Monday, April 25, 2016

Thoughts On East Coast Comicon (2016)

It's hard to believe I just attended yet another local convention in the same month (The Great Philadelphia Comic Con!), but I think it's important I write my thoughts on East Coast Comicon now, before I start lumping all of my convention memories together! So my friend and I were very excited to see more conventions coming to the Meadowlands Exposition Center. Ever since AnimeNEXT, it became one of our favorite con locations. While we did come out a bit disappointed with Walker Stalker Con's setup, we still had much hope for the venue itself, and were happy to give the center another go.

I think it's safe to say that conventions such as this one have a much greater focus on the actual "comic book" aspects of a Comic Con. And that's a wonderful thing, as the big conventions (such as San Diego Comic Con) wouldn't exist without their comic book origins. Personally, I like flipping between the two styles. New York Comic Con is an amazing event, and I love attending it every year, but eventually, you may find yourself getting tired of the insane crowds and preferring something with a little more breathing room. Conventions like this are for you.

Just as every good convention should have, you get your dealer's tables, artist alleys, celeb and comic guests, panel rooms, cosplay competitions, photo ops and autograph tables, and every other bell and whistle that goes along with it. The convention area was pretty adequately sized, and unlike our past experience with Walker Stalker, the place never felt like a fire hazard waiting to happen. We saw multiple people on wheelchairs and canes walk through with little to no problem at all; which made me really happy, since people rarely ever seem to mention that kind of stuff unless you bring it to their attention.

About 3/4 of the convention was really made up of different dealer tables, while the remaining portions made up the artist alley, photo op and celebrity tables, and the rest, including a wide range of Batmobiles/other famous vehicles all in a long line around the wall of the room. I never quite know how to start when you see all of this overwhelming stuff in front of you, but we simply explored everything we possibly could up until the time of my first photo op of the day.

The photo ops were handled by a team I had never heard of before, but won't soon forget now: Sci-Fi Photo Guys. Not only do they create awesome pictures, but (cosplayers, take note here!) you can also choose a background from various sci-fi/fantasy pictures they have in their database, and put yourself in it. Want a picture of yourself smashing the car that Superman smashed in Action Comics #1? You can do it. Or how about a picture of yourself standing alongside Rick and Darryl of The Walking Dead? You can do that too. And honestly, the guy who handles the whole thing, D. Silverman was really fun to talk to as well. Half the fun was just watching him photo edit with ease. For my first picture with Nichelle Nichols (Uhura of Star Trek!), he chose a background of the Enterprise to put us both on. Nichelle was also an absolute joy to talk with (even if briefly). I asked her if we could do the vulcan pose with our hands, and she said "YEAH!" Great times with a living legend such as herself.

With less of a set schedule going forward, my friend and I headed to the artist alley area, to see if I could get some of my comics and graphic novels signed. The one I stopped at immediately was Michael Zeck. For those who don't know, this man literally created Spider-Mans "black" costume, a fan favorite, and my second personal favorite Spidey suit (next to Spider-Man 2099. I can't help it. That's just the coolest suit ever to me!). I was very excited to get him to sign my Secret Wars #8 (the debut of the costume), and copy of the graphic novel "Kraven's Last Hunt," what I consider to be one of the most underrated Spider-Man stories of all time. He rarely makes convention appearances, so I was really glad to see him and chat for a bit.

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Some of the other artists/writers I met, included Mark Waid, Phil Jimenez, Cliff Chiang, Don McGregor, Rudy Nebres, and others! As I said before, this is a convention that clearly knows their target audience, and it was great to see. Neal Adams, legendary Batman artist, was also at the convention, but I found myself a little hesitant to get anything from his booth, due to having a bit of a higher price than the other artists and writers. Don't get me wrong, he is a LEGENDARY Batman artist. He can charge whatever he wants to because of that very fact. It just seemed like a bit much to me that day, on top of all the other money I had already spent. I did take note of the fact that he would also be appearing at The Great Philadelphia Comic Con, so I decided to wait on him for now. What happened with him the following week? We'll, you'll have to read my next blog to find out! (Same bat time, same bat channel!)

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The dealers and vendors really took up a majority of the convention space, and it was quite a sight to behold. Everything from vintage comic books to Funko Pop! figures were on display here. I did eventually give in, and get a Spider-Gwen figure from Marvel's 'Legends' line, as well as a new Deadpool cosplay mask (to replace the terrible one I had and couldn't properly see out of!). I consider myself lucky for only making out with only THOSE things.

Once we got to the later part of the afternoon, it was time for the next photo op, this time with Sam Jones (of Flash Gordon fame). Sam still looks great, and was absolutely hilarious. There are typically two types of actors in this field; those that try to pretend cheesy movie roles like this never happened, and those that fully embrace them instead. Sam is thankfully the latter of those two things. While we were all waiting in line for him to come over, we suddenly hear in the distance "Hey, what's the hold up over here!?" only to realize it was actually Sam saying that. He had us all smiling and laughing the whole time as we took our pictures. We took a great shot with some prop guns and shook hands afterward. The artist picked another great background to go with.

At local conventions, you tend to not see as many cosplayers in general. With that said, the cosplayers we did see that weekend were absolutely incredible! There was a Punisher who looked exactly like the actor in the recent Daredevil series, and some perfectly sculpted Ninja Turtles running around, that I took a few pictures with. Did I mention the life-sized Chewabacca?

One of my favorite things of all about this convention, was the sheer passion you could feel coming from both the fans and creators. Everyone loved what they were doing, and it just made the whole event that much better. I only wished I was as great of an artist as some of the people we saw over the weekend, but even knowing people with such talent are out there made me really happy inside to see.

This convention quickly went from a "Sure, let's check it out," to an "Of course we're going again! Why would you even ask such a ridiculous question!?" for me in such a short span of time. I give East Coast Comicon my full recommendation. It's events like these that finally allow you to put the "comic" back into "Comic Con."