Comic book fans united with pens and comics in hand on Saturday, March 12 at New Paltz’s own comic shop, October Country. The store, which has been around for 30 years and in its current Main Street location for 14, held a signing featuring 12 different local comic book writers and artists.
Mika Giacoia, one of the store’s owners who boasts a personal collection of 120 boxes of comics, said the event grew from the roots of previous, smaller autograph signings, as well as his relations with many comic writers and artists.
“Well I went with my three friends that I’ve known for 20 years and then I asked my two friends I’ve known for 40 years separately and they said, “Oh, I already talked to your other three friends,’ and then they each had a friend that said, ‘Oh we’ll do it to cause we’re going to be in the area’ and they each had a friend that said, ‘Well if you guys are all going down then I’ll go down,’ so that’s how it grew from being four [people] to 12,” Giacoia said.
Giacoia said the event took a “tremendous amount of planning.” It was difficult to get the word out and try to
figure out the best way to reach people. It also took two days for them to collect and put together all the material the individual artists and writers have done, so that attendees would not have to look through the whole store for them. Another four hours were spent arranging the store to have room for the 12 guests to sit. All of this work required the store to have six or seven employees working, rather than the usual two.
With the artists and writers seated behind a row of tables and a long line of eager fans slowly making their way down, Giacoia aimed to create an atmosphere where the customers could really get to know the artist.
“This is a very talented group, but I think what people don’t know is what great people they are, and sometimes that gets lost in the ‘get this thing signed, I want to talk to you type of thing.’ You don’t really realize that they’re wonderful people and I think that’s why they take out their time to do something like this,” he said.
Three prominent guests at the event were Ramona Fradon, Joe Staton and Ron Marz.
Fradon, a Comic Book Hall of Fame inductee from West Shokan, is most noted for her work with Aquaman, a character whom she worked with for 10 years, and for co-creating DC Comics character, Metamorpho. She also illustrated Metamorpho’s comic book debut, a job she came out of maternity leave for. Other important works include involvement with Super Friends, Plastic Man and Brenda Starr.
Staton, a Kingston resident, has been working in the comic industry for 40 years. During the ‘70s and ‘80s he did a lot of work with superheroes, mainly Green Lantern and Batman. He then worked on Scooby Doo for 10 years and later worked for the less fantastical Archie Comics. He is currently working as an artist for long-running newspaper comic strip, Dick Tracy.
While living in the Hudson Valley has not directly influenced his work, Staton believes living in the area is very beneficial.
“This is a really great area for freelance artists, I mean there are a lot of artists around here, so you have people to be around. Also, a lot of your publishers are still in New York so you’re two hours away. You basically live in the country, but you can be in the middle of things in a couple hours, so I think it’s a great area for any kind of artist,” he said.
Marz, originally from Kingston but now living in Albany, has been writing comics for 20 years and jokes that “it’s still better than working for a living.” He is best known for his work on Silver Surfer and Witchblade. He has worked for most of the major companies such as Marvel, DC, Topcow, Valiant and Dark Horse, as well as some smaller ones.
“I’ve danced with most of the girls at the party in 20 years,” he said of his expansive career.
Other artists and writers who signed at the event were Terry Austin, Todd Dezago, Dan Green, Fred Hembeck, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Joe Sinnott, Matthew Dow Smith and Jim Starlin.
Zane Douglas, 26, of Germantown, N.Y. is a longtime comic fan who heard about the event from a friend.
“I came over to October Country today because my good friend Devon here he told me about it and to get me some books signed by some of my favorite authors and illustrators,” he said. “Ron Marz is definitely, hands down one of the best writers out there in my mind.”
With all the planning appearing to be worth the effort, Giacoia was happy with how the signing went and he hopes to make it an annual event.
“I think everybody had a really nice time and that’s really what we were concerned with the most, that there was a good crowd and that these people were kept busy and that they enjoyed themselves, and I think that everybody did that,” he said.