In the Limelight

Contributed by collector and Overstreet Advisor Art Cloos
Photographs by Alice Cloos

The 2017 Garden State Comic Fest was held July 8-9, 2017 at the Mennen Arena in Morristown, NJ. Garden State has become one of the biggest and best New Jersey comic conventions and there are many reasons for this.

Garden State Comic Fest is an authentic comic book show. Dave O’Hare and Sal Zurzolo really love comics and wanted to produce a show that reflects that love. Their goal was a show that was fun, comic book centric, and one that would put North Jersey on the map as a go to location for a comic con.

“Our events have something for everyone, from the serious collector looking to find that super rare book to the casual fan looking to just have a great time. From comics and art to vintage toys and pop culture items. Over the past 3-plus years due to the high quality of vendors, artists, fans, and the comfortable atmosphere, we feel we are certainly one of the best comic conventions out there,” O’Hare said.

The quality of the dealers at this show was quite good. There is a strong emphasis on comic book sellers with familiar names such as Metropolis Comics, Dave’s American Comics, Zapp! Comics, John Paul Pug Production comics, WildPig Comics and Robert Stevenson Fanzines leading a list that included Artistacomics, Absolute Comics and Statues, A.H. Collectibles Alexandra's SteamPunk Emporium, Al’s Gaming Emporium, BazookaJeffs Batcave, Big Papas Collectibles, Blind Sci, Blue Juice Comics, Boone Enterprises, Inc., Brown-Brewster Group, Chimera Publishing, Collectors Crate, Comic Collision, Constantly Custom, Comic Folds, Copper Age Kids, Dark Blue Art, David Karmazyn, Deadly Grounds Coffee, Dewey’s Comic City, DumbBows Store, Dylan Universe Comics, East Side Mags, EC Duzit Comics & Collectibles, Evolution Comics Inc., Excalibur Comics LLC, Fester's Funhouse, Fiol Family Comics, Garden State Signings, Geekade, Gerrit’s Games, Golden Memories, Good Ideas Comics, Hamptons Comic Book Show, IM Photographics, In Your Dreams Collectibles, Ingenious Edge, Jack And Lils Workshop, Jackie Stier Copper Creations, Jackowick Toys, JAF Comics, Jam Comics, JC Comics, Joe Kool Comics, Lehigh Valley Comics and Games, Little Known Pyro Designs, Lone Wolf Comics and Toys, Lore Kings, M&T Comics and Cards, Mark Ziekert, Mark’s T Shirts, Mayhem Collectables, Mike Carbo, Morristown Game Vault, Mr. IceCream Collectibles, Mucky Pup, Needle Meister, NJ Toys and Collectibles, LLC, North Jersey Girls, Outpouring Comics, Panther Collectibles, LLC, Quest Complete Jewelry, R&H Collectibles, Retroactive Toys, Robert Bruce, Robert Herring, Rock N’ Reel, Skidzytron Collectibles, Source Point Press, Storage Store, Stormwatch Comics, Subzero Comics, The Mechanical Meow, The Artists Choice, The Needle Gnomes, Toyz from the Dark Side, Undiscovered Realm, Ursa Minor Comics, Watch Tower Collectibles, Waxspurts Candle Co., Whole Cloth Productions, and Wize Guys Collectibles.

The two major grading services Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS) and Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) both set up at the Garden State Show and once again were there taking consignments for their services.

Also longtime supporters of Garden State, the Kubert Art Store and the Kubert School were there. The booths were crowded as they are at every show they attend.

Garden State hosted quality guests in Artist Alley, including Adam Kubert, Walter Simonson, Alexia Vdhuisen, Ali Solomon, Amy Lynn Jackson, Angelo Panetta, Anthony Marques, Antonio Mastria, Billy Tucci, Chris Puglise, Colleen Doran, David Finch, Diana Leto, Emma Kubert, Greg Hildebrandt, J.M. DeSantis, Joe Staton, Keith Giffen, Ken Bald, Louise Simonson, Lynne Yoshii, Mark McKenna, Neil Vokes, Scott Hanna, and Tom Palmer, among so many more creators.

The special guests which included Dean Cain, Loren Lester, and John Wesley Shipp, all had a definite comic connection making them the prefect choices for a comic centric show. I got to talk to Cain for a few minutes and found out that we have something in common. He was a history major in college with a love of world history and I was a history teacher. Recently, I had seen him host a segment of The Today Show, doing a “Dating Game” bit. I asked him how it worked out and he said, “given we were followed everywhere by cameras it did not turn out too bad.” As to his role as Kara’s father in the hit TV series Supergirl, he said, “I hope I will not be a bad guy in the fourth season of the show.”

Professional and amateur cosplayers were well represented at the show as well as various cosplay groups and replica vehicles. Participants for the Garden State Cosplay Showdown came from the New Jersey area and elsewhere. Special cosplay guests of the show included Father Evil, Ani-Mia, Becka Noel, Yuffie Bunny, Ms Inkwell Hailey Skaza-Gagne, Dharaza Cosplay, and Adya Cosplay. A cosplay contests was also held at the Garden State show. The Agents of Shield car was in attendance as well.

The quality of the panels was also very good. They included one on the importance of inkers in the comic book process moderated by Ms Inkwell that included Bob Almond, Bob Wiacek, Chris Ivy, Scott Hanna, and Mark McKenna. There was a conversation with John Wesley Shipp, a drawing work shop with Diana Leto, and several panels and workshops on the art and craft of cosplay. In line with this, John Paul of NJ Comic Convention fame ran the annual Garden State Comic Fest Charity Auction with all kinds of art.  

I asked several attendees what they thought of the show. “In my opinion this is the best all-around comic con in New Jersey. There is a great mix of comic creators, celebrity guests, comics, cosplayers as well as vintage collectibles. As the ‘Batdad’ with two kids, I appreciate Sal and Dave’s successful efforts to keep the show family friendly,” Stuart Greenberg said.   

Continuing my exploration of the show I asked another fan, Henry Wagner who was busy checking out some rare comics what he thought of the show. “I go primarily to catch up with dealers, those I know well, and those I am getting to know, and get their reads of the current market, trends, etc. It’s always a kick to see older books on their walls, or to be presented with an odd or unique book. Also, I enjoy the chance to share some laughs with folks who understand some of my more obscure humor,” Wagner said.

Dealers and vendors seemed happy overall with their results for the day. Artist Greg Hildebrandt talked about his Spiderhart Gallery and told me that, “the show is close and friendly. I love its focus on comics and art.” Allie was impressed with all the unusual craft superhero related items available at the show from superhero towels to crocheted toys.

The Mennen Arena offers a great deal of free parking and an excellent food court and dining area. Multiple places to eat and hotels are conveniently located just a short drive away. It’s close to New York City and the Poconos, just minutes from major roads like Rts. 80, 287, 10, and 46.

There are multiple options for those using mass transit, since the Mennen Arena is between the Morristown and Morris Plains New Jersey transit train stations. In addition, Coach USA Bus Lines travel through Morristown from Penn Station and Port Authority.

The Garden State Comic Fest will return in 2018. You can look for updates at www.gardenstatecomicfest.com and on Facebook.