Parents walked through holding their kids’ hands, introducing them to the world of pulp fiction, bold ink and bright colors, and adult fans came in to get back issues signed by their favorite comics heroes. As people poured through the door, the soft whir of electric lenses coming into focus and the pre-recorded clicks from digital cameras could be heard as fans snapped shots of the artists.
For Dave Tetreault, who grew up in Saugerties, the event was another chance to see an old friend -- Marvel Comics veteran Joe Sinnott.
Sinnott, who worked for Marvel as both a freelancer and staff artist for nearly 60 years, makes his home in Saugerties. He worked on the Fantastic Four, Thor and Captain America titles, usually inking over the pencil art of artist Jack Kirby. As a kid, Tetreault got to know the much sought-after inker.
“I used to deliver his newspaper, actually,” he explained. “I saw him every day for eight years.”
Tetreault came to the event with stack of about 30 classic comics he wanted to get signed.
Many comic artists actually call the Hudson Valley home, likely due to the proximity to DC Comics and Marvel headquarters, which are both in Manhattan. Sinnott joked that he had a special theory about why artists love our region of New York.
“It’s the water,” he said with a big smile. Sinnott got a little more serious and answered again. “I was born in Saugerties, so I still live there.”
The artist had trouble picking the favorite cover he’d worked on, saying it was tough to choose. He did narrow it down to a few classic Marvel images, specifically the Kirby-drawn cover he inked for Fantastic Four No. 51, “This Man… This Monster!” In that 1966 issue, rocky superhero The Thing ends up losing his powers to an impostor.
But the inker also had another classic cover he loved having a hand in. “Silver Surfer No. 3 is a favorite of mine,” he said.
Ramona Fradon, who is an Eisner Award winner, entered into the business of comic books in the 1950s, when she landed a job at DC Comics in an industry predominantly peopled by men. She ended up drawing Aquaman, co-creating his sidekick Aqualad and co-creating the Justice League of America hero Metamorpho.
While not the first female comics artist, Fradon was one of the most prolific. From his seat next to her, Sinnott called her the best female cartoonist of all time with a warm smile. While somewhat rare, working in a male-dominated industry didn’t throw her.
“I didn’t know any different,” she said. “I just got out of art school. I didn’t think it was unusual.”
October Country’s 12-person book signing ended up being a pretty intimate affair, with the fans up close and personal with the creators. Fradon said she liked that kind of interaction with the fans.
“Oh, I love them. I love them,” she said. “It’s wonderful. They’re so appreciative.”
Joe Staton, an artist and writer known for his work on the Scooby Doo, Archie, Dick Tracy and Green Lantern comics, agreed with Fradon.
“Well, it’s cool. You run into people who’ve been reading your stuff for years,” Stanton said. Often fans will remember little flourishes or specific storylines that artists and writers might have forgotten. Interacting with the fans creates a dialogue that allows those memories to live, he added.
That nearness between fans and the comic book creators was intentional -- as was the idea that people could linger in line, get a chance to really talk to the artists and maybe even go back through the line a second time, said October Country co-owner Mike Giacoia.
In some cases, the people in the line came to the signing empty-handed. Web comic creator Joe England, the man behind “Zebra Girl,” came to the event just to network and talk shop with the pros.
Ron Marz, who was a writer on various Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, Star Wars and Batman books, also appeared at the signing. Altogether, Marz has been a comic book writer for about 20 years.
“It’s better than working for a living,” he joked.
When asked what his favorite project he’d ever worked on was, Marz said he loved “Samurai: Heaven and Earth.” The story, which began as a five-book mini-series in 2004, is published by Dark Horse Comics and is about the samurai Asukai Shiro’s battle to rescue his kidnapped love, Yoshiko.
Samurai: Heaven and Earth was a project that gave Marz and artist Luke Ross a lot of creative freedom to do what they wanted. “It came out just the way I wanted it to,” he said.
Although the store has moved around a bit, October Country has been New Paltz’s comic book shop since 1979. The current iteration of the store was born when October Country’s Bruce Conklin joined forces with Giacoia 1997, who was then the owner of Valley Comics in Poughkeepsie.
A comic book signing as large as the last weekend’s is a bit of a rare affair, explained Giacoia.
“We haven’t had one in over 10 years,” the store owner said. “Usually the autograph signings that we have are much smaller. The last time I did one, it was three people.”
Other than Fradon, Marz, Sinnott and Staton, the shop also brought in X-Men artist and inker Terry Austin, Spider-Man writer Todd Dezago, Star Wars artist Dan Green, writer and artist Fred Hembeck, writer and artist Walt Simonson, Doctor Who comic book artist Matthew Dow Smith, and Captain Marvel writer and artist Jim Starlin.
Outside of big events, like the New York Comic Con or San Diego’s Comic-Con International, it’s pretty unusual to see that many artists and writers in one place at one time. “Especially in the Hudson Valley, a gathering this large has got to be historic,” he said.
Despite some worries earlier in the week about getting enough people in the store, Giacoia said he was really pleased with the amount of fans who turned out for the event.
“It was fabulous,” he said. “Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves.”
October Country’s co-owner praised the artists and thanked them for showing up. “They’re wonderful people. They’re giving their own time,” Giacoia said.
Signing events like this could become a tradition at the store too. “We hope to do it annually,” the co-owner said.
For more information, call 255-1115, head to www.octobercountrycomics.com or log into Facebook and search for the group “The October Country Comics.” To stop by in person at the Cherry Hill Plaza, head to 246 Main St., Suite 5 in New Paltz.