Comic con coming to A.C. in May

Stan Lee arrives at the premiere of The Avengers in Los Angeles in 2012. Lee will be a guest at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Con in May.

Fans of comic books and all things geek can add Atlantic City as a must-visit destination. The first Atlantic City Boardwalk Con will be held from May 14 to 17 at the Atlantic City Convention Center.

The ACBC will be the first full-sized convention of its type in the city.

Celebrity guests include: Marvel Comic book legend Stan Lee, who will do a special one-on-one stage interview with filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith; Michael Rooker of "The Walking Dead" and "Guardians of the Galaxy"; and Manu Bennett of "Arrow," "Spartacus" and "The Hobbit." Marvel Entertainment, Boom! Studios, Aspen Comics, Zenescope and Top Cow will be among the publishers. Marvel Comics is the company behind such popular comics and movies as Spider-Man, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

Comic artists and writers who have worked on such titles as "X-Men," "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Iron Man," will be there. There also will be a Marvel Con-exclusive merchandise store.

The most famous comic convention, Comic-Con International, will be held from July 8 to 12 in San Diego. New York Comic Con will be held from Oct. 8 to 11 in New York City, and Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia 2015 will be held one weekend before the Atlantic City event, from May 7 to 10.

Mike D'Alessio, founder of ACBC and the CEO of Promoguys Marketing Group in Red Bank, has spent the past nine years designing, building and co-hosting the Marvel booths at Comic-Con International and New York Comic Con. This will be his first time producing a show of this magnitude on his own. If the show attracts more than 45,000 people, as he thinks it might, it would be the largest consumer show in Atlantic City history, D'Alessio said.

"Why do something and then say, 'We should do something bigger?'" D'Alessio said. "The East Coast needs a true comic book/cosplay show presummer."

Organizers hope to entice fans to come to Atlantic City with a big emphasis on cosplay, where people dress up in costumes as a favorite character or an idea.

The convention will feature three cosplay events: the first coronation of "Miss Cosplay USA" with Manu Bennett, 50,000 square feet of space and seven big backgrounds and screens for free cosplay photo ops and a cosplay "War Room" that features costume changing areas, costume repair stations, costume creation stations, body paint stations and more.

And Atlantic City residents and visitors will be made aware that the convention is in town when a "Midnight Masquerade" parade takes place on the Boardwalk.

Boardwalk Con will use 350,000 square feet inside the convention center, said Jim Wood, president and CEO of Meet AC, the city's new convention-sales group. The economic impact of people attending a consumer convention such as Boardwalk Con, which is open to the public, is $125 per person outside of the convention itself, Wood said.

"There are thousands of conventions out there, and any city can only hold so many in a given year. A lot of them are rotated regionally or nationally from a geographic standpoint, and it's just now finally our turn to get it," Wood said. "We're thrilled when a client says yes to Atlantic City, and it's up to us to do everything we can once they say yes to provide the best service possible. ... If the attendance is strong enough, the client will say, 'We broke records. We want to come back.'"

This event is another example of the importance of meetings and leisure marketing working together to diversify our tourism economy, said Jeff Guaracino, the Atlantic City Alliance's executive director.

"Booking new events in Atlantic City is important to attract new visitors who - if they have a good time - will be more likely come back again and again," Guaracino said.

Contact Vincent Jackson:

609-272-7202

CONFERENCE - Atlantic City Boardwalk Con will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. May 14 to 16 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 17 in the Atlantic City Convention Center, One Convention Boulevard, Atlantic City. Prices range from $20 for a Thursday pre-party pass or a Friday or Saturday after-hours party pass to $140 for a limited VIP package four-day pass. A Stan Lee autograph costs $80, but there is a $200 charge for the Stan Lee VIP experience. Boardwalk Con tickets are currently on sale. For more information, visit doacbc.com

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