Big things are happening in nerdom. Game of Thrones is back, we have a new lady Doctor, and Spider-Man: Homecoming has redeemed a character whose recent big-screen outings had put the franchise in more peril than Gwen Stacy’s neck.
In the center of it all, as always, are the fans. They spend the money and shape the future of upcoming projects. But box office records aren’t the proper gauge of the geek industry’s health — comic conventions are. In South Florida, look no further than Florida Supercon, the state’s largest event, expected to draw more than 50,000 attendees between July 27 and July 30.
After several years at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Supercon has moved to the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. The change comes as a result of the MBCC undergoing extensive renovations through 2018. Though the drive will be farther for Miamians, it should hardly dissuade the hard-core cosplayers, megafans, and even curious gawkers. Why should it? With more than 750 hours of programming and another healthy collection of celebrity appearances, Supercon will be worth the gas money. Here are a few ways to stay busy this time around:
1. Meet your favorite celebrities. By meet, of course, we mean shake hands, profess your love, flash your naughty bits, and try not to have a full-on geek meltdown. Here’s a shortlist of celebrities scheduled to appear:
Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who): Photo ops at 11 a.m., 2:30, 2:45, and 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. Sunday.
John Barrowman (Arrow, Doctor Who, Torchwood): Photo ops at noon Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who): Photo ops at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 and 12:45 p.m. Sunday
- Levar Burton (Star Trek: Next Generation): Photo ops at 3:15 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
Pro wrestlers Ric Flair, Sting, Mick Foley, and Amy “Lita” Dumas and comic book artists and writers Sara Pichelli, David Finch, Jim Shooter, Keith Giffen, Neal Adams, and Ed McGuinness are also among this year's favorites. Check the celebrity photo op schedule for the full lineup.
Though autographs and photos are encouraged, they’ll cost you, so choose wisely. For those with tight budgets and the ability to zoom in on their camera phones, celebrity panels are good spots to snap the people you’d happily share a restraining order with. Among them are a DC Comics panel with stars Rafael Albuquerque, Keith Giffen, David Finch, and Peter Tomasi (1:15 p.m. Saturday); a conversation with Adam Nimoy, creator of a documentary about his father Leonard Nimoy (2:15 p.m. Saturday); and a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Justice League International with co-writer Keith Giffen and artist Kevin Maguire (6:45 p.m. Friday).
Also, Chandler Riggs, AKA “Carl,” the world’s most annoying adolescent from The Walking Dead, will be there. Suppress the urge to chuck arrows and rocks at him in hopes of taking out his other eye. (3:45 p.m. Saturday).
2. Learn the business of entertainment. Inherently, comics, films, novels, and other forms of media will inspire budding artists and creators. Throughout its four days, Supercon will present a multitude of panels that offer advice, encouragement, and a chance to network in fields ranging from book-writing challenges to running a proper artists' table at a con. Want to learn how to 3D-print your cosplay props? There's a class for that (Intro to 3-D Printing Prop-Making: 1:30 p.m. Saturday). Considering launching your own podcast? Podcast4SciFi's lecture could help (Podcasting for Money, Fame, or Fun: 11:30 a.m. Sunday). You can even learn how to be a mermaid (Mermaiding for Pros: 6:15 p.m. Saturday).
3. Time-travel at the old-school videogame arcade. Yeah, you could sign up for the caffeine-fueled marathon tournaments Overwatch (11 a.m. Saturday) or Super Smash Bros. (2 p.m. Saturday). But for those of us who don’t live with our moms and simply want some stress-free gaming, Supercon is happy to oblige. At its old-school videogame arcade, attendees can relive (or experience for the first time) the button-mashing joys of coin arcades and pinball machines. They're games with simple graphics but will still test your reflexes and sometimes your patience. Regardless, it will totally be worth blasting away the mothership with only one heart left.
4. Cosplay your heart out. Every incarnation of Supercon brings out some of the most creative and painstakingly crafted outfits that fertile minds armed with PVC and spray paint can assemble. For both amateurs and pros, there are a half-dozen competitions to achieve glory, and thus plenty of fantastic opportunities to people-watch for the rest of us mere mortals. In addition to the main Supercon Costume Competition running throughout Saturday (prejudging begins at 10:45 a.m.) and the Junior version the day before (4 p.m. Friday), there’s also the Supercon Video Game Costume Contest (7:30 p.m. Friday) and the Supergirls & Superboys of Supercon “Late Night” Costume Contest (10:45 p.m. Friday). With thousands of dollars in cash prizes and spots for cosplayers of any talent level, there's no reason not to enter. Cosplay contestants compete "runway-style," so it isn't enough to merely look like Batman — you need to sell that shit. Grapple across the stage or punch a Joker doll into the crowd. It's performance art meets nerdy arts and crafts.
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5. Watch weird-ass late-night entertainment. Whether they’re part of the Geek Film Festival or just a random, one-off midnight screening, movies at Supercon are never devoid of truly bizarre, often disturbing subjects to sate your sick fetishes. Everything from horror to sci-fi to tentacle porn is on the menu. The Troma Fan Film competition, sponsored by the 4-decade-old film production company known for The Toxic Avenger and other shocksplotation movies, should be a quirky journey through the very terrible and the truly awful — but, you know, in a good way. Titles include Beyond the Woods (8 p.m. Thursday) and The Return of Mizuno (midnight Sunday). If sitting in a dark room being exposed to strange stuff isn't for you, do it in under lights: The Halo Kitty Improv Comedy Show (midnight Saturday), the Hentai Costume Contest (11:30 p.m. Saturday), the Late Night Taboo Interactive Game (11:45 p.m. Friday), and the Supercon All-Star Burlesque Variety Show (11:30 p.m. Saturday) all offer events after the watershed, for the 18-and-up crowd.
6. Relish random awesomeness. With diversions such as K-pop dance-offs; Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog coming to life, complete with pineapple-shaped lamps; and Pokémon dating games, there's never nothing going on Supercon. Bring your wallet for the massive expo rooms filled with geek merch. And don't forget to charge your cell phone. Taking photos of cosplayers roaming the halls in elaborate outfits is one of the best parts of Supercon. Most people will be superfriendly and will happily pose for your blurry selfies.
Florida Supercon. Thursday, July 27, through Sunday, July 30, at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-399-1330; floridasupercon.com. Admission starts at $22.50 with promo code SUPER10.