Hi, all. This was written for the Sunday post as the Stan Lee Foundation Artist Of The Week. It was replaced with another post about the goal to make comics of Ammon Walker, due to length. Anyway, hope you like it.
9-6-15. By Aaron D’Errico.
Since Sunday’s theme is about convention appearances and I don’t have any planned as of yet, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of my comic book convention experiences courtesy of Stan Lee and others that continually strengthen an innate goal to be of service.
First I’d like to give a shout out to Sean Galloway, Ryan Benjamin, Alvin Lee, Adam Warren and Randy Emberlin for talking with me and your support at conventions, each brimming with Stan Lee’s creations.
One of the many things I’ve learned from life and comics is that there are many kinds of heroes, both audacious and inconspicuous and that seemingly random acts of kindness from both, along with wisdom shared in the latter can lead to a purposeful life.
For me that started with a treasured extravagance that was box of comics from my Mom’s friend and Marvel Editor, Don Daily. Even more powerful was the phrase “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”, popularized by Spider-Man and Stan Lee. After reading it, that became a personal guiding principle.
Like many, Stan Lee has had a positive impact on my life through his life and work, something I shared in my Stan Lee Foundation Artist Of The Week bio and my entry for LiveJournal’s Stan Lee’s Biggest Fan contest, earlier this year. A major reason for that affirmative influence is because he’s repeatedly gone out of his way to encourage me, as did an unassuming good guy and friend of his that I’d like the chance to thank publicly.
Back in 2010, my Mom was able to get enough money together to buy me a ticket to The Emerald City Comic Convention in Seattle, where Stan Lee was The Guest Of Honor. It was a surprise birthday/Christmas present. She said with smiling certainty in her voice, “You’re going to meet Stan Lee!”.
Since then, similar to Peter Parker in Amazing Fantasy #15, after gaining his powers as Spider-Man, my ambition has been “Charged with some sort of fantastic energy!” by way of an empowering assurance from Stan.
His praise further motivated me to promote literacy and the arts like he does via The Stan Lee Foundation, as well as to enter then place in the top 20 of three Stan Lee Foundation Talenthouse art invites, eventually becoming a Talenthouse success story, and ultimately getting the chance to host my own Talenthouse invite.
The results of that were cover art for my soccer superhero, Ammon Walker, shared by The Stan Lee Foundation. Ammon is a character I’d originally submitted to the Stan Lee Foundation Talenthouse “Create-A-Superhero” art invite in 2011.
Thinking of Stan’s great expectations also helped me through recovery from injury and its complications, including being unable to work.
Determination to prove Stan right was an inciting power that sparked the drive to elaborate on on Ammon’s story during an extended recuperation, part of which was shared in an Emmy winning segment.
Five years later at Emerald City Comic Convention, 2015, Stan was again the Guest Of Honor. This time, my trusty twin, Adam, joined me.
There was so much to say and presumably little time to say it as a swell of gratitude built up. So, I brought the snapshot of Stan and I, in the far-fetched hope that he might remember me after years and thousands of fans. The cover art of Ammon was also with me to give him.
On the theme of preparation, unlike the first time, in this instance I was prepared with a ticket to a Stan Lee signing, while trying to think of how to best succinctly express my gratitude to Stan.
As time for the signing neared, Adam and I met a new friend who travelled all the way from Australia to meet Stan. He goes by the name of Renn “Renzo” Carmody, aka “Stah-Lord”, “The Guardian of Brisbane”, (Aussie accent included).
In anticipation I regaled Renn with Stan and his assistant’s previous awe-inspiring generosity. At the end of the story a hopeful surge went through me. I recognized a familiar face in the distance. Could it be?
Stunned, I told Adam and Renn that it was the same staff member that pointed me out to Stan in 2010, making it possible to meet him. Suddenly, he was right next to me. I looked up from my wheelchair, hoping I was right and began to introduce myself, showing him the picture.
Before I could even finish, he exclaimed, “I remember you!! You’re THE GUY,!! You’re THE GUY!! My eyes welled up as he called over his co-workers. “Guys, THIS is the guy I was telling you about, with the picture!! It meant so much that he recalled me and cared after one quick blur of a moment.
Next, he rushed over to Stan, told him I was there, reminding him of our chance meeting last time and he said, “Hello, Aaron! I remember you! How are you?!”
I thanked him profusely and told him how much he’s inspired me since as he signed the picture of us to me and said with a twinkle in his eye, “Here’s to winning another Emmy!!”
Emotions were still high when another unexpected twist followed as we left the signing area. From out of nowhere a crew documenting Stan appeared, whisking Adam and me away with an invitation to share my Stan story. It was an amazing opportunity to better express why Stan and Max’s goodwill meant so much, as was also recounted on NPR Seattle KPLU and in this photo album.
The whole thing happened just as happily surreal as before. To top things off, I finally got a chance to thank Max by name, to which he humbly advised me to “pay it forward” –something he didn’t know is already a life long ambition as an ability advocate, both in life and with my art–.
After that at a photo-op, with the cover art of Ammon in hand, Stan read the slogan on one of my favorite t-shirts, from my brother. It says, “Make Your Own Luck”. Stan’s enthusiastic answer was, “Damn right!”, then he wished me “Good luck to you” as I left.
Since then I’ve applied that luck –The intersection of preparedness and opportunity– to passing “The Rise Of Superheroes and their Effect on Popular Culture” course at SmithsonianX Edx, taught by Professor Michael Uslan, with Stan Lee.
By making the most of my mental capacity I condensed the mythology of Ammon Walker to pass the first course with a certificate signed by “The Man”.
It reminded me how throughout my life, friend’s casually comparing me to John Romita Sr.’s classic version the super intelligent, driven character of Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego galvanized me to overcome a learning disability, gong from C’s and D’s for much of school to earning nearly all A’s by my senior year.
That’s the kind of impact I strive to have, with Stan and Max’s words in mind.
Thankfully recent feedback from supporters give me reason to believe that’s possible, as is the hope that Ammon will make the leap from imagination to conventions and other adventures.
Lastly, If I could pay forward one thing it’s to never underestimate the power of kindness. It can make you a hero.
Thank you to my family, friends, community, Kendra Waters, The Stan Lee Foundation, Stan Lee, Max Anderson, Paul and Elizabeth Chadwick, Amos Pizzey, The Meakins, Steve Grogan, John Gauthier, Dave Kinnaman, Ryan Sandholm, Tom Byer, Werner Roth, Richard Donner, Renn, Carmody, Mark and Mike Marshal, Jason Richter, G.K. Bowes, Sherm Cohen, Alan Bodner, Luis Escobar, Rosa Lee Brooks, Rama Fire, Andrew Mc Laglen and all whose generosity make this unconventional world a better place.