September 19, 2023

The Comic-Con Experience

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Most people have heard of Comic-con, the annual convention of comic book, paraphernalia and regalia dealing with comic books, but to actually experience it – well, that’s a life time experience. And I’ve just had it.

Many years ago, in fact, half a century ago, I wrote comic books. It came about when I had just moved to New York City as a freelance writer. On a hot summer day, our apartment AC went out. The building supervisor came to fix it and saw me at my typewriter. (Remember those? I had one of the first IBM Correcting Selectrics. It cost $1000 in 1971 and weighed a ton and I used to lug it around.) “Are you a writer?” he asked.  “Yes, I am,” I replied. He illustrated the Smokey the Bear Comics and offered to introduce me to Gold Key Publishing. “Can you write horror and ghost stories,” editor Wally Green asked. Never in doubt, I said, “Of course.” I wrote Grimm’s Ghosts, Boris Karloff, Dark Shadows and an occasional Twilight Zone – for $10 a page. For two years, I paid my monthly expenses that way. 

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About five years ago, some fans of “The World of Henry Orient” who were also comic book fans identified me and got in touch. Covid intervened but last winter, an invitation arrived from Comic-Con to be their guest at this year’s convention. Turns out, there were few women writing comic backs “back then” – the last century as my kids like to say – and most of those wrote romance stories.

Comic Historian Nat Gertler Interviewed Merrie at the 2023 Comic-Con Convention

I think people were surprised I was still alive. In any case, out I went accompanied by my daughter Maverick, and what a time we had! I was first interviewed by comic book historian, Nat Gertler, who won an award for his history of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz. Then I was on a panel with comic book legend Barbara Friedlander who almost single handedly created romance comic books, moderated by well known editor Allison O’Toole. 

We walked the convention floors. Everyone was there, or maybe everything, for some of the creatures certainly looked otherworldly. Most attendees were dressed to pay homage to some character or story. I wore a gold dress to be somewhat celebratory.

Besides a thank you to those who greeted me so enthusiastically, a huge shout out to the organizers. 200,000 people are estimated to have attended, and the convention was exceptionally well organized and run. Scores of volunteers, many with years of service, were everywhere as escorts, guides and knowledge experts. I wrote to one of the leaders suggesting they apply for the Malcolm Baldridge award for quality. The place may have been crawling – literally in some cases – with monsters and with recognizable characters, but it was truly an exciting experience in every way – culturally, commercially and for camaraderie.

Thank you for reading Author Merrie Spaeth . This post is public so feel free to share it.

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