Asbury Park, NJ is known for quite a few things, like the famous Stone Pony with Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, the Asbury Park Press, one of New Jersey’s premier newspapers, and the Boardwalk, host to a number of restaurants, concerts, and even an annual Zombie Walk. But Asbury Park is expanding their reach and taking a piece of the comic book scene. Today, May 12, saw the very first Asbury Park Comic Con, an eight-hour event that brought fans and creators together at the Jersey Shore. Living a mere 45-minute drive from Asbury Park, I couldn’t miss the chance to attend.
The Asbury Park Comic Con was an intimate show. Set in the small location of the Asbury Lanes, a local bowling alley known more for their musical venues than they are for bowling, there was a limited amount of room to showcase the exhibitors. While the layout did take some maneuvering around the ball returns, it was handled nicely. In all, there were only about 40 exhibitors showing off their wares, a few of which were local comic book shops trying to sell store stock. One exhibitor even came up from Wilmington, Delaware, so it was great to see that Asbury Park had that strong of a pull.
The majority of the exhibitors were independent comic creators trying to get their creations out there. The small setting must have been a conducive atmosphere to these creators as it gave them a chance to sit and talk to the attendees about their comics. I managed to find a few interesting books from the lot, one of which, Constellation Park by Scott Meany and Christopher Laudando, who are also making a movie titled The Puppet Apocalypse. In fact, it was the giant puppet on their table that got my attention.
It wasn’t just small, unknown creators that showed up to the Asbury Park Comic Con, though. Comic Book Comics creators Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey sat right in front of the entrance, giving them the opportunity to greet people as they walked in. Their set up showed the collected edition of Action Philosophers, a graphic novel that takes the philosophy of the past and mixes it with a touch of humor. As Dunlavey described it, “The philosophy is all real; the jokes are all fake.”
The Ray artist Jamal Igle made an appearance, selling prints of his work and even doing sketches for fans. But the big winner seemed to be Milk and Cheese creator Evan Dorkin. I say “seemed” because I honestly didn’t see him. I saw the table with his banner, but it was at all times surrounded by so many people that I couldn’t even tell if Dorkin was present.
My favorite exhibitor though had to be Rogan Josh. One of the few tables that didn’t have stacks of trade paperbacks, Josh had an amazing collection of prints from his site, ModHero.com. His style is sleek, sort of minimalism but not entirely falling into that category. Most of his prints featured popular Marvel and DC characters done up in his own twist. However, a few of Josh’s best pieces were unique, such as a collection of prints of various animals and the proclamation of “I Enjoy Coffee”. As one of the few artist-only tables, he really grabbed my attention off the bat.
I was a bit surprised by the appearance of Michael Zapcic and Ming Chen, stars of the AMC show Comic Book Men (despite their billing on the con’s website). Asbury Park is a few minute’s drive from their store in Red Bank, so it made sense that they would show up to a comic book convention in their own backyard. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to talk to them as it looked like they were recording a podcast, but it was cool to see them in person.
Though this was just the first year for the Asbury Park Comic Con, it seemed like it was successful. I had a great time talking to creators and, based on the number of people that milled about the show, many of the creators got the chance to show off their work. I’m hoping that the organizers of the show felt the same and that they quickly begin working on next year’s show. With it being held so closely to me, I’m definitely excited for a follow up.