I've been a comic reader for most of my life. For the past four years and change, I've been the warehouse manager for Heroes Aren't Hard to Find. These two facts don't make me an expert on comic creator and fan interactions, but between the two I've garnered enough experience to see plenty of examples of how not to act. Truth be told, I've probably done some stupid things around creators, too, but that just adds to my reasons for writing this article.
One of my biggest pet peeves regarding creator/fan interactions is the sense of entitlement that some fans have, especially concerning the 'when, what and how' of obtaining autographs, sketches, or commissions. When they make store or convention appearances, creators shouldn't be treated like gods, but they should be treated with respect. In most cases they are appearing solely to promote a new project. Most of the time, they aren't paid for their time, and in some cases provide their own accommodations and travel expenses. So consider the fact that while they are there to sell their books, they aren't there to deal with ungrateful fanboys.
I've noticed a tendency from some fans to think that just because they show up and ask for something, they deserve to get it. Free Comic Book Day is a prime example. It's essentially a nationwide event where creators show up at local comics shops and offer their time providing sketches and autographs in an industry-wide attempt to encourage new readership. I've had firsthand encounters with fans who are genuinely angered and offended when they're the last person in a line and don't get the all-encompassing/time-spanning sketch masterpiece they waited all day for. True, it's always hot in May during the first week of the month, and yes, one will get tired standing up and holding books while waiting in line. But don't you think the guys sitting down and sketching for hours on end get tired, too?
There are more important and economically viable career paths than that of a comics creator. Most of them aren't solving world hunger or improving the functionality of electric cars. They are at their purest, entertainers who on the national level are entrusted with taking care of decades-long pop culture figures. On their best days they remind us all why we love comics. At their worst they're creative people who worked extremely hard to get to the place they find themselves. Either way, they deserve respect. This means they don't owe you anything. This means they don't deserve to be followed into bathrooms at conventions by fans who want to ask them why they did what they did on a single panel of a page they illustrated five years ago. Let me say it again: They don't owe you anything.
Most creators have to work crazy hours just to provide for themselves and their families. That's not unlike most of the rest of us. So if you happen to meet a comics creator you admire at a store signing or convention this year, don't be a jerk. Tell them you appreciate their writing or their art, and thank them for making the appearance. And God forbid, if you don't get a sketch or everything you want, don't act like a child. Remember, they're people just like us, even the famous ones.