By Neil Kleid
Midnight: the witching hour, the time when ghosts and goblins come out to play. No other time could be better to celebrate the work of the king of supernatural, a writer on a first name basis with those creatures of the night, master storyteller Stephen King.
On September 10, New York City's Midtown Comics teamed up with Marvel to do just that, opening its doors at midnight for a special signing with THE DARK TOWER: TREACHERY writer Peter David and THE STAND: CAPTAIN TRIPS artist Mike Perkins.
Feeling my age, I ventured out on Tuesday night, leaving the siren call of my bed and DVR, to attend the midnight signing and do my best to stay awake and pay tribute. The following brief journal documents my night. Enjoy!
September 9, 2008: 10:40 PM
Checking my bag one last time, I confirm there are batteries in my camera and a pen attached to my small, black notepad. Casting a long, wistful glance at my wife, comfortably watching television on the couch, I pause and again ask myself why I'm headed out into the night for comic books. My wife, noticing my hesitation, echoes the question and I nearly give in. But like the midnight opening variant covers that wait, I spy my key in the door and that does it. If it were any other comic book, I'd be lost. But this is the DARK TOWER: TREACHERY midnight signing, and remembering the face of my father, I slug some caffeine, steel myself and head out into the night.
Besides, no adventure worth having should be abandoned for a "The Daily Show" rerun.
September 9, 2008: 11:10 PM
Arriving at Midtown Comics, I hunker down off to one side and prepare to take notes. A small line has already formed—salivating readers, waiting for the doors to swing wide. Sometimes I forget how deserted Manhattan can seem on a Tuesday night, especially after 11:00, and I unconsciously move closer to my fellow fans, becoming part of their tet
, their fellowship. Some of my fellow Marvel.com reporters are in attendance, preparing to record the event for the website, and we exchange pleasantries and discuss the comic book news of the day; as they set up I get to know everybody else.
and Neil Kleid
What's amazing is how many attendees came in for the signing from the outer boroughs (your humble reporter included, having driven down 15 minutes from the Bronx!). Louis, from Brooklyn, even told me that he had driven his girlfriend home after work and came back for the signing. Now that's dedication! But Louis, as I discover, is a dedicated fan, having attended the first midnight opening for GUNSLINGER BORN. He's in good company, as Dan from Long Island—a fierce Dark Tower fan—wouldn't have missed this for the world. The DARK TOWER series brought him back into comics after a 10-year absence and he shows no signs of leaving. No one, in fact, is leaving as we wait for the Midtown Comics staff to let us upstairs to purchase the book before regular customers get the chance when the store opens for its regular hours of operation.
As I finish a great conversation with Joe from Queens, a fan of the way Stephen King "writes visually", the doors swing open and we file into the stairwell.
September 9, 2008: 11:35 PM
Walking into the brightly lit store, we head straight for the long racks that dominate Midtown Comics' southern wall. The shelves are mostly empty, left that way so that the staff can put out this week's new comics once the signing is done, but the top row is filled with King-related Marvel comics as well as paperback versions of the Dark Tower novels. Attendees greedily pick up their purchases; for tonight's event, Marvel has prepared a midnight opening variant cover of TREACHERY #1 and I snag one along with the first issue of THE STAND and line up to pay. Once the purchases have been made, a second line of happy fans forms at the north end of the store, waiting for the guests of honor to make their appearance and begin the signing.
Fans waiting in
line for autographs
Mike Perkins, STAND artist, has just entered and is ushered into Midtown's business office, where early arrival Peter David already waits. Today is his wife Kathleen's birthday and a "Happy Birthday" streamer hangs above the counter, obscuring several vintage, bagged comics hanging on the wall.
I've been here for about a half and hour and am still wide awake. Glad I had that bottle of Coke handy. Okay, enough establishing the scene—let's pay for these books.
September 9, 2008: 11:43 PM
The package is secure. Repeat. The package is secure. I am the proud owner of two awesome new Marvel comics, hours before you've even seen them. Jealous?
September 9, 2008: 11:50 PM
10 minutes to go time and the press blitz is underway! The Marvel.com video team begins canvassing the crowd, discussing all things Stephen King and Marvel Comics. Several other media outlets have arrived and the mini-cassette recorders and digital cameras take in the scene, talking to the excited attendees and documenting everything from the growing line, now wrapping around the shelves of graphic novels and past the stairs, to the replica Captain America shield hanging on the north wall.
The mood is light, the atmosphere festive, and necks crane to glimpse of signs of life from the business office, counting down the moments until Peter and Mike emerge.
Midtown staffers hustle to and fro, restocking shelves as comics disappear from the racks and I grab two minutes with the cashier as I jot down notes. He tells me that the midnight signings are always well attended and well-covered—local media dropped by that morning to discuss the signing with the store manager. Disturbingly, our conversation reveals that the cashier was 11 when I was a college junior! Man, I'm old—what are these kids doing out so late? Isn't it a school night? On cue, I stifle my first yawn of the evening just as the business office opens and Peter and Mike step out.
September 9, 2008: 11:58 PM
Peter and his wife are wearing Madrox the Multiple Man t-shirts and I'm briefly amused by the thought of getting everyone in the store to follow suit. Peter flips through the most recent issue of "The Comics Journal" and takes his seat at the two-man table.
September 10, 2008: 12:01 AM
Aaaaannnnd…we're off! The line begins to move and I head to the end to take my spot. While there, I have a brief chat with Peter, a fellow Bronxite, and Chris from Brooklyn, both here specifically for THE STAND having waited around in Manhattan for the event. As we shuffle along, I chat with a few Midtown staffers who tell me how much they appreciate the fans that take the time to come out for signing, whether in the middle of the night or any old time. Events like this, with special covers and comics designed for them, are always a draw—but then, the King books are a big draw overall, bringing non-comics readers into the store that may never have stopped in before.
Shuffling along, I feel the first wave of lethargy come over me and I lean back against the back issue boxes for support. Must not fall asleep in Miscellaneous N-O. Who knows how many old copies of NFL SUPERPRO #1 lurk in those shadows?
September 10, 2008: 12:13 AM
Braving the gauntlet, I'm approached by Marc, the Marvel.com intern, who asks if I'd like to sign an agreement that allows me to participate in the video they're making.
Shuddering, I scream into his face "No cameras! Don't steal my soul!
" and then run and hide behind hardcover editions of PLANET HULK. Man, it's late. Starting to hit the wall.
I'll wait until the line thins out before I get back on.
September 10, 2008: 12:30 AM
As I wait, I manage to engage the only editor in the room in conversation. Assistant editor Lauren Sankovitch works with STAND and DARK TOWER editor Ralph Macchio to ensure the timely and efficient creation of all King-related books. She's been part of the STAND from early on but is new to the DARK TOWER team, having gotten involved towards the end of the LONG ROAD HOME, and goes on to confirm that the rest of the series is completely plotted, all the way to the impending battle at Jericho Hill.
When asked if we'll be seeing new characters pop up in Gilead, Lauren happily tells me that we can expect Cort's niece, Aileen, to appear in the very next issue as she vies for a spot in the gunslinger ranks. Unfortunately, Dark Tower fans shouldn't expect to see many of Roland's future ka-tet
appear, nor events from outside the "Wizard and Glass" timeline, but they can take solace in the fact that arch-enemy Marten Broadcloak (also known as Walter or Flagg) and Roland's mother, Gabrielle, will return very soon. Friendly and outgoing, Lauren stands with me between the shelves of graphic novels as the line thins out and the Midtown staffers announce last call. If I'm getting these books signed, I best get while the getting's good.
September 10, 2008: 12:44 AM
Briefly waiting as the video team chats up Peter and Mike, I witness a groan-worthy moment as Peter pulls out a handful of coins, urging editor Ryan Penagos to commit to Marvel's SECRET INVASION credo and "embrace change." Ryan thanks Peter and moves on to talk to Mike Perkins, leaving your reporter to hunker down and palaver with the man of the hour.
Peter is affable and engaging, kindly signing my variant cover and expressing how much he's enjoying working on the series. When I inform him that I've just finished an interview with DARK TOWER co-writer Robin Furth ( part one now available on Marvel.com!
), Peter smiles and tells me that Robin's wealth of DT knowledge has been invaluable—she may know more about the novels, in fact, that Stephen King himself! Just like Robin mentions in her interview, Peter agrees that playing with another writer's toys is always something you begin slowly but as the journey progresses and abandons the novels for new material, the creative team has been finding their feet, really getting a groove going.
Moments did come up in the process, however, where Peter hesitated to fly free. There was a line of dialogue that Peter felt wasn't working and could be streamlined, but rather than edit King's words he stuck with the awkward phrasing and sent it along the great man…only to laugh as King sent it back, having rewritten it on his own exactly as Peter wanted to! The overall experience, Peter says, has been wonderful and reaction to the books nothing short of wonderful.
Reaching nearly 1:00, the store empties out and knowing that the staff wants to rack their books, I say my goodbyes and thanks to Peter and head out. As I leave, the happy (though, admittedly tired) strains of 'Happy Birthday' waft down the stairwell as Peter, Mike, the Midtown staff and the Marvel.com crew wish Kathleen well with celebratory cupcakes.
September 10, 2008: 12:55 AM
Clutching my new comics, fighting to stay awake, I hit the streets, thankful that I had come out to the midnight opening, knowing I'll be paying for it in the morning.
Thankfully, when I finally wake up, I'll have some excellent books to read.
Keep it tuned to Marvel.com for more coverage of THE DARK TOWER: TREACHERY!