This is the nicest thing a stranger ever did for me.
In 2004, I was working at the Jim Hanley’s Universe comic book store in Manhattan. I had been dating my girlfriend Lexi for several a few years and was ready to propose. I had a beautiful, old engagement ring that had its own romantic story attached to it, but I needed something to make the moment more memorable.
Then, my friend Vito Delsante showed me a small sketch Cliff Chiang had drawn for him of Black Canary, Lexi’s favorite comic book character (besides maybe Streaky the Supercat). It was gorgeous, solid, clean art. I decided to commission a sketch from Cliff of Black Canary’s longtime love interest Green Arrow proposing to her. I wrote to him eight years ago today. It was the holiday season and only one week until I was going back to Pennsylvania for Christmas, so I told him not to worry about timing, but he said he’d have it ready for me anyway so as not to hold up my proposal.
I asked him how much the commission would be, ready to pay whatever he asked.
“My only request is that you name your first child ‘Black Canary,’” he wrote. “Happy Holidays!”
Not only did Cliff not charge me for the amazing piece above, he inked it and hand-delivered it to me at the store - when it was busy and I barely was able to show the depth of my appreciation.
I had intended to wait until New Year’s Eve to ask Lexi to marry me, hoping to ask for her parents’ blessing in the meantime. On December 28, we arrived back in Astoria, and I unpacked a new set of pots and pans to cook us dinner. I joked that having these essential, adult items was the beginning of my life.
Lexi made an offhand joke from the living room about how it was the beginning of our lives. I just looked at her. I stopped washing the pot I had in my hand, standing in the kitchen staring at her. “What?” she asked. “Why are you looking at me like that?” And I couldn’t say anything. I went into my room and got the sketch.
“Here’s a Christmas present I forgot to tell you about.” Shaking, I pulled it out of the bag and sat down at her feet. ”Oh, and here’s something else,” and I showed her the ring. Then we made a bunch of phone calls for some reason.
Years later, Cliff was the artist on the Green Arrow and Black Canary series after the two characters married in the comics in 2007. It made the sketch all the more special.
Cliff is an amazing artist, and you would do yourself a great favor if you checked out some of his work. His bibliography is located here. I would recommend his Wonder Woman, Spectre, Human Target, Detective Comics, Batman: Golden Streets of Gotham, and Doctor 13 work.
Besides producing work that I find breathtaking, Cliff Chiang is a wonderful human being whose kindness I will always remember.