Contributed by collector and Overstreet Advisor Art Cloos
Photos by Alice Cloos
The Garden State Comic Fest has run three shows in 2018, marking their largest number of shows in one year to date. The first was the Atlantic City Edition, held at the Showboat Hotel & Convention Center on April 7-8; followed by the Great Adventure Edition held during Memorial Day Weekend on May 27. The third, and final for the year, was the one that started it all ‒ Garden State Comic Fest. The show was held at the William G. Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown, NJ on Saturday and Sunday, July 7-8.
The arena, located at 161 E Hanover Avenue in Morristown, NJ 07960, is a 30-minute drive from New York City without traffic and 45 minutes from the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Allie and I found the drive to be especially easy and we made it in record time. Parking is free and plentiful. It’s easy to get there by public transportation, as the arena is between two NJ Transit Train Stations. Also, Coach and USA Bus Lines go through Morristown and both travel every hour from Penn Station and the Port Authority in Manhattan.
If you planned to attend and stay over for both days of the show, Garden State booked a limited number of reduced rate hotel rooms at the Hyatt House and Candlewood Suites located close to the show. The food court at the arena had good choices at very reasonable prices. Allie and I continued our annual tradition of eating breakfast there and my scrambled egg wrap and iced decaf coffee set me up for the day quite nicely. There are multiple restaurant choices close to the arena too, so attendees don’t go hungry.
Tickets were available at the door and online, with several ticket options to fit attendee budgets. At the door, passes were $25 for Saturday, $20 for Sunday, and $40 for a two-day pass. Online options were $5 to $10 cheaper, and also included VIP options for $50 and $75. There were more options that can be found at other cons, which is convenient for interested attendees.
The vendors line up was impressive, consisting of Absolute Comics and Statues, The Artist’s Choice, Blimp Trading Co., Boone Enterprises Inc., Build A Bear, Chuck’s Comics, Collectors Crate, Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS), Comic Collision, Dewey’s Comic City, Douglas Stafford - Magician, Dustin’s Comics and Collectibles, Dylan Universe Comics, East Side Mags, Family Dragon, Fiol Family Comics, Gadgets And Collectibles, Inc., Geekade, Gerrit’s Games, Ginger Kitty Studios, Gotham Underground, Greg Hildebrandt, IM Photographics, Ingenious Edge, Jack And Lils Workshop, Jackie Stier Copper Creations JC Comics, John Ciba, John Paul (JP), The Kubert School, Lehigh Valley Comics and Games, Mark’s T Shirts, Mayhem Collectibles, Metropolis Comics, Mr IceCream Collectibles, Mucky Pup, Mundo Comics, Needle Meister, Nicoline Novels, North Jersey Girls, Quest Complete Jewelry, Retroactive Toys, Robert Bruce, Robert Stevenson, Source Point Press, Stormwatch Comics, SuperHappy Collectors, SuperMegaFest, Toyz from the Dark Side, Trap Door Escape Room, WDHA Radio, Whole Cloth Productions, Wize Guys Collectibles, Zapp! Comics, and Absolute Art.
There was a very large contingent of creators at Garden State this year. Headliners included Marv Wolfman, Ariana Mello, Adam Kubert, Ken Bald, Angela McKendrick, Steve Lavigne, Billy Tucci, Tom Mandrake, Tom Palmer, Tom Raney, Walter Simonson, J.M. DeSantis, Keith Giffen, Louise Simonson, Scott Hanna, Greg Hildebrandt, Mark McKenna, and Neil D. Vokes.
In addition, there was a large turnout of local and independent creators that featured some of the top local artists and writers. Those in attendance were Budd Root, Buzz, Charles P. Wilson, Chris Batista, Absolute Art, Action Figure Kingdom, Antonio Mastria, Brandon Fiadino, Bun Leung Art, Chris Puglise, Christian Martinez, Christian Masot, Crawl Space Studio, Dad’s Cartoons, Doodles by Dan, Erik Klaus, Ian Glaubinger, Illustrations by M.Sciuto, Isaiah Puga, Jason Baroody, JaCo Tartaruga, Jay Lipson, Jenaro Pagan, Johnny Flid, Jon-Peter Buzio, Joseph Wigfield, Kathryn Calamia, Kudoze, Len Danovich, Nicholas Caponi, Nick Justus, Nicoline Novels, Panetta Studios (Agent 122), Sara Black, Sean Carlson, Sean Dillon, Soldiers of Fortune Comics, Starlight City Entertainment, Sugar & Space, Tyler Peach, and Zack Viola.
Special guests included voiceover artists Keone Young and Mary McDonald-Lewis, and wrestler Eric Moran. Cosplayers were Father Evil, Yuffie Bunny, DC Cosplayers East, and the Legion of Super Villains.
Today every significant con is going to offer panels and Garden State was no exception. From a panel on how to become a comic book artist to one on the state of the comic book industry to one on geek culture the choice of panels provided some food for thought for those attending them. In addition, a charity auction and a kid’s cosplay contest were held.
With mother nature giving the con a perfectly glorious two days of weather, there was no problem checking out the KITT car from Knight Rider, the A Team van, and the local radio station WDHA 105.5 van, located right outside the entrance to the show. WDHA was set up inside and provided music from its station to entertain the crowd.
It is important to stress that this is a big time show with a local con feel. Promoters Dave O’Hare and Sal Zurzolo really love comics and it shows. There is a strong emphasis on comic books which is the heart of any “comic con.” As a result, if you were looking for serious comics to buy, then this show was for you. As an example, there were at least seven copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 and a Hulk #1 (available at the Metropolis booth) to large runs of Silver Age titles such as The Flash (offered by Absolute Comics) to Golden Age Flash and Captain Marvel comics (from various dealers) to choose from. Fanzines were offered by Bob Stevenson and original art from major artists was available from The Artist’s Choice.
There were both vintage and modern toys to look over and a lot of buying options to choose from. Allie in particular liked the number of craft based vendors that one can find there. Beyond the comics and toys, staples of a modern con, jewelry, clothing, watch parts to customize your watch, and even superhero cookies were available to buy as well. Allie noted that there was something available at every price point for the buyer willing to shop for a good deal. I personally found three comics at the show, two of which I have been looking for, for quite some time.
There was a lot of cosplay activity. All the cosplayers were willing to stop, talk and have their picture taken and many were regulars on the cosplay circuit, and as such they recognized us and we recognized them. In many cases though their costumes were new and a good job was done by them in the design of their new outfits.
Allie and I noticed the energy in the room all day and we ran into many of the regular attendees who are part of the east coast comic scene. Indeed Garden State has a family feel about it. The vendors are friendly and willing to just stop and talk when they have a moment. We spent a lot of time catching up with our fellow convention goers and friends and all said that they were enjoying the show. My good pal and Batman collector Stuart Greenberg was like a kid in a candy store all day and Paul Zuckerman, one of my comic collecting buddies came with a very big case to bring home any comics that he found. Manny Maris and I had a very long talk during breakfast and we kept running into each other for the rest of the day. In addition, while we were there most dealers reported being happy with the sales they were making.