I think it is stupid. I write comics about superheroes, and no superhero would be doing what the President is doing.
The United States federal government is still in the midst of a partial shutdown. Over 800,000 federal employees, across multiple agencies and departments, are in some state of either on furlough or being required to work without pay. Today, Tom King, comic writer and former federal employee, tried to bring a little bit of happiness to some of the people affected.
At Third Eye Comics in Annapolis. MD, an in-store signing was quickly set up this week, and as emails and social media posts went out, the word spread that Tom King, current writer of Batman by DC Comics, would be signing comics today, Saturday, January 19th. In addition to signing whatever amount of comics that people brought, King announced that he would be giving away comics books from his own collection to anyone with a federal ID badge. At midday on Wednesday, January 16, the first Facebook post came out about this event. After all the tweets, retweets, facebook shares, and emails, the event was a rousing success with hundreds of people attending and at least three news organizations to cover it.
Steve from Third Eye Comics told us. “This was all Tom. He called us and said, ‘I want to come out and do something.’ We have a lot of customers and employees who are affected by this shutdown, and so we were all for it.”
The first person showed up on line at 5:00 AM for the signing event that started at 11. There was a serious line waiting by 10:00 AM. When the doors opened and people filed in, the signing began and lasted straight for over four hours. Pizza was brought in and served to those in line at two separate times. The line continued to move and be replenished until everyone had their opportunity to get their books signed and meet Tom.
He greeted each person in line and signed whatever they put in front of him. He complied with the occasional request for a terrible sketch cover drawing. You can probably find pictures of those on his Twitter feed. Often, people thanked him for being there and doing what he was doing.
We spoke with Christopher Greer who is on furlough from the Smithsonian. He said, ” I am a big fan of Tom, and I heard about this on Twitter. If I wasn’t on furlough, I would probably be working today and would be able to be here. So at least after three weeks of being off work, I get to do something.”
Another person that we spoke to was Erika, who works in cyber-security for the GSA (U.S. General Services Administration) and is also furloughed. She was positively giddy at being able to get Tom King, a writing hero of hers, to sign her copies of the Vision trade paperbacks. She told us that the time off from work “is getting distressing. And it might be time to figure out something else to do.”
We had a chance to talk to Tom and asked him how this came about. “It is just an idea that I felt like I needed to do something with all of these people out of work. I was just hoping to bring some happiness instead of what is going on.”
King brought about eight boxes full of trades and single issues. By the time the event was over, more than half of that was gone. Given away to just about everyone who came in to see him whether they were federal employees or not. King said, “I get a lot of books from publishers but it was a little sad to see my shelves getting more empty as I packed them up, but I wanted to give something to people in this situation.”
As for his opinion of the current state of the government shutdown, the former CIA operative said, “I think it’s stupid. I write comics about superheroes, and no superhero would be doing what the President is doing.”
Among the attendees, there was a lot of concern for the people who are out of work in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There was a great sense of camaraderie in being together and enjoying comics, despite the distress some of them were facing.
Now, let us make sure we understand that this event will not solve the problems in the government or society, and King readily admits that. He was very sure to consistently make this event about the people who came and not himself. He wanted no real credit for what he did today and, knowing him, would probably be embarrassed by this article. But he did a good thing. He brought some joy and happiness to an area that needs some. Good for him and good for Third Eye for hosting the event.