Back in early 2014, my shop Conquest Comics was organizing a store exclusive variant cover for our shop with Marvel. We wanted to do one for my favorite title, The Amazing Spider-Man. What this simply means is we commission a specific cover or covers that will ONLY be sold through our shop. These are great for marketing purposes and if done right, can make ya a bit of coin in the process.
We were very lucky as we landed one of the hottest artists in the industry in Jeffrey Scott Campbell. He is known amongst collectors in the community as one of “”the cover artists” in the industry. Having him don the art for a cover instantly draws extra eyes to the book and gives you a world of new attention. We were also lucky in other ways as well. Ya see, this issue featured the very first appearance of a new character by the name of Silk. First appearances are huge in the industry and if the character takes off, can bode very well for the book.
Jeff had penciled up a nearly flawless cover and one of the more interesting Campbell covers I have seen in ages. It features Black Cat in a sultry pose and a falling Spidey image that just came off as different. While I do love his work, I feel as though he may be phoning it in a bit as he reuses a lot of the same couple of poses. This one was very different and to us had a very James Bond-ish vibe to it. We decided on doing 3 versions, a color, a b&w, and a negative. Each one a little more are than the next.
We started taking pre orders and it was an instant success…especially when Jeff blasted the link to our site on his own personal social media accounts. So much so that it actually crashed our site at 1 am. Our web designer quit on the spot in a panicked frenzy telling us that “we outgrew him”, and left us hanging so in a panic. What a piece of shit. So we had to build a new site through Shopify in a hurry as to not to lose too much buzz and money. I think I wrote about this at one point when I first hopped on the platform. Anyway, business regarding this was booming and to this day it was our best performing exclusive variant ever!!!
We were getting tons of shops from around the country that wanted a chunk of books for their shops and we took care of each and every one of them. A hard lesson learned as when it was time to pay the piper in terms of having some of these same retailers share some of their hot exclusives….they balked and left us hanging. Those shops are on our “shit list” of shops that we no longer ever deal with…but that’s neither here nor there. What was important was the phone call I received from a Max Anderson.
Max was Stan Lee’s manager at the time. Max was super pumped to see our cover and saw instant $$$ signs. He would be in charge of Stan’s signings at all the conventions and with Stan being one of the creators of the webhead…he wanted copies of our variants so they could sell signed and slabbed copies. After much deliberation and negotiations, we came to the following deal. For each and every copy I gave to them, I would be able to receive a copy of that same book signed by Stan. We agreed on I believe 50 copies of each. We would give them 50 copies of each totaling 150 total for them to sell on their own, and in return we would get the opportunity to have 150 copies signed by Stan the man. We figured this was a fair deal to both parties. All it would cost them is the time it would take for Stan to sign them.
The best part about this deal for us was that the signing was to be done the week of the San Diego Comic Con. We were to hang and chill with Stan in his hotel room after the convention on one of the days. Holy crap!!! A private meet and chill session with Stan Lee sounded like a dream. That was the main reason we jumped at this opportunity. Talk a little shop, snap a few pics, and get some books signed to make some coin. WIN!!!
The next few weeks we were all jazzed up for this experience. We were told by Max to just bring the books and hit him up when we reached San Diego to go over setting up the night for the session. The bool was slated to be released the week before SDCC so that would allow us the time to ship out our orders, then go through the books to pluck our some tasty prime copies that were worthy of slabbing with Stan’s signature on it. Oh and we were also to be selling the books live from the con at my buddy Gary’s booth through his company @toymatrix!!!
Uh oh…Marvel releases information that the book is delayed by one week. The same week we are in San Diego. This created a total nightmare and we had to work tirelessly with our distributor Diamond Comics to have them ship these books to us overnight so we could bring these with us on the flight to Cali since we would now have no time to ship. This also created tons of problems with angry buyers and collectors that were upset that the ones sold at SDCC were “available” before those that initially pre ordered. It was beyond our control and completely on Marvel. It was just part of the game in the comics world. Anyway, long story short…the night before we fly out, my business partner and I are trying to powerhouse through packing these books up for their trip to Cali. Not only did we need the 150 copies for Max and Stan, but we needed our 150 copies, then a couple hundred copies of each to put for sale at @toymatrix’s booth. Oh, that ontop of around 20 sets that we brought to grease palms and hand out to friends.
We spent about 8 hours going through, plucking, bagging & boarding, and bubble wrapping chunks of around 50 books. We had a bunch of bricks of books and sadly I can not find a pic of them currently…even though I know I have one somewhere. We loaded them up in extra suitcases that we were going to have to pay a fortune on to ship out on the flight with us and set off for the airport letting Max know his books are on his way. All good…
Luckily the baggage handlers did not destroy these or we did a perfect job packing as they made it safe and sound. We got into San Diego on Tuesday and went to the beach…getting in a bit of fun before 5 straight days of hell at the convention. Boom, Wednesday hits…it’s Preview Night. Con is packed and we bring Max’s copies to the booth to drop off. Figured it’s less shit to carry around during the busier days of the cons. We are on cloud 9 to say the least. A private hangout session with the co-creator of my favorite character since I was a lil’ booger picker!!! I was pumped…
I was also confused. As I walked up to the Stan Lee Collectibles booth that was run by Max, I see a sign stating the following….
STAN LEE CANCELLED
What. The. Fuck?!?!?
As I lug 100 lbs. of precious comics to one of the associates working the booth, I ask what happened. I was told that a few days ago, Stan started to feel a bit under the weather so they decided it was best to cancel his San Diego appearance all together. As I felt my dreams being crushed, I was suddenly angered by the fact that Max had never reached out to me regarding this. At all…
As a matter of fact, Max was not even there in Cali at that moment and I was told to just “come back another day” when I tried to explain the situation to the person who obviously gave 0 wet shits about my situation and our “deal”. I was fucking livid…obviously not at Stan and I kinda even felt a bit selfish as I didn’t put him not feeling well before my irritation at how this unfolded. Once we got outside and I had a moment, I tried calling Max and no answer. I text him. No answer. Let’s just say I was not happy with Max.
So yeah…if you haven’t figured it out by now, our date with Stan Lee did not happen that evening. Leaving us spending hundred of dollars and holding hundred of copies of books 3000 miles from where they should be. Awesome….can’t wait to pay to transport these back as well. I don’t remember if it was the next day or a couple of days later, but we finally heard back from Max and he “kinda” apologized without apologizing. I got the ol’ “things were crazy”, “Stan suddenly didn’t feel well”, and “we meant to reach out” song and dance…but he sensed my irritation which was probably oozing through the messages. What he did do was vow to do right by us just a short 2 1/2 months later in NY at the New York Comic Con. He said they would be there and we would take care of it then…same deal and that he would “take care of us”…whatever that meant.
Fast forward to NYCC. Now in between, we had held the books for this deal on the side. No need to have to go through all the sorting and such again. This was the first year in a while that we were not exhibiting the con due to a prior engagement. We were told that they would reach out to set the date and time and place….so we hung….and hung….can you guess how this ends?!?
Yeah, ignored…no responses to my attempts to reach out and once again Max Anderson bent me over and jammed it in with no lube…I never spoke to Max again and sadly I never ended up sharing the evening with an idol of mine in Stan Lee. It didn’t surprise me at all to find out that not too long after this, Stan fired Max over a slew of things including attempts to rewrite his will, embezzlement, elder abuse, and a ton of other charges. Who knows what exactly is true…what I know from my personal dealings is that Max was a shady scummy lying piece of shit and I feel bad for Stan that he had him pulling the strings for so long.
I always wanted to reach out to Stan afterwards but his entire entourage that lurked around him were the scum of the earth and final years were quite sad. Filled with shitty money hungry people that just wanted to use his fame and fortune for their own gain. I procrastinated for so long and when both @steemmatt and I hopped off our flight back from Steemfest Krakow, I was bombarded with messages from friends alerting me about Stan’s passing which had happened mid flight. I remember discussing it with Matt as we were waiting in customs and being bummed about the loss.
I am grateful for the awesome joy that Stan brought me in terms of his creations and what he has contributed to this world….and while I wish I had the stories to tell of the time that him and I shared some laughs, swapped stories, and took a few photos together…the stories he gave me regarding my favorite hero is enough to bring a smile to my face.
P.S. – I hope Max has eternal bloody diarrhea…