Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Moment in the Life of a Comic Book Artist's Wife

Part 12,879: "And This is My Wife..."

There is a part of being a comic book artist's wife that no one tells you about until you get to the very moment where you say to yourself, " Oh Hell! This is NOT happening!!" If you are a good wife, you do it with a smile... I am ashamed to admit I have not always done it with a smile.

As you have read in earlier posts, comic book conventions ("cons" for short) are not necessarily my favorite weekend getaway, but with three kids, and three dogs, and two cats, I am not picky when the opportunity to high-tail it alone with the artist comes along. For the first few conventions, we were young and not many of our comic book friends (mostly male) were married. I just tagged along and taught Tony manners along the way (as in, "I'm standing right here, could you introduce me?" Who knew I had the invisibility superpower?).

As the years went by I spent most of the time during conventions not at the convention at all. I would do a little research and filter about the town going to museums, going to yarn shops, or just walking if I was in a place like New York... did I mention going to yarn shops?

Then one day it happened! Just as I was grabbing my purse off of one of those horribly uncomfortable convention folding chairs, Tony says, "Stace! This is Joe Shmoe and his wife Jane. I was telling them how you hate being in the convention hall during the day and since Jane doesn't know anyone, I was thinking you could take her along with you today..."

THIS is the part where you find out what kind of wife you are.

You have a couple of choices:

1) Lie and say you were just heading to the ladies room but if you go anywhere you'll be sure to let them know (fat chance).

2) Smile graciously and go on and on how you've got 12 yarn stores you've planned to visit. If the wife perks up, there's a good shot that the two of you will get along.

3) Bring her along and hope for the best that one of the two days you have to spend alone will be filled with making a new friend.

Now, don't for a second think that I don't know how horribly insensitive and just plain mean this all sounds, but I was once burned very badly after inviting another wife along for a day of shopping. She insisted on driving (although she didn't know the city) and picking the places we were going to go visit (although she didn't know the city or ME for that matter). She decided where we would eat lunch (and turned her nose up at what I ordered). On the way back to the hotel, we ended up in a traffic jam for an hour because she insisted on taking the highway. During this time, she had undoubtedly decided that she didn't like me and very much wanted me to know that she didn't like me. I couldn't leave because she was driving and, God help me, there were moments where I thought she was actually going to start blessing me out. It was a complete nightmare, one that I have never been able to shake. I later found out from a mutual friend that that was "how she is." I don't know, maybe I said something... Or maybe she was just CRAZY!!! She actually sought me out at a future convention to see if I wanted to go shopping? Wha..????

So now you might see my trepidation in inviting a complete stranger along on one of my excursions away from Comic Book Land. I tell ya, one bad apple...

Okay so back to our three options. More often than not I would choose #3. More often than not, it was a very good day.

I have a sentimental reason for choosing Option #3 or "the high road" when presented with this uncomfortable situation. I was once the rookie wife, the Jane Shmoe if you will, at this three-ring comic book circus also known as a convention; and if you don't read comics, haven't a clue how to pronounce Superman's real name, and (never actually having smelled one) think Klingons smell, then the convention experience is generally a torturous 8-9 hours.

One of my first conventions was San Diego Comic Con (not a good choice for first-timers) and Tony had just begun Starman. Archie Goodwin was Tony's editor then. Archie was an editor, nay, a man like no other. He spoke so quietly yet commanded incredible respect. I was only fortunate enough to meet him once, but we talked many times on the phone. Tony could be hopping mad about his job...or the position of the sun... but the moment he got on the phone with Archie it was like someone had shot him with a tranquilizer gun. God! I wish I could have bottled that voice!

Archie was married to an equally wonderful woman named Anne who, for at least one day, was my guardian angel.

There I was, lost in a sea of capes and tights, superbly pissed over the loss of my way too expensive cappuccinos, preparing to have a ritual beheading of the Klingon kind, and regretting terribly my decision to come along to San Diego Comic Con (You can read about my cappuccinos and stupid Klingons here.). I was not happy, so much so, that at least two complete strangers said, "Cheer up!" as they passed our table.

Enter stage right: My wonderful guardian angel!

Sweet Anne, probably choosing option #3, asked me to go with her on a harbor tour, ya know, to get out of the chaos of the convention. Happily, I grabbed my bag and escaped with this nice woman whom I had never met before in my life. It was a fabulous afternoon. Anne taught me so much in that short time. She taught me how to handle conventions "in doses," and that she herself didn't spend a lot of time at the hall. She loved to travel with Archie but spent her days out in the cities she visited sightseeing and whatnot. As a stupid newbie, it never occurred to me that I could LEAVE the convention and come back when the chaos was over (this from a girl who at 19 sold her car and hopped a flight to France). I wasn't bound to that table covered in white plastic and clad with a blue satin skirt. There were no shackles jailing me to endless hours of comic book chatter. Even though I was going to a convention, I didn't have to stay at the convention.

Funny, now that I have made so many friends in the comic book world, I actually like being at the con. I sit and knit and blab with whomever has made the poor choice of sitting next to me at the booth (So I can talk! Sue me!). I still do like to escape the chaos and savor some time to myself, but now I leave to buy yarn, not to preserve my sanity.

And although I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that there is a 99% chance that everything will be fine, I invite that poor wife with the "I'd rather be in hell than here" look on her face along for a day of shopping. I even limit my yarn shopping to one store (No, really!). I do this as a sort of pay-it-forward for Anne, for teaching me to help myself, for showing me one more way to survive in this kooky comic book world.