Nathan Thoma woke his wife, Christie, up at 5 a.m. last Saturday with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.
He couldn't wait any longer, so the couple got in the car and drove from their home in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, to Annapolis.
The Thomas joined a line of about 100 other comic fans and government employees who stood in freezing temperatures starting around 5 a.m. to snake themselves around the inside of Third Eye Comics to meet Batman writer Tom King at 11 a.m.
Exactly four weeks since the longest government shutdown in U.S. history began, King came to Annapolis to offer hope and some signed comics to those who needed it. King, a California native and Washington, D.C., resident, worked in counterterrorism for the CIA for seven years before quitting his job to write for DC Comics in 2009.
Nathan Thoma, a furloughed Army employee, brought 20 of King's comic books for him to sign. It was his first comic book signing, and one of the first signs of humanity the Thomas had gotten in the last month.
"In all this turmoil we have with people constantly fighting and tearing each other down, it's nice that somebody's spreading some good," Christie Thoma said.
Peter Scott Jr. and his fiance, Sherron Yeager, came from Upper Marlboro for the signing. As a U.S. Census Bureau employee, Scott said he appreciated the recognition from one of his favorite writers and an ex-government employee.
"His current run has reinvigorated my love for (Batman)," Scott said. "All the trauma he's been through and what he's going through now ... I've always wanted to know more about that side of the character."
Anand Kandaswamy, a furloughed research economist, came from Washington, D.C., to get five of his copies signed.
"This last month has been not a lot of fun," Kandaswamy said. "I appreciate (King) coming out. As a former government employee, it's a very nice gesture on his part."
Sam Falcon has been coming to Third Eye Comics from Joint Base Andrews in Prince George's County for the last three years since he returned from his government work in Germany. Getting his copies of "Omega Men," "Mister Miracle" and "Batman" signed was an unforgettable opportunity.
"It's an opportunity to meet someone who writes life into a character and adds a unique perspective to the character that I've loved for decades," Falcon said.
King stayed two hours past the time the signing was supposed to be over, making sure he talked to everyone who waited to come to his table.
"Everyone here was happy. We're having fun, we're nerding out," King said. "The comic book company sent me these boxes of comics. It was a random thought that went through my head. I thought, 'I have all these boxes around and all these people are out of work for no good reason.' It was easy to do."