Martin Stever, longtime veteran of the comic and game industries, and onetime Capital City Distribution Marketing Manager, fondly recalls the Spider-Man 30th birthday dinner (see "Twenty Years Ago--Spider-Man's 30th").
I recall many things about that Spider-Man birthday dinner. The idea was hatched at the IADD meeting the previous year and finalized on a trip to NYC during a dinner at the Chart House. At that time it was the most expensive dinner I’d ever been to. Marvel execs ordered some very expensive wine. I remember thinking, "We just drank a month's pay."
It was the second time Stan had come to a Capital City Sales Conference. Carol Kalish had brought him in for one day of conference #2. I wore a red tie when I met Stan at that earlier conference. When Stan saw me afterward he'd always say, "That was a great red power tie!"
Carol Kalish had been in on the initial planning for the Spider-Man dinner, but passed away before the final planning in NYC. I had asked Carol if we could bring in John Romita. I'd never met John, and he wasn't on the convention circuit. I just loved his Spider-Man, loved it. She thought it was a great idea. She told me she called John and had to do some convincing, as he wasn't a spokesman for the company very often. I do recall Stan mentioning he wished Carol were in attendance at the Spider-Man dinner. Stan loved her.
During dinner John and Stan were two old friends catching up. John lived in New York, and Stan was in California. So they were running through their list of old friends, talking about John's sons and Stan's wife. They did talk a little about something John was doing Spider-Man related. Stan said, "I still can't believe they killed Gwen Stacy." Stan and John both shook their heads.
Skip Dietz did the slide presentation because Lou Bank was dressed as Spider-Man. Lou was very funny roasting "Dad." Lou was still single and buff then.
John Romita was very sentimental. He thought it was a huge deal to be asked to represent Marvel. I remember him saying, "I'm supposed to make some jokes at Stan's expense, but I can't. I love him too much." Johnny did tear up a bit. It was clear he had huge admiration for Stan. Afterward he wanted to know if, "That was OK?" He was terrific! Perfect!
The room was packed. We quite literally could not seat a single person more in the ballroom. The hotel warned me, "No more plates, no more chairs." I think this added a bit to the event.
I sat with Stan at the table nearest the stage. The retailers were very loud in their applause and cheers. Stan got two or three standing ovations, the last one going on for several minutes and very loud. After his roasting Stan grabbed my sleeve and told me, "This really has been one of the best nights of my life. I just wish my wife had been here. You should have told me! Thank you." Then he gave me a hug around the neck as we sat there. That was great, one of my best moments working for Capital City. Later I was told that Stan had always felt some hostility from retailers because of the various lawsuits over Jack Kirby's art and contributions. I always thought this was just two or three vocal retailers. Maybe a year later Stan told me, "That dinner was great. I had NO IDEA the retailers liked me that much, really."
I remember knowing well in advance it would be a great event, and DC had made zero plans for that year. At my urging John Davis called Bob Wayne to tell him, "DC is going to look pretty bad if you don’t do something. Marvel isn't just doing a slide show like the last few years." Paul Levitz then called Milton, and I was ordered to fly to NYC to make a plan for DC. "Paul hates me, so why is he making me go to his office?" I was supposed to go to Australia for Oz-con. Jerry Wingenter got to go to Australia instead. For several years afterward whenever Bob's name came up Jerry would remind me to thank Bob for arranging Jerry's trip down under.
I remember in one of the planning meetings for the conference with Milton and John Davis asking, "Who should M.C. this one?" I'd worked on that dinner a ton, and really wanted to be the M.C. John said, "I'll do it." For a week I was crushed.
I may still have a few of those wine glasses in a box in the garage.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.