Alma College anime convention draws fans and artists from across Michigan

Charlotte Bodak/Staff Photographer Essexville resident Erica Tatum, left, Lansing resident Ashley Pennell and Alger resident Morgan Whitman, right, stop to sit and rest after a full day of visiting different vendors at Alma College's Almacon, an anime convention, in Alma Saturday afternoon. "Being around people who are so full of energy is really exciting," Pennell said.

ALMA — Anime artists, publishers and fans came together at Alma College this weekend to celebrate their work and the anime culture at the third-annual Almacon.

Hundreds of people, many dressed up as their favorite anime and video game characters, came to the Alma College campus for the convention.

One of the most popular attractions at the convention was the Dealers’ Room, where vendors sold everything from multi-colored wigs to candy imported from Japan.

One of the booths in the Dealers’ Room belonged to Adam Withers and Comfort Love. The husband-and-wife duo is the artistic force behind some indie comic series like "The Uniques," "Uniques Tales" and the graphic novel "Rainbow in the Dark." They have been drawing comics and self-publishing them since 2008.

“It’s just something we’re drawn to,” Withers said. “Storytelling is a huge part of our lives and who we are. The ability to do it through art is a beautiful thing.”

Love and Withers were both attracted to reading and drawing comic books at a young age.  Withers said comic books are a unique entertainment medium because anyone, even a child, can make a comic.

The pair lives in Flint but travels all around the country to attend similar conventions. Love said conventions are a good way for them to connect with their fans and other people with common interests.

While attending another convention earlier this year, Love and Withers were contacted by the Alma College Otaku and Gamer group, who host Almacon.

“We didn’t even know that this con existed,” Withers said. “They offered to bring us in. It was an easy choice.”

Many of the other vendors were also from the mid-Michigan area.

Nicholas Whitney, a Farwell resident and first-timer at the convention, was in the Dealers’ Room selling miniature terrain for tabletop games like Warhammer. Founder of the company Modest Magic, Whitney chose his career because it combines his passions of gaming and engineering.

University of Michigan student Alicia Kovalcheck came to the convention to sell prints of her watercolor paintings, which featured characters from shows including "Doctor Who" and "Adventure Time."

Grand Rapids native Tobie Sidell’s booth had prints of her artwork, as well as handcrafted key chains.

“I like to go to the smaller cons more because they’re more social,” Sidell said.

Almacon is one of the youngest and smallest anime conventions in Michigan. Youmacon, which is held at Detroit Marriott's Renaissance Center, had over 12,000 guests this year.

Erica Tatum, dressed as Merida from the movie "Brave," goes to conventions regularly. She came to Almacon with her friends because of Alma’s proximity to her hometown, Bay City.

Although access to the convention was free and open to the public, a percentage of the profit from the vendors and the proceeds from a 50/50 raffle were donated to various charities such as Relay for Life, Mandi’s Maniacs and the ALS Association.

Other events at the convention included panels featuring celebrity voice actors, anime screenings and video game tournaments.


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