With the X-Men’s Storm, Star Wars’ Boba Fett and Transformers’ Bumble Bee waiting in the parking lot, any passerby could tell that something a bit strange was going on.
The DoubleTree hotel on West Cyprus Street in Tampa was host this weekend to a vast assortment of galactic warriors, super-heroes, zombies and several other interesting and distinctive characters during the Tampa Bay Comic Con. People of all walks of life came, some decked out in elaborate costumes to see acclaimed artists and celebrities, buy comic books and memorabilia and discuss their favorite series with fellow fans.
“Comic Con’s awesome, had a blast bought some comics of course,” Hayley Miles, a fan who was dressed up as the Fourth Doctor from the BBC television series “Doctor Who,” said.
“And we’ll be back again,” Lauren Dickman, dressed as the Eleventh Doctor from the same series, added.
Though it was shut down by local fire marshalls on Sunday evening for over-crowding conventions such as this one offer a place where fans can connect face-to-face with their fellow fanatics and celebrate the stories and characters they love.
Amid the various Doctors and Avengers, 106 exhibitor tables were set up around the convention for fans to peruse. Some tables were selling vintage comic books, rare collectibles and memorabilia. Others were loaded up with zombie fighting paraphernalia and superhero fan art.
Well known comic book artists, such as Arthur Suydam the Zombie King and artist behind Marvel’s Zombies, were displaying their work, signing autographs and talking to fans. Other major comic book writers at the event included Rich Buckler, Clayton Crain, Jenny Frison, Joe Jusko, Bob Layton, Clay Mann and Luck McDonnell.
Unknown artists also had their own exhibition tables were they could sell and share their art and comic books, pick up some new readers and talk to comic book lovers about their work. Among these were Scott McClenaghan and Alex Williamson, the creators and writers behind an indie comic book series called “Remnants.”
“We started writing ‘Remnants’ about 10 years ago,” Williamson said. “It was a bachelor party trip to New Orleans, so that’s why New Orleans is kind of the center of the story.”
Williamson said they were inspired by all the architecture and art of the city particularly the stained glass windows of St. Michael’s Church.
“Just all that stuff kind of began to form little story scenes in our heads and we just started to link them together and create a fiction around them,” Williamson said. “We’re big fans of fiction and role-playing games and science fiction, so all of that background just started to come out in the story. We just kind of ran with it and began to self publish it about a year ago.”
Many of the lesser known artists self published their work primarily using the Internet.
Williamson said that is the only way these days.
“It is a lot easier to do it now than it ever was,” Williamson. “Before you would have to do the traditional submission style, which is, do your book send it to someone print it then they’d throw it in the trash. Through the internet you can get to millions of people through sites like Facebook and stuff like that, you don’t need distribution like you did ten years ago.”
Conventions such as Tampa Bay Comic Con present great opportunities for new artists to build up their name and fan-base in a more personal setting.
“We were looking for conventions to get set up so we did this one, we did MegaCon in Orlando,” McClenaghan said. “Really this is not about any kind of cash income, it’s just about trying to get people to recognize the name. We finally get people who are like ‘we’ve seen you at other conventions’ and things like that so it’s pretty cool.”
Comic Con attendees could participate in a number of different activities including costume contests, celebrity and artist panels, an art contest and even speed-dating. Celebrity guests included Drake Bell who is currently voicing Peter Parker on “Ultimate Spider-Man,” and Lauren Cohan and Emily Kinney of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
The next Tampa Bay Comic Con will be held Aug. 24 and 25.