The Asbury Park Comicon: A Bright Light amongst the Ruins
If a comic book convention were near you, would you go?
Rising from the Ashes
March 30th, 2013 ASBURY PARK, NJ – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, you’ve heard about the catastrophic damage Hurricane Sandy did to the Jersey Shore. It was devastating to many of the businesses and restaurants that have become fixtures on the boardwalk. Even Madam Marie, who Bruce Springsteen sang about in 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), was victim to the storm’s onslaught.
I had some serious doubts that the Asbury Park Comicon, held in the famed Asbury Park Convention Hall, was going to be held with any definition of success.
Boy, was I wrong.
Perhaps one of the best experiences a comic book fan can have is going to a convention; The Asbury Park Comicon was no exception. While it is not anywhere near the scale of the New York Comicon or the San Diego Con, it had what most comicons don’t: intimacy and comfort. With only 60,000 feet of convention space, comic book traders and guests could navigate easily around the main convention site and move easily upstairs to where the independent artists could display their publications and talk to their fans.
What’s more, celebrity guests were accessible to their fans. It has been a long time since I could go to a table and talk to a popular writer or illustrator without having to wait on a huge line and pay anywhere from $25 to $50 for a smile and a handshake. Here, legends of the comic book world were sitting at a table and would gladly shoot the bull with you.
Comicon on Amazon
Danny Fingeroth's book on Superheroes
It is refreshing to know that writers and artists are people, too. What a great show! The organizers did something that I did not anticipate; they considered the comfort of the audience and the best place to have a discussion panel. Across the street from the convention hall is another Jersey Shore landmark, the Wonder Bar. Here, audience members could order a drink and settle down to enjoy an intelligent discussion between some comic book giants.
Guests for the panels included:
Bob Camp – Cartoonist, comic book artist, and animation director, chiefly of the second generation of The Ren & Stimpy Show. He was a designer for classic cartoons such as ThunderCats, Silverhawks, and TigerSharks, and then he was a storyboard artist for Tiny Toon Adventures for Warner Bros. Camp began his career at Marvel Comics and was an illustrator for such titles as G.I. Joe, Conan the Barbarian, and Crazy Magazine.
Al Jaffee – A personal favorite of mine. Al Jaffee was a mainstay with Mad Magazine. Amongst the thousands of strips he wrote and illustrated, his big compilation came with his Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. He still remains a regular at Mad and has been contributing to them for the past 57 years.
Don McGregor – Comic book writer who wrote for Morbius the Living Vampire, Killraven, Eerie, Creepy, Luke Cage, and Spider-man. He was one of the primary writers of the Zorro canon for Topps Comics.
Herb Trimpe – Comic book artist extraordinaire, his best known work was for his run with The Incredible Hulk – specifically, The Incredible Hulk #180 which introduced Wolverine. His distinct style should be known to any comic book aficionado.
Jim Salicrup – Comic book editor for both Topps Comics and Marvel. He edited The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-man, The Fantastic Four, and The Uncanny X-men. He personally oversaw Kraven’s Last Hunt and was responsible for giving Spawn creator, Todd McFarlane, one of his first breaks at Marvel with his Spider-man run.
Danny Fingeroth – Comic book writer and editor, chiefly of Spider-man, Avengers, Daredevil, and What If?. He wrote all fifty issues of Darkhawk between 1991 and 1995. He has taught comic book writing at NYU, The New School, Media Bistro, and Soho Gallery for Digital Art. Fingeroth is the author of Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes really tell us about ourselves and society.
Brian O’Halloran – Star of the Kevin Smith movie Clerks, Clerks II, and Vulgar the Clown.
There were plenty of other well-known guests as well including the cast of AMC’s Comic Book Men (from Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank), Stephanie Buscema, Evan Dorkin, Allen Bellman (one of the first illustrators of Captain America comics for the Golden Age) and many others.
One of the things that my wife and I did while we were in the Asbury Park Convention Hall was take a look around at the concert posters that are on the second floor. The convention hall was host to some of the greatest musical artists within the last century. The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Janis Joplin, as well as The Doors stopped by the Jersey Shore and played there back in the day.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, business for the Jersey Shore suffered greatly. Asbury Park, on the other hand, continued as soon as it could. The Stone Pony was open for business and has hosted some great bands including Southside Johnny and Gaslight Anthem. The arrival of the Asbury Park Comicon was just another sign that the Jersey Shore is recovering and that you can’t keep it down.
Throughout everything, Tilly smiles in all of it and keeps New Jerseyans strong.
The Asbury Park Comicon was a great time for any who attended. Aside from all of the guests and panelists, it was a chance to go out and get some really good deals on some collectible comic books. I scored a bunch of issues that I’d been looking for and got a good price for them. The dealers there were always helpful and the fans knew what they were looking for.
I think the one thing that set this event apart from all the other conventions was the fact that it was in a concert hall. There is nothing more welcome after being on your feet for hours at a time and knowing there’s always a place where a comic reader can just sit and read some of his legitimately low priced booty.
This was the second comicon held in Asbury Park and I hope it is the beginning of a long trend.