COMICS PORTAL: Florida Supercon 2014

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Conventions are now taking place across the country, and this past holiday weekend, I had the chance to attend the ninth Florida Supercon, this year held at the Miami Beach Convention Center from Thursday, July 3, until Sunday, July 6.

This was their first year in this venue, and it was a wise choice. Thursday was pretty quiet, then Friday definitely picked the pace up quite a bit. As usual, the busiest day was Saturday, which was so packed that it was difficult to get around the con at times. On Sunday, attendance seemed to return to Friday levels, which made it a good time to get those last-minute bargains at the many dealers selling their wares.

I had the chance to speak with the convention’s Operations Manager Sandy Martin, who told me that the show has blossomed from about 1,500 in attendance the first year until this time, with an expected 40,000 or more ticket-buyers being there. She confirmed something for me that I’ve always wondered about these conventions, that media fans buy more tickets than the comics people do. Still, there was a goodly number of comics pros there as well as media stars, so I’m sure most people were pretty happy they were there.

When asked if she felt the con was a good deal for fans, she emphatically said it was. Each day contained more than 100 things to do, so paying $30 to attend for that day was a great value compared to taking a movie. And I agree with her on that!

A SUPERCON, NOT A COMIC-CON

Florida Supercon, Invader Zim, Arrow, Manu Bennett, Miami Beach, Kaare Andrews,  George Perez, DC Comics, Peter David, Danny FingerothI know that for more people, this is likely just a detail, but I was happy that the convention was not a “comic-con.” With all those media folks attracting their fans, it made better sense that the show is called a “supercon.” It drives me to distraction that people still trade in on San Diego Comic Con’s exposure to name their convention similarly.

And let’s face it, with a huge variety of things to do, calling it a “Florida Supercon” makes more sense. If the person or persons speaking didn’t demand your attention, you could go to the two gaming rooms, each full of computers to use. Or you could watch one of the movies (both fan films and professional ones). And if none of that grabbed you, there was a very big dealers’ area full of vendors from across the East Coast anxious to take your money in exchange for their wares, including t-shirts, art, action figures, DVDs and other items I bet you’d have had a tough time finding outside the convention center.

What intrigued me the most was the way comics artists and guests were featured in the main auditorium. There were interspersed among each other in the several rows, with the main media folks along the back wall. Oh, and you could get your photo taken in the DeLorean from the Back to the Future film franchise as well there. There were a lot of anime guests and attractions, in the same area, and the main speakers forum attracted a lot of attention as well.

Once you got past an eating area, there was a second auditorium where the dealers could be found. I was intrigued by the fact that many artists and writers, both professional and not-quite pro yet could be found on the right side of the room as you entered. You could get autographs, posters and various other items there among the stars including Neal Adams and Kaare Andrews.

THE GUESTS WERE A BIG DRAW

There were actor/actress “reunions” of certain shows including Spartacus and Invader Zim. Arrow was well represented by four stars including Manu Bennett, Katrina Law, David Nykl and Celina Jade. Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek graced the con as well. Anime and other voice actors were there, too, so you got quite a lot of variety for the money!

Comics pros could be found at their individual tables, but they also took time out to present discussion panels. The one I enjoyed the most featured Tony Bedard and Jeremy Haun discussing their work at DC Comics. They delved into quite a lot of comics topics, and I think the audience left feeling they’d learned a lot.

Artists like Kevin Maguire and George Perez are always a big draw, but it’s nice to see writers get attention as well. Peter David, Timothy Zahn and Danny Fingeroth were among the scripters there, so the wordsmiths were very well represented.

I have to give credit to artist Greg Horn, who had a big booth and really did a great job in selling his stuff. He had several deals set up and interacted with fans a lot, and it made some of the artists who sat at their tables wondering who the people walking by were look pale by comparison. Wow!

There were only two comics companies there in full strength, and they were Valiant and Zenescope. Valiant ran a panel discussing upcoming product, which I enjoyed. Where were the rest of the comics companies?

THINGS TO IMPROVE ON

Florida Supercon, Invader Zim, Arrow, Manu Bennett, Miami Beach, Kaare Andrews,  George Perez, DC Comics, Peter David, Danny FingerothI’ve mentioned many of the positives to this year’s Florida Supercon, so let me talk about some things I feel could go more smoothly next year.

On Thursday, the first day I was there, I noticed that there were no program booklets being handed out. When I asked about that, I was told that there were none. I figured that with all the Internet info, they’d decided not to make them. That’s why I was pretty surprised and a little disappointed when they appeared on Friday. Next time, just say they’ll be available tomorrow instead of flat-out lying to a client.

The movie rooms were pretty good, and I got to see William Katt’s Sparks, which I had read previously when the comics version came out. I also saw a gripping fan film called Joker Rising, an update of the origin of Batman’s nemesis. It was something dark and moody, just like the Joker, but I almost didn’t see it. The guy in charge of the movies said the machine wouldn’t work and that the movie would be shown at a different time. I was just about to get up and leave when someone else came in and got the player to work. I know everyone can’t know everything, but it would have been great if the guy in charge understood the machines he was using. Just a suggestion!

I mentioned that only two comics companies were there, and I’d really like to see more next time. Granted, it’s not a “comic-con,” but I’m sure a goodly number of us were there for the books. I think you’d also draw more comics-oriented ticket-buyers that way!

Still, it was a great experience. I used to go to the cons to spend hundreds of dollars, but now I go to make connections for interviews to appear on my podcast. I think that if you went, you had a good time no matter what you were looking for!

To check out this event’s website, go to this link: http://floridasupercon.com/. I haven’t found any scheduled date for 2015 yet, but I’m sure it will be back, so keep an eye on that site! It was fun and a half and well worth the money to attend and enjoy!