(Editor’s note: Ted Sikora is a multi-hyphenate creator who writes and publishes Apama the Undiscovered Animal and Tap Dance Killer. He posted this on Facebook and gave Fanboy Planet permission to repost this memory.)
I was exhibiting in Artist Alley at “Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con” in October of 2016. I always wanted to meet Stan Lee, and show him what an inspiration he was on our own comic, Apama. In our story the alter ego drives a friggin’ ice cream truck for a living. I mean, how ‘everyman’ is that? Stan’s gonna love it!
The show was a tough one, though. I was by myself, and leaving the table for long stretches wasn’t possible. The line for Stan’s autograph was enormous, so unfortunately, it didn’t seem like meeting him was gonna be possible.
On Sunday, however, I got some relief. During the last hour of the show my friend Xan stopped by and offered to watch the table. I dashed over to the Stan Lee autograph line and saw there were only a dozen or so people in it. I took my place at the end where a handler asked if I had a ticket.
“Ticket? Uh, no…”
“You can’t see Stan without a ticket. They stopped selling tickets an hour ago.”
“Man, I came here from Cleveland. Do you think there’s any way to get a ticket?”
He squinted to a spot about 200 yards away on the show floor and pointed, “You see that guy behind that empty table? You can try him.”
I teleported over to said guy. “Hey, I heard I could possibly get a ticket to see Stan – I’ve been set up all weekend in artist alley. I came all the way from Cleveland…”
He sighed, “Do you already know what you want him to sign?”
Sign? “Uh, yeah.” I lied.
“Hundred bucks, cash, and you better hurry.”
I gave him the goods, raced back to my table to grab the con program guide that had a way cool cover with a Norman Rockwell/Stan Lee homage image.
When I got to the line there were only three people in front of me. Stan was not even looking at people. They would put a book or ten in front of him, he autographed them, and went on to the next.
The thing is, I didn’t care about the signature. I just wanted to meet him. He needs to see Apama. That’s why I came to this show.
I whispered to his handler, “Hey, can I, ya know, talk to him?”
“Hey Stan. This guy want’s to talk to you. Is that okay.”
“Yeah.” Stan grumbled.
Finally it was my turn. I was in front of the master — my hero. I handed him a copy of our book. He didn’t look up. “Mr Lee, my name’s Ted Sikora. You’ve been hugely influential on my work. This is our comic – Apama The Undiscovered Animal. It’s a story about a Hungarian ice cream truck driver in Cleveland who unlocks the spirit force of the most savage beast mankind has never known and becomes a superhero.”
He slapped his signing pen down on the table looked up at me shook my hand. We started to have a conversation. I had done it! I had climbed the mountain to meet the ultimate master… but then… he looked back down at our comic, turning the pages one by one… staring… “I have to tell you… I can’t see this. My eyes are pretty much gone.”
“I’m sure it’s really great.”
“Yeah, well Roy Thomas wrote our forward for volume 2.”
“Roy, well then you’re in good hands.”
We had a nice conversation but c’mon universe… I’ve idolized this guy my entire life — spent 15 years working with this Apama character in film and comics — the planets had to align for me to get it to him – had to drop a hundred bucks – and he can’t… see it??
On the plane ride home I came to realize how perfect — as in Cleveland-perfect — the end of my journey at the top of the mountain to meet the master actually was. No, I didn’t get to really show him our stuff, but I did get to meet the master. Most importantly I did get to tell him what he meant to me. That’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my days.