Calling all geeks, cosplayers, gamers, and all other manner of super fan! It's midsummer, and Florida Supercon is almost upon us. This year's four-day festival celebrating all things geek makes its debut at the Miami Beach Convention Center from Thursday July 3 through Sunday, July 6.
We caught up with Florida Supercon's fearless leader, Mike Broder, about what's in store for this year, why it's called Supercon (the original was full of Superman-related guests), and who his favorite cosplayer has been so far.
New Times: Could you give us a brief history of Florida Supercon? How'd it get its start?
Mike Broder: I am a fan. I have been going to conventions since I was about 9 or 10. I have a background of attending the shows, I've owned comic stores, and I've been a collector. I've been in the business, so to speak. I had gotten into the film business, and I was at point where I was out of it and I had to find something else to do. This was in 2006. I said, I would really, really love to put on a show, a comic convention.
The only comic-con type event at the time was in Orlando. People were saying it had to be in Central Florida, [that] South Florida was a pit, there's no culture here... [that] they don't care about this stuff [in South Florida], and they're wrong about that. I said, "You're out of your mind! I think it'll work."
So, we did it. In 2006, we did it in a small hotel in Fort Lauderdale Beach, and we got real lucky. We drew 1,500 people, and it was a success. And it was, "Alright, we got a thing. Let's keep doing this." People just kept coming. So, now there's more planning, more people involved. Now, it's a machine. We're expecting 40,000 people next week. From 1,500 in 2006 to 40,000 in 2014, it's a different world.
Holy hell, that's a lot of people! Is that what inspired the move to the Miami Beach Convention Center?
Were you there on Saturday last year? We ran out of parking. We did some insane things to get people parked, and it still wasn't enough. The venue (the Miami Airport Convention Center) only has 2,600 parking spots. I love the MACC, the people that work there are awesome, we're having multiple events there this year -- we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for that building -- but it's not big enough. We had too many people. We had about 30,000 people there last year.
We met with the city the day after Supercon. I drove to the Beach, I met with the building, I met with the city, and I said, "You got me. How do we do this?" It's the biggest building in South Florida. We're using half the building, so there's room to grow.
Were there any other options?
Well, we looked at Fort Lauderdale, but Fort Lauderdale doesn't work. The convention [center there] has 190,000 square feet in total space for the show. The two halls we're taking up [at the Miami Beach Convention Center] are 264,000 square feet, and there's room to go to 500,000. And [Fort Lauderdale has] parking for 2,600 spots. Why does that number sound familiar? It's the same as we had the MACC. Where are we gonna park them?
There was also the Fairgrounds in Miami. It's nice, but it still doesn't have enough space. They have other events going on throughout the summer, so we wouldn't be able to get all of it. I'm not putting people outside in tents in the middle of the summer! It's inhumane and it's obscene to put people outside in costumes.
Other than the location and the ability to park (yay!), what other new stuff should we look forward to?
There's a lot! It's a different show; it's bigger. There's a lot more exhibitors and a lot more artists. We've got a lot bigger names this year. Marvel's sending their manager of talent relations. Valiant Comics [and] Zenescope Comics [are] setting up.
The FSCW (Florida Supercon Championship Wrestling) has it's own arena now. So we took a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, and that's just for the wrestling. The guys are going to do all sorts of events throughout the weekend. Meet-and-greets, photo things. It's not just one show and a ring, it's a whole arena.
Our interactive department is ridiculous now. We've got developers coming. We've got Sony Playstation [and] Microsoft Store setting up. We've got two ballrooms on the main floor full of video games and PCs. Upstairs, we got the guys from the Arcade and Pinball Expo.
Each year, I try new things. We've got bigger names than we've ever had before!
Speaking of guests, which guests are you looking forward to the most?
We have guests from all walks of life. I got Big Bird coming. I mean, Big Bird. It's really cool that the guy who's Big Bird is coming.
I'm a big comic guy. This year, we have Ramona Freighton. If you're into comics and you're into old '50s, '60s, '70s comics, she drew Aquaman for years. She drew the Super Friends for years. For me, it's really cool that we have her coming. That's kind of what I geek out for.
One of the cool things is, if you're into the Power Rangers, I've got 11 frickin' Power Rangers coming. And we got Austin St. John, who's the original red ranger, and he's been out of the country for the last seven or eight years in the Middle East as a paramedic. So, nobody's seen him in years, and we're one of the first shows to have him.
And Big Bird's coming! Fucking Big Bird!
Cosplay is becoming increasingly mainstream nationally, and Heroes of Cosplay was recently here for Animate! Miami. What has your experience with the cosplay community been in South Florida?
Well, a couple of things on that: Our contest on Saturday is the largest contest of its kind in the state. We have the most entries. We have $5,000 in cash and prizes we give out, $1,500 to Best in Show. We have always taken our costume contests seriously, and that's something I'm proud of. I think South Florida has some really good cosplays, we have some really good artists down here creating costumes. I would put them side-by-side with anyone else in the state.
We as a show have embraced the cosplay aspect from day one, because it's fun! I love cosplay. I think it's awesome. It makes me happy that that worked.
Do you have any favorite cosplays over the years?
The guy who won at Animate! Miami in the space marine Warhammer outfit was insane. That was ridiculous. It's hard, because there's been so much good. But really, at Animate!, that guy was amazing. So, now who's gonna upstage that guy? And that's what it becomes. Who's gonna do better?
One thing I'm really proud of is, when Heroes of Cosplay came in, they brought their people who are supposed to be these great cosplayers. They competed in our costume contests, but they didn't sweep. They won a few things here and there, but they didn't win everything. That tells us that the local community is just as good. And nobody did anything better than that Warhammer space marine guy. There were some other costumes on that stage that were amazing. And that was all local cosplayers. That's really cool that we are at that level as a community.
Any final pitch for people to get them to come on out for Florida Supercon?
If you're into geek culture, we put on the biggest party. I hope that people come to my show, and it's a party. There are other shows out there that are bigger. And most of them are. "Here are the dealer rooms. Here are vendor rooms. Here's the show floor. We close at 6 o' clock." We go late. We have a lot of stuff going on -- over 660 events going on over four days. We've got you covered.
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But that's my pitch. We are the biggest geek party in Florida. I like to think of us as a punk rock Comic-Con.
Florida Supercon runs from Thursday, July 3, through Sunday, July 6. For tickets, the schedule, and more visit floridasupercon.com.
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