In recent years, comics conventions have become less about the comics creators, who crafted (and continue to craft) the characters beloved by pop culture and more about celebrity guests. Yes, it is fun to get a picture made with your favorite Star Trek captain or Doctor Who companion, but from my personal experience as well as that of con-goers and the crowded nature of big shows like San Diego and New York Comic Con, it seems like the comics have been pushed aside for “geek culture” celebrities. Some conventions might as well take out the “comic” in “comic con”. However, some shows continue to put comics and creators first, and one of them is East Coast Comicon.
East Coast Comicon began as Asbury Park Comic Con and was held in 2012 at a converted bowling alley/rock club in Asbury Park, NJ. It was founded by independent comics creator Cliff Galbraith (Rat Bastard) and focused on being a convention centered around comics creators. However, over the past three years, the convention expanded and is moving to the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Seacaucus, NJ because of the events of Hurricane Sandy. It is also centrally located in Seacaucus, NJ, which is close to Newark and New York City proper.
Over the years, East Comicon has boasted a wide variety of comics creators, both old and new. For example, the 2013 Asbury Comic Con boasted guests like Batman producer and current Justice Inc writer Michael Uslan as well as the late MAD cartoonist Al Jaffee and popular artists like J.G. Jones (Final Crisis, Wanted) and Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese). In 2014, 13th Dimension (the company that sponsors East Comic Con) also put on a one day show in Westchester, NY (home of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters) called New York Comic Fest, which featured such big names as Batman and Wytches writer Scott Snyder, artist Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra Assassin), writer Mark Waid (Daredevil), and even former DC president Paul Levitz (Legion of Superheroes).
This years’s East Coast Comicon is no exception with guests like Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare, the creative team of Image Comics’ Rocket Girl and Kate Leth and Ian McGinty, the current writer and artist on BOOM! Studios’ Bravest Warriors based on the popular web cartoon. The inclusion of these creators shows that East Comic Con is attempting to reach younger comics fans and is succeeding at it.
2015’s guest list reads like a “Who’s Who” of legendary comics creators with artists like Frank Brunner, who drew some trippy Doctor Strange stories with Steve Englehart as well as the first Howard the Duck solo comic; Simon Bisley, a British mixed media artist known for 2000 AD’s sword and sorcery strip Slaine as well as several Lobo comics and the first Judge Dredd crossover; Wolverine co-creator Herb Trimpe, The Crow’s James O’Barr, and many others.
The show’s headliners are Arthur Adams, Neal Adams, and Jim Steranko. Jim Steranko is the Jimi Hendrix of comics and had a groundbreaking run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. where he introduced pop art and surrealist elements to superhero/espionage comics. Before drawing comics, he was an escape artist and the inspiration for Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle. Arthur Adams is one of the most meticulous and detailed oriented pencillers and is well known for his work on many X-Men covers and annuals, including the famous “Asgardian Wars” crossover where Storm lifted Mjolnir. Neal Adams is a legendary comics artist known for transforming Batman from a campy crime fighter to the “Darknight Detective” in his run on Batman with Dennis O’Neil. He also drew the socially conscious Green Arrow/Green Lantern comics and was one of the first advocates for creator rights.
These creators along with many others and a variety of exhibitors will be present at the 2015 East Comicon, which is being held on the weekend of April 11 and 12. If you’ve ever wanted to shake hands with the man who made Nick Fury cooler than James Bond or get a Catbug sketch from his current artist, this is your chance to enjoy a convention centered around comics both past and present.