. We strolled back to the Accent UK table oblivious to everything around us, excitedly recounting “The Event”, laughing and back slapping. If happiness has a price the £25 we paid for the Photo with Stan was value indeed.
Poetry has recorded lesser events frankly.
Scott had done a sterling job at the Accent UK stand, sales were brisk and continued to be so throughout a very busy day. The poor guy then had to endure his Dad and I endlessly recount our Stan Lee “moment” as did many punters at the Stand. It seemed to work as we couldn’t keep the books on the table, at times people were queuing up to buy. The Convention Hall was packed.
Colin did two lots of interviews at the Stand for a Student Media Project and a YouTube Channel Blog. Scott and I continued to sell. And to watch out for the Cos - Players. (Lycra should be outlawed to some sections of the Community. Others like the “Zumba” Instructors in an adjacent Convention Hall should be allowed unlimited access.)
The end of the day came around rapidly. I obtained the finished Photo from the Stand. We all stood around and looked at it before carefully placing it in a plastic bag (with a backing board to prevent damage – of course).
The Day ended at 6pm. 75% of the stock had sold. We decanted to the local hostelry with some Danish friends. Alcohol is always involved at a Convention.
As Stan would say; “’nuff said.”
Sunday 26th Feb.
Before leaving base, Colin and I donned Archivists’ paper gloves, placed the Photo in a temperature controlled container secreting it in a secure location “very close” to my Upton Park digs.
Then together with Scott we set out to walk to Ex Cel for Day Two. A leisurely stroll in the sunshine given that we did not have to haul any Accent UK stock.
The Stand was quickly prepared, more money was spent in Costas and Scott re-scouted the dealers for bargains while Colin and I recounted our Photo with Stan tale to anyone within earshot, who was passing, or who had a pulse.
After Saturday’s success the Stand was barely covered with books. Fortunately Kev Mullins arrived with some stunning prints of his “Predators” Cover. In two colour schemes no less. They were beautiful but more importantly they filled space. Lots of space.
A more pressing question tasked our minds however; How could we even equal yesterday’s Stan Lee Experience let alone exceed it?
I decided to take a back, neck and head massage in the Convention Hall from the lovely Rosita whilst I pondered the matter. Colin said the massages were free but then Colin is Scottish and doesn’t like paying for anything. It wasn’t free but it was worth every penny of the £10.00 I handed over as under the relaxing influence of Rosita’s ministrations I vowed to attend Stan’s farewell Panel.
Not an easy task if the preceding day’s attendance for his panel was anything to go by.
Early afternoon arrived and as we had sold everything we spread out Kev’s Prints across the table and we sold most of those too. Scott and I mixed with the crowd pulling out some last minute discounts – Scott showing particular aptitude and an eye for a bargain. Scottish DNA I guess.
The time to queue for the Panel came around and the problem presented itself; a long queue of Convention Attendees in the “may possibly get in but you’ll sitting at the back” line and a shorter “I have bought a VIP Tier Ticket to get preferential access” line.
I approached the Panel-Door-Staff-Security-Guy. I was confident that my good looks, easy manner and famous well dressed appearance would win the day.
(Actually I flashed my pass, told him I was an Exhibitor and he let me join the preferential queue.)
This time Colin declined to join me as most likely Paternal duties were pricking his conscience this time around.
We were allowed into the Panel Room and I secured a seat in the third row, slap bang in the centre. Pole Position. The crowd buzzed with excitement whilst waiting for the Panel to begin. Eventually the MC announced his entrance and in he waltzed accompanied by a fully suited Iron Man. Very impressive.
Stan took the cheers, he took the applause. He then said a few words to the masses that made you feel good about doing it and that really he was applauding you! Boy can this guy play the crowd.
The Panel was a question and answer affair from the audience. Most of the questions were a variant of the “who’s the best character you ever created Stan?“ type. The Man continually produced a funny but informative answer to each and everyone. He let slip that his Avengers Movie cameo was the best yet in his opinion and asked us all to give Andrew Garfield a chance as the new Movie Spider Man.
You said it Stan, I’ll do it. (Even if the guy looks as if he is about to burst into tears in every picture I have seen – not a great quality for a superhero…)
Marvel are working on Black Panther and Doctor Strange Movies right now. Music to my ears. Bring ‘em on. He paid tribute to Batman and his friend the late Bob Kane. He told us about his influences, how much he admired Alan Moore’s work and acknowledged the work all his artistic
collaborators had done in answer to a question “What’s the best costume you ever created” Duh, he’s a writer, mate.
Inevitably the end approached. Stan told us what a great time he’d had, asked us to petition the Queen for his Knight Hood ( I’m all for that one. What would you rather have; the sadly inevitable Sir David Beckham or Sir Stan Lee??).
He also said he would love to come back. I would love him to come back because if the London Super Con happens again how on earth do you top Stan Lee?
The Panel ended. Stan said goodbye. The fans gave him a deserved standing ovation with rapturous applause and we all crowded around the desk just to be near the guy.
Colin and Scott watched the final part of the Panel from the back of the room and as we returned to the Stand for the close of the Con we considered in amazement how a guy who is 90 this year can hold thousands of people in his thrall simply by force of personality and those same people’s
acknowledgement of the creative force that he represents.
Think of it; if Stan Lee hadn’t created the Fantastic Four in acknowledgement to Martin Goodman’s request for a “Super Team” comic book then this entire Convention wouldn’t have taken place, the world’s movie calender would be completely different in the 21st Century and all
our lives would be that much less rich – culturally speaking. And so on and so on.
Incredible, simply incredible.
February 25th 2012 the day me and my best mate
met Stan “The Man” Lee.
Don’t you forget it because we never will.
Chris Dingsdale February 2012