I had the good fortune of attending the very first Asbury Park Comicon. It was in a vintage bowling alley surrounded by little traces of the indie music scene, and the atmosphere couldn't have been cooler. But what was cooler was what happened next: the con was a strong success, generating plenty of buzz as well as comic creator and vendor involvement. The following year, the con grew massively to expand into Asbury Park's historic Convention Hall just before the hall was closed for repairs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The coastal New Jersey town of Asbury Park was hit pretty hard by the hurricane, but that didn't prevent the con last year, and this year under substantial growth (and Convention Hall's rennovation), the con will be held this weekend, April 12th and 13th, at the Berkeley Hotel, from 10AM-6PM both days.
What you need to know about APCC is that it is ALL about comics. That's no understatement. The con's commitment to celebrating the comics medium sets it apart from many other types of comic conventions, and for that reason, it has attracted a host of comic creators who want to be part of that very distinctive celebration of their craft. The guest list is, in fact, rather massive, ranging from comic legends to current artists and writers, both in mainstream comics and from indie and underground spheres and representing nearly every type of genre, from superhero comics to humor, horror, and autobiography.
This craft of comics focus is also reflected in the substantial program of panels that run both days of the con, featuring creators in conversation about their work, from Todd Klein to Chris Claremont (Saturday only), and J.H. Williams III to name a few.
APCC co-founder and indie comics creator Cliff Galbraith, whose passion for establishing a con in New Jersey led to APCC, spoke with Bleeding Cool about the con and shared some wisdom about launching local shows:
Hannah Means-Shannon: How has APCC this year? What are the new additions?
Cliff Galbraith: The big news about Asbury Park Comicon is that we've expanded it to two days. That gives us more time to offer a wider selection of panels. As for guests, we can fly people in because we now have a bigger budget to work with. JH Williams is coming in from California for a rare East Coast appearance. And Peter Bagge is coming in from Seattle. We're exited to have the legendary Jim Steranko as our guest of honor. Chris Claremont will be with us all day Saturday. Dennis Kitchen, Ann Noccenti, Mark Schultz and Bob Camp, J. David Spurlock, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Steph Buscema, Cliff Chiang, Bob Fingerman, Dean Haspiel, Jamal Igle, Steve Mannion, Don McGregor, Tim Truman, and so many others will all be joining us.
We've leased Bradley park across the street and we've set up our Keep On Food Truckin' with 10 trucks with everything from empanadas to sliders to gourmet cupcakes. We've got the 66 Batmobile and the Tim Burton Batmobile along with several other vehicles.
HMS: What's your personal geek moment about the guests and events this year?
CG: Well, we've got some huge names in comics, I'm really fortunate to have them trust me to put on a show that they chose over someone else's con. It would be tough, but my hero out of all of them would have to be Dennis Kitchen. He's a trailblazer, someone who changed comics, and then defended them when he found the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. But on a personal level, he's an artist and a business person — I think I can relate to him more than any other single person in the history of the medium.
HMS: How has the community reacted to APCC since it's creation?
CG: It's been an amazing journey. We really have two communities — Red Bank and Asbury Park, but one scene. I live in Red Bank, and my studio is just around the corner from Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash. Mike, Ming, Bryan, and Walt have been very supportive. Rob Bruce and I are in there all the time and a lot of times we bounce ideas off each other about the con or other projects. Our posters and postcards are in most of the shops in Red Bank and Asbury Park — everyone is pulling for us. I walk down the street and people yell out that they're coming to the con — it's a great feeling.
HMS: What's the biggest advice you'd give to people who are trying to establish a con in its first few years?
CG: Make a con you'd want to go to. Make a con that if you were a creator that you'd want to appear at. Try to see the con through the eyes of the fans that come to your show. Remember the word "comic" is in comic con, and never bill actors, wrestlers, models or anyone else above a comic creator.