On November 21st, 2015 I went to the first day of the weekend comic book convention New Jersey Comic Expo (NJCE). This was the first time a big convention like this was held in Edison, NJ. Could this possibly be the next Philly Comic Con? It very well could be since it was already announced that there will be another NJCE next year.
My mother and I decided to enjoy a day at the con together. It’s a known fact among my mom and I that we will always get lost the first time we go to a new convention – ALWAYS. So, on our way to Edison, NJ my mother and I somehow ended up going over the bridge to Staten Island, NY; a mistake which cost us a $14 toll. Even worse? The convention center was pretty poorly marked. So when we got back to NJ and were in the vicinity of the convention center, we accidentally ended up in the UPS truck depot.
When we finally got to the convention, I was surprised at how big it was while still having room to stretch out my arms. I’ve heard horror stories about the crowdedness at NYCC and walked into NJCE assuming it would be pretty small and not very crowded. I was pretty pleased that NJCE was not only in a big convention center with plenty of exhibits, vendors and panels to go to while also not being too overwhelming for someone like me who can get nervous in really crowded places. As a somewhat socially anxious person, I sometimes shut down when surrounded by a lot of people. While there were some points where I felt this anxiety kicking in, the convention center provided a nice food area for me to sit and sulk quietly until the anxiety went away. If you’re trying to work your way up to NYCC like I am, I think this is a good place to start after smaller cons such as Allentown, followed by Philly Comic Con.
- talk to and get New Mutants #1 (featuring the first appearance of Deadpool) and Cable & Deadpool Ultimate Collection 1 signed by Fabian Nicieza, the co-creator of Deadpool;
- talk to and get Jonah Hex #1 signed by Justin Gray
- meet the crew over at Action Lab Entertainment, who I’ve had an internship with over the past couple of months.
He talked about a lot of interesting facts including how Deadpool’s cancer was inspired by his mother-in-law’s cancer. He mentioned how if you look at the Fabian Nicieza stories from the early 90s, many of his characters had cancer: Deadpool, Diamond Lil from Alpha Flight who suffered breast cancer and one character who visits the future and discovers the exact day he is going to die is several months away—not exactly cancer, but the connections are there. This insight into the background of one of my favorite characters was one of the highlights of my trip at NJCE. Nicieza also mentioned how Deadpool wasn’t really his favorite character to write but that he had a banner behind him with Deadpool on it because it was the best way to attract people—if he had a picture of Speedball, it would definitely be much less advantageous. The one thing I didn’t really enjoy? The fact that we had to pay $10 per autograph for Deadpool related comics… but it was worth it.
Gray also shared a pretty interesting tidbit with me: He unexpectedly got a check in the mail from DC. Apparently a throwaway character he wrote, a mayor, actually appeared on the television show Gotham.
My only regret when I talked with Justin Gray? I really wish I had brought more Jonah Hex, Power Girl and Batwing comics since Gray seemed more than happy to sign anything (for free, no less).
Another great experience I had was finally getting to meet some of the Action Lab crew. I met Bryan Seaton and Jamal Igle, two kind guys who really seem to care about comics. The biggest things that struck me about their table was how much Action Lab has grown in such a short time. A couple of years ago I went to their table, two tables pressed together with a handful of books and other merchandise. Now, there are several tables, all chock full of comics, cell phone cases, plushies and more.
This was a helpful panel for aspiring writers in a small, intimate setting. The creators answered questions compiled online as well as in the small audience. There were several important tidbits that stuck in my head (and those that didn’t are in my extensive notes, which I definitely did not lose).
Dezago mentioned how he was often typecast as the “funny guy” despite the gritty stories he wanted to tell and how it was important to write what you wanted to write and not what people thought you could write.
Schultz mentioned how it’s important to know who you are writing for; her Revenge series was a Marvel/ABC collaboration, so after having Marvel go through the script, then ABC would look at it and possibly have problems because of moments in the script that would conflict with moments that were going to happen in future episodes of the show.
He sure knew how to add humor to such a dismal situation!
All the creators, just like Justin Gray, also mentioned how if you want to create your own characters, it is best to self-publish online rather than go to Marvel or DC.
I also shopped around for some comics, of course! Some of my best finds included the first two issues of Avengers Academy (both of which I read and really enjoyed), the complete Spike vs. Dracula and Osborn: Evil Incarcerated (actually written by Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick) mini-series, some Daken: Dark Wolverine comics, and a lot of other Wolverine-related first issues including Wolverine Origins #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #1 (2011) and… Wolverine and the X-Men #1 (2014). I also bought Justice League / Avengers… then walked a couple of vendors over and found it for $10 cheaper. Yeah… make sure you check several vendors if the comics start going into the double digits.
Despite my initial anxiety, I enjoyed New Jersey Comic Expo and will definitely consider going next year. I might even work up the courage to go to NYCC… maybe…