A long line of people stretched through I Like Comics and down the block outside the Vancouver comic book store.
At the front of the line stood Cullen Stapleton. He’d been waiting about three hours for the comic book signing to begin. Stapleton left his home in Hillsboro, Ore., a little before 7 a.m. Saturday to snag his spot in line at I Like Comics, 1715 Broadway, in Vancouver. He’d actually gotten a ticket for the front of the line beforehand, but was still giddy enough to arrive extra early.
So why wait in line for hours for a few signatures?
Well, because Stapleton was getting more than a few signatures.
“For a lot of people, it’s the opportunity to see someone who created a piece of art and personalized it,” Stapleton said, comparing a comic book signing to seeing a favorite musician in concert. “For some, it’s like a religious experience.”
This comic book signing featured the six partners of Image Comics, based out of Portland. It drew a little more than 900 people. Image was founded in 1992 by a group of top artists from Marvel Comics, said Image partner and co-founder Erik Larsen. It has grown into the comic industry’s third-largest publisher.
“These were the superstars of the day,” Larsen said, 20 minutes before the signing started. “They’re still wildly popular creators who are in demand, and this doesn’t happen that often that we’ll get everybody together to do signings.”
Larsen, who was an artist on “Spider-Man” for Marvel and is the creator of “Savage Dragon” for Image Comics, was joined by his five other Image partners: Robert Kirkman (creator of “The Walking Dead”), Todd McFarlane (“Spawn”), Marc Silvestri (“Cyberforce”), Jim Valentino (“ShadowHawk”) and Eric Stephenson (“Nowhere Men”).
The signing was originally supposed to happen in December, but some of the guests became sick, and the event had to be postponed. The shop’s owner Chris Simons, and the guests, kept their commitments, and came through Saturday.
“This is a unique thing to have anywhere,” Simons said. “These six people haven’t come together for a signing.”
Valentino, the vice president of Image, said “it’s cool that people come out,” even on a cold, gray day. Larsen and Stephenson said the comic industry has changed over time. The business used to rely heavily on newstands, now it’s comic book shops such as I Like Comics that are showcasing comics.
The Portland area features close to 10 comic shops. It also has Milwaukie, Ore.-based Dark Horse Comics, the industry’s fourth-largest publisher, as well as Oni Press, an independent comic book and graphic novel publisher, operating locally. I Like Comics, which has 5,000 square feet of space, is the largest comic book shop in the Northwest, Simons told The Columbian in November.
Robert Kirkman, who first published “The Walking Dead” in 2003, said it has been insane to see his comic book turn into one of the most popular shows on TV, since it began in 2010. As more movies and television shows are adapted from comic books and graphic novels, it can renew interest in the source material, and even spark a love of comics.
“I hear a lot about people going through the comic shop for the first time because they’ve watched the show and want to check out the comic,” Kirkman said. “It’s great to think that I might be contributing to people wanting to try comics for the first time.”
Saturday’s event was supposed to go from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the signing lasted until 3:15 p.m. because of how long the line was. Kirkman found the showing inspiring.
“It gives me hope that if I keep around comics for another 15 to 20 years, people will still care about me as well,” he said. “It’s been inspiring to be around these guys and see how the fanbase continues to support them.”