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I’ve never purchased a celebrity autograph nor have I paid for a photo opportunity. It’s not that I can’t see the value in such endeavors, it’s simply been a combination of allocation of limited financial resources, my level of interest in the celebrity and ease of access.

I tend to make Comics the driving theme for my convention experiences. You can generally find me tracking down heavily discounted comics and trade paperbacks, attending Comics panels and seeking out commissions from Comics artists.

This year was different. After attending at least a 100 conventions where celebrity access was available to attendees, I broke my streak and paid for an autograph and photo from two people that have had a huge impact on my genre tastes.

Celebrity #1: Jim Davis, Creator of Garfield.

I grew up with a thirst for words and art. My Mother told me that she used to read the newspaper out loud to me during my gestation. Books meant the world to her and she wanted to introduce me to words and language at the earliest age possible.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but during most of my early childhood, my family lived a lower middle class life. I always had food to eat and clothes on my back but I remember getting free lunches at my grade school. Finances must have improved as my education continued because I have distinct memories of paying a reduced fee for my school lunches.

No matter what our finances were (to which I was mostly oblivious), Mom made sure I had a book in my hand at every opportunity; especially comics.

My introduction to comics dates back to when I was about 4 years old. Whenever we went to the local convenience store, drug store or mall, I walked away with a couple of comics.

With Mom’s voracious reading habit, we would end up at the book store, typically Waldenbooks or her favorite, Crown Books. This is where I discovered Garfield.

I was always allowed at least one item on our trips to the book store. This was in the late 70s to mid 80s when graphic novels were not a presence on traditional book shelves.

I found the Humor section and found the tales of an obese orange cat named Garfield. These books contained comic strips that captured the inviting world of Garfield. I connected with his cranky and sarcastic wit. The supporting cast of characters were wonderfully rich.

Even better, Garfield had a series of books that were collected in volumes. I believe my first introduction to Garfield was volume 3. She bought it for me and from then on, Garfield was my new obsession.

I continued my interest in comics, which eventually eclipsed my interest in Garfield, but he’s always been a part of my heart.

In grade school there was a program called ‘Scholastic.’ It was a way for students to purchase books at a discounted rate. Whenever Garfield was offered, Mom made sure I was able to add it to my list of books to be purchased.

Fast forward 40 years and I see that Garfield’s Jim Davis is going to be making a rare appearance at Denver Comic Con and that autograph photo opportunities were being made available. I must tell you that for a moment, the kid in me experienced a skipped heartbeat. Then I saw that Garfield was also to pose in the photographs.

Looking into the details, all one had to do was purchase the new hardcover book “Age Happens: Garfield Hits the Big 4-0” from Colorado’s very own Tattered Cover Bookstore at the $28.00 cover price. Not only was the book made available a few days before it’s official release date but it included an autograph from Jim Davis!

On either Friday or Saturday, you could take your purchased copy of the book over the the Photo and Autograph area of the convention and have your picture taken with Garfield and Jim Davis at NO ADDITIONAL COST.

Friday’s line just to purchase the book was at least 60 people deep and I had to make arrangements for getting on a few artists commission lists. And…I’m notoriously impatient. If the line for the book was this long, imagine the line for the photograph. Disappointed, I reconciled that if just wasn’t meant to be.

In Saturday I wandered over to the Tattered Cover and there were just a few people in line. If I couldn’t get a photo opportunity, I’d decided to at least get the autographed copy of the book.

I asked them about his photo schedule for the day and they told me he was available NOW.

I quickly traversed the distance to the photo area and did my best to quell my expectations. If there was another huge line, I was going to write it off completely. The line was maybe 30 people and as soon as I saw Garfield (well, a person in the Garfield suit but don’t ruin the illusion, okay?!), I got in line and awaited my photo opportunity.

I’ve met Comics celebrities and Authors before and I always try to come up with something substantive to say. My mind was blank and I was that 7 year old kid remembering going to bookstores with Mom and reading Garfield books with her. Mom passed away some time ago and the entirety of the situation started to overwhelm me a bit. I felt myself getting emotional and one of my eyes may have begun to water.

I focused on the Now and made a conscious decision to soak in and revel in each moment. Before I knew it, my turn was up.

Mr. Davis smiled and warmly shook my hand and asked me my name.

“Good to meet you, Mike”

And then Garfield and Jim Davis each closed in on each side of me and my picture was taken.

“Take care,” Mr. Davis said as Garfield waved me goodbye.

The words finally hit me.

“Thank you for my Childhood, Mr. Davis. Even when money was tight, my Mom made sure that Garfield was always in my life.”

He smiled and thanked me with kindness in his eyes.

To follow his adventures check out his Twitter @MrDystopia and his previous coverage of Denver Comic Con.

All photos used with permission of Mike McLarty.

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