One of my favorite comic book writers is Neil Gaiman, who helped revolutionalize the industry with his groundbreaking Sandman series. While the series has ended, it still manages to thrill and delight audiences around the world.
Gaiman has since moved on to writing novels and short stories, but the appeal is still there. So, when I learned that he was coming here to the Philippines on tour, I knew I just had to be there to get my books signed. It was B's birthday last Saturday, and he had gotten book signing passes for the occasion. So off we went to Rockwell for the first day of signing. Little did we know the adventure in store for us.
Day 1: Rockwell
B and I arrived at around 11 am at Rockwell, only to discover that, when we reached the Rockwell Tent, where the book signing was to take place, numbers were being distributed to make the signing more orderly. B and I got 663 and 661, respectively, so we were a little downcast, but still hopeful that we would be able to get the opportunity to meet Neil Gaiman.
We killed time by roaming around Rockwell, watching "Fantastic Four" (see prior post), and getting lunch at KFC after that. By the time we were done, we headed over to the tent, to see the large crowd forming in front of the venue.
What was nice was that I kept on running into people I knew: former students, old friends and the like. One of them, J, a former student, hung out with B and me for most of the afternoon and evening; he had come earlier than we did and got 325, which wasn't so good, but a hell of a lot better than mine or B's.
Some of my college barkada were around, and we sat for a while talking about Sandman and other comic news.
By three, it was announced that Neil would be a little late, and we began to get worried about whether we would be able to get our books signed that day.
To escape boredom, B and I took turns in roaming around Rockwell, or reading the books we had bought at Fully Booked, which sponsored the book signing.
Neil arrived at around 4:30, and began by reading an excerpt of his upcoming book, Anansi Boys, to the delight of the crowd. Equally delightful was the trailer which previewed Mirrormask, which was based on a book Neil collaborated on with long-time Sandman cover artist Dave McKean.
The book signing began at 5, and B, J, and I were getting really worried about our chances. Still, we doggedly hung on.
By 9pm, the numbers were up to the 250s, and we got a message from the Fully Booked staff that the owner would be signing the number of those who had to go. Our signed numbers, printed on neon green paper, would give us priority at the next two signing venues. B and I talked, we decided to cut our losses and go home, and try again at Greenhills the next day. By 10pm, J had made it to the line, and we wished him luck. He would text me later that night at around 11:30 that he had finally gotten his books signed, and that Neil was a pretty good guy.
So, we spent 11 hours at Rockwell with nothing to show, except some new books and the viewing of "Fantastic Four." On the way home, we discussed strategy, and decided to go first thing in the morning. When we got home, I talked it over with H, and we decided to sleep over at my parents' house so that B and I could leave earlier.
Day 2: Greenhills
B and I went to mass at 7 am in UP, and we were off to Fully Booked Greenhills for the next round of signing. We were a little more relaxed, because the person who signed our stubs said we would get in before those who just went straight to Greenhills.
We arrived in Greenhills around 8, and saw that there was a considerable line forming in front of Fully Booked; however, most of them did not have the signed stubs. So, confident that we had a slot, we went and had a leisurely breakfast at McDonald's.
We took our place in the line afterwards, having been instructed by the F.B. staff to join the line and be sorted out later. We learned that Neil had finished signing books for everybody who was left at the Tent the day before, and that he finished at around 1:30 am. Whoa, nelly, he's a tough hombre.
At around 9:30, they called for those who had the green tickets to form a second line beside the ones who didn't have tickets yet. B and I were elated to see that we were 4th and 5th in line.
The elation quickly dissipated when the organizers requested that we line up according to numbers (Now, was that fair?), instead of the line that we currently had. After 30 minutes, we got pushed back to about 25th in line. The girl in front of us was a little more pissed off; her number was 681, so she had to move a ways back.
Aside: One weird thing was that there were big burly black-shirted guys doing crowd control, with "Professional Bouncers Association" printed on the shirts. I didn't know one had to be a professional to be a bouncer. One learns something everyday, I guess.
While waiting in line, I ran into more friends and fellow Sandman or Gaiman fans. One of them, A, wasn't able to get any ticket, so he asked me if he could give me the books he wanted signed, and include them in the signing. Sure, what are friends for?
A dilemma arose when they announced that Neil would only be able to accomodate two books per person. I had to return one of A's books (Sandman: the Dream Hunters), and I had to make a quick decision: Fables and Reflections, or Books of Magic. After a lot of hemming and hawing, and moving books in and out of our bag, I settled on Magic.
Neil arrived relatively early (2:30), and began by reading a little more from Anansi Boys (I am so getting a copy of that). He then entertained two questions:
One: Will he explain how Delight became Delirium?
His answer: He plans to do so before he dies, maybe for the 20th anniversary of the Sandman. So, he continued, we had better hope he lives to a ripe old age. (Peals of laughter at this)
Two: Will he come back?
His answer: Sure, if only to have us shout at him the way we were doing.
And with that, the signing began. The line moved surprisingly quickly, and in about 25 minutes, B and I were having our books signed by Neil Gaiman (oh joy). He seemed like a nice fellow, very friendly and accomodating.
So, after 7 hours of waiting, B and I completed our quest, and got our books signed and, in B's case, drawn on.
I do hope he comes back to the Philippines. I like to think he was pleasantly surprised at the reception he got.