I got my photo taken with Stan Lee today with my girlfriend, over at Silicon Valley Comic Con.
It was surreal. It felt wrong. I'll explain.
The Silicon Valley Comic Con is a very commercial thing. You spend $50 to get in the door in order to spend more money on various things related to pop culture.
Around a week ago, I had a conversation with my girlfriend about the con. We noticed that you could have your picture taken with Stan Lee for around $170 with tax.
"That's a lot of money for a single photo..."
"He's 95 years old, we might not have another opportunity."
"Alright, let's do it."
The day came. We went to the expo hall, bought some pins, plushies, and overpriced food. About an hour before the photo-op began, we shuffled over to the appropriate area to wait.
This was the second photoshoot of the day, an hour block devoted to people willing to spend a fair sum of money to have their picture taken with a legendary man. Hundreds of people were gathered, clumped into six groups.
The photo-op area was a large ballroom with at least 20 numbered lines marked in tape across the floor. A row of opaque blue curtains were set up at the end of the lines. Behind the curtains were a number of sectioned areas where various celebrities would sit.
The con organizers rallied each group into blocks and corralled everyone into their appropriate lines before starting the session.
As our group lined up, I noticed the flash umbrellas peeking over the tops of the curtains.
The organizers announced that the photos were starting. I started counting flashes that popped over the top of the curtain wall, trying to figure out how long we'd be standing in line.
The photographer would shout directions with each photo sequence:
I counted 7 seconds between photos. The groups were moving quickly.
We reached the end of the line and rounded the corner into the photo area. There was an entourage of security officials, clad in black suits and sunglasses, just out of frame, ready to help should Stan need anything.
The organizers scanned our QR code that said "yes, we have paid to meet The Man, Stan Lee."
There were just a couple groups ahead of us. Each of them would, in turn, hustle up to Stan, sitting on a stool, barely awake. The photographer would shout, a flash would go off, and the group would continue through yet another wall of curtains.
We were next. We hadn't really planned what we were going to do. We stood on either side of Stan and looked up at the photographer.
Everyone stopped. 40 minutes into the photo session, Stan looked like he was struggling to hold onto consciousness.
One of the security people stepped in and leaned to Stan's ear, nearly shouting:
"The photographer is trying to get your attention, Stan."
He nodded slightly, as if he had dozed off, then looked up at the photographer.
As we left, I paused a moment to look back at Stan's face, to see if he'd reveal how he was feeling at that moment. Security reminded me to keep moving, and shuttled us behind the curtain.
An organizer behind a large table called out, "Captain America!" -- that's us. We received our photo. At the next checkpoint, our QR code was scanned again, and paired with a barcode on the egde of the photo.
I guess we didn't know what to expect. We both felt uncomfortable. We went home.
The last tendrils of the life of a great man were being sold, one flash at a time, 7 seconds at a time, $170 at a time.