This past weekend, I went to the East Coast Comicon at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ, founded and run by my friend Cliff Galbraith.
Although it’s only been around for five years, ECC has become my favorite con to attend. It started out as the Asbury Park Comicon and was held in a bowling alley the first two years. Since that time, it’s grown large enough to have big name guests, but not so large that its impossible to move around in. It’s got everything you’d expect a modern day con to have — celebrities, panels, autograph lines, vehicles like the Batmobile and the Monkeemobile, back issue dealers, costume contests — but unlike most other cons these days, the emphasis remains on comic books. And, I’ve got to admit, the fact that it’s only 30 minutes away from my apartment is a big plus.
The con started at 10 on Saturday. I got there at about 11:30. At 12 I took in the panel celebrating 30 years of Justice League International, with Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. It was fun hearing these guy reminisce about their collaborations together (I neglected to take any pictures during this one. Sorry).
At 1:30, Comic Book Creator‘s Rob Smentek spoke with writer/artist Mike Grell about the 30th anniversary of Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters:
Grell’s a great interview. You ask him a single question, and he goes off for the next 5-10 minutes with fascinating stuff. He’s fun to listen to.
After the Mike Grell panel, it was time for the panel I was moderating, all about Marvel Comics in the Bronze Age, with Bob McLeod, Ann Nocenti, Jim Salicrup, and Bob Budiansky.
I think it went well overall. Everybody had stories to tell, and we kept things moving along pretty nicely. I recorded the panel, so a transcript will likely be making its way to BACK ISSUE in the near future.
I should mention here that Cliff and his staff do a GREAT job of making sure this con runs smoothly. I want to give a special shout-out to volunteer Dennis Molner, who was great about signalling panel moderators to wrap things up so that the next panel could start on time, as well as keeping the doors closed so that the panelists could be heard. He often did this at the expense of watching the panel himself. Way to go, Dennis!
After my panel ended, Dan Greenfield of 13th Dimension did a one-on-one interview with the great Denny O’Neil about his career.
After that, I wandered around the con, networking and speaking to various pros that were there. I caught up with Danny Fingeroth, introduced myself to Fabian Nicieza (not easy, since he was pretty swamped for most of the weekend — the curse of being the co-creator of Deadpool), and chatted with Peter David (I contributed what I could to his tax relief fund. Thankfully, David told me that his GoFundMe campaign was largely successful, and he’s reached a settlement with the I.R.S. Nice to hear).
I wasn’t planning on buying much, but then I stopped by former Blue Beetle and Blue Devil artist Paris Cullins’ table, and I bought this spiffy piece:
Cullins, by the way, is terrific to talk to. He’s genuinely happy, enthusiastic guy who obviously loves what he does. When I mentioned that I write for BACK ISSUE, he lit up and started listing all the times he’s talked to the magazine about his various projects. Tom Mandrake, sitting next to Cullins, generously gave me a manila envelope to protect my new piece of art. Right nice of him.
After that, it was a bit more wandering around. I spoke with a cool Harley Quinn cosplayer in front of Kevin Altieri’s table. At the end of Saturday I talked with Lost in Space and Babylon 5 actor Bill Mumy, who dished all about the complications of B5‘s fifth season, as well as which one of his costars was notorious for forgetting his lines.
Since I had no more obligations after my panel on Saturday, Sunday was all about running around and having fun. The day got off to a good start when I found Marvel’s first Fantastic Four Treasury for only $3 at the Zapp! Comics booth.
I also brought along a few comics to get signed. Here’s Writer Guest of Honor Marv Wolfman just after he signed my copy of New Teen Titans #1:
Sadly, Marv’s New Teen Titans collaborator, superstar artist George Pérez, suffered a heart attack while traveling to the con and ended up having heart surgery in the hospital instead of being surrounded by adoring fans. Thankfully, his surgery went well and he is already on the mend. Get well soon, George, and we hope to see you next year!
Here’s Geof Darrow of Hard Boiled and Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot fame. I didn’t get anything signed by him. but he was fun to talk with.
I took a picture of this Spider-Man standee just because you rarely see any Steve Ditko art in the licensing world:
At noon I went to the Kraven’s Last Hunt panel, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the classic Spider-Man story.
I’m honestly a bit so-so on Kraven’s Last Hunt overall (it’s well-done, but it’s darker than I personally like my Spider-Man stories), but this was a fascinating panel with lots of cool behind the scenes info. It’s also the first time that all the creators of this story have been together in 30 years (the only person missing was colorist Bob Sharen).
Here’s Black Panther writer Don McGregor greeting a Black Panther cosplayer who came by his table:
Here’s Denny O’Neil and his lovely wife Marifran, just after Denny signed six of his Batman books for me. Denny had a line stretching around his booth for most of the weekend.
By the way, as of this weekend, I now have several issues of Batman signed by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, and Julius Schwartz. That’s pretty damn cool.
Sunday I found another great cartoonist who’d eluded me the day the before: the ferociously talented Kyle Baker (Why I Hate Saturn, Plastic Man, Captain America: Truth). I’ve been a fan of his work for ages, and he was nice enough to sign my copy of You Are Here, one of my favorites of his works. He even doodled a face next to his signature, since it was the first copy of the book someone had brought to him that day.
Kyle Baker is another great guy to talk to. Energetic, knowledgeable, and full of great anecdotes. I’m going to have to find an excuse to interview him in the near future.
At 2:30, Dan Greenfield did a one-on-one interview with Marv Wolfman, spanning his 40-year career in comics. Lots of cool tidbits about The New Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and The Tomb of Dracula.
One of the fun things about cons like this is getting the chance to meet people face-to-face. I’ve interviewed Kevin Altieri and Denny O’Neil by phone and Marv Wolfman via email, but this was the first time I got to meet any of them in person. And it was also cool to spend some time with people I’d previously only been Facebook friends with, like fellow Batfan Dan Greenfield.
At 3:30, Dan spoke with Kevin Altieri, director of many episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. I’d interviewed Kevin for my upcoming article in BACK ISSUE #99, so it was interesting to hear someone else asking him about many of the same topics we’d covered.
After the Altieri panel ended, I was once again free to wander the con for the rest of the day.
I’d met José Luis García-López last year, where I got him to sign my Batman/Hulk Treasury. This year I had him sign the first issue of his Deadman mini-series from 1986.
JLGL is soft-spoken and modest in inverse proportion to his talent, so he’s very soft-spoken and modest. Again, I’d love to interview him about his career sometime.
All in all, I had a great time. Moderated a panel, made some new friends, reunited with some old ones, chatted with a lot of cool people, bought a cool sketch, found a Treasury for a great price, and got several comics autographed by some of my favorite creators. Pretty sweet.
Oh, and I got an extra nice surprise when I got home Sunday night — John Byrne linked to my column about his Star Trek New Visions comics series over on his Forum, saying it was “a positive REVIEW from someone who GETS it.”
Hard for my inner 12-year-old not to be excited by that.
I’ll be back soon with some photos of the cosplayers who were at the East Coast Comicon this weekend. See you then!