By Maddie Orton
If you’re by the Atlantic City Convention Center this weekend, you may see some interesting characters. It’s the first-ever AC Boardwalk Con. CEO and Founder Michael D’Alessio is a Jersey guy himself. He says demand for conventions has grown. And a big springtime convention by the shore could see tens of thousands of visitors.
“Let’s just put it this way. Avengers came out two weeks ago, number one movie, $200 million opening weekend plus. It wasn’t just the traditional comic fans and the fan boys and fan girls. This is something everybody likes,” D’Alessio said.
D’Alessio says even in the past four or five years he’s seen a surge in interest. He attributes this shift to, among other things, super hero movie franchises, and shows like The Big Bang Theory that celebrate conventions and cosplay.
“If you’re not familiar with what a cosplayer is, they’re the people who make their own costumes, they dress in the costume, and then they bring the costume to life. The community is very inclusive. We don’t care if you’re black, if you’re white, if you’re disabled, if you’re abled, young, old. It’s all about skill,” he said.
And, perhaps more than other cons, ACBC is offering a fair amount of “infotainment” to help attendees hone their skills.
D’Alessio says a big focus of the con is the ACBC School for Gifted Fans, featuring classes on everything from sewing spandex and hosting podcasts to creating characters.
Artist Bryan Tillman is teaching Character Design 101. And body painter Mythica will talk about her art form and her time on TV — she was a contestant on the reality competition Skin Wars. So what’s their advice for cosplayers?
“Practice it a few times before you come to cons. Make sure to take the time to make your makeup even,” Mythica said.
“You have to have a good story in order to make it work because even if you go, ‘This is great. I love the way this looks,’ and then you start putting a story on top of it, you’ll start realizing that you know what? That coat won’t work or those gloves don’t make sense,” Tillman said.
“Be like a little kid and just play really. That’s the best thing you can tell anybody,” Mythica said.
And playing is what makes it fun for attendees like Yasu Tano. He flew in from Vegas for the event and was a winner at last night’s costume contest.
“I know a fair amount of folks here, but it’s just the people you meet and people who you can really connect with on so many levels,” he said.
“Seeing all the cool renditions of it and like, this is steam punk this character and that’s goth that character,” said Mags Erickson.
“It’s an amazing experience. My best friends are in cosplay,” Tano said.
AC Boardwalk Con runs through Sunday. Special guests will include New Jersey’s own Kevin Smith, Adam West from Batman and the one and only William Shatner.