Why Norman Reedus Is Worth $80

It is a rare thing when I decide to go in for an autograph, but last October I had the great privilege of creating a triptych of prints for AMC’s The Walking Dead. Having read the comics since I was in college and being an avid watcher of the show, the opportunity to create licensed, original work was one of the single greatest highlights of my career.

Last April Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, signed her print for me at Awesome Con and so when I saw Norman Reedus would be attending Wizard World Philadelphia I slipped an AP copy of Daryl into my artist alley inventory hoping to make my way toward a set.

Now remember, I am a beginner, so when the convention staff quoted the $80 pricetag for an autograph, I admit, I faltered. I was working my artist alley table alone for the 4-day convention and wondered if I could justify the possible missed sales while I was in line in addition to the fee. I stewed and stewed, watching fans with Norman Reedus VIP passes move around the show. Finally, a friend and regular con attendee mentioned his reputation for working tirelessly to make sure all waiting fans get their autograph, even if it means bringing the remainders of his line outside the convention hall and setting up his booth on the sidewalk. I was able to witness the truth of this first-hand on saturday evening when, at the end of the longest day of the con, Norman Reedus was downstairs with what remained of his line, soldiering on. Looking at the still-long line, I thought about the kind of dedication to the fans that must take. That night I bought my $80 autograph pass.

Wizard World cuts its exhibitors a break when it comes to lines and so fellow artist Kevin of Studiohouse Designs and I were allowed to stand in line with the VIPs and landed 36th in line on Sunday morning. Norman arrived with his taxidermied two-headed squirrel, waving and smiling to the crowd and shouting “Good Morning!”. For the next 30 minutes I watched him smile and speak to his fans, hug them, shoot silly string at them, and individually unwrap the many gifts he was given. He even snapped a couple shots of a young girl who was so nervous he “thought she was going to pass out” with his phone and bestowed a myriad of high-fives to another fan who was practically vibrating with excitement. Finally, the last fan said goodbye and it was my turn.

2014-06-22 12.24.51For those who haven’t done it, working a convention can be exhausting. Hour after hour of talking and smiling, no matter how genuine, takes its toll, and any exhibitor’s fan experience is only a tiny fraction of that of a celebrity guest. So stepping up to Mr. Reedus I decide to demand as little of him as possible. Just say hello, hand him my print, smile, say thank you, and leave. It turned out, he had other plans.

I barely begin to open my mouth before he looks over, says “Hey, pretty lady” and leans over the table for a hug. We chat a little and I unroll my print. He remarks how he has yet to see this one, and his agent, the handsome Sean Clark, leans over and says, “You don’t remember this? It was at Walker Stalker con. You signed a whole bunch of them.” And then Sean reveals he actually owns all three. When I respond with “oh wow. thanks!” he gives me a slightly puzzled look and that is where Kevin picks up my slack, points at me, and says “She’s the artist”. A blur of kind words are exchanged, he signs the print, and I get another hug and a kiss on the cheek.

I slide over so Kevin can have his turn and begin to put my print in its tube. The boys chat for a while and shake hands and as we get ready to leave Norman asks if we are a couple. We say no, he pauses and then reaches over and grabs a rather large bottle of Jameson. He hands it to us and says “Here. You guys share. You’re very talented. Thanks for coming over”.

I would like to say here that I am no good with celebrities, and between that and the situation deviating a great deal from my originally intended script it is safe to say my response to this was some mumbled phrase of thanks accompanied by a slack-jawed expression. Kevin and I walk away and exchange looks and comments of disbelief.

In total I received, a personalized autograph, two hugs, a kiss, kind words about my work, and a large bottle of regifted Irish whiskey. I realize that minus the booze all this stuff may come standard with any Reedus ticket, but I think it can be said for his kindness, quirkiness, and generosity, Norman Reedus was absolutely worth the $80.