The Mark Waid Signing In Vermont That Never Was… Or Was It?

Mark Allen Haverty writes,

As mentioned in my article two days ago about Curt Swan, I owned a comic shop in Vermont, which was open from July 1993 through Halloween 1995. It was an interesting up-and-down ride. The first year was all about establishing ourselves and just making it by, the second year we were actually starting to make a profit, and then shortly after our second anniversary the industry and the “downtown” for Winooski, Vermont both took a dramatic nosedive simultaneously.  Despite all of the ups-and-downs, though, it was a great ride and one that I will never forget.

Along the way, we got to meet some great people in the comic industry that we had up for either signing appearances at our store or at a convention: Dave Sim, who helped us in ways that we could never thank him enough for; Brian Stelfreeze, one of the funniest creators I ever got to meet; Denny O’Neil, who was up twice with his lovely wife Marifran; Murphy Anderson and his grandmotherly-affectionate wife Helen; Ed Hannigan, who came up for three conventions, two of which have good stories to go with them; Dick Giordano; Steve Bissette, who we had up for one con and also worked with us to promote his dinosaur comic Tyrant (we provided copies to the fifth graders at St. Francis Xavier, and Steve ran some letters from them when the class used an English class to write letters of comment to him about it); Joe Staton, who had planned on staying for a weekend with his wife, but drove back after the signing appearance since he had driven up during a massive storm and needed to get back to see what, if any, damage that had been done to his house; and many more.

Oh, and Mark Waid.

Back in those halcyon days of yore, there was no Facebook or Twitter to promote our store on, or a webpage for us to have, or anything we take for granted right now, but there was one free way to promote our store: local access cable. So, we set up a show on what was then Adelphia’s local access channel 17 about comics, with guests via phone that we would interview. We had quite a few top talents too, such as Tom DeFalco when he was running Marvel on our very first show (we talked for about 8-10 minutes about the Fantastic Four movie before he realized, “hey, wait – how did you guys get to see it?” Thank you, fifth-generation bootleg, and we may or may not be aware of who provided some sixth-generation ones), Walter and Louise Simonson (need a way to bribe Walt? Pure Vermont maple syrup), Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Roz Kirby (shortly after Jack’s death – a great woman to talk to, and she provided a fun story on the FF that we’ll post here at a later date), and we had Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid on for a show about the Flash.

The Flash, Vol. II, #79When setting up the show’s interview, we had discussed a signing appearance at the store with Mark, and he was very interested in doing so. He wanted to make it something special for a girlfriend he had at the time, so we made reservations for him in Stowe, at the Trapp Family Lodge. Sure, Stowe was not exactly right down the street, but it was a chance for him to impress his girlfriend at the hotel owned by the Sound of Music folks. Mark and I also talked about “the Return of Barry Allen” storyline, as the store I had worked with closed right before the final issue came out, and we opened when #80 was coming out, so I missed the end. Mark generously offered to ship me up a copy of #79 so that I could find out how things ended. We also talked about a submission I had worked on and had provided to Denny O’Neil when he had been up. Denny had said quite a few positive things about it, and I made some changes based on his editorial comments, and I wanted a second opinion of how things looked. Mark provided me his address and said that I could send it down to him and we could discuss it when he got to Vermont.

We promoted the interview on the show, and Brian jokingly talked about jealousy over not being invited as well. We were definitely looking forward to the signing appearance, only to be disappointed when Mark called, saying that some personal things had come up, and that he would need to postpone for a couple of weeks. Oh, and he no longer needed the Trapp Family Lodge. We said okay, we booked him two weeks later at a Marriot-chain hotel about a mile up the street from us, and tried as best as we could to inform people on incredibly short notice about the change of dates.

Unfortunately, that did not go that great, as one might expect, and we had people showing up, disappointed, on the day that he was originally scheduled to come. This also impacted the turnout when he actually did get there too, and it was a disappointing turnout, but still consistent traffic throughout the day.

And that brings us to the fun part of this story.X-Men Alpha

See, there’s this fun story that Mr. Waid has been telling for years. It most recently popped up two years ago. While the full story is a fun read, the long story short is that Waid went to Vermont, which in his version is Hee Haw as a state, and rather than there being an actual comic store, it was instead a group of college kids enacting a geek version of Misery. It goes from bad to worse, involving a scenic tour of the area involving the college and this old mill in a car slightly better than a Yugo, a hotel without cable, no taxicabs anywhere so that he could flee, and worries that it might turn into Deliverance. In the end, the hero Waid rightly puts these young whippersnappers in their place. Six months later, a comic pro friend of his asked him about the trip because he wanted to come to Vermont, but couldn’t find any stores anywhere. Like I said, the full story is a fun read. For a piece of fiction, that is.

I would not have even noticed if not for a former customer of the store, Tyler Dion, sending me a link to it on Facebook. See, Tyler was there. He quite clearly remembers the day, and having been disappointed by what Mark had told him. Tyler was at the time a die-hard X-Men fan, and he tried to talk to Mark about the X-Men, only to have Mark express distain for that work and that he did it, “only for the money.”

Yeah, Tyler was a tad bit disappointed.

Also notable on the distain front from Mr. Waid was his hatred for Salvador Larroca’s work. I mentioned almost in passing that I missed his work compared to the work that Oscar Jiminez had been doing in his first couple of issues, and he decided to go off on a mini-rant about anatomy issues that he had with Larroca, grabbing an issue off the rack to demonstrate where he had problems, and talked about how much better Jiminez was.Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

What there was not discussion of was Kingdom Come, despite what Mr. Waid would like to pretend in his dialogue about the signing appearance. This was the summer of 1995, about 9-10 months before Kingdom Come would even hit the stands, let alone be something that people would be talking about. If there were any talk about Alex Ross, it would have been about Marvels or Terminator: the Burning Earth.

Now, as to some of the other points from Mr. Waid’s story, here goes:

  • In regards to the chauffer’s car, yes, it was a piece of crap. There, he’s 100% right. I had no car (still don’t), and a couple of customers offered to pick him up. Bad call on my part, as I didn’t know what type of car they had.
  • In regards to the scenic route that Mr. Waid says that he was taken on, courtesy of Google Maps, here is the route from the airport to where the store was. The store was next to the Winooski Post Office, so I have used that point in mapping this out. This is the exact route that Mr. Waid traveled on his way to our store. This, on the other hand, is the route that the drivers would have had to take for the University of Vermont to be a part of the tour.
  • The old mill that Mr. Waid discusses? That was the Champlain Mill, on the bank of the Winooski River. There were stores in there at the time, including one restaurant named Bradford’s. The restaurant was extremely high-end – as in, Brian Stelfreeze had seen the chef on a cooking show involving great chefs of the world – and we had taken multiple guests there in the past, including Stelfreeze, Giordano, and O’Neil. That’s one story that Mr. Waid could have had fun with, but didn’t, or simply forgot, along with the rest of the actual visit. While at the restaurant, Mr. Waid asked for some recommendations off the menu. I offered some drinks that were good. Of course, I was 20 and shouldn’t know that, which he knew, leading him to ask, “How do you know?” “Um… I’ve been told.”
  • Also while in the Mill, there were some hangers-on that followed from the shop that wanted to bask in his presence. I guess. I’m not really sure why they followed. It’s a public mall. Anyway, having groupies would have also been a fun story, but they never made it into his.
  • As for the part about ripping us apart at the airport? That never happened either, or anything close. He was picked up from the hotel, which, like I said was a Marriot run hotel. Which, by the way, had cable, thank you very much, and, even if it did not, no, we do not have fishing shows on the television on Saturday nights. At that time, there would have been Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for him to watch on channel 5, but fishing through a wormhole doesn’t count. On the way to the airport, he was taken to breakfast, which we did at a Friendly’s near the restaurant. We had better options, but he wanted something close to the airport. While there, the driver of said piece of crap car did get a free meal by calling the waitress on a promotion that said that if X meal wasn’t offered, it was free – when that happened, I wanted to crawl under the table and die. That’s also a much better story than much of what Mr. Waid had to offer.
  • Lastly, as for the “other pro” that called him. He is right that we would not have been around six months later, like I have already said, but for there to have been no store at all would be an outright lie. There was Earth Prime Comics in Burlington, which is still there, plus outside of the area there was Comics Outpost in Barre, a comic store in Rutland, another in Middlebury, and one more down in Brattleboro.

So, in conclusion, what I can offer for my story is actual video evidence of the local access cable show, where our store was promoted and where the actual Waid/Augustyn interview happened, plus witnesses to the actual signing appearance, plus scores of comic professionals that had been to the shop. Now, if he thought the shop was actually our apartment, not only would he have been delusional, but he could also call Brian Stelfreeze, who had been to both the store and to our apartment.

Oh, and one other person that can back up much of this is art dealer Spencer Beck. Like I had mentioned in the Swan piece, we had become pretty good friends with Spencer and talked regularly with him. When Waid came up, Waid specifically criticized one part of my script that had been following what Denny O’Neil had told me to change. Waid told me, “Denny’s wrong.” When I told Spencer of this that Monday, he, after uttering a few obscenities (best art agent in the business, but with a mouth that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush…), said that, “Denny was writing comics when Waid was in diapers.”

There was plenty from the actual event that could have made a fun story for him to tell. Sadly, what he told instead was designed solely to make fun of Vermont and make himself look awesome.