The quest for an autograph at Eugene Comic Con

Second thoughts foil an attempt to tattoo a B-level celebrity's autograph on the adventurer's body


I was taking a wander round the Eugene Comic Con on Saturday when a man came on the PA talking about how the Green Power Ranger, Jason David Frank, and original Ghostbusters cast member Ernie Hudson were down the back of the hall signing autographs. But I knew this already. What I didn’t know was that right next door, in the tattooing area, artists were on hand ready to tattoo these autographs straight on your body. “So get your autograph,” the PA man said, “get on down to Area 51 tattoo and get that autograph tattooed on, so you can remember this day FOR-EVER.”

At one time in my life, tattooing a minor celebrity’s name on my body is a thing it would never have occurred to me to do. But I’ve been living in the Pacific Northwest for a while now, I don’t have any tattoos and I’ve been feeling a little left out. So I thought about it for a second. Then I thought about it for another second. What if I got one on my lower back? Wouldn’t that be weird? I heard a voice in my mind call to me, as from the bottom of an abyss: “You could get an Ernie Hudson tramp stamp.” And in that moment, I could think of no good reason not to do it.

Ernie Hudson, Ghost Buster (far left)

Ernie Hudson, Ghost Buster (far left)

The queue for Ernie Hudson was mercifully short. Hudson looked healthy and relaxed, and didn’t seem to have aged a day since the last time I saw him, which was in The Crow back in ‘94. He gave me a good, solid handshake.

“Hi, what’s your name?” he asked.

“My name is Brian,” I said, proffering the 8×10 glossy I’d just picked up. It’s a picture of Hudson with his chin on his fist, leaning towards the camera in a gesture of friendly intimacy. It could be from five years ago, or twenty-five.

“Hi Brian. What do you want me to put on here?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “I just need the signature.” Mr Hudson raised an eyebrow.

“Is this an identity theft thing?”

“God no,” I said. “I want to tattoo your signature onto my back.”

“Al-right!” he said, rising from his chair for a high five. His high five was as substantial as his handshake. “Good for you, man.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Good for me.” Then I paid $40 for the autograph to the man sitting beside Hudson at his table.

Comparing objects of interest at the Eugene Comic Con./Brian Kearney

Comparing objects of interest at the Eugene Comic Con./Brian Kearney

The open-air tattoo parlour in the back corner of the room was busy all day. Men and women in various states of undress lay on massage tables as dudes with interesting facial hair inked comic book characters onto their shoulders and calves. One large gentleman spent a number of hours getting a dragon tattooed across his lat. The dragon’s tail was convoluted into this sweet, Celtic love knot-looking thing. The tattoo artist had a teardrop tattoo under his right eye. I know from Lil Wayne songs this means he’s killed a man.

When one of the artists freed up, I asked him how much the autograph tattoos were.

“I’ll do it for sixty,” he said.

“Sixty?” I said, whistling through my teeth. “Damn. The signature cost forty.”

“What’s that got to do with me?” he said “I’m not going to see any of that money.” It’s a fair point but still, a hundred bucks is quite a layout.

I imagined how it would be – a bit like the game where someone takes their finger and writes a word on your back, except quite painful and not much of a game given that you already know what the word is. I pictured the inevitable infections and nights of regret lying sleepless on my belly; then down through the years, endless compliments from strangers at the beach and the gym as the name “Ernie Hudson” stretches with my middle-aged back fat like the branches of a mighty oak. “Next year,” I said to myself. “Next I year I will definitely do it.”

Outside the Eugene Comic Con./Brian Kearney

Outside the Eugene Comic Con./Brian Kearney

So that was one of your options for fun at the Comic Con. Another was to take pictures. What happens at these things is that people dress up in crazy elaborate costumes and wait for strangers to stop them and ask to take their pictures. I did this for about an hour, until I saw someone in an excellent police uniform. I thought to myself, “I bet this guy has a great action pose to go along with the costume.” The badge on his sleeve said “Junction City,” and I tried to recall the Marvel universe Junction City is in. Then I remembered, and decided it was time to put the camera phone away.

It was also fun to meet and converse with local talent. Among these, I talked to Oregonian Dan Berry about his graphic novel, Verdacomb, a story for our times about a character addicted to augmented reality games while remaining unaware of the sinister political reality that lies behind them. Berry writes, draws and publishes it himself. I talked to Garret Izumi, a Eugene resident who makes excellent linocut prints. I talked to Portland artist Paul Guinan, who was there with his wife and co-author Anina Bennett to promote various projects, including their book Boilerplate: History of a Mechanical Marvel. I saw Guinan give a talk at Rose City Comic Con back in September, and he was impressed by how well attended and well organized things have been down here in Eugene. “I think it’s going to grow and grow,” he said.

I wonder who the celebrity guests will be next year? My back is a blank canvas.

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