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Inside MegaCon 2015, Or The Curious Case Of The Stan Lee Tattoo

Kelly Rogers,  left, finished John Engle's back tattoo Sunday at MegaCon. Stan Lee signed Engle's back, which is now  a permanent part of the tattoo.
Kelly Rogers, left, finished John Engle's back tattoo Sunday at MegaCon. Stan Lee signed Engle's back, which is now a permanent part of the tattoo.

Stan Lee signed a lot of comics this week, but he went a little further: He helped complete John Engle's tattoo.

Engle was 9 years old the first time he picked up a comic book.

His family decided to do a road trip: Two parents, four kids and a cat, all driving across the country.

“It was enough to want to choke each other in the car that long, but we stopped and I met my cousin and he gave me a stack of comic books, and that was the first time I’d ever seen comic books,” Engle said. “They just changed my world.”

He got lost in the world of super heroes on that trip. Engle is middle aged now, and he’s turning that passion into something a bit more permanent: A full back tattoo.

From his should blades to mid-back, Spider-Man is swinging out from the buildings. On the buildings, perched like gargoyles, are Spawn and Batman. The background is the last page of the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man No. 1. If you’ve heard the line “with great power comes great responsibility,” well, that’s where it originates.

And If you have heroes, you need the villains: Venom, Carnage, Joker. Here’s Kelly Rogers, who spent the last year working on Engle’s tattoo.

“And then to keep him in check, we put Hulk real big on the left side about ready to Hulk smash Joker,” Rogers said. “We’ve got Image, DC and Marvel. But hey, it’s our piece, we can do what we want. We can make our own comic universe come true.”

Now you may be wondering: What would Stan Lee be thinking? What would the creator of Spider-Man and The Hulk think about the co-mingling of universes?

Well, as it turns out, Stan Lee signed off on the tattoo. Literally.

“And meeting Stan Lee was just icing on the cake,” Engle said. “Just an incredible experience. He signed my back and Kelly tattooed it. And aw, it’s just the thrill of a lifetime. Really, really cool.“

Full disclosure: I’m a nerd, and hearing the story of Stan Lee signing a fan’s back makes me giddy. And that seems to be the heart of MegaCon. It’s fans geeking out with fans.

“Oh yeah. I think there’s absolutely a brotherhood and a comradery. Absolutely,” Engle said.

And it’s a brotherhood of popular culture: Comic books, video games, anime, television shows.

Standing on the floor of Megacon, one of the things that jumps out is not only the breadth but the depth of popular culture references. You can see Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove, Harley Quinn from the Batman Comics, Link from the Zelda video games, and Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. And there’s even literary references. Great American writer Hunter S. Thompson, a personal hero of mine, just walked by.

I caught up with Diego Montoya, dressed as Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove.

“I’m the only Kuzco, apparently, and so this is really thrilling for me,” Montoya said. “And I got a lot of feedback. I even had someone come up to me and say I worked on this movie and you hit the nail on the head. And I was like an emotional white child for like two minutes. Because they think I’m great. They like me, they really like me!”

And Montoya isn’t alone. He meets a group of hundreds – literally hundreds – of Megacon conventioneers in Disney costumes. There are princesses, princes, Pixar animation characters.

They assemble on the stairs, princesses first, until they get the shot.

And leading them all through the convention center for a big group photo is Sasha Walker. I spoke with Sasha Walker. She’s dressed as Anna from Disney’s Frozen, but an alternate Anna who lives in the Walking Dead universe.

“I’ve learned how to talk to people,” Walker says with a laugh. “I’m not a very like, extroverted person, but for these kinds of things, if you want to do it, you have to be. I’ve definitely come out of my shell.”

I saw Walker leading a two hundred plus Megacon conventioneers with a bullhorn like a Disney Pied Piper. I think it’s safe to say she’s out of her shell.