Last Saturday, CBR reported live from the Image Comics Founders signing on Free Comic Book Day at Atomic Comics in Phoenix, Arizona. This historic event, which saw all seven of the Image founders signing for over five hours, was a great example of the spirit and fun this crazy industry we call comics can achieve. We've even got time-lapsed video of the entire signing. In case you thought that was the entire story, you'd be wrong! Atomic Comics owner Mike Malve has checked in with more pictures and a tale of what happened after the signing over dinner and drinks, including what may be the most collectible set of plates featuring comic characters ever!.
In addition, don't miss CBR's full Free Comic Book Day coverage -- including more from the Image Founders signing and reports from nine cities around the United States -- on our mobile blog, CBR Live!
Special thanks to Bridget Silvestri and Tate Hemlock for the use of the photos in this story.
by Mike Malve
To describe last weekend as a whirlwind would be a gigantic understatement. Landing the seven founding fathers of Image Comics: Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri and Todd McFarlane with their ex-partners Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and Rob Liefeld was indeed a challenge. But what I thought might have been a very tense and uncomfortable weekend turned into a fantastic time for all. They all were able to keep the past in the past, and remember they were all at one time very good friends with each other. They talked about the old times and how it was probably one of the most difficult decisions in their lives when they all decided to jump ship and leave Marvel Comics for the insecurity of their own publishing venture, Image Comics. Listening to their reminiscing opened up a floodgate of great memories for everyone. I was happy to have been able to set up this whole weekend: for them, the fans, Atomic Comics and myself. It truly was a great experience for all.
The CBR crew of Jonah and Andy left to catch their plane back to Los Angeles towards the tail end of the signing as it was running late because of the monstrous, never-ending line to see these comic book luminaries. So I thought I'd give a little report on what transpired after they left.
The signing was scheduled to run to 5:00 pm but as we got a late start (it started at 1:00 pm) we all knew we would be signing until at least 6:00 pm. We capped the line at about 4:30 pm with the fans still wrapped around the building, so we knew we'd be signing for several hours beyond the set time. The line movement was a little sluggish, but that's a good thing because the creators were very talkative and super friendly with the fans and each other. They all could not stop talking, catching up about their families, projects they where working on and again about the past. It seemed I was constantly taking on the role of Line Warden Malve. I would have to tell McFarlane and Liefeld to stop yapping and keep signing! Of course, with Todd being late to the signing it caused a bottleneck at his area in the signing line. But these guys are pros and they have been through these types of signings before. I don't remember which one of them came up with the idea, but at one point I noticed Todd sitting at the tables with only Whilce and Jim Valentino still present. I asked, "Where did the other guys go?" And Valentino said, "We're doing this old school." Lee and Liefeld were outside walking the line, signing books for the late arriving fans, basically standing 'em up and mowing 'em down.
It was now past 7:00 pm and the guys all wanted to get back to the hotel and rest up a little bit before our Annual FCBD dinner. So just before 8:00 pm I got all the creators except for Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld back to the hotel so they could rest up and be ready for the fun night ahead. Todd and Rob insisted on staying at the stores with the fans. At this point Rob Liefeld decided to stay the night (his original plan was just to go home after the signing), but with the craziness of how many people showed up that day and all the love flowing Rob decided to spend the extra night. At this point Todd who originally had plans for that evening also decided to join us for our after event party.
Dinner was a private function for all the FCBD guests at all my stores - the restaurant was booked just for us. S-Bistro chef/owner, Brian, prepared a special 5-course meal for over 30. The place was great and it had that feeling of an old school Italian restaurant on Mott Street in NY City. I loved it! I felt like a gagster ... I half expected one of my rival comic shop owners to put a hit out on me. Dinner started at 9:00 pm and since we were running so late Todd called his wife, Wanda, to join us for the evening. It was truly a relaxing fun time for all, after a very long and tiring day. The spirits were flowing along with good stories.
I started to get a bit impatient when the venue I had booked for the after party kept calling me (the party was scheduled for 10:00 pm). It was about 11:00 pm when I finally dragged everybody out of the restaurant after an impromptu sketch-fest by the Image guys. (The Bistro owner keeps plates hanging on the wall in the back of the place signed by celebrity patrons who have enjoyed meals there. I think it started with Jim Lee doing a piece, next thing I knew they where all doing their own plates.) Not to be out done by anybody, Jim Lee actually ripped out a two foot long serving tray as well! These things look great and have to be seen in person to fully understand how nice the marker art shows up on near mint, white dishes.
Cafe Azul was the perfect spot for us all to unwind with more drinks and stories. The whole bunch intermingled well, with no private little cliques or people feeling left out. Jim Lee was checking out Daniel Bradford's portfolio and giving him lots of positive feedback. I mingled and tried to spend a few minutes with everybody, as I had neglected my other three stores by staying at the Mesa Superstore all day. I even did a couple interviews for some of the media present. I would start every interview with, "You realize I have a few drinks in me, right?" Around midnight I made an official Mike Malve toast and thanked everybody for making FCBD 2008 such a huge success! The after party itself was co-hosted by Steve Borock and CGC, so I would like to publicly thank Steve and his crew for coming down and helping support the day. The festivities carried on well past closing. We tried very hard to hook an iPod to the bar's stereo so Jim Lee and his girlfriend could rock to some Journey, but alas it was one thing Mike Malve could not deliver this weekend.
As the night died down we made our way out of the party and back to the hotel ... walking distance I might add. At this point some folks took up residence in the Atomic Hospitality Suite while others just hung out in the hotel lobby while others headed home or to bed.
The whole weekend - from dinner at Todd's house on Friday to the Wizard Breakfast on Saturday morning to Erik Larsen and I on a TV news live studio feed to most likely the biggest signing in the history of Atomic Comics - it was all amazing!
FCBD is now behind us and everybody's back to the real world. In the past few days I've had lots of correspondence with these guys as I just can't seem to stop talking to them all. And after talking to them all I have a feeling they don't plan on letting years go by again without talking ...or maybe more?
Bridget Silvestri sent along some of the photos she took on FCBD, from the dinner at Todd McFarlane's house on Friday night on up to the much merriment of Saturday night. Click the images below to enlarge.