That’s how noted Broadway producer Vivek J. Tiwary describes the opportunity to emcee this year’s Harvey Awards, held Sept. 26 at Baltimore Comic-Con.
The Harvey Awards, named for MAD Magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman, honor achievements in the comics industry.
“Vivek will be our Billy Crystal of Comic-Con,” said Marc Nathan, Comic-Con’s founder.
The New York-based Tiwary, whose productions have won a combined 25 Tony Awards, said this week that Kurtzman was always a hero of his.
Tickets to the Harvey Awards, which include a cocktail hour, full service dinner and a gift bag, are available now for $125 .
“When (Marc Nathan) called and asked me to host the event, I thought it was a joke,” Tiwary said. “I truly did not believe it. I grew up reading MAD Magazine. Harvey Kurtzman is a hero of mine.”
Tiwary, though, is no stranger to the Harveys, having nabbed two of them last year for his graphic novel "The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story".
It’s based on the life of Epstein, the Beatles’ manager. In addition to the Harveys, the graphic novel has received a number of other industry awards, and has been added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives permanent collection.
"The Fifth Beatle" is also being adapted into a feature film. Tiwary is writing the screenplay, and will also serve as the film’s producer.
“It’s truly a labor of love,” Tiwary said.
He first became fascinated with Epstein’s life in 1991, as a student at the Wharton School of Business at Penn.
Tiwary said he was most drawn to the human side of Epstein, a gay, Jewish man from Liverpool.
“In Brian Epstein, you have the ultimate outsider,” Tiwary said.
In a way, Tiwary added, he could relate to that as a young kid of Indian origin who wanted to pursue a career in arts and entertainment and not become a doctor or an engineer like many of his peers.
“I wanted to produce Broadway musicals and write comics,” he said.
While in college, Tiwary began tracking down people who knew Epstein and collecting facts and stories about his life.
He wasn’t initially planning to write a graphic novel.
“I was just looking for inspiration,” he said.
About a decade ago, though, he decided it was time for this story to be told.
Because he’d already struck up a friendship with many people who knew Epstein, the graphic novel unfolded organically, Tiwary said.
Tiwary, who will also be speaking on a panel and signing books throughout the weekend, said Baltimore Comic-Con reminds him of the comic conventions he grew up attending.
“It is a creator-based show,” he said. “It’s a real heartfelt con.”