This past weekend, the Tampa Bay Comic Con brought comic fans from all over Florida together in one place to meet celebrities, buy art, comics, and collectibles, and of course, cosplay. The event took place on April 6th and 7th at the Doubletree Hotel in Tampa off of West Cyprus Street. The event started at 10 a.m. on both days, and ended at 6 p.m. on Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
On Saturday, the convention kicked right off with a panel on the world of cosplay, called “Cos-Mods” at 11 a.m., and a nerd trivia at noon, where the winning team received one hundred dollars. At one o’clock, there was a panel with the Artist Clayton Crain, the American comic book artist best known for Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation. There was a Speed Dating event held at 2, a panel for Drake Bell at three, an “Iron Men” panel and costume contest at four o’clock and a panel with Emily Kinney at five.
I arrived at the hotel at 1:30 and the first thing I noticed was the crowd; there were barely any parking spots. The bank next to the hotel was closed, so my family decided to park there. As we reached the hotel, we saw the SuperVan: a blue, red, and yellow van that was redesigned from a Volkswagen minibus. There was a flag waving proudly from the roof, and a cape on the back. When I looked inside, there was a Superman air freshener, and Superman himself was sitting in the driver’s seat! Bumblebee, the famous Autobot from Transformers, was parked in front of the van. Seeing these two vehicles put the event off to a great start. We went inside and saw that the ticket line was longer than anyone, especially the ticket booth volunteers, expected. There was a huge turnout to the convention; but everyone was able to get a ticket.
I walked into the main hallway leading to the main convention hall and spotted the green Power Ranger. He greeted me, took a picture with me, and gave me a hug afterwards, saying that he had to go fight crime. I eventually made my way to the convention hall with the vendors to my left, and a conference room, where the panels took place, to my right. I walked through the vendor room first, and saw a plethora of comic book stands, collectibles, art, and gifts. One of the vendors was a woman named Christine Saunders, who is the operator for her accessory shop on etsy.com, known as “Kitsch and Crossbones.” Everything she sells she made by hand including bows, flowers, bottle cap magnets, and dangle earrings. One artist who was selling prints of her works was named Danielle Gransaull of Orlando, who draws in a cartoony style, giving the characters a cute look to them. Some of her works on sale featured Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Leela from Futurama, and Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame.
Drake Bell, the voice of Spider-Man and Peter Parker in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man and star of Drake and Josh, was one of the most anticipated guests of the Tampa Bay Comic Con. Fans, especially young children, filled up the room and asked him numerous questions about his career as an actor, songwriter, and singer. One of the fans asked him to do an old bit from The Amanda Show, called “Totally Kyle,” where he played a laid-back surfer who always started his stories with, “One time at band camp…” He was also asked about when he worked with Josh Peck and Miranda Cosgrove in Drake and Josh. He sang one of his songs called “I Found a Way.” I approached Bell after the panel and asked him since he was a singer/songwriter, if he has been asked to be on Fox’s hit show Glee. Here is what he said to me:
“You know, I actually got really close to being on the show, but… I’m not really into the show anyway. So, no, you won’t be seeing me on Glee.”
At four, the “Iron Men” panel began. Bob Layton and Luke McDonnell, the former artists of the Iron Man Marvel comic books, talked about their career and roles in the series. Iron Man was originally going to be cancelled, because it did not have enough fans. Layton came into the picture and started redoing the entire series, adding the protagonist billionaire Tony Stark, making his suit made of actual iron, and adding in villains that would not need a suit of iron to fight Iron Man. I jumped right in with the first question, asking which suit of armor was their favorite; Layton chose the Space Armor from Iron Man #278, McDonnell chose the grey armor from Tales of Suspense #39. Layton started talking about the upcoming Iron Man 3 movie and said that almost all of the suits will be featured in the movie, and said that he “cringed” when he learned that Pepper Potts would be having her own suit, which I discovered is the “Rescue” suit, according to the comics. I then asked both artists if they like Robert Downy Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow playing as Stark and Potts in the movies and here was Layton’s answer:
“When I first saw Downey playing as Stark, I told him that he seemed too old to play the role. He actually came to me and asked that himself, because he really wanted to get into the part. As for Potts, her personality compared to the comics and movies are VERY different. Pepper was in love with Tony, and Tony kept sleeping with his employees. So Mrs. Bambi Arbogast was hired. She was immune to Tony’s charm, and would fire insults back at him and humiliate him. In the movie series, Potts’s brain was practically switched with Mrs. Arbogast’s. Gwyneth is a great actress, but her character is not the way it should be.”
The costume contest was taking place at the exact same time as the Iron Man panel. There were two levels in the contest: 12 and under cosplay and Adult cosplay. Unfortunately, due to my attendance in the Iron Man panel, I was unable to attend the contest and see the winners. But I can say that some of my favorite costumes were a really detailed Scarecrow from Batman, featuring patchwork and glowing tubes in the gloves for his trademark hallucinogenic serum, Russel, the Wilderness Explorer from the Pixar movie Up, complete with balloons tied onto his backpack, and Lumpy Space Princess from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, in which the girl attached purple balloons to her clothing and put a gold star on her forehead. I asked how the outfit was holding up, and she said that none of the balloons had popped yet, but she still had nothing to worry about if they did.
Emily Kinney, the actress who plays Beth Greene in AMC’s The Walking Dead, took the table next. Many convention goers were eagerly waiting to find out any detail they could about her role in the zombie-killing hit. I asked her what would be her choice as the most emotional moment while filming the show, to which she answered the suicide scenes from season two, and the scene where Herschel Greene gets his leg amputated after getting bitten by a Walker in the season three premiere episode “Seed.” Kinney revealed that filming for season four of The Walking Dead will begin in May of this year.
On Sunday, the convention’s events started off with speed dating at noon, a second Drake Bell panel at one, a panel with comic legend Rich Buckler at two o’clock, another Walking Dead panel with the return of Emily Kinney and the addition of Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie Greene on The Walking Dead, and is also known for her role as Bela Talbot on Supernatural. A costume contest also took place that day, and again, I was unable to find out the winners. Tampa Fire Marshalls had to stop some guests from even entering the hotel, saying that the convention center was over capacity. Many people were forced to turn and leave. The team responsible for the Tampa Bay Comic Con apologized for the incident via Facebook, and offered to send full refunds to guests who prepaid for their tickets but were sent away, and guests who paid for a Thanos poster drawn by comic book artist Joe Jusko but were unable to pick it up would have it sent to them for free. Hopefully the convention will be in a much larger venue next year, but either way, the 2013 Tampa Bay Comic Con was a great experience.