On Saturday, me and Jay from The Sexy Armpit visited the first-ever Atlantic City Boardwalk Con, a sort of generalized pop culture celebration that to me felt like a delightfully miniaturized version of SDCC.
Held at the still-sparkly Atlantic City Convention Center, “ACBC” was my best con experience in a long time. Big enough to feel like a major event but still intimate enough to not overwhelm anyone, I was impressed with everything from the layout to the variety of attractions to the damn parking garage.
The convention’s main draw was a number of big (and several not-so-big) stars doing autograph sessions, which I gleefully ignored in favor of simply exploring the floor and maybe buying some old toys. I did hear that the autograph portions of the show came with a few headaches, but for someone like me — someone who just wanted to roam free for a couple of hours while adding comics and action figures to an increasingly heavy bag — it was close to perfect.
Below are my eleven favorite things about ACBC. Here’s to hoping it returns next year!
#1: The Atmosphere.
We went on Saturday morning, and while there were a lot of people there, the convention could’ve comfortably fit twice as many visitors. I suppose that could mean that the show didn’t perform quite as well as its backers were hoping, but I prefer to think that they just invested in the right venue.
The Atlantic City Convention Center is huuuuuge. The ceiling was out of reach for anyone smaller than the Cloverfield monster. There were tons of vendors, but they weren’t sardine-packed.
This made for a great atmosphere. You didn’t need push or shove to get from Point A to Point B. You could mindlessly stop to adore some cool thing without being immediately trampled by the ten people who were secretly one foot behind you. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, and I think the extra space had a lot to do with it.
#2: The Jurassic Park Jeep.
For a small fee, you could sit inside a Jurassic Park jeep, which I assume was not screen-used, since it was fitted with a number of awesomely gaudy raptor statues. (That fee included a photo op, of course, but I was happy enough taking pictures from beyond the curtain for free.)
#3: The guy dressed like Dark Helmet.
The cosplayers were out in full force, and had I been less bashful, I’d have a hundred photos of A+ costumes.
This guy was the only one I had to snap, because holy shit, it’s Dark Helmet! Temporarily losing my graces over a Spaceballs reference, I interrupted Mr. Helmet while he was in mid-text to ask if he’d mind taking a photo. Exhausted by nonstop similar requests, he just asked me to wait one minute so he could finish up.
I happily obliged. While I did, a bunch of other people snapped photos while he was texting. I felt it’d be rude to do the same, but I can’t deny that a photo of Dark Helmet messing with his phone is probably even cooler than a photo of Dark Helmet giving me a death stare.
I’d later spot him on some big, expensive banner, indicating that he was more of a “guest” than a “visitor.” Sorry for bugging you during your five minute break, Dark Helmet! If it counts for anything, you were the best-dressed person at ACBC.
#4: Fabulous toys to ogle.
There were oodles of kickass vintage toys for sale at the con, but since even reasonable convention prices skew higher than eBay, I mostly just looked.
Despite their intent to sell, I felt like a lot of these dealers should’ve left tip jars out. Some of the booths had so much great stuff in such meticulous displays, it was like visiting a bunch of tiny-sized toy museums. The chance to just browse certain booths felt like it was worth a buck.
#5: Fabulous toys to actually BUY.
…of course, not every toy was too expensive to buy, and I’d have felt lousy about the experience if I didn’t go home with several new/old pieces of junk.
Sorting through bins of loose figures is my favorite part of any convention, and on that front, ACBC did not disappoint. One dealer had neatly organized bins for virtually every major action figure line that I could name. Another tossed ‘em all into “2 for $5” boxes, which are even more fun to dive into.
If you were at ACBC and didn’t see me, it’s probably because I spent the whole morning on my knees, trying to dig old He-Man figures out from piles of ugly Starting Lineups.
#6: This ridiculous prize wheel.
Lots of dealers had interesting gimmicks, but this had to be my favorite. For five bucks, visitors could spin a wheel and win any number of prizes, from small piles of comic books to pricey toys.
This wasn’t an opportunity to be missed! For a brief moment, I felt like I was on The Price is Right. Sadly, I landed on one of the “standard” spaces, which only got me three random comics… comics that certainly would not have been worth five bucks if they didn’t come with the chance to spin a wheel.
(I didn’t mind falling short on the gamble. We were in Atlantic City, after all.)
#7: The Funko Claw Crane.
I’ve seen Funko claw cranes in regular arcades many times. Experience has taught me to ignore them, since literally two people have ever won anything from those.
Course, they’re a lot harder to resist when they’re randomly situated the middle of comic conventions. (Still no less unforgiving, unfortunately. I lost every quarter in my pocket.)
#8: The Ecto-1!
Well, the Ecto-1A, at least. It’s not a precise replica of the Ghostbusters’ famous ride, but I don’t sweat the details: It’s a big white car with all kinds of light-up equipment on it, and that’s good enough for me.
“Cars” were the biggest trend of the convention. We had this one, the Jurassic Park jeeps, a bunch of Batmobiles, and even a Back to the Future DeLorean. Even if they weren’t always screen-used artifacts, it was such a blast to just be in the presence of ‘em all.
#9: Free chocolate.
Oh yeah! Free Krackel!
Thanks, vendor, for the candy.
But how old is it?
#10: Imperial Troops!
These Star Wars cosplayers were stationed right near the entrance. Course, the costumes were so top notch that calling them “cosplayers” sounds like an undersell. Clearly they came to ACBC through some wormhole from a dimension where Darth Vader really exists. This is why I feared getting too close.
#11: Going home with new treasures.
I was pretty happy with my finds, even if I do slightly regret blowing ten bucks on the novelization of Mewtwo Strikes Back. (On the other hand, no convention visit is complete until you buy at least one thing that you should’ve left on the table. It’s the silent second admission price, just as mandatory as the first.)
That plastic bag is full of action figures, which I’m deliberately shielding from view for reasons that will be made clear tomorrow. For now I’ll just say that my typical Atlantic City experience involves losing money at the poker tables and going home with nothing but regrets. This time, I went home with vintage G.I. Joe crap. It felt way better.
OVERALL: Terrific convention. If ACBC comes back next year, and you’re local enough to take part, don’t miss it. You’ll see crazy costumes, you’ll buy old comic books, and you might even score an autograph from the guy who voiced Roger Rabbit.
Keep an eye on The Sexy Armpit, too — I’m sure Jay plans to write about his experience later this week!
Oh, and my latest Star Wars piece is now live! Go read about the Battle at Sarlacc’s Pit Game, which is soooo much cooler than whatever you’re imagining it to be.