I was at my very first comic book convention, I was twelve years old and I was nervous as hell.

The place was bigger than I expected it to be – filled with chubby, greasy-skinned nerds and even chubbier, greasier-skinned nerds in costumes that made them look silly, chubby and strangely, even more greasy-skinned.

I pulled the stack of drawings under my arms closer to my body and breathed deeply. My feet wouldn’t move. My legs felt heavy and my lips were dry. Even the multitude of Spider-Man paraphernalia wasn’t making me comfortable, and Spider-Man had always made me comfortable.

Why did I bring the stupid drawings? I shouldn’t have brought the drawings. I might have been able to enjoy the surrounding nerd fiesta if I hadn’t brought the drawings.

When my mother offered up a trip to the convention a month prior, I was excited. I was really excited. I loved comic books. I’d always loved comic books and I was always going to love comic books. When she suggested that I bring along my drawings to show around, my excitement petered, wrinkled and crawled up into me like a chilly penis.

I didn’t want to show anyone my stupid little drawings. That didn’t sound fun at all.

It’s not that I wasn’t any good, because I was pretty good – for a twelve year old.
There were going to be adults there – people older and more talented than me – people looking for jobs and struggling to feed their families. Editors and business people and such didn’t have time to deal with a twelve year-old wiener with a stack of mostly crappy Spawn sketches.

It was silly and I was going to feel silly doing it.

I shouldn’t have brought the stupid drawings.

My mother mashed her hand into the small of my back and pointed toward the opposite side of the room. “Why don’t you go wait in that line over there?”

Fifty or so feet away a line of Silent Bob-looking nerds was slowly forming. At the front of the line there was a small table with an elderly couple seated behind – elderly from the perspective of a twelve year-old, anyway.

When I didn’t move, my mother nudged me again. “Go on, Steven.”
I lowered my stance, shifted my weight and refused to budge. “Mom, I don’t want to. I don’t even know who those people are.”

It was the truth. I’d never seen either of the white-haired old goats before.

“That doesn’t matter, Steven.” My mother squinted her eyes, looked past the line of unshaven, arty nerds and tried to read sign taped to the front of the table. “Look, his name is right there…Parlan.” The conga line of dorks was obscuring most the letters and she was adding replacements on her own, “Parlan Nellison.”

Parlan Nellison?

I shook my head. “What? I don’t even think that’s a name.”

My mother was rapidly becoming annoyed. She wedged both hands in my back, leaned into me and shoved me forward. “Yes it is, Steven! You have to start getting better at stuff like this! Now walk over there and get in line!”

I couldn’t figure out why she was making me do something I clearly had no interest in doing. If she wanted to talk to old man Parlan so badly, why didn’t she do it? I didn’t want to talk to the guy, and I sure as hell didn’t want to awkwardly offer to show him my drawings!

I wanted to call my mother a four-letter word! I wanted to kick her in the shin, tear my clothes off and run into the city screaming! I wanted to chop off her shove-happy hands and drawn my next round of Spawn drawings in the blood spurting from the stumps! I wan-
The look on her face told me that I needed to start walking.

I started walking.

I stood in that line for nearly thirty minutes, struggling to control my breathing and wiping massive amounts of sweat from my forehead. One by one the nerds plopped their oversized nerd butts beside Grandpa Parlan, opened their portfolios and began to explain the ins and outs of their work.  The line was getting shorter and shorter. My neck felt itchy. My legs had transformed from concrete to loose spaghetti. I looked over at my mother - she was flashing me the thumbs up.

I was totally going to paint something in her blood.

The longhaired goober in front of me sat down and opened his portfolio. Suddenly I was next. As old man Parlan thumbed through the pages I was finally able to read the name on the paper hanging from the front of the table. Parlan’s name wasn’t even Parlan – it was Harlan.

Harlan Ellison.

At twelve years old, I didn’t have any idea who in the hell Harlan Ellison was. I had no idea that he was one of the most influential science fiction writers of his generation. I’d never really seen Star Trek, and I had no idea what The City on the Edge of Forever was. I hadn’t read I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, or A Boy and His Dog, and I certainly didn’t know anything about him being the literary world most famous curmudgeonly asshole.

If I had, I would’ve reconsidered kicking my mom in the shin.

Harlan flipped close the portfolio in front of him, shook his head, sighed deeply and waved away Mr. Nerdy McTrenchcoat. When he finally looked at me, he grimaced.
The feeling was mutual.

I didn’t want to be there any more than he wanted me to be there. His old-timey arm raised and his mummified finger pointed squarely in my direction. His lips curled into an annoyed snarl and he flashed his pearly white dentures. He was moments from telling me to go play in traffic when his wife snatched his wrist, and returned his wrinkly appendage to the table.

She smiled sweetly in my direction and patted the table gently with her free hand. “Hi there.”


It would have been better for all involved if she’d just let the cranky old bastard scream at me, clonk his cup of coffee off my forehead and send me on my way. Instead she had to be nice, and she had to be cordial, and she had to keep him from getting arrested for assaulting a twelve year-old.


For the next ten minutes, Harlan begrudgingly flipped through the pages of my raggedy sketchbook and rolled his eyes while his wife remarked on just how talented I was. When he came to my poorly proportioned renderings of large-breasted women, he chuckled. When he came to my Liefeld-esque, Youngblood drawings he moaned. When he came to the comic book I’d drawn on typing paper and stapled down the side, he nearly slammed his head against the table.

Clearly annoyed, the cranky old sack, leaned back in his chair, tossed his hands into the air and sighed a sigh so deep it made the old Jim Carey talking butt cheek gag seem subtle.

His wife tossed another talented my way to cover it up.

Suddenly I wanted to kick him in the shin as well – her too – just because.
After all the pages had been turned, the old bastard flipped my sketchbook shut and nudged me in the shoulder – clearly indicating that he wanted me to get lost. His wife shook my hand.

He did not.

I looked Harlan straight in the eye and said, “Thank you, Mr. Nellison.”

At that point I knew his name. I was just being a jerk.

He sort of deserved it.

When it over I shuffled through the crowd and returned to my mother’s side. Believe it or not, the ditzy broad actually had the nerve to try and give me a high five.

To this day she has no idea how very close she was to getting her arms chopped off and how very close I was to crafting my next typing paper comic book with her blood.


  1. hahahaha. I was 18 when I went to my first comic book convention. I think it's cool your mom took you. My mom thought I was worshiping the devil :-/

    OH, and Todd MacFarlane was at that one ;-) - He would probably have liked your drawings.

  2. Oh, Toddy Mac would have dug my stuff - mostly because I was obsessed with his crummy character - not really because work was any good at the time. ;)

  3. Anonymous21.9.11

    Steven! I have a question, that is not specifically related to this post, but is in a way. If the first volume of Goats Eat Cans is set for release in 2012...


    What is that? lol It says volume 1 of Goats Eat Cans was released in 2007, and even has some reviews from people. MY BRAIN! IT IS CONFUSED!

    But all the stories are awesome, though :)

  4. Hey, Jesse!

    Yeah, there was a version released in 2007 that's no longer available. It was rushed out and it was sloppy, and...really should have never been printed.

    The new version has a bunch of new stories and believe it or not *shocking* even an editor! ;)

    Does that clear things up?

    Thanks for reading by the way. ;)

  5. Anonymous21.9.11

    It does, thanks! And no problem, your stories are wonderful and grosstastic, as my friend Jenn puts it :)

  6. Thank you.

    And Jenn's a cool cat. :)