I am a nerd. Or at least I thought I was. I'm not so sure now.
Underneath my bed is a long plastic container bulging with the comic books I collected throughout my adolescent years; it's heavier than Superman's once dead body. I have two shelves of graphic novels, a Batman sticker on my laptop, and I'm writing this article while wearing an Iron Man t-shirt and staring at my newly rediscovered Gamecube.
None of that prepared me for my first ever Florida Supercon.
Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center this past weekend, Supercon was a smorgasbord of pop culture, niche entertainment, and übergeekiness. The first few days I spent agape, my eyes darting back and forth between the nerdy eye candy populating the convention's three floors. I cautiously dipped my toe into the dork pool by wearing my Doctor Who/Star Wars combo t-shirt. That was a smart move because I spotted no less than thirty Doctors throughout the weekend, ranging from the scarf toting Tom Baker incarnation to Matt Smith's bow tie and tweed ensemble. By Sunday, I'd gone native in a full-on Joker costume because Supercon says that's totally cool.
While the convention offers an array of events including, but not limited to, panels featuring Hollywood actors, comic book creators, and experts in every field of geekdom, it's the people attending that made Supercon truly special. Although yes, there are plenty of attendees who purchase their outfits, there are a greater number who craft their costumes themselves. Those DIY costumes were absolutely marvelous in terms of creativity, detail, and passion. Scan the massive main halls where vendors hawked clothing, comics, vintage game consoles, and their own original artwork and you'd likely see any number of your favorite characters from various media: South Park, Men In Black, Adventure Time, Attack On Titan, Resident Evil, and more.
For those reasons, the highlights of Supercon had to be the costume contests and anything else that involved audience participation. Saturday evening held the grandest of the competitions with a slew of prizes in separate categories for kids, groups, and special awards. However it was the grand prize for best in show that everyone was battling for: $1,500 in cash and a lifetime pass to all Supercon events. The winner was a brilliantly colored and meticulously crafted dragon outfit.
Perhaps the only thing that trumped the costumes was the general attitude permeating Halls C and D and the adjoining conference rooms. No matter the oddity that climbed on stage, whether they succeeded or failed, the audience was supportive, wall to wall. Even fellow competitors applauded and cheered for their opponents. Say what you will, but a Supercon crowd is incredibly friendly and encouraging of one another, especially if one of their brethren has the guts to leave themselves vulnerable and give it a go under the spotlight. Case in point was Sunday night's talent show, labeled the Masquerade Costume & Performance Competition. It was a showcase of energetic dance routines, cosplay skits, and strange one-man soliloquies. The big winners were a trio who nailed it as live action versions of the Animaniacs. Then again, the real winners may have been the audience. We saw toddler Yoshi break it down to an EDM remix of the Super Mario Bros. theme music, the Goblin King (Queen) sashay with a real baby in hand, the Last Airbender spin his poi staff like a Jedi master, and a little boy and his dad in a stage fight as a character from Saint's Row: Gat Out of Hell and Red Hulk, respectively (AKA Parenting done right.)
If Supercon has any faults, the main one has to be the dismal food court. For an event that runs late into the night, the options for lunch and dinner were downright dreary. Overpriced sodas and hot dogs, disappointing pizzas sitting in lukewarm containers for hours, and only one quasi-Asian food stand? Supercon deserves better. It deserves something more worthy of the effort invested elsewhere.
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That said, the organizers did bless the con with one shining item: Power-Up Peach IPA. Supercon brought in a local business, J. Wakefield Brewing, based in Wynwood and rated the best brewery by New Times this year, to produce this one-of-a-kind Supercon exclusive. Rich and fruity, Power-Up Peach was a homerun for both J. Wakefield Brewing and the brains behind Supercon.
Speaking of adult fare, Supercon also excelled in that department. Each night between 7 and 8, the first floor was cleared out and the kids were sent home. It was time for the watershed portion of the entertainment. Friday night jokes about race, gender, and culture (pop and Peruvian alike) flew at the Revenge of the Nerds Comics! Comedy Show. Still, not even those comedian's raunchiest jokes could top the weird shit that made me laugh later on. Let's just say that there's a damn good reason that the Funimation Peep Show and the Not Another Hentai Panel are strictly 18-plus. I can't unsee some of the depravities I witnessed. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is completely ruined for me.
Supercon was exhausting, but in the best way possible. Running around trying to catch everything was a blast. Legendary comic book artist John Romita Jr. answered my questions about Kick-Ass, the 8-Bit Wave orchestra from Miami thrilled those of us playing old school arcade machines (Frogger, Pac-Man, various pinball) in the Palm Ballroom for free (FREE!), and I laughed when Brett Dalton (Grant Ward, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) crashed Hayley Atwell's (Agent Carter) Q&A session. Above it all though, what struck me the most was the sense that for one glorious weekend, a giant group of awkward outcasts had a safe, happy place to congregate and live out their fantasies. Supercon embraces any and all, from the cross-dressers to the way-too-serious Doctor Dooms and that is super.