Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Comics on the Boardwalk: This Past Weekend's Asbury Park Comic Con

The comic convention is as much a part of comic culture as the comic shop. I go to a couple cons a year, but they're usually the bigger ones, NYCC or Philly Con for instance. But this past weekend I went to a smaller con, Asbury Park Comic Con, for the first time in a few years. And it was a great experience.

While there were some problems with getting into the con, mostly I think due to this being the first year the con was in the Asbury Park Convention Center and not in a bowling alley, once I got in, it was a wonderful experience, well organized and laid out over two floors. This is the kind of con you can go to and actually spend time chatting with the guests for more than two seconds, and while busy you weren't surrounded by a stream of humanity so great you felt like you were going to get swept up in it. Real credit has to be given to con organizers Cliff Galbraith and Robert Bruce for making a con that feels friendly and excited about comics without all the Hollywood trappings you get in so many cons nowadays.

The con had a few dealers tables, and I was able to fish out some decent trades and a couple random back issues, and I feel like if this con takes root, there will be more in the future. But what it had in spades were comics creators, some legendary, some modern celebs, and some up and comers. One of the cool things were that the indy creators were mixed in with the bigger name guests. In a lot of big cons, these self publishers and new creators get ghettoized and people who might find their work never get the chance to. Here you could find Marvel creators next to guys who were pushing the first collection of their webcomic, and it got me to look at some stuff I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

My favorite part of any convention experience is getting new sketches for my sketchbook. It probably surprises no one that my sketchbook is Batman themed. I like to ask artists to pick whatever Batman related character they'd like to draw; this has gotten me some interesting character/artist combos I never would have expected. I was able to get two sketches this time. One was from Marvel inker Mark Morales, who gave me a beautiful Batman: The Animated Series-style Mr. Freeze. The other was from an artist named Bill Hewitt, who gave me my first Riddler.

Hewitt is the artist on a self published comic called Tiki P.I., about a supernatural private investigator in Hawaii who has a tiki statue for a head. Written by Erik Carlson, I picked up the first issue of Tiki P.I. along with a single Tiki P.I. short story booklet called "Stone Head, Stone Dead." I haven't gotten to read the short story yet, but the first issue of the comic was a ton of fun. The story is pretty simple: someone is murdering showdogs and their owners, and since the police are baffled, they call in Tiki P.I. to solve the case. Now I love a good supernatural crime story, and when it turns out the killer is a werewolf, well you're pretty much throwing one right over the plate for me. There was a definite Chew sort of vibe in both story and art, with everything askew and odd, but that's the world of the book. I got to chat with Carlson and Hewitt while my sketch was being done, and they were just great, friendly guys who clearly love what they do. Tiki P.I. is charming and witty, I am going to keep my eye on the Tiki P.I. website to see when I can get my hands on the next issue.

I got to spend a little time talking to some of the other guests as well, something you never get to really do at something like NYCC. I got to talk to Frank J. Barbiere, who wrote Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray, which I reviewed a couple weeks ago, and told him how much I enjoyed his comic. I chatted with Jamal Igle, former Supergirl artist and previous guest at my own shop, Dewey's, about his upcoming all ages adventure series, Molly Danger, which is going to debut on Free Comic Book Day, and I'm even more excited for it now. I also got to talk Batman with Michael Uslan, writer and producer of all the modern Batman movies; I like chatting about Batman with someone else who loves the character as much as I do.

All in all, a good day was had by all at Asbury Park Comic Con, and I'm looking forward to going back next year to watch it grow.

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