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An Accidental #NCBD with Walter Simonson

I hope @Midtowncomics doesn’t get angry with me. I heard the price for disloyalty is banishment.

I did a bad thing today, but it turned out to be a good thing.

I went to Jim Hanley’s Universe (JHU) today, at their 32nd Street location–on a side note Matthew Rosenberg suggested I had bought a signed copy of ‘We Can Never Go Home’ at JHU (you can read about that adventure here). I did not, but it was probably that episode that subliminally seeded my mind with the idea to head out to JHU today.

I used to go to the  33rd street location across the Empire State Building many years back, to browse or pick up a TPB, whenever I happened to be in the NYC midtown area. The most recent time, I remembered prior to today, that I headed down there, was around late 2012, when I was starting to get back into collecting comic books regularly, and I was looking for Matt Fraction Hawkeye back issues, to no avail.  I ended up ordering most of that stuff online, and at a premium.  So from there on end, I bought my books @MidtownComics (GC location); and if I missed something, or needed a back issue, I’d search for it online. I’ve gotten lazy with the Internet, and I’m not sure if that is a good thing.

Today, life took a different turn. There were two key books I was looking forward to this week. One was 451 Media’s S6x, penned by George Pelecanos (former writer of HBO’s The Wire) & Andi Ewington, and Gail Simone’s Clean Room No. 2.

Both were shorted @MIdtownComics.  I wanted to get both the original and alt’ covers for S6x, but only the original was available (of which I picked up two copies if anyone wants to trade: original for alt’ if you need it).


Only Original Cover for Me

They had no copies of Clean Room No. 2. I repeat, they had no copies of Clean Room No. 2.  

The #psychonerd in me took over; even though they promised to hold it for me when it came in (and yes, I am grateful for their superb customer service).

However, I have a long work commute together with the benefit of working from home off and on to help maintain some sort of life balance–trust me it’s one of those things that sounds way cooler than it actually is–and I was probably not going to be back in the NYC til maybe early next week.  I did not want to wait til next week to get, and read, my latest copy of Clean Room.clean room 2

I then decided to go to JHU after work, around 5:30 PM to get a copy–in retrospect I should’ve called ahead to make sure they had it, but I was exhausted and working on impulse.

Of course Murphy’s Law prevailed, and I ended up in a work meeting til about 6:05 PM. Now, I had to decide: do I hoof it to East 32nd via shoe leather express, knowing I probably won’t get back to Grand Central til about 8PM, and in turn not get home til about 11PM, give or take a a half hour (for the record I ended up getting home at 11:13 PM)?

I decided to miss dinner, get a one dollar slice of pizza, walk to JHU, and enjoy the warm November night for a change.  Upon arrival, I noted a visibly long line stretching near to the end of the shop.

I asked one of the guys on queue what was going on. He told me Walter Simonson was there to sign copies of his new Hardcover: Ragnarok Last God Standing Vol. 1 (IDW).

I’ve been a huge Walter Simonson fan since his run on Marvel’s Thor back in the 80’s (Beta Ray Bill, Marvel’s Ragnarok, Balder the Brave, Star Slammers, Fantastic Four, Elric with Michael Moorcock, etc…); and today I subscribe to his newer, creator-owner, IDW Ragnarok title (I get both the regular cover and subscription cover @MidtownComics).

I was both elated and disappointed at the same time.

I was ecstatic because Walter holds a special place in my heart. In the 80s, while growing up in the projects in East New York (Boulevard Housing to be specific), it was Thor (together with Alpha Flight, but that’s a different story) that pushed me to a more serious form of comic book collecting. Back then, I’d have to walk to a Starrett City strip mall grocery store to meet my comic book needs. My first adventure searching for back issues began with Walter’s run on Thor. Why?

For starters, comic book deliveries to the grocery store were erratic, and there was no guarantee I would get the very next issue.  Also, the Owner/Grocer had this annoying countermeasure graphical system to combat comic book thievery (admittedly a pernicious problem in the ‘hood). Whenever you bought a comic from him, he would marked it with a small ‘S’ in the UPC box in the lower left.  If he caught you outside his shop with a comic book sans the annoying ‘S’ (and he was pretty much in the right, since it was the only store in the ‘nabe that sold ’em), back to the rack it went.

I never did find out what the ‘S’ stood for. Probably ‘Sold’; but me and my friends always joked it stood for ‘Sh!t’.


Thor 349 with S Stain

‘S’ Stained Thor No. 349 from 1984 – Can you see the ‘S’ Stain in the Lower Left UPC Box


Now, the only way to keep up regularly with this new run–and to own ‘S’ free copies–was for me to go to the direct comic book market.  But back then there weren’t too many comic book stores (and no Internet neither, only the Arpanet for exclusive use by the US military); and the few that existed could only be described as “shady”–Forbidden Planet didn’t make to NYC until the 90’s.  Still, via the Yellow Pages (no GOOGLE back then), I found a half decent shop in the Flatbush area that I could get to by bus; but that meant less funds available for comics, a hobby I supported on my own working part-time at a local Key Food store, while still in high school– that’s right, I’ve been working since I was 14 years old, through college and adulthood, pretty much non-stop (except for a short six month layoff in 2009). I’ve got a big SSI check coming my way in a few years.

Now fast-forward to the present ( and the reason for the slight disappointment). If I had known, that I was going to meet Walter Simonson today at JHU, I would have brought all my ‘S’ stained Thor books from the 80’s, so that he could gracefully cover over the blemishes with his artful signature.

Alas, it was not meant to be (not today at least).

However, I did get a beautiful, signed copy of the new Ragnarok Last God Standing Hardcover Vol. 1 (the art gallery in the back pages alone is worth the price of admission).




Plus I was able to pick up a back issue of Thor No. 349 for three bucks to add to my collection–a new and improved version, with  no ‘S’ stain, Walter Simonson was kind enough to sign for me.


Thor 349 Signed

New and Improved Thor No. 349 – Compliments of Walter Simonson


I doubt Walter Simonson will ever read this post (he’s got a million better other things to do), but I want to say a heart-felt Thank You to him.

Thank You for the marvelous stories and art over the years that have kept me out of trouble (and still do).  You, and many others, filled my mind with wonder and awe, distracting me from a  world that destroyed many young lives.  I was lucky to meet Walter thirty years ago in print, and again today in person (at the signing, I told him I waited twenty years to meet him; I lied but not on purpose; just bad math, it was actually closer to thirty years).

Either way, I hope we meet again; and next time I’ll have those ‘S’ stained copies for you to sign.

p.s., this is my fourth signing since I started blogging. I’d like to say I kept my composure, but I geeked out. I wasn’t expecting to meet him today. Still I got a good pict, and a smile from Walter Simonson.

This will be one of the most memorable #NCBDs for me.


Thanks, again, Walter!!!

Gail, George & Andi, I am tired now. It’s 2 AM in the morn, I’ll read your books tomorrow.

Good night 🙂




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