2016 New Jersey Comic Expo Has an Asian Touch

Article by Luis Vazquez
Photo by Ram Hernz

The assemblage of booths and artists, writers, cos-players and a plethora of other creatives was quite an impressive sea of talents in Edison, New Jersey for this year’s New Jersey Comic Expo. We had a lot to things to sample on this day as you could separate the showroom into different cliques of sorts. You had the 401st Legion organization which displayed the majority of costumed Star Wars figures. The writers and authors had their turf and the cos-players were laid out in a row in preparation for shoots and contest for best cos-player outfit.

We should start here because the lifeblood of these cons and expos are the people who put in the time creating outfits we know well but are often constructed by their respective hands and minds. Ones that stood out was the trio of Transformers and Voltron. Batman, Spiderman, and Michael Myers were natural favorites while Kylo Rens were everywhere but wonderfully distinct. We had Magicians, whales from Beast Clans promoting their new games.

But the cosplayers contest was the best example of original thought poured into actual characters. Enter Joy Delasalas, a 24-year old New Jersey native who spends her day in front of a computer and uses cosplay as an outlet and a labor of love for three years now. “Cosplay helps me relax and express myself through my creative side,” Joy points out.

Sean Chen

Joy selected the character of Pharah from Overwatch, which she mentioned was done for an online contest where she live streamed the process. Joy had a duel reason for this selection. “I decided on Pharah because no one really cosplays her,” Joy explained, “I also found a full armored cosplay a challenge since I have never done it before.”

For two and one-half months, Joy worked on the construction. How the parts were processed is a story Joy is happy to share and demonstrates the love for this field of creativity. “The armor and gun were constructed by hand using templates I drew myself with everything made from eva foam.” Joy broke it down in laymen’s, “There are PVC pipes in the wings and are inserted into another pair of PVC pipes hidden in the back of the armor.”

As important is how to keep the costume together in one piece preventing unfortunate spillage under the discerning eyes of fans directed at you from all directions. “It was sealed with plastic dip and painted with metallic blue spray paint and I used Velcro, straps and buckles to connect everything together. The results of this piece of fine work culminated in her winning the 2016 NJCE Cosplay Contest.

Amy Chu

Passing by some authors we got a peek comic book artist and Sean Chen who is famous for his drawing of Iron Man for Marvel Comics. He also did Elecktra, X-Men: The End and Wolverine, which was highlighted proudly behind him. He was quite intense as he was kept busy doing original penciling for fans. When Chen is not doing comics, you can find him designing furniture and home renovations with kitchens and countertops a specific specialty.. He also has a line of toys and figurines. So, in this world we learn that even writing can be the mask of the everyday person.

Props are so important and with the Mystery Machine, Batmobile, Ghostbusters Truck, and the Tardis you had a great representation of iconic pieces arrayed around the showroom. In another corner celebrities Steve Coulter, Major Dodson, and Lew Temple from the Walking Dead signed autographs along with Rob Bruce, AMC’s Comic Book Men expert and Catherine Dyer from Stranger things provided special attractions throughout the day.

A special presentation was Neal Adams never before seen Marvel Kiss Art which got Gene Simmons particularly excited. This brings us to writer Amy Chu of Red Sonja and Poison Ivy fame. She was recently commissioned to write a new series of comic stories involving the band Kiss. We spoke to her about this and other topics trending the news. “I feel I entered an alternate reality, I never thought I would be writing Kiss Comics or comics at all, what can I say we’re in a black mirror episode basically.”

As a writer Amy can tell you it’s harder for employers to gauge your work compared to artists who can use a portfolio. Add to that the fact that women writers are prevalent in the independent scene but not so much in the mainstream comic world to provide that example or helping hand. Chu credits her community for providing a sound base to reach out for her dreams. “There’s not many women writers or Asian or Asian-American for that matter. Here’s the thing. I’m coming out of the Asian-American community where it’s very active in non-profits” Chu explained “I feel very comfortable in my identity. I’m entering a field where there’s a lot less. Maybe it would have been different if I had just come out of college. I’ve been working for a while. I’ve worked in Wall Street situations, a lot of places where I was the only woman or Asian. This is fine. I can do this.”

Amy Chu can see the irony of how people who spend their days in solitude creating good copy can suddenly become as known and appreciated as the characters they write about. “It really is a grind and you do doubt yourself often,” Chu pointed out. Yet celebrity status has been bestowed on the formally invisible and it’s a double-edged sword. “I think it’s true for society in general. We love celebrities and we can pretty much do anything and somehow get some celebrity status out of it I suppose,” Amy responded, “Hopefully people are more interested in my writing. That’s what I get a kick out of.”

But the reward Amy Chu would tell you is the feedback. It where you really see first-hand what people think of your work. Such is the case of a man who during this expo who came up with a Kiss comic and spoke about it being his first concert he attended coming from India at age 16. “I’m writing this comic for him and people like him I thought,” Amy shared. In addition Chu introduced a new character on Poison Ivy and was surprised in the response she received. “I worked really hard to make that diverse. I brought in an Asian-American character that plays a significant part in Poison Ivy’s lab,” Chu explained, “ A lot of people came up saying they loved the story. Not to stereotype but again these are people I would not necessarily have thought would be telling me they enjoyed this story. I have had guys come up. They never really picked up a book with a female lead before and they were pleasantly surprised.”

As surprised as most of the United States was when Donald Trump won the presidency recently? Amy has her opinion on the unknown territory ahead but reiterated the role that comics and the people in the industry have always had in pointing out all real world issues through their characters storylines and thus continuing to connect directly to the people who experience it. “It’s tough. There are a lot of people who were very much surprised. I’m a pretty practical person. It’s like good to know it’s out there and always has been and makes me want to write more,” Amy summarized, “In all honesty a lot of us in the business are changing our comics to really say something about what’s going on in the world right now. It’s always a part of my script anyways if you read my stories. I do try to have metaphors and some commentary in society and you will be seeing more of that.”

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