Written By: Diego Salas and John Babula
It has been over a year now and our goal of attending as many comic book shows within our driving capacity (no more than 6 hours…for now), budget (depends on the month), and busy schedule (we do have a life outside of comics), has slowly become a realization. We have met some great artists, writers, and overall unique individuals throughout our journey. Having attended Wizard World Philadelphia, Baltimore Con, and Wizard World New York have allowed us to also increase our personal collection of signed comics and original art. And so, to continue our hopefully never-ending travels, we set course to Mike Carbo’s New York Comic Marketplace right across from the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.
Now this show was bittersweet in many regards. It was Diego’s first Mike Carbo comic book show, while John, who had attended a number of them in the past, was returning after a 7-year absence. We were extremely excited because we had heard such great stories about the show and the people. But the happiness was short lived, as weeks before the show; the great Mike Carbo announced that this would indeed be his last convention. Though he would still serve his many fans with his endless comic book collection, he would no longer be planning this great event. Though this news was disappointing, Mike Carbo would be going out with a bang. He was bringing in the big gun to finish the show…Stan “the man” Lee!!!
In everything, whether it is comics or sports, there is always a great. The NBA has Michael Jordan, soccer has Diego Maradona, and the NFL has Peyton Manning. In the comic book universe, one name stands out above all others. And that name is… Stan Lee! The living legend would not only be at the show, but he would be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. Like everything else though, this came at a price. John and I decided to go the way of autographs. But wait, there’s more. To sweeten things up, CGC, the recognized arbiter among comic book collectors and enthusiasts, would be there to authenticate anything Stan Lee signed. Now, we really had to plan.
We searched high and low for Marvel comic books. Most notably, we were in search of Amazing Spiderman issues, especially those written by Stan himself. John and I went to local comic book shows in Clifton, Zapp Comics in Wayne, and many other local comic book shops to find what we needed. While all these locations had great materials, we just couldn’t find the right one. With no choices left, we decided to take our chances finding a comic for Stan to sign at the show.
Lucky for us, we did not have to wait long to enter the show. We gained immediate access (thank you press passes), and began our search for our prized comic. We knew it could be a long shot so we came prepared with backups. John and I both had lithographs, hardcovers, and movie posters to sign, just in case we couldn’t find a comic. We also kept our eyes open for anything else Stan could sign.
If you have ever been to one of these shows then you know that there is an abundance of back issues. In fact there are boxes upon boxes of back issues. We were only searching for high grades so our search would be tedious, but well worth it in the end. One hour into our search, we couldn’t believe our eyes, but the man, Stan Lee himself, was five feet from us meeting and greeting the vendors. There he was cracking jokes and checking out their collections. Then the unthinkable happened. He began to walk our way. Immediately we seized the moment and had a free meet and greet with Stan “the Man”. John even got an awesome picture with him.
With this new motivation, we continued our tireless search. Hour after hour passed, and our scheduled 1:30 time slot for autographs was approaching. The problem however was that we still did not have a comic book for Stan lee to sign! During our third lap of the vendors, we came across an original piece of artwork from the weekly Spiderman newspaper strips written by Stan Lee and inked by Alex Saviuk. Alex was selling them and both John and I came across strips that we purchased and would have Alex sign as well. So, at least we knew we would get more than just lithographs signed. But, we were still determined to find a comic.
As we approached, what felt like our 10th time around the vendors, we were at our final stop. John was busy looking through a box of comics, and since he has a better eye for high-grade comics, I gazed away to a different vendor’s collection. John’s brother Paul (who also attended the show with us) pointed them out before I could speak. There they were. Two Amazing Spiderman #36, black cover editions. They stood there gazing back at me as if to say, “Here we are. Where have you been? We’ve been waiting for you.” I nudged John and pointed straight at them. He inspected them real close, because black covers are so hard to get in gradable condition. And in his serious and excited tone he said, “Wait a minute here…I think we got something.” After two minutes of inspecting, the decision was made. We would each get Amazing #36 and have it not only signed by Stan Lee, but also graded and authenticated by CGC!!!
The rest they say is history. We waited in line with what were probably 200 people in our time slot to get Stan Lee’s autograph. What seemed like a very long wait was culminated with an experience never to be forgotten. We not only got autographs, but we shook the hand that created many of our favorite heroes. We got to live a dream; we never thought would be possible. And while it was Mike Carbo’s last show, it will go down as one of the best shows we have ever been to. Thank Mike, and thanks Stan!!!