Garden State Comic Fest 2016
July 9th to 10
Review by Dante Hicks
If you love comics, I mean REALLY love comics, not the Marvel movies, not the DC movies from Warner Brothers, or the DC television shows on the CW, or any comic television show for that matter this is the show for you. I have been told by others how comic conventions like the Baltimore Comic Con and Heroes Con are for true aficionados of the genre. This was refreshing to someone that has been following comics for 32 years and due to limitations has only been to tri-state area shows like NYCC, Mike Carbo's NYCB shows, East Coast Comic Con, etc. . It was like anything comic related you truly loved, you could find here. The setting was a little off putting, as the show was held at the William G. Mennen Arena. From what my research says it is mostly used as an ice skating rink(s). But man, the show was awesome.
The setting like I stated earlier was a bit off putting, they were de-iced ice skating rinks. The whole show I being the hockey fan I am, felt I should have been "checking" people in to the boards. (Hockey players shove each other in to the barriers of the ice to get to the puck, That is called "Checking". "The boards" is a reference to the barrier of the rink). From my research and from interviewing con attendees, the 2015 show was held in one rink. For the 2016 show the organizers expanded the show by adding a second rink. One room was called the "Heroes Room" and the other the "Villains Room". Due to there being 2 rooms it was interesting to try to navigate which creator was in each room. Yet it was a pleasant experience.
The con organizers, "Two Morris County men,Dave O’Hare and Sal Zurzolo, united by their love of comics, have teamed up to bring an affordable and fun comic book convention to North Jersey. Dave says, “Our events have something for everyone, from the serious collector looking to find that super rare book to the casual fan looking to just have a great time. From comics and art to vintage toys and pop culture items. Over the past 2 plus years due to the high quality of vendors, artists, fans, and the comfortable atmosphere, we feel we are certainly one of the best comic conventions out there." (written and posted on the Garden State Comic Fest webpage, http://www.gardenstatecomicfest.com/)
Well, Dave and Sal did an outstanding job. The show was fun for old school collectors, newer fans, and for families in attendance.
The guest list read like a "Who's Who" of popular creators of such high caliber that I was on the fence about attending due to living in the 5 boros and the trek it would be to getting to and from the convention. But when names like the co creator of "G.I. Joe" Larry Hama, Walter and Louise Simonson, Kevin Eastman, Alex Saviuk, Lee Weeks, Jim Steranko, Adam Kubert, Sean Von Gorman, Rags Morales, Chris Batista, Greg Hilderbrant, Billy Tucci, and Buzz were listed I literally went "this is a no-brainer" and packed my meager stuff up to go post haste. If you are a fan of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." then it's a priority to meet and talk to Jim Steranko, who help created a lot of the things you have seen in both the show and the Marvel films used by S.H.I.E.L.D. . If you are a fan of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", meeting co-creator Kevin Eastman should be of the highest priority for you. Or if you were just a fan of 80's Marvel and DC comics you had Walter and Louise Simonson, literally the sweetest married couple in comics in my opinion. For those of you that mostly read 90's and later comics you had such amazing artists like Buzz, who I observed inking a Wonder Woman piece that some artists would have a hard time doing that he literally did with ease and finesse, Chris Batista who I bugged to do a 3 minute sketch and he came up with a amazing Superman piece, "Shi" creator and all around great guy Billy Tucci, Rags Morales known for the amazing "Identity Crisis" from DC. And for fans of newer comics you had individuals like Sean Von Gorman, and one of the creative team behind "Squarriors" Ashley Witter. I know I'm not doing justice to the 2016 guest list because literally I'd be here all day just writing about the accomplishments of all on the guest list.
All in all an amazing show, I got to meet creators I have followed for decades for the first time like Adam Kubert and Kevin Eastman for the first time. And being the jaded curmudgeon I am, I actually had a great time at this show. My only issue with the show was the commute. I went the NJ transit route, I took the train from Penn Station to Morisstown since it was stated as a short walk to the arena from the station decided to try the walk. Bad Idea, on the commute back I took a fairly inexpensive cab ride to the station. But the organizers could have had either the Morristown or Morristown Plains authorities set up a shuttle bus to the train stations. Maybe it might happen next year? And the only other thing that felt kind of weird for me, was the fact that there was tons of seating around the rinks being used that were empty. I have usually gone to shows where literally every square inch of the area has been used to set up either a table or a presentation diorama of some sort, this just felt different. Usually when I have gone to shows in the past there has never been anywhere to sit, unless you went to a panel or found a seat to eat in the concessions area but there were literally hundreds of seats open for anyone to sit.
If you missed the 2015 and 2016 Garden State Comic Fest shows do your damndest to get to the (hopefully) 2017 show. It was a great experience and if you can make sure you drive or set up a form of car pooling to get to the show. Because the mass transit route was just a hassle and literally a pain. I being alone and sans camera man got a hand full of photos. Maybe next year Garden State comic fest might kick us a few passes to give away? (Fingers Crossed) But if you are a fan of comics, or a newer reader, GO TO THIS SHOW! This was a great show and worth the all the hassles to just attend.