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That Time I Stopped an Original Art Theft at Ivan Reis's Table

It was Saturday at New York Comic Con. I turned to my friend and said, “We should head over to Ivan Reis’s table in Artist’s Alley. He has the original art to the cover of Earth 2 #1 at his table. It’s $3,000, so I don’t think either of us are buying it. But it’s cool to see it in person.” My friend, like me, is a fan of Earth 2, so I knew he’d want to check this out.

Ivan had two tables that he shared with his brother Rod and Joe Prado. Books of original art lined the table, along with a stack of sketchbooks for sale and a bin of covers and splash pages. It was in this bin where I had seen the cover to Earth 2 #1. Everything in that bin was at least $2,500.

As we approached the table, there were two guys leafing through the original art. They looked almost identical: same height, same build, same jeans, and same Yankees cap. The only difference between them was the color of their hoodies. One of them had the cover art for Earth 2 #1 on the table and another page from the bin in his hands. “Wow, that guy’s buying the Earth 2 #1 cover.” I said to my buddy. I’ve never seen $6,000 in cash trade hands before, so I wanted to hang out and watch the exchange take place.

There’s usually a bunch of people at this table: Ivan, Joe, Rod, various friends. Right now, it was empty except for a woman I took to be Ivan or Joe’s wife or sister.

The guy with the Earth 2 #1 cover and other cover in his hand walked away from the table.

“Did I just see what I think I saw? Did he just steal that art? Maybe he paid before we got there? What if I say something and it turns out he did pay for it? I’ll feel like a jerk. But what if he is stealing this and I don’t say anything? I won’t be able live with myself.” Those thoughts raced through my head in about half a second before I called out, “Did you pay for that?”

No response. He kept walking. His friend was silent too. Here’s the thing about asking someone if they’ve stolen something. If they haven’t stolen anything, they will very vocally tell you so.

I wasn’t sure what to do. These guys were both much larger than me, and if they wanted to, could easily kick my butt.

The first guy waited for his friend about 10 feet from the table. The friend picked up a splash page from the bin and put it down on a box he had placed on the table. He pulled out another page, looked up and asked the woman at the table, “How much?” She indicated the price was on the page. He put that page back, picked up his box with the other splash page resting on it and walked away.

Yep. These guys clearly just ripped off Ivan Reis. There was no question about it. When the two guys were about 15 feet away, I ran over to the woman behind the table and said “Those two guys just stole three pages from you!” She had no idea what I was saying. I repeated myself. She still had no idea what I was saying. “Oh damn,” I thought, “The Reises are from Brazil. This lady only speaks Portuguese!” I tried a combination of words, hand gestures and pantomime. Her eyes went wide. “They...stole…?” she said. “Yes! Those two guys over there!” They had just rounded the corner to the next aisle.

The lady called out something in Portuguese and this Brazilian giant ran over from another table. The two thieves were big. This guy was huge. She frantically explained to him in Portuguese what happened. He turned to me and said, “You saw them?” I responded, “Yeah, they’re right there!” They were almost lined up perfectly with us in the next aisle. “I don’t see them,” he said. “They’re right there! Those two guys in hoodies and Yankees caps.” “I don’t see them.” I was getting frustrated. “Follow me!”

I took off like a rabbit. The giant followed. The two thieves walked at a slow pace, like they didn’t have a care in the world. I pulled up about 15 feet behind them. The giant caught up with me. “That guy in the Yankees cap, and that guy in the Yankees cap,” I said while pointing at them.

The giant went up to the second thief. He stood in front of the thief and blocked his path. They exchanged a few words and the thief gave up the art. The other thief didn’t even turn. He just kept walking.

The giant returned to me. “Thanks,” he said. “What about the other guy?” I exclaimed. “What other guy?” he said. I pointed out the other thief. The giant gave chase. He tried getting in front of the guy, but the guy went around him. “Excuse me,” the giant said, trying to get his attention. No response. The guy kept walking. The giant grabbed that stolen art that was under the thief’s hand. This stopped the guy. He gave up the Earth 2 cover and the other piece of art he stole from Ivan.

The giant returned to me. He thanked me and told me that the thieves claimed they thought the art was free. “Yeah, right,” I said. He told the thieves to stay away from their table. I wish he had brought them to the police. I wondered how much of their duffel bag was full of other stolen goods. I saw police officers in Artist’s Alley every day of NYCC, but at this moment, I didn’t see one. He thanked me again. I followed him back to the table. My friends were still waiting there, and I still wanted to check out the original cover art to Earth 2 #1.

We returned to the table. The woman thanked me. Ivan returned to the table about a minute later and the woman explained what happened. He shook my hand and thanked me. I told him, “Don’t worry about it. I was just doing the right thing. I’m a huge fan and wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I let them get away with that.” Ivan reached for one of his sketchbooks, thought better of it, and picked up his book of Aquaman art. He pulled out a page from Aquaman #12 showing Arthur and Vostok-X talking and gave it to me. “Please, take this.” he said. Now it was my turn to thank him.

The next day, I said to my friend that I wanted to return to Ivan’s table. He had a book of prelims that had some cool stuff in it and I wanted to buy one. When I returned to the table, the woman from yesterday was manning it again. She smiled and said hello, as did I. I found an Earth 2 #7 rough cover prelim and indicated that I wanted to buy it. I pulled out my cash when someone called out, “Don’t charge him.” I turned and saw it was Joe Prado, sitting a few feet away. “That’s okay,” I said, and attempted to hand the woman my money. “You’re the guy from yesterday, right? The guy who stopped the theft?” he asked. “Yeah, that’s me.” I replied. “Don’t worry about it. Just take it.” he said. I smiled and thanked him.

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Later that day, I turned to my friend and said that I wanted to go back to Ivan’s table and buy this sweet looking Tempest design sheet that was in his prelim book, but I was worried they were going to think I was some kind of mooch that was trying to bleed them dry off one good deed. We joked that I’d have to have the cash out and throw it at them as I took the art. We didn’t return to the table.

We did stop by the table of Tim “Mr. Tim” Chamberlain, of Our Valued Customer fame. He was doing sketches of convention attendees. At this point, I had told the story of stopping the theft at Ivan’s table to every friend I ran into at NYCC. After telling him the story, Mr. Tim drew this commission for me:

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