How a Batman Hides His Boots (20090719)
[caption id="attachment_622" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Neil Gaiman, Comics Experience proprietor Brian Hibbs and his feisty son Ben. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2009."][/caption] When he's in his civilian disguise as Bruce Wayne, just what does Batman do with his boots? Perhaps more importantly, just what do Batman and Bruce Wayne and their podiatrical dilemma have to do with this mostly-travel blog? Today the FMA and I helped out our good friend Brian Hibbs host Neil Gaiman at his comic shop, Comix Experience. The store is renowned as one of the best comic book stores in the world, and with good reason: Brian understands the perfect balance of catering to the customer while offering one of the most diverse selections of sequential storytelling ever seen. His is the Strand of comic book stores, where the comic book staple of superheroes gets no more than equal billing to other genres, although they've got superheroes, too. Calling Comix Experience a comic-book heaven would belabor the point, but be no less accurate. Just as importantly, Brian's was one of the first shops, although not the only one, to treat comics as more than superhero vehicles. I will have more photos and perhaps a few more stories to tell about today later this week, but I wanted to to share this one now. The FMA and I, Brian's employees, and several others longtime customers were assigned various tasks to help rearrange the store for Gaiman's short-notice reading and book signing. Since I tend to be good with the low brain-power tasks early in the morning, I helped lift and move bookcases. The FMA, less well-suited to that kind of drudgery than I, was assigned to make sure that Neil's various whims were catered to. Much to my surprise, Hessian sacks and live kittens were not required. English breakfast tea, on the other hand, was. At one point, the FMA and another lovely friend-or-employee of Brian's named Shannon were milling about in the storage area behind store as Neil visited the restroom to graffiti the walls. No, really: it's customary in a comic book shop to have visiting authors and artists leave a physical imprimatur on the store. Nobody said this, but I understood: On a Sunday morning, at 10:30, there is no thought that consumes one's mind as voraciously as the desire to consume bacon, to crawl back into bed, or, failing that, to doodle above a bathroom sink. During a conversation about comics in general, Shannon asked the FMA if she were much of a Batman fan, since the signing was timed with the release of Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" deluxe edition. The FMA replied that she sort of wasn't, at least of the comics themselves, and the conversation soon turned to how the Dark Knight was ever able to make those quick costume changes in elevators and other confined spaces. Superman was logical, if you accepted the premise: he's Superman, and he can do anything. Batman was a character whose success depends on a veneer of being a bit more realistic. Having discussed the merits of modern, easy-to-compress fabrics and how they relate to a Bat-suit, Shannon and the FMA had moved on to the thorny issue of the boots. While trying to figure out how butt-kicking boots could be reconciled with the leather boardroom shoes befitting the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, a voice called out from the restroom. Neil had adjourned from his drawing to announce, from behind the closed door - which, by the way, was emblazoned with a full-length face of Matt Wagner's Grendel, painted by the man himself - that Bruce Wayne simply kept the boots rolled down while in billionaire playboy socialite mode, and rolled the boots up when he needed to keep the blood off his argyle socks. Now, I know that Gaiman is a brilliant writer, and judging by his 795,000+ Twitter followers (at the time of writing), I'm not alone. But I've spent 30 minutes this evening trying to roll my Harley Davidsons down from mid-calf, and I'm here to tell you: It just can't be done. UPDATED: The FMA pointed out that I got some minor details wrong in retelling the story, and those have now been fixed.