Artists, Cosplayers And Gamers Converge At Showboat For Final Day Of J1-Con

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ATLANTIC CITY — Aquaman stood in the middle of a wrestling ring and decided to diss New Jersey.

Spider-Man was having none of it.

More than one hundred of the J1-Con-goers Sunday afternoon surrounded the ring hoping their Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man would defend Atlantic City from its undersea intruder.

J1-Con, a Philadelphia-based animation and gaming convention, wrapped up its third and final day in the Convention Terminal of the Showboat Atlantic City hotel. Cosplay Pro Wrestling company, which performs in the Tri-State area, ran the in-ring battle.

J1-Con, produced by J1 Studios LLC, started in Philadelphia in 2012 and has been held at Showboat since 2018. Its focus is on animation, gaming, comic books, art, music, education and content creation. According to the site, J1-Con is the longest-running 100% Black-owned anime convention in the U.S.

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The large convention space was filled with dozens of vendor tables, ranging from collectibles and video games to artists, crafters and more.

Christine and Benjamin Chang, who both come from international families, love sharing the different snacks found around the world.

The Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, couple have owned their exotic snack and drink business for about two years, she said. Christine’s parents came to the U.S. from Romania, and Benjamin’s family is South Korean.

“We’ve traveled, and our families bring a lot of snacks and such, so we wanted to be able to provide that for people,” said Christine, 35. “It’s stuff that not a lot of people can access. It’s a lot of fun.”

Their table included snacks unique to their respective countries, mostly representing Japan, China, India and Korea. They go through international suppliers to keep their store stocked. Christine hopes to add more snacks from eastern Europe, especially Romania.

The chips are the most popular, Christine said, pointing toward a bag of cucumber-flavored Lays from China. There were also the various flavors of Kit Kat bars from Japan, like strawberry, whole wheat, chestnut and matcha.

“We do a lot of gaming and anime conventions and also sell everything online, have subscription boxes and stuff like that,” said. “Everything is sold a la carte.”

Several of the con-goers were dressed in cosplay of their favorite anime, video game characters and more, a variety that included characters from Pokemon, Super Mario Bros. and comic book heroes. One man even dressed as Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, whose media day emo look became an instant internet meme this summer.

Elie Junassaint Jr., 47, of the Whitesboro section of Middle Township, was dressed as a Wasteland Wanderer and wore a Vault Boy mask, a character from the video game Fallout. He loves shopping for different costumes when he goes to conventions, this one he got mostly from Spirit Halloween.

“For me, finding a costume is the hard part, for a guy like me. It’s more about finding the right size,” said Junassaint, who is pretty tall and likes to go to a couple events a year. This was the second time he’s been to J1, and he attended all three days this weekend.

Some cosplayers went the homemade route, including Brian Baume, whose mother, Joyce, put three days of work into making her son’s Megumin costume, a character from the anime series “KonoSuba.”

“The hard part was looking at a picture online and trying to draw it out and do the height for him,” said Joyce, as Brian towered over her.

Brian, attending his fifth-ever convention, said a lot of people have enjoyed coming up to take pictures of the costume, which can be taken as a compliment and the mark of a good cosplay.

“We had a great time, and everybody has been very friendly,” Joyce added.

Venders over the weekend didn’t just include those looking to only sell their wares. There were cosplay repair stands and others doing on-the-scene painting.

Hill Payne, who has been doing free-hand airbrush work for 32 years, had his own line of clothing and masks he was working on at his table. The 57-year-old from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, said he works conventions about five times a year, and they are always great for his business.

Payne, who went to school for advertising, said he once was walking through a Philadelphia mall when he saw a guy doing free-hand spray work. The art style immediately caught his attention, and after several visits back to the guy’s stand and helping clean up shop in exchange for some tips, Payne began his own business.

“This weekend has been great so far. I took care of my overhead (costs) on the first day,” said Payne, who has two shop locations back home.

One of the other things he does at conventions is help add to cosplayers’ costumes.

“I like to do the conventions because it not only gets the word out, but it gets residual business,” he said. “Some of the things I do complements what others do. The cosplay people may need help to fine-tune a costume, do touchups, make muscle definition on a costume, make the guns look more realistic, putting shades and shadows, the rusted look. All those things can be added quickly with airbrushing, and cheaply.”

Collaboration goes a long way at these conventions, added Kahyia “Kai” Parris, an artist who was selling prints of her original work as well as fan art from some of her favorite video games and movies.

“It’s been pretty nice. It’s a nice little scene,” said Parris, 23, of Philadelphia, adding once the afternoon rolled around, the convention picked up with more people.

Parris took advantage of any downtime she had, especially in the mornings, to network with other artists and content creators. She said a smaller convention really gives her an opportunity to connect, learn new styles or help open doors for new projects.

“It’s just a nice way to put yourself out there,” she said, “and also meet people who are in the same niche of interest that you are, you know, so you don’t feel so alone.”

Contact John Russo: 609-272-7184

Twitter: @ACPress_Russo

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