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As I usually do with commissions, I spent a fair amount of time researching the prospective artists to decide which characters best suited their individual styles. Matt Haley is one of my favorite comics artists, and one of the very few for whom I'll buy a comic for their art alone. This would be my first chance to get a Haley, and he's especially good at drawing women, so it wasn't a hard decision to select him for the main subject, Ripley. When I approached Haley, he confessed to having a soft spot for Sigourney Weaver, and was enthusiastic about the piece. In fact, he was hired to draw her for "comic book" interstitial scenes in the upcoming Walter Hill film Tomboy, a Revenger's Tale, but had not gotten to meet her or find out whether she liked his portrayal of her. Star Michelle Rodriguez was more obviously approving, having gotten Haley to paint a portrait of her to keep. Haley really wanted to paint Weaver as well, and I suspect for however much he might have aimed to do good work for me, his efforts were at least partly driven to audition for Weaver, if I could get the piece into her hands.
I'd originally planned to do another multi-character artist jam along the lines of the J'Onn J'Onzz Family Portrait I had done last year, but Haley effortlessly talked me into allowing him to do a fully inked rendering of both Ripley and Newt that would extend to a "take home" project and a FedEx shipment ahead of Comicpalooza and the arrival of the Aliens cast to Houston. Obviously, Haley was a man of his word, producing an excellent cover quality piece that puts most of Dark Horse's published efforts to shame, complete with a background and a cameo appearance from an Alien warrior. The likenesses are solid and the personalities are dead on. I especially loved the touch of adding Casey, the plastic doll head that was Newt's only toy and "companion" after the massacre of her family at Hadley's Hope. For once, the Kinko's Xerox of the original 11" x 17" shrunk down to letters size to fit on my scanner was reasonably faithful, probably because the ink work is pitch black. In fact, my scan grayed it out some, so I had to contrast it back. The scan loses some of the pencil gray shading, but otherwise what you see is what I got. Usually there's at least one naysayer when I get a commission, but this one has met with only universal praise.
Virtually every square inch of the image space was utilized, so when I brought it to Carrie Henn, the actress who played Rebecca "Newt" Jorden, I asked her to sign the back. She was I think the first autograph I collected, and helped start the pattern of the actors adding the character name below their signature in quotation marks. She was nice and seemed to like the piece, plus I got a certificate of authenticity with her picture and a little hologram sticker on it.
The next day was Saturday, and the only chance to get Sigourney Weaver to sign for her character, Ellen Ripley. The girlfriend and I arrived at least a half hour early, but there was still a long line of people like us with various speed passes that allowed access to the hall before those with regular badges. We made a beeline to Weaver's section, despite it being a bit of a crap shoot, since she was only scheduled to sign for one hour before the Aliens panel and then two more afterward (plus some photo ops somewhere in there.) I didn't realize that as part of my specific admission package, I got to leap frog over a lot of angry people who thought they were already in the maximum speed lane. I felt more than a little bit guilty bypassing them (plus I had to abandon my girlfriend with little warning,) but I also wanted to get this key autograph out of the way. On the plus side, I was through her line with a signed commission by a half hour into the regular floor hours, giving me clear sailing for my next time-sensitive autographs. On the down side, I didn't get any companion certificate, Weaver was doing no personalizations, and her handlers were only allowing about 10-15 seconds of face time with the actress. I used this very narrow window to tell her about how the piece she was signing was by the guy who did the interstitials on the movie she just did and how he'd love to paint her someday and I literally took more time typing this sentence than I was allotted to speak it coherently. I did my best to deliver that message for Matt Haley though, so I can take a measure of pride in coming through even to that marginal degree!
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