By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Noah Lepore, 8, and his 3-year-old sister, Giuliana, were swinging their lightsabers like fully trained Jedi Knights while following the commands of their costumed Star Wars instructors.
“Are you ready?” one instructor shouted authoritatively. “Lock your left shoulder. Lock your right shoulder. Duck!”
Noah, Giuliana and the rest of the kids on stage at the Ocean City Music Pier during the OC-Con convention crouched down and then quickly popped back up to go on the attack with their lightsabers.
If George Lucas ever needs a new generation of superheroes for his next Star Wars epic, Noah and Giuliana will be ready, now that they have received their training.
Young would-be Jedi Knights like Noah and Giuliana, movie characters and an array of other superheroes were on display Sunday at OC- Con, Ocean City’s annual comic book and memorabilia convention free to the public.
The family-friendly fantasyland of comics, movies, trivia and other fun stuff returned this weekend after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organized by the city and the Ocean City Free Public Library, the event had been scaled back to only the sports and memorabilia portion of the show in 2021.
This year, the entire OC-Con event was back following the lifting of crowd restrictions as the pandemic has eased and COVID-19 vaccinations are readily available.
Ocean City held its first OC-Con event in 2016. It was so popular that the city and the library decided to make it an annual event. This year’s version was held both on Saturday and Sunday.
“OC-Con fans are so exciting, energetic and interesting,” Library Director Karen Mahar said. “The OC-Con is very family-friendly. We are not as hardcore as comic cons that you see in major cities, but we offer a little bit of everything for the comic con, comic book enthusiasts.”
Choreographed lightsaber training conducted by Star Wars-costumed members of Saber Guild Zeffo Temple was among the kid-friendly activities. Tara Lepore, of Bensalem, Pa., smiled while watching from the audience as her son, Noah, and daughter, Giuliana, swung their plastic lightsabers on stage.
“It felt like a cartoon,” Noah said afterward.
When her mother asked her whether she was ready to appear in the next Star Wars movie, Giuliana simply gave a nod of her head.
OC-Con featured a lot of star power – both in real life and of the imposter type. The show’s featured guest was actor and voice actor Roger Clark, who portrayed Arthur Morgan in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2.
Satya Byers, 15, of Egg Harbor Township, dressed up like Edward Scissorhands, the artificial humanoid character with scissor-like hands in the 1990 movie of the same name starring Johnny Depp.
It took about two hours for Satya to put on the black costume, plastic scissor-like hands and elaborate makeup reminiscent of the Edward Scissorhands character.
“I’ve seen the movie a lot, around 20 times. I studied it to nail it,” Satya said of the nuances of her oddball character.
She was uncanny with the facial expressions and movements of Edward Scissorhands. Fans at OC-Con appreciated her impersonation.
“They get really happy. They say it really looks good and is really cool,” Satya said.
During the 20 or so times she has seen the movie, she has grown fond of the Edward Scissorhands character.
“I like how intricate he is and also his personality,” Satya said. “I like how he looks tough and scary, but is really so soft.”
During its two-day run, OC-Con also featured meet-the-artist tables, discussion panels, a costume contest, a superhero run and obstacle dash, trivia and games on stage hosted by “Nerdvana.”
The OC Pops, Ocean City’s orchestra, was on hand Saturday to perform comic book-themed music to add to the exciting atmosphere.
In addition, there were about 15 vendors and 20 artists selling their products and showing off their talents.
One vendor, John Tudor, was selling comic books ranging in price from $1 to $175. One of his most valuable comic books was a pristine X-Men Adventures first issue from 1992.
Tudor, 71, of Mays Landing, a private collector of graded comic books, said OC-Con is such a popular event because it packs so many family-oriented activities into one venue overlooking the Boardwalk.
“I think it’s because it is right on the Boardwalk, which is a good location. I also like it because of the fact they put on so many different activities,” he said.