EAST HANOVER, NJ - In this day and age of action-packed movies by Marvel and DC Comics, you can expect a lot of comic festivals happening all around New Jersey. And on January 25th, at the FairBridge Hotel and Convention Center, in East Hanover, the annual Garden State Comic Fest: Winter Edition was alive and thriving.
“I’ve honestly never been to one of these events before,” said West Orange resident Darren Colalillo. “But it’s so cool to see all this stuff and people here. I feel like a kid again.”
This comic book festival was originally found in 2014 by Rockaway Township resident David O’Hare. It is normally held in the summertime at the Meneen Arena, where as much as 5,000 to 7,000 spectators attend. Recently, O’Hare and his staff decide to bring the show back for the wintertime.
“This is our first ever winter edition and it’s smaller than usual,” said O’Hare. “Not too many people are out during the winter and they get cabin fever. So, we thought why not have one show in the wintertime?”
In multiple rooms of the hotel, the comic festival featured over 100 vendors stuffed with comic books, art designs, action figures, toys guns and swords, costumes, jewelry and clothes; all comic book themed of course. Countless attendants dressed in their favorite characters, from Star Wars, to Japanese monsters and anime, Marvel and DC Comics superheroes, etc.
In one room, kids and adults were given lightsaber fighting lessons, taught by actors from the Corella Saber Guild. And then there was a lecture on monster movies and why New York City is such a great location for such flicks by Mark Bailey, amateur animator, filmmaker hobbyist and monster movie historian.
There were many special guests at the festival, including illustrator Greg Hildebrant, cartoonist/story artist Bob Camp, colorist Bob Sharen, comic artist Ethan Van Sciver, cult horror icon Father Evil, graphic novel editor Tracy Konopka, graphic novel writer of “The Rejected” Stan Konopka, comic book artist Buzz, illustrator Ian Glaubinger, comic book writer/storyboardist Keith Giffen, illustrator Tom Mandrake, comic book writer Neil Vokes, Sta Wars comic writer Jan Duursema, inker/colorist Christ Ivy, Eisner Award-winning graphic novel artist Scott Hanna, comic book writer Erica Schultz, comic book artist Fernando Ruiz, graphic novel artist Charles Paul Wilson III and illustrator Bill McKay.
“I love coming to this event,” said Charles Paul Wilson III, who is known for his graphic novel illustrations with horror writer Joe Hill, such as WRAITH. “I’m both a comic book fan and a creator. And events like this get me from my desk and out of the house. I enjoy having different conservations with fans, seeing old friends, discussing comics and movies, and it makes me feel happy.”
And the festival staff, such as general manager Eric Bellomo, felt happy to see all the special guests and the reactions from spectators.
“This part of the year, it gets a little slow, so why not have this,” said Bellomo.“It’s always a great convention. You just can’t beat it.”
O’Hare himself could say the same thing. “I feel very good about this event,” said O’Hare.
“The Garden State Comic Fest is great family event. And the kids come in for free for they are our future! I’m hoping that I can see a lot of people with smiles on their faces and bags under their arms.”
And indeed, there were many smiles and bags under people’s arms. By the end of the day, the winter edition of this comic festival saw close to 1,000 spectators.
“The Garden State Comic Fest is fanboy’s playground,” said Ignacio Castillo, from Dover. “From the costumes, the lightsaber duels and monster toys, there’s not one thing I am displeased with. I intend to return in the summer.”
The Garden State Comic Fest later held an after-party, featuring live DJs, lip syncing battles, karaoke and dancing for all ages.
The Garden State Comic Fest intends to return in the spring at Six Flags Great Adventure on May 23rd and 24th. And for its summer edition, the festival will return to the William G. Meneen Sports Arena, located on 161 Hanover Avenue, on June 27th and 28th.