East Coast Comicon 2017 Report

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:

Rob Smentek Mike Grell
(Left to right) Rob Smentek, Mike Grell.

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.

Marvel Bronze Age panel John Trumbull Bob McLeod Ann Nocenti Jim Salicrup
(Left to right) Me, Bob McLeod, Ann Nocenti, Jim Salicrup. Photo by Kendall Whitehouse.

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.

Marvel Bronze Age panel ECC 2017 Bob McLeod Ann Nocenti Jim Salicrup Bob Budiansky
(Left to right) Bob McLeod, Ann Nocenti, Jim Salicrup, Bob Budiansky. Photo by Kendall Whitehouse.

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.

Dan Greenfield Denny O'Neil
(Left to right) Dan Greenfield, Denny O’Neil.

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:

John Trumbull Paris Cullins Blue Devil
I couldn’t pass up this smiling Dan Cassidy. THAT’S the Blue Devil I remember.

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.

Fantastic Four Marvel Treasury
…The Galactus Trilogy in Treasury size, in good reading condition, for only $3? This is what’s known as a “score,” ladies and gents.

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:

Marv Wolfman ECC 2017

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.

Geof Darrow ECC 2017

I took a picture of this Spider-Man standee just because you rarely see any Steve Ditko art in the licensing world:

Spider-Man standee ECC 2017

At noon I went to the Kraven’s Last Hunt panel, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the classic Spider-Man story.

Kraven's Last Hunt Panel ECC 2017
(Left to right) inker Bob McLeod, writer J.M. DeMatteis, penciler Mike Zeck, letterer Rick Parker, editor Jim Salicrup.

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).

Keith Giffen Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez ECC 2017
(Left to right) Keith Giffen, José Luis García-López.

Here’s Black Panther writer Don McGregor greeting a Black Panther cosplayer who came by his table:

Don McGregor Black Panther ECC 2017

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.

Denny O'Neil Marifran ECC 2017

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 ECC 2017

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.

Marv Wolfman ECC 2017
(Left to right) Dan Greenfield, Marv Wolfman.

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.

Kevin Altieri ECC 2017
(Left to right) Dan Greenfield, Kevin Altieri.

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.

José Luis García-López ECC 2017
Me and the Great JLGL (Praised Be His Name). That’s Marv Wolfman chatting with Kevin Maguire in the background.

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.

John Trumbull signed comics
A sampling of some of the signatures I walked away with.

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.”

John Byrne Forum post
Byrne gets me.

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!

18 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    Wow. Legends all.
    You MUST have had fun meeting creators all at one con.

    Too bad about Mr. Perez. Hope he recovers from his sudden illness.

    I would have loved to meet Mr. Grell, Mr. Baker, and Mr. Wolfman as I’m a fan of their works.

  2. M-Wolverine

    I hadn’t even heard about it till you mentioned it, but looking into it, anyone can spend their own money however they like, but there are probably a billion better ways to spend your money than funding Peter David’s tax evasion. It’d be one thing if this had all come up after his illness, but he’s been ignoring this for decades.

    1. I already had this debate over on the BI FB group, so I’m in no mood to have it again, so I will leave it at this:

      1) It’s near impossible to plan for your spouse suddenly leaving you and draining your shared bank account. PAD didn’t get into this mess because of personal irresponsibility.

      2) It is the height of presumption to assume that just because PAD shared a little bit of his personal financial situation with us, that you know all the ins & outs of what he is and isn’t in a position to pay the IRS.

      3) It had to be incredibly hard for PAD to share this information & ask for help.

      4) You’re certainly entitled to have whatever opinion you want on this. If you think he’s a tax cheat, fine. Don’t contribute. What I don’t get is trying to actively convince others NOT to donate to what they see as a worthy cause. That’s when it crosses over into a dick move, IMO.

      And as a person who is only just NOW getting back on my feet after unexpectedly losing my job in 2014 and having two cars die on me in less than two years, I can certainly sympathize with being short on cash. Contributing to PAD’s GoFundMe was just a question of basic human empathy for someone who’s given me a lot of entertainment over the years. I certainly think that was worth tossing an extra few bucks his way.

      1. M-Wolverine

        You seem to have a lot to say about something you’re tired of talking about, but I’ll keep it brief.

        1. That does suck. It would even be really understandable if it happened, say, last month. When it happened 20 years ago and your plan was “maybe it’ll just go away” it is a little less understandable.

        2. It’s not presumptuous to know he’s made more than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. He probably doesn’t have that now, but at the very least he made enough money to get that tax bill to begin with. So the money for more than the taxes went somewhere. If it was assets certainly that’s convertible back to cash. If he spent it on other things, well… And this is a guy who has publicly turned down and quit jobs over the same time period because he wanted more money or it was beneath him. And now he’s saying at the same time he was living paycheck to paycheck.

        3. I believe it was. But I think he’s done it a few times, but I can’t remember the exact details clearly, so I won’t go too far on it.

        4. Semantics? Tax cheat, no. He didn’t try and ignore it. Ignore his debt on the hope that it’d get lost in red tape so he wouldn’t have to pay? Evasion seems appropriate.

        When you bring it up in an article not really concerning the story, you’re advocating for it. You can think it’s a dick move to question your advocacy. I can think it’s a dick move to give money to a guy who has made a lot more money than any of us because he stuck his fingers in his ears and went LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU IRS. When the money could go to help anything from kids with cancer to, I don’t know, the next Peter David who has a stroke. We can’t spend all our money on charity, and we all have our causes. But they’re not all objectively as worthy.

        I’ve found you almost have to separate the work from the people, otherwise you probably won’t enjoy much of anything. My two favorite writers in comics are probably Frank Miller and Peter David. But I don’t think I’d like to have a beer with either of them, because they’ve regularly acted awful to people. That still doesn’t preclude showing compassion when someone has something awful happen to them, like a stroke (and various other things comic creators have been stricken with). I’d rather help someone like that. But it’s not my money.

        1. “It’s not presumptuous to know he’s made more than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes.”

          Unless you’re PAD’s personal accountant or you work in Marvel’s accounting department, you’re in absolutely NO position to comment on how much money he does or doesn’t make.

          “But it’s not my money.”

          Correct.

        2. Where did you get the idea that comic writers make a lot of money? Or authors in general?

          Most professional writers outside of TV and film (like, say, novelists and comic book writers) make a modest living from their writing. I know a guy who was one of the biggest names in comics a few decades ago, and also authored a few high-profile novelizations of popular comics and films, and still writes comics, and he has a day job as communications director for a large healthcare company. He’s a bigger name than Peter David, has a longer career, and he has most definitely not “made more than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes.”

          Fun fact: Dave Stevens made more money from storyboarding Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video than from every issue of The Rocketeer, plus merchandising and film royalties, combined.

          Sorry, but Peter David is not some overly-privileged rock star blowing all his allegedly massive income on hookers and blow. He’s a working writer making a decent living, and until you’ve been on the receiving end of the IRS’ gentle attentions, you really can’t speculate on the extent of or reasons for his troubles.

          1. M-Wolverine

            Oh, stop. Beyond the fact that he was involved in TV and such mediums, and that he was most prolific at the hieight of the creator boom, and has seemingly left money making projects while he was apparently desperate for money, beyond all that, it’s indisputable that he had an $80k+ tax bill. He didn’t get that living paycheck to paycheck, he had some really successful years. Unless you’ve made $300k+ in a year (or multiple), along with being regularly employed the rest of your adult life, yeah I can say he’s made more money than most of us ever will. If you think that’s the best use of the limited charity most of can afford, more power to ya.

          2. Again, M-Wolverine, YOU DO NOT KNOW THE INS AND OUTS OF PETER DAVID’S PERSONAL INCOME.

            The only reason you know the amount of that tax bill (which included penalties and interest) is because David chose to share that information with us. He said outright on his GoFundMe page that he made a lot of money the year Space Cases was on the air (which IMDb tells me was 1996-97). Half of that money was withdrawn from his bank account by his ex-wife and he hasn’t found another job that’s matched that amount of income since. That’s very typical for most freelancers, even big names like Peter David – it’s feast or famine.

            Most writers and artists I know still have to have some sort of day job just to make ends meet. That hasn’t been the case for David for quite a while, true, but c’mon. The man has a wife, an ex-wife he presumably paid alimony to for a few years, four daughters (several of whom have to be at or past college age by now — tuition is a bitch, my friend), presumably a house with all the upkeep & unexpected expenses that that implies, and several health problems the last few years. Is it really inconceivable that he might have had a few money problems in the last 20 years?

            Seriously, just because someone sits at a booth at a con and signs autographs for a couple of days, does NOT mean that they’re set for life. Why do you think that organizations like The Hero Initiative exist?

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    Ah, Mike Grell’s James Bond mini-series; too bad Eclipse made a mess out of that. I remember being beyond excited when I saw that Grell was doing it, after all of the Bond riffing in Jon Sable. I was in heaven when the first issue came out. Waiting for the second was like being at the start of school and waiting for Christmas Vacation. Waiting for the last issue was like counting down the days before you left Nam. I got to meet Grell a few years ago and had him confirm what I suspected; Eclipse had the book but couldn’t pay to get it printed on time.

    Grell is tremendously fun to talk to.

    Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (PBHN) is a subject aching for a long, in-depth career retrospective. This is the man that almost every superstar artist pointed to when asked who was the best artist in comics. More people across the nation probably know his work than ever read comics, thanks to his designs for licensed products. His Deadman is fantastic and I wish he had been fast enough to do an extended run on Superman. What he did do was fantastic; we just wanted more!

    1. Yeah, Grell’s Bond mini is rather unfairly overlooked because of all the delays it suffered. Which is a shame — It’s absolutely my favorite treatment of Bond in comics. And it was actually my avenue to the literary Bond, as well. I wasn’t very familiar with the books when Grell’s version came out, but the fact that he took from both the movies and the books made me want to find out more about the original Ian Fleming version.

      This is probably as good a place as any to mention that I’m guest starring on the new episode of Rob Kelly’s FILM AND WATER podcast, where we talk all about 1963’s FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. Check it out here:

      http://fireandwaterpodcast.com/podcast/film-water-93-from-russia-with-love/

  4. Le Messor

    Unlike a lot of conventions, most (all?) of these guests are people I’ve actually heard of! And so many of them have done things I love ~ that bronze age panel especially. 🙂

    I kind of wish I could’ve gone; but I’ve only ever been to New York, let alone New Joisey, once – and that was last night in a dream.

    Sorry to hear about Perez; but it’s good to hear he’s recovering nicely.

    Did Grell do the 90s Warlord mini-? If so, I think I sort of met him once. I was sitting at a table at a con, and some guy came and sat at the same table. I moved away (not immediately, and not because he sat there, I just moved on), and later found myself lining up for the same guy’s autograph. I wasn’t rude to him, but I wasn’t friendly, either, so I felt really chagrined. 🙂

  5. Pol Rua

    Great to see Paris Cullins. Man, I love the hell outta that guy’s work. He had a great, distinctive style that was just nice to look at. Love that big ass smile.

    Also great to see Kyle Baker. Last I heard from him he was having some rough times, so it’s good to see him looking happy and healthy. The guy’s a hell of a cartoonist and a major talent.

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