Comic book fans have entire leagues of them, but it’s very rare whenever we have moments that extend past the panels and pages and get to feel our heroes’ hand grasp ours.
You won’t be exchanging pleasantries with Bruce Wayne anytime soon, but once upon a convention long ago, I got something even better.
I always wanted to write. My first memories were of reading and writing (terrible terrible terrible) stories and movies and plays and anything that required assembling the alphabet. It was my first love and remains my greatest.
But even stronger than my love for language was my obsession with those who crafted it. To me, writers were ten thousand times cooler than any sports star or celebrity of any merit. Writers were gods on earth, weaving webs of intrigue and adventure the likes of which you only…well…read about.
Thanks to a blossoming internet culture and Wizard Magazine, I was able to take my fandom to new heights, and get an even more intimate look at the men and women crafting comic crusades. The weekly top ten hottest writers and the random interview here and there opened the door further and further and allowed me to peek into that almost fantastical world of ink and typed keys.
As I’ve mentioned here and there, I’m the world’s biggest Kyle Rayner fan. You can try to claim otherwise, but I will fight for it. And not metaphorically. I will spill my blood, yours, and anyone else’s who tries to take the crown. Yes, it’s obsessive. Yes, it borders on stalkerdom. No, I don’t care. Loved him. Love him. Love.
It was that charming time in the 90s where everything old was new again and the market was flush with Connor Hawkes, Bart Allens, anything that wasn’t what was. Cheap sales tactics, I know, but as a kid, it was dazzling. And, best of all, it eliminated something that existed pretty unforgivably for comic fans: time.
You see, we all loved Batman and Spiderman and all the classics, but their creators may have well lived in the Stone Age. When you’re 12, a man who lived through World War 2 was a museum piece. No way could he still be alive, and you’d sooner be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound than run into him at Wal-Mart.
But with hip, young characters being written by hip, (relatively) young writers, everything felt fresh. These characters had parents, not great-great-great grandparents, and a number of them were still being raised by them.
And one of those included Kyle Rayner, the then-star of DC’s Green Lantern series, in a long-forgotten time when there was only one ring of one color in all the sectors.
The writer? Ron Marz. Given my love of the character and my idolatry of writers, this man was my new god. Eat your heart out, Jack Kirby.
But it wasn’t enough to just be a fan. Not for me.
When I was 13, I hopped on that internet contraption and decided, what the heck, I’m gonna look up Ron Marz and give him a call. And Unrealtors, that’s what I did. I told him I was a huge fan, loved Kyle, and wanted to be a comic book writer (which at the time I sooooooo did.) He was incredibly kind and friendly, and actually gave me his address so that I could send him my “writing.” It was the greatest moment of my life.
Until six months later, when he wrote me back. Wrote me back? I meant sent me a very genial and encouraging letter along with multiple comic book script samples, and a handful of personalized signed comics. I couldn’t believe my eyes, forget my good fortune.
This was manna from heaven. That was beyond my wildest dreams. When I first dialed those numbers I expected either A. Wrong number B. Instant hang-up or C. The police. Or all three. To hear a hello was an utter shock.
To hold such priceless treasures?
I still have all of those and they are among my most precious possessions.
Years later I got to meet Ron at a convention. I was sheepish and shy, which is totally against my nature, but this was meeting Christ for me, folks. Slightly intimidating. I was barely able to string together a sentence let alone remind him who I was. But I did.
And he remembered me.
He treated me with kindness and friendliness the way you would never expect but always hope for. He melted away my anxiety and instead replaced it with a warmth and encouragement. Sure, he probably gave me stock positive feedback on the writing I had sent…but the guy didn’t have to.
He didn’t have to do anything. He didn’t have to have the phone call with me. He didn’t have to give me his address. He didn’t have to send me a goddamn thing except maybe a C&D order if he was so inclined.
He didn’t have to. But he did.
Which is what heroes do. Heroes do what they don’t have to.
We took pictures, I got him to sign a CrossGen comics poster for me (yes, Unrealtors, some of us actually did read those back when). And then this god handed this teenage Prometheus a matchbook: he gave me his email address and contact information. And then told me to stay in touch.
These days I’m a professional writer enjoying this wonderful opportunity here at Unreality, as well as a surprisingly fruitful playwriting career. My plays have been produced across the United States and even internationally. I never thought I’d get a reading of one of my scripts in my living room. My good luck stuns me daily, and I still can’t believe I’m seeing bits and pieces of my dreams coming true almost every day. I owe all of this to a lot of people.
And one of those people was definitely Ron Marz.
His heart reached out to mine and pointed in the direction I needed to go. He showed me that writers were still people. He showed me how powerful one phone call, one convention chat, one brief sentence of praise really can be.
He set me on my path.
He changed my life, and yet, for him, it was probably just another random fan encounter. Like how the one kid Superman happens to save from a burning building grows up to be a firefighter.
They say never meet your heroes. Well, I shudder to think what might have happened if I never did.
I still have the contact info.
But, I still have never written to him.
Maybe today I will.
Adam Esquenazi Douglas is a playwright who was born in Texas, grew up in Arkansas, was raised by a Jewish man and a Cuban woman, and, somehow, he doesn’t have an accent. His plays have been produced across the United States, as well as in Canada and Japan.
He is co-host of two podcasts, The JimmyJew Podcast Extravaganza and Schmame Over, which can be found at http://jimmyjew.libsyn.com/ and http://schmameover.libsyn.com/ respectively, as well as on iTunes. He is a contributing writer to www.GamersSchmamers.com.
He currently lives in Brooklyn where he drinks far too much coffee.