To be honest, I wasn't even sure if I could go to New Jersey Comic Expo this year. Despite having some very fairly-priced tickets, I admit I have not been in the best place with money right now, and wasn't sure if I would be able to fit this in with current budget constraints. Thankfully, things worked out enough that I could still manage this, and I'm so thrilled they did.
I got to the convention center a little after 11 AM, with an iced coffee tightly gripped into my hand for dear life. There was virtually no line to get in, so I was able to go right up to the ticket booth, scan my paper, and head on in. I started by doing a quick survey of the place, just to see where most things were (dealer's booths, artist alley, cosplay corner, etc.). Some of the first people I see happened to be Sal and Dave, the two behind Garden State Comic Fest. I pretty much see them at every local convention (as they are of course busy promoting their own, especially with their upcoming show in Atlantic City next year), but they're always a pleasure to talk with too. While I don't see myself heading out to Atlantic City for their new con, I'll be happy to attend their next one at the William G. Mennen Sports Arena once again.
The next table I stopped by was Scott Hanna's. He's one of my favorite inkers in comics, and worked on J. Michael Straczynski's Amazing Spider-Man run (the run that got me back into comic books in general!), so needless to say, I owe him quite a bit of gratitude. He's signed other issues for me before, so I only brought my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #500 this time. We both talked for a bit and agreed that he got off of the book at just the right time, as all of the following story arcs (seriously RIGHT after his departure) had a severe drop in quality, all the way through to One More Day, which I still complain about to this day.
Candice and I happened to be looking forward to the same guests (particularly Gail Simone and Garth Ennis), so we both set out to find their booths. When we finally reached Gail Simone's table, we were convinced that we were seeing things: She had absolutely no line whatsoever! Seriously, after multiple years where I missed my chance to meet her at New York Comic Con, it was almost unbelievable. She was just as nice as I've always heard, and had a really great spirit in the way she talked about comics. We all agreed that smaller cons can be so much nicer when it comes to breathing room and getting more time to chat with fans. She was kind enough to sign my Batgirl #1 (New 52) and take a picture. I would actually end up seeing her multiple times throughout the con, just from walking around, getting lunch, etc.
While I was talking with my Jedi friends, I happened to notice Ming Chen of Comic Book Men walking right past us, and called out to him. We had a quick talk about how he was doing, and how I completely missed all of them the one time I did go to their store (commonly referred to as The Stash). He also took a quick picture with me.
On the way to find Tom DeFalco's table, I ran into my friend Lily, and her friend Scarlet, who were both cosplaying Disney princesses (Lily was Rapunzel and Scarlet was Elsa). I didn't get to talk with Lily for very long, but the minute or so I did ended up being my favorite moment of the entire convention! A little girl (had to be 2 or 3 years old) walked right up to Scarlet (Elsa) with such a look of awe, and gave her a big hug. As we geeks continue to get older, it's easy for us to forget that we all started out as tiny kids with big dreams and imaginations too. It was those bits of inspiration as children that would later help shape us into who we are today. That little girl just got a huge dose of that inspiration, and seeing it happen in front of me was everything. This is what it's all about.
After getting up to Tom DeFalco's table, he happened to hear Kevin and I talking about Amazing Spider-Man #252, as well as Secret Wars #8. Turns out, I had a misconception about the black costume, that Tom was happy to correct me on! While Secret Wars #8 was chronologically showcasing the first time Peter acquired the black costume, its first actual appearance in comics was in Amazing Spider-Man #252, which predated Secret Wars #8 by about 7 months. I've had both issues for years and honestly never knew this, much to my own embarrassment! Tom also proceeded to tell us a funny story about how he was working to co-write the black costume into this issue, while getting told from above that fans would hate it and it would never work out. They even went as far as to say he'd be to blame if sales plummeted as a result. Needless to say, the rest is now history, and I personally thanked him on behalf of all Spidey fans for sticking to his guns, and for helping (alongside many others) to give us one of the greatest Spidey costumes of all time! Encounters like this are simply priceless to me. There's nothing like hearing stories straight from the creator's own mouths!