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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
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Comic Con fans take fantasy seriously

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It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a whole lot of people dressed like Superman.

The Tampa Bay Comic Con kicked off Friday at noon, but by 11 a.m. a line of costume-clad fans had already formed, leading from the host location of the downtown Tampa Convention Center past the Marriott Waterside Hotel.

The classics were on hand — Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Batman and of course the Man of Steel.

But new heroes who were created outside the world of comics — from “Game of Thrones” and “Twilight” — were also represented.

There were even “Shark­nado” costumes and some people dressed as characters from the popular video game “Minecraft.”

As the sun beat down on those waiting in line, and the 95-degree heat soaked their costumes with sweat, some of these new heroes drew scorn from the classics.

“Comic cons used to be about comic books,” said Derek Hutchinson of Orlando, dressed in a matching Captain America costume along with his son Jason. “Now they’ve added vampire movies and cartoons and novels to it, and comics have gotten lost in the hysteria.”

This year’s program includes plenty of comic-related activities. Guest speakers include Daniel Cudmore who portrayed Colossus in the movie “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and Gerard Christopher, star of the early 1990s television series “Superboy.”

But there are also guest speakers such as John Rhys-Davies who played Gimli the dwarf from the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy, and Pedro Pascal, otherwise known as Oberyn Martell from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

While each now has comic books, some comic fans in line pointed out that they were originally novels that earned the bulk of their acclaim in recent years through television and film adaptations.

“Most of the fans here to see them probably never read a comic in their life,” said James Evans of Sarasota, who was dressed as Clark Kent. “I feel there are more people here who can quote ‘Twilight’ than who know Superman’s real name.”

The convention expects to welcome nearly 50,000 people between Friday and Sunday, based on advance ticket sales. Veterans of the convention grudgingly admit that increased attendance is due to the expansion from comics into the world of all things fantasy.

Luis Romero of Tampa has been attending for four years. He remembers when he could park nearby and walk right in. Now, he said, he has to arrive hours early to ensure a good place in line.

“I’m fine with the other fans being here,” Romero said. “It brings a big crowd here and I always wanted Tampa to have a major comic convention.”

For father and son John and John Folsom of Tallahassee, the all-encompassing event provided them both with something to enjoy.

The father grew up on “Star Wars.” The son was dressed as Havok from X-Men.

“There is something for everyone here,” said the father. “My wife will even be here later. She loves Star Trek.”

Then there is the Hatfield family — father Todd and sons Jacob and Hunter of Gibsonton.

Hunter was introduced to the Transformers through the modern-day cinematic interpretations that die-hard comic fans complain about for straying too far from the original comics from the 1980s.

After seeing the movies, Hunter began reading the old comics. He fell in love with them. He made sure his costume depicting the Transformer Soundwave was blue as he was originally drawn rather than purple as he is portrayed today.

“He believes in the old school characters,” Hunter’s father said proudly.

Still, Tampa’s Romero, wearing shorts and carrying his Spider-Man suit in a bag to change inside the air-conditioned center, wishes there was more focus on comics and less on other genres.

“It should be at least 80 percent dedicated to comics. It feels more like the other way around,” he said. “There are conventions for science fiction and cartoons and even zombies. Why is the comic convention the only one that has to share with everyone?”

Should organizers rename Tampa Comic Con?

Romero, smiled and quipped: “Yeah, Line Con.”

pguzzo@tampatrib.com

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