|Written by Frederick Hidell|
|Thursday, 01 October 2009 00:00|
When my editor, Kevin Johns, asked me to join him on a road trip to Toronto to cover Fan Expo 2009, I had no great desire to agree to go with him.
I'd been to Fan Expo before and the 500 kilometer drive from Ottawa to Toronto, followed by hours of waiting in line to get in only to attended over-crowded hype sessions where comic book professionals half-heartedly try to convince convention attendees that this year's crossover event (spilling out of last year's crossover event, of course) is going to "change everything," isn't my idea of a good time. That's a younger man's game. But when I heard that comic book artist Alex Maleev would be in attendance, I knew I had to go.
In an age when artists rarely stay with a series for more than a dozen issues, starting in 2001, along with writer Brian Michael Bendis, Maleev did a four year stint on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, wining an Eisner award in 2003 for best ongoing series in the process. Maleev's noir-inspired Daredevil art melded perfectly with Bendis own noir-infused writing to produce a mature, gritty, and focused superhero narrative. Throughout their run on Daredevil, Maleev and Bendis' comics demonstrated moments of sheer brilliance.The best part about being a journalist is the opportunity to speak with artists whom you truly admire.
When Fan Expo asked (Cult)ure who we would want to interview if we attended the convention, I asked Kevin to make sure Alex Maleev appeared at the top of the list. If he was going to be there, I had to be there too.
The best part about being a journalist is the opportunity to speak with artists whom you truly admire, and speak with them not in a superficial way, or a sycophantic manner, but in-depth and engaged discussion. An opportunity to engage in that sort of discussion with Alex Maleev was too good to pass up.
We left Ottawa at seven in the morning and drove five hours straight. It poured rain the entire way, but I barely noticed. I was too busy reviewing my questions for Maleev. I'd spent weeks putting them together, and was still tweaking them in order to make sure they were just right.
At the convention centre, as predicted, we battled crowds and long lines. While picking up our press passes, we were informed that convention staff wouldn't be providing any assistance in organizing interviews. It would be up to us to speak with the artists, or their representatives, to schedule time to chat.Some in attendance seemed overjoyed by the opportunity to speak with press, while others politely explained that they were there for the fans, first and foremost, but would try to make time for journalists later in the day. Everyone seemed happy to be interacting with fans and press alike.
I circled past Alex Maleev's position in artist alley (a series of tables where artists sell original art, chat with fans, draw sketches and sign autographs) several times over the course of the day, but it was not until later in the afternoon that I actually saw him sitting there painting in his sketch book. He was alone, with no fans lined-up in front of him, despite the crowds. I couldn't believe it! Thousands of comic book fans in attendance, and no one wanted to talk to Alex Maleev! Well, I'd solved that problem fast enough! With press pass in hand, I approached him.
"Are you Mr. Maleev?" I asked.
"I am," he replied without a smile.
Reaching for a business card to hand him, I introduced myself. "My name is Frederick Hidell. I'm with (Cult)ure Magazine."
Maleev gaves me a quick once over, and then said, "I don't do interviews . . . if that's where this is headed."
My hand, still holding the business card, froze mid-air. I'd spent so much time prepping for the interview that it had never occurred to me that he would refuse to speak with me. All day long artists, writers, and filmmakers had been more than happy to talk with us about their art, and here was the one man I had come all this way to speak with shooting me down before we'd even started.
"Just not my thing," Maleev explained, going back to his painting.
I stood there, shocked, with my mind suddenly a blank. "I saw the presentation of your motion comic, Spider-Woman," was all that I could think to say in an attempt to start up a casual conversation now that the interview had been denied."I don't do interviews . . . if that's where this is headed."
Maleev peered back up from his sketchbook, giving me a look that indicated he had no clue at all what I was talking about, despite the fact that Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada had assured us earlier that day that Maleev had been intimately involved in the creation of the motion comic.
"I'm looking forward to its release," I mumbled.
Maleev didn't bother answering. I'd clearly been dismissed. I turned and walked away. And that was that. My great Alex Maleev (non) interview was complete.
Alex Maleev certainly doesn't owe me, or any other journalist anything, but I can't help but wonder, why travel all the way to Toronto for a comic book convention if you don't have any interest in talking about your work? Was his attendance mandated by Marvel? I find it hard to believe he was forced to attend.
Perhaps my miscalculation was in approaching Maleev as a professional journalist, instead of as a fan. Or maybe it was in assuming that he would be as polite, open, and courteous as everyone else in attendance.
I've interviewed actors, novelists, musicians and, yes, cartoonists. What is it about Maleev that makes him feel that, unlike all these other artists, he doesn't need to promote his work by speaking to the press? Certainly, he's reached the peak of comic book stardom, but perhaps he has forgotten that comic book fans, and journalists I might add, are a fickle bunch, whose opinions can be swayed by something as simple as a condescendingly glance and a swift dismissal.
It's unfortunate that from now on whenever I see Maleev's art, or read those beloved Daredevil issues, I'll think not of the talented artist whose work I felted touched by in the past, but of the man that brushed off a journalist who drove 500 kilometers in the rain just to speak with him only to be shown the door.
Did you schedule an interview in advance with Alex Maleev? Because it sure doesn't sound like you did. You walked up to him, assumed he wasn't doing anything important (without finding out if that was the case-- you're assuming that he was just doodling in "his sketchbook" which is a wild assumption to make at a con), he declined to be interviewed, you mumbled things to him awkwardly, and then threw a hissy fit that he didn't hug you to his bosum. And we're supposed to believe HE's the one who's done something wrong. What???
As Frederick mentioned in his article...
...I, his editor, provided Fan Expo with a list of people we wanted to interview months before the event, and Alex's name was at the top.
An event for fans and press`
Sounds like Maleev should "think more" What the hell was he doing at an event like this if he didn't want to interact? Does he get some sort of validation for being edgy by being a dick? Wasn't like he was accosted at Denny's while trying to plow through a moon over my hammy or something. This sounded like an event for media and fans to interact with artists and comic company's trying to promote whatever they are working on or whatever's coming down the pike. Why the hell would he have to schedule an interview for something like that?