New Haven Comic Spectacular Lives Up To Its Name

Kiomi Rincon | June 11th, 2023

New Haven Comic Spectacular Lives Up To Its Name

Culture & Community  |  Arts & Culture  |  Visual Arts  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative  |  Literacy  |  Comics  |  Annex


Artist Joe St. Pierre. Kiomi Rincon Photos.

Inside the Annex’s YMA Hall, New Haven’s most dedicated comic book enthusiasts were in full form. The air was thick with the loud chatter of favorite superheroes, best plot twists, and laughter. Colorful booths pulled visitors in to enthusiastically sift through boxes of vintage comic books and new releases. Classics shone from their protective covers, waiting for someone to take them home. 

Announcers' voices echoed  through the air as someone announced the chance to win a raffle with original art and prized collectibles. 

On a recent Sunday, comic book lovers from across New Haven gathered for the most recent New Haven Comic & Collectible Spectacular, a prelude to this month’s June 24 follow-up show. The first of two exhibitions this year, it showcased multiple successful comic book writers, artists, and publishers, all excited to share their work with the Greater New Haven community. It was organized by Thomas G. Fiore, who has been running these events since 2011

“It’s always been part of the town!” Fiore told the Arts Paper in an interview about the event last year. 


Comic enthusiasts were able to find more than just books at the spectacular. Booths are full of collectibles, action figures, new comic literature, collectable cards, vintage toys and more lined the tables. Alongside Star Wars and superhero legos were Squishmallows and Care Bears, drawing in customers of every age at the event. 

Among the artists showing their work was Joe St. Pierre, a comic book artist, writer, creator, and publisher based in Massachusetts. St. Pierre, who was at the event for the first time, traveled to the Annex to greet fellow comic book enthusiasts and share information about his work.  

Though it was St. Pierre’s first time at the New Haven’s Comic and Collectible Spectacular, he is not new to the world of the comics industry. St. Pierre is known for his work on a multitude of Marvel projects, including Spiderman, Venom, Fantastic Four, and X-Men. He’s also worked with DC Comics doing work for Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Batman. 

Sunday, St. Pierre said that he takes special pride in his own work, The New Zodiacs. The New Zodiacs is St. Pierre’s version of a comic book universe, where there are superhero characters each based on one of the zodiac signs. St. Pierre’s lifelong fascination with astrology and astronomy fueled his passion project, basing the main characters off of each of the different zodiac signs. Grabbing his favorite characters, he paired each of them with a zodiac sign and gave them all unique powers. 


Artist, author and publisher Adam Wallenta. 

An array of vivid colors drew visitors to a booth run by Adam Wallenta, a comic book illustrator, author, and publisher of the award-winning graphic novel Punk Taco. After recently moving back to Connecticut, Wallenta was contacted by Fiore to run his own booth at the event. Having attended the event five times prior as a comic enthusiast, Wallenta had formed connections with New Haven’s artists, customers, and organizers, and gladly accepted. 

After a long history of interning at companies such as Marvel and DC Comics, Wallenta had his heart set on creating pieces that could bring his family together. As an artist, Wallenta has an independent spirit. “Whenever I have an idea and if other companies aren’t interested in it, then I just do it myself,” he said. 

When Wallenta’s son, Makana Wallenta, told his father about his idea for a taco-themed superhero, Wallenta put all his projects to the side, investing his time and energy to bring Punk Taco to life. What started as a  way to spend more quality time with his son morphed into an unexpected path to success. In 2019, the Wallenta family won numerous awards for Punk Taco, including the 2019 Ringo Award for Best Kids Comic or Graphic Novel and the Kids Comic Award for best sci-fi and fantasy. 


After seeing such success with his first volume of Punk Taco, the second quickly followed. Wallenta is currently working on his third and fourth book to the series. He said that being able to meet old and new fans at events such as the Spectacular, something he normally wouldn’t be able to do, brings him joy. 

Wallenta added that it’s exciting to see so many people support young artists like his son. He is now able to watch children and parents looking at each other with joy across their faces as he signs their books. 

In the booth next to Wallenta, Robert J. Sodaro eagerly chatted with  some of the other creators at the event. Sodaro is a comic book writer who has been writing since 1986. Two full decades before that, Sodaro read comic books, finding his love for them became more than just a hobby. He has been attending this event for over 20 years, hosting a booth at the event since it started back in Milford. 

Having written professionally for 40 years, Sodaro showed a multitude of his work from the course of his profession. As he showed off some of his work, he explained that he started off as a journalist in the 80s, and wrote comics for the magazine Amazing Heroes. Sodaro developed his writing skills and went on to create original stories. He went on to write comic books from a variety of genres. 


T.C. Ford and Robert J. Sodaro.

Some of the work he takes most pride in are First in Flight, Agent Unknown, and Wolf Girls, the last of which is still forthcoming. Wolf Girls is a comic book about pre-teen girls who are wolves, seeking revenge and justice as they attack pedophiles. Sodaro was inspired to write this comic book after a frightening trip to the mall that ended with him losing sight of his youngest daughter. 

Although she was all right, Sodaro kept on thinking back to that day, and wondering what could have happened if something had gone wrong. He used the fear he felt during that time as fuel to write a comic book in which two girls were able to not only defend themselves, but protect those who needed it. One of his publishers, the New Jersey-based imprint Dark Fire Press, is planning to release the book later this year. 

Sodaro said he enjoys being able to get new people interested in comics at events like the Spectacular. In particular, he said, he is drawn to the concept of heroism. 

“The concept of someone coming to save you, someone who’s going to defend your right, and to keep you from getting bullied by aggressors, is just amazing to me,” he said. “As a parent, it's part of my job to protect my kids and as a writer it's my job to protect other children as well. Those who are being bullied need to have something to look up to, and I hope that can be comic books and a love for heroes.”  

Sodaro works with multiple publishing companies, including the Annex-based imprint United Comics. The company, helmed by longtime writer, illustrator, and avid comic book reader TC Ford, publishes a broad line of comics, highlighting how extensive comic book literature can be. 

At Sunday’s event, Ford said he wants to focus on bringing back the spirit and feeling he got from comics when he was growing up decades ago in Bridgeport. When he first discovered comics, he was drawn to the breadth of genres, written for a wide audience range to enjoy them. 

He recalled how when he was younger, he used to be able to pick up a newspaper and read anything from superheroes to slice of life or comedy in the comics section. Now, he’s trying to reignite that spirit. 

The company he runs also aims towards having comic books available for more affordable prices. In the next months, he plans to begin printing on newsprint, which will lower the price for readers who may be curious or excited to pick up a new story, but can’t afford the up-front cost. 

“You’ll see how much some of these comics are worth these days and it’s crazy,” he said. “ Our comics are sold for around $1.99 in full color just the way they used to be. For our collectors edition it’s just a bit pricier because we produce them in a smaller quantity, selling for around five to ten dollars.”  

He said he hopes that by having these comics for a lower price, more people will pick it up and fall in love with United Comics’ works. 

This article comes from the 2023 Cohort of the Youth Arts Journalism Initiative. Kiomi Rincon is a senior at Hill Regional Career High School.