Queen Amadala promenaded through the aisles of vending booths at the Miami Airport Convention Center this past weekend. The Star Wars royal was among hundreds of cosplayers who attended the new comic convention Supercon Retro.
The event, which attracted about 6,500 people, was packed with veteran conventioneers and curious locals attending a con for the first time. This steady conversion of intrigued Floridians to the Dark Side — "geek culture" — has fueled more conventions in recent years, especially niche ones.
Retro, for example, was organized to allow Miami-based geeks/cosplayers to relive the sweet days before Supercon (the largest "geek gathering" in South Florida) blew up into a statewide phenomenon, garnering nearly 60,000 attendees. Hence the "Retro" name.
Because many local geeks haven't been keen on traveling to Broward to attend Supercon at its new venue — the Broward County Convention Center — Retro was spurred to enliven the Miami base of conventioneers.
“Some people just won't cross that county line," says Sandy Martin, the cofounder of Supercon Retro. "We decided to run a pop-up event in the spring before Florida Supercon to reinvigorate our Miami fan base. The retro theme came out of a return to our old building where Supercon got its start in Miami.”
The affair this past weekend certainly felt more intimate than its larger counterpart. Across the convention center, celebs such as Zach Callison, the voice of Steven Universe, talked one-on-one with starry-eyed fans, and on the second floor, smiling geeks, many dressed as anime characters, huddled around tables to play card games, particularly Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon.
In the gaming room, geeks of all ages sat beside one another in tight-knit clusters as they played videogames. There were "ooh"s and "ah"s as players made special attacks in Super Smash Bros. "You don't hurt friends," one gamer said. "You murder them!"
“Our conventions bring us all together for a few amazing weekends each year," Martin says of the event's turnout.
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Though Retro was successful in gathering local geeks, especially for its debut, it might, ironically, become a victim of the trend that spurred it. The geek scene in South Florida is growing and doesn't show signs of declining. Smaller-scale events such as Retro might have a difficult time surviving in the same marketplace as Super Conventions' other cons: Supercon, Animate! Florida, and Paradise City Comic Con.
It's a quandary, but one that's positively spurred by geeks, en masse, learning to just be themselves in public.
“There are more geeks than ever,” Martin says. “It's cool to be a geek now.”