The last comic book convention I attended was in a small musty room by the airport. You paid five bucks for admission which allowed you the chance to buy rare comic books from obese dealers and get a couple copies of your comics autographed by whichever artist was the guest of honor. The attendees were twelve year olds and the only women present were Moms who drove the kids to the show.
Florida SuperCon exemplifies how far these conventions have come. Now held in a massive two story space (still by the airport), there were as many women present as men and very few twelve year olds. Comic books make up a small subset of what the SuperCon describes as a celebration of geek culture. Over fifty musical groups were performing, toys and samurai swords were being hawked, and minor pseudo-celebrities were in the house.
The biggest surprise was how effective anti-bullying public service announcements have been. There was no mockery anywhere by anyone no matter how deserved. The bullies must have been turned off by the thirty dollar admission fee and the packed parking lot.
You were surrounded by people in costume many of which were jaw dropping impressive like the six foot lady in green paint who paraded around as She-Hulk or the Dr. Doom who even with his pot belly looked like a force to be reckoned with. I wanted to get photos with the worst of the lot. I got a picture with a white guy dressed as LeBron James, but he was so grateful to get any attention it took the fun out of continuing the quest for bad costumes.
The main floor of the convention space had rare comics in pristine condition. You could buy the first appearance of Wolverine for a grand and the first Avengers for ten times that. But most of the collectibles being sold were items I owned in 1987. GI Joe figures in their original packaging, old Nintendo games, and VHS copies of movies like The Predator and 48 Hours. Comic professionals waited patiently for people to pay for them to sketch something. One man fought the good fight to raise funds for a museum to celebrate the work of Jack Kirby.
The mother lode was in the video game headquarters. Not only was there free play of fifteen different pinball machines and old school arcade games, there were also a zillion TVs with video game consoles from my youth. You could have your pick of playing virtually any game for the old Nintendo system or the Sega Genesis. As a nine year old this would have caused a debilitating seizure. But the surprising facet was how few kids thee were. This was a convention center filled with adults determined never to grow up or brush their teeth.
Back in the main room obscure actors sat around waiting for fans to pay forty bucks for an autograph. There was Sulu from Star Trek with a big smile on his face, next to him was Andrea who had just been killed off on The Walking Dead TV show. The longest line wasn’t for an actor, but for a guy who did the voice of a character on the cartoon Pokemon. For $20 he’d leave a voice mail message on your phone. For $50 would he clean your apartment?
I got there at noon, but attractions kept me there hour after hour. Finally it got to be night, and I figured I’d try to get into the VIP party where there was an open bar. With my lowly press pass I was told the room was filled to capacity. Then I saw a familiar face being allowed in with a couple scantily costumed superheroines. Wasn’t that bearded African-American guy the Governor’s henchman on The Walking Dead TV show? I guess even at celebrations of geek culture there are still hierarchies.
Finally, after a long Friday and it nearing ten I decided to go home, but I had to walk by the giant wrestling ring where a guy in a Spider-man outfit was wrestling Sandman. Spider-man won by split decision. I got up as the clock said eleven. But then out marched a twelve man tag team bout. Grown adults dressed as Super Mario and Luigi were fighting the Power Rangers. This I had to see, but now I was worried it might be Sunday night before I would be able to leave this place