Doug: A few weeks ago William was relating a story about an encounter he had with Will Eisner. As it seemed like he'd picqued the curiosity of many a BABer, I emailed him and asked if he'd be interested in sharing more. We're really excited today to be able to present "the rest of the story", as they say. Thanks, William!
William: Back in 1993 I had the very good fortune to attend a "Comics and Sequential Arts Workshop" taught by the great Will Eisner. It was an eight week night class that was offered at a local community college in my home town of Davie, Florida (located just west of Fort Lauderdale). The class even got a write up in the local paper.
My old friend from art school, Tony Diterlizzi, attended the class with me. He went on to become a pretty well known artist in the industry, writing and illustrating many children's books and co-creating "The Spider Wick Chronicles". But I digress.
In each class Will would give a demonstration of a certain art and/or storytelling technique and then give us a homework assignment based on that weeks lesson. Then the next week Will would critique the work of each student and then he'd give us another demo and another assignment and so on. It was a lot of fun, and I thought Will was a really great teacher, and a really nice and guy.
He usually did just rough pencil sketches for his demonstrations (sometimes no more than stick figure drawings), and afterward he'd give the pages to whoever wanted them. Well, one night he did an inking demonstration that included much more detailed drawings of figures and such (all fully inked). After he was done I half-jokingly blurted out "I'd like to have that one." Everyone laughed, and then Will said "Sure, no problem." Then he signed it "Will Eisner, Done By Hand" and gave it to me. I almost fell over, and the rest of my classmates were fairly green with envy (to say the least). The next day I showed the piece to my friend who owned a comic-book store, (and was an avid comic art collector as well). He was pretty blown away and said, "Wow man, you just paid for that class and then some." Because Will Eisner did not sell his original art, so it was very hard to come by.
During this same time there was a comic convention in Fort Lauderdale that featured John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. as guests that year. So, my friend Tony Diterlizzi, my wife, and myself decided to go check it out. Shortly after we arrived who should walk through the front door but Will Eisner himself. We see him, and he sees us, and he comes over and we all start talking. Well, it isn't long before we are surrounded by other convention goers who recognize Will and stop by to pay their respects. My wife looks at me like "what is going on?" Even though I'd told her that Will Eisner was like the godfather of comic art she did not realize what a legend he was to most comic-book geeks (like myself).
Unfortunately the big crowd around us soon attracted the attention of the convention organizers and they swooped in and, even though he wasn't a scheduled guest, they begged Will to join the other creators up at the tables. He agreed (sort of reluctantly) and before he left us he said "You know, I would have much rather just stayed down here and hung out with you guys all day." (My wife thought that was very sweet and still mentions it to this day).
Later on we got in line to meet the Romitas -- Sr. and Jr.. and I had them sign a couple of comics I'd brought along (including my copies of Amazing Spider-Man #s 39 and 40 for Sr. to sign). John Sr. was also doing free sketches of either a masked Spider-Man head or the half Peter Parker/half Spidey face. I chose the fully masked Spidey. (I think my friend Tony got the other). I remember John Jr. turning to his dad and telling him he was nuts for doing all that work for nothing, and John Sr. was like "Ahh, I don't mind." John Jr. was also flirting with my wife big time. He was saying things like "You don't see many women who look like you at these things." and "What are you doing with these guys?" and so on. And she was eating it up because he's not a bad looking guy at all. It was all in good fun, and instead of being put out I was like "Cool, John Romita Jr.'s hitting on my wife." LOL
I think that probably remains the best (or at least most memorable) comic book convention I ever attended. Although shortly after that I went to another one where I got to meet Stan Lee. But that's a story for another day.