Convention: Atlantic City Boardwalk Con
Location: Atlantic City, NJ
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 1st annual Atlantic City Boardwalk Con (ACBC). The show was held in Atlantic City, NJ at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
I first heard about ACBC in early 2014. With Stan Lee as their headline guest and the boardwalk & casinos just a few steps away, I immediately identified this as a show with a lot of potential. In the months leading up to the convention, regular updates were provided through the website and social media. It wasn’t difficult to get the information you needed if you looked around for it. Slowly but surely, the guest and exhibitor lists were released and the public was updated accordingly. In the months leading up to the show, I did reach out a couple of times through the website and social media with questions, but didn’t receive a response. However, with a little extra digging, I was able to nail down all the information I needed about the show anyway, so not really a big deal to me. I can only imagine the number of emails being sent and received by a first year show.
From the time I exited my car in the parking garage, I was constantly greeted by the convention center employees, who were very knowledgeable about the event and eager to help me find my way. This isn’t always the case when attending shows held in larger venues. Since the building staff is not affiliated with the show, often you find them less than enthusiastic to assist us geeks with our needs. This was NOT the case at the Atlantic City Convention Center this past weekend. Their staff deserves a big thank you. When I finally made it to the show area, ACBC volunteers were eager to assist people with all of their needs. There were volunteers assigned to manage the queue lines, as well as additional volunteers available to assist with questions. As soon as I arrived, I was escorted in to pick up my credentials for the weekend. I was allowed on to the show floor about an hour early and got a chance to watch the exhibitors and creators setup. The ACBC volunteer group was moving at full speed to help in any way possible, just like their counterparts outside assisting show attendees. Show organizer Michael D’Alessio made himself available to volunteers and show attendees for the entire weekend. He was available for questions prior to doors opening on Friday, and spent a great deal of time providing interviews to any outlet interested in speaking to him. Also a nice touch, for the entire weekend, he personally made announcements over the PA system about photo-op & autograph times for all the attending stars and which creators were available at their tables. He could also be heard making missing children announcements and general inquiries into how everyone was enjoying the show. I can’t say enough about the friendliness Mr. D’Alessio displayed this weekend, and his positive vibe definitely trickled down to his staff.
The show floor itself was laid out extremely well. For the most part, larger exhibits were placed around the perimeter, leaving the interior of the show floor for vendors and creators. Ample space was provided to attendees to maneuver around all there was to see and do. The media stars were all placed in a separate autograph and photo area where their lines never interfered with the show floor. I spoke to people at the show that were there just for comics and there just for the media guests and everyone I chatted with was appreciative of the separation. In artist alley, the bigger names were spread out pretty well, which prevented the bumper to bumper traffic you often run into at shows. Also, I noticed some creators were actually moved during the show or prior to the next day to address any potential issues there may have been.
I imagine for a first year show trying to prove itself, the guest list is the hardest part to nail down. ACBC came out shooting for the stars and announced Stan Lee as their headline guest. As the guest list grew throughout the year, it was obvious that the organizers were serious about getting this show off to a good start. ACBC had a great list of media and comic guests assembled leading up to the show. Unfortunately, a number of the larger guests, including Stan Lee, cancelled their appearances as the show approached. There were still a fair amount of media guests available for fans, but the comic creator list took a big hit. I was disappointed in communications regarding cancellations from ACBC. I had to reach out directly to creators and dig around on social media to find out about most of the cancellations. Cancelled guests were eventually removed from the website, but for a team that promoted their guests so heavily leading up to the show, more transparency about cancellations would be appreciated by fans as well. To their credit, they had a well-organized plan in place for handling questions about cancelled guests. There was a dedicated booth in the media area where attendees could go to inquire about refunds, which is not always the case at comic conventions.
The ACBC had all the sights and sounds of your typical convention. Stan Lee Collectibles stole the show with the Stan Lee Museum. This was a walk through booth filled with all sorts of items from Stan’s collection. In addition to tons of autographed movie memorabilia and props, there was an awesome display of the different armors worn by Iron Man throughout the movies. Also on display was a jaw dropping assembly of art. Some of my favorite pieces were personal sketches from Bob Kane, Will Eisner and John Romita to Stan “The Man”.
Another highlight of the show floor was the Wonder Woman Museum, containing items and drawings from the family of Wonder Woman creator William Marston. Of all the attending publishers Marvel had the largest booth but I found Valiant’s staff and setup superior. Batmobiles, Jurassic Park Jeeps and Ghostbuster station wagons were all on display at the show. Toys were everywhere, but I found the floor a little light on comic dealers. I hope that changes in future shows.
The organizers and staff of ACBC should be proud of the show they put on. It wasn’t the biggest and it wasn’t the brightest, but it was fun. There really was something for everyone there. While the cancellations were disappointing, I have full confidence that once word of mouth gets out about this show, obtaining creator commitments will not be a problem. If the show was successful and returns for another year, I will be in attendance, and I would recommend you try to make it down to the Jersey shore as well.