By Kevin Coughlin
Cosplayers attending this weekend’s Garden State Comic Fest at Mennen Arena will have to prove to Morristown police that their weapons are not real.
For that minor inconvenience, they may be rewarded–with original comic book art and maybe, even a real uniform and gun.
PBA Local 43 will be distributing 500 free prints of Superman and Supergirl, created by up-and-coming Israeli artists Idan Knafo and Bella Rachlin.
“I think it’s very cool. It will be very helpful to the recruitment process,” Chief Pete Demnitz said Thursday at police headquarters, where Knafo and Rachlin autographed prints for officers and for Mayor Tim Dougherty and town Administrator Jillian Barrick.
“We thought this was a really good way to reach people we might not ordinarily have contact with,” said PBA President Brian LaBarre.
State Civil Service exams for police jobs are offered every three years, and this is one of those years, explained Barrick. The town is encouraging residents to apply.
The comic book connection was made through Sgt. Mike Molnar, a fan (Wolverine is his favorite character) who took his family to the first Garden State Comic Fest, three years ago in Roxbury.
Molnar struck up a friendship with festival co-founder Dave O’Hare, a comic book collector who launched the convention with his pal Sal Zurzolo to win a $20 bet.
They anticipate thousands of comic book fans will come on July 9 and 10, 2016, to check out collections of more than 30 dealers who will span two rinks (sans ice) at the arena in Morris Township.
Knafo and Rachlin hope that someday their work will be treasured by collectors, too.
The 28-year-old Knafo emigrated from Tel Aviv to Dover three years ago to hone his skills at the renowned Kubert School. Rachlin, his girlfriend, joined him there this spring.
Both have served their mandatory stints in the Israeli military. Rachlin, 23, said the experience improved her artistry, which grew from a simple love of drawing.
“You learn discipline,” she said of Army duty. “This was my hobby. Now it’s my work, and I know how to deal with it.”
Festival co-founder Zurzolo, a former litigation assistant, said the Superhero theme was appropriate for the police.
“These guys are the heroes in real life,” he said.
The Garden State Comic Fest runs from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, at the Mennen Arena, 161 E. Hanover Ave., Morris Township. Tickets: $25-$45. Call 973-326-7600 for more.