I was at a not-very-busy comic book convention in Brooklyn a couple of years back, and happened to fall into conversation with a guy who turned out to be the vastly influential comic book artist Neal Adams.

“You were my first favorite artist,” I said. “I’ll bet you get that a lot.”

He said, “Yeah, I do.”

Which was a funny thing to say, and I appreciated it for its funniness. But I could tell by the look on his face immediately afterwards that he wished he hadn’t said it. He was probably imagining that he had offended me. That was not the case, but the look was unmistakable. He was thinking, “This fanboy is going to blog about me being a cocky asshole.”

Working in comics is as reputation-stressful as working in politics. I think of all the times that I, personally, have been raked over the coals for something I said to somebody flippantly at a con or on a messageboard — and my own career and reputation are nothing compared to his. The number of people with a mad-on for Joey Manley used to be pretty large, but I’ll bet it was never 1/100th as large as the number of Neal Adams haters. I mean: I’m nobody, and he’s Neal Adams.

It was the look of a man who has been hounded.

I didn’t tell him that he’s not my favorite artist anymore. I also didn’t engage him on the subject of plate tectonics. Why would I do such things as that?