Friday, April 18, 2014

Field Report: Asbury Park Comic Con 2014

(This week, instead of your normal recommended reading, I have a special report from contributor Dan Grote, who took a trip to Asbury Park for this past weekend's con there, a con I had hoped to get to, but alas due to work around the new house, I was unable to. But we here at The Matt Signal love small cons, so I was glad Dan could report in. Without further ado, here's Dan -Matt)

This past weekend I journeyed north to what has become my favorite annual con of the few I’ve been to over the years, the Asbury Park Comicon, held this year at the Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park. Asbury’s is a small but growing con, not big enough to bear the taint of Hollywood or to be a glorified autograph farm but certainly bigger and better than a dirt-mall graveyard for $1 back issues and $5 trades.

The highlight for me was a panel starring Chris Claremont, who wrote Uncanny X-Men from 1975 to 1991, then returned in 2000 and again in 2005. He's also writing Nightcrawler again in a solo series that debuted this month. Mike Zapcic of AMC’s Comic Book Men served as moderator.

Claremont is every bit as verbose as his captions, with a long story for the simplest of questions. A boy asked him what characters he created, and he, with audience assistance, rattled off a list that includes Rogue, Gambit, Dazzler, the New Mutants, Mr. Sinister, the Marauders, Sabretooth, Jubilee, Mystique, Psylocke, Emma Frost, the Hellfire Club, etc. He talked about his consultancy on the X-movies, his appreciation of Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth ("I didn't know Wolverine was Jewish"), righting perceived wrongs done to Carol Danvers in the pages of Avengers and his issues with Warren Ellis' sexualizing of Kitty Pryde in Excalibur (he says he de-aged the character upon his return to the X-books). As Ellis' Excalibur was among my favorite books in my early comics-reading years, my ears pricked up a little at that last bit.

Other creators at the Berkeley Hotel included Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD artist Jim Steranko, Ren and Stimpy co-creator Bob Camp, Milk and Cheese creator Evan Dorkin, Batwoman and Sandman: Overture artist JH Williams III, Longshot and Daredevil writer Ann Nocenti, longtime Marvel editor Jim Salicrup, Hate creator Peter Bagge, Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang, indie legend Denis Kitchen, My Little Pony and Adventure Time artist Stephanie Buscema and many others.

Of course, seeing as one of the organizers of the Asbury con is frequent Comic Book Men guest Robert Bruce, the men of Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash were among those in the house. With that in mind, you should be seeing a group shot of Zapcic, Ming Chen, my wife and myself either above or below this paragraph.

But I’m no stargazer or sketch commissioner. I go to cons for the nerdly shopping. Most of what I bought came from three tri-state area vendors with whom I was already favorably familiar: Wildpig Comics in Kenilworth, N.J., Conquest Comics in Bayville, N.J., and the Comic Book Shop in Wilmington, Del. My library of trades expanded as follows:

Essential Captain America, Vol. 5 (includes reprints of Jack Kirby's 70s run on the book, which I’ve been dying to read lately)
Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 (which my wife is currently reading, after the first two issues of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona's Ms. Marvel got her Carol-curious)
Mystique: the Ultimate Collection by Brian K. Vaughn
The Immortal Iron Fist, Vols. 2 and 3 by Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, David Aja, et al (Note: Need Vol. 1)
Captain America: Two Americas (completes my Brubaker run from the first omnibus to just before Fear Itself; only volume I won't have in hardcover)
A stack of $1 bin issues of Batman ’66, which my wife and I plan to give out as favors for my son's 3rd birthday party.

Additionally, I picked up three Funko Pops: The ’66 Batman and Robin, and a Winter Soldier (full mask)

One small quibble: I wish there’d been more apparel for sale. I could always use another T-shirt. Get on that, vendors!

In my wandering around I got to speak briefly with an organizer of next year’s inaugural Atlantic City Boardwalk Comicon, and while I wasn’t recording the conversation or conducting an official interview, I will say he got me looking forward to the event, which will be barely 20 minutes from my house the weekend before Memorial Day weekend.

And I definitely recommend a stroll through downtown Asbury. My wife, friends and I had some banging sushi at a restaurant called Taka for dinner, and browsed through some swanky vintage records, clothes and books in the local stores. And even though I’d just spent the day browsing through trade bins and racks of collectibles, and my messenger bag full of swag was digging into my shoulder, I still managed to pop into The Comic Crypt CafĂ© on Cookman Avenue and strike up a conversation with the staff about Joe Kelly’s Deadpool and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel.

Final verdict: A++, would con again.

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