Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the phrase “comic con” meant, simply, an organized gathering (a.k.a. convention) of comic book fans, getting together to buy, sell, trade and converse with fellow obsessives.
There are hundreds of comic cons in America today, thousands if you factor in the rest of the planet, and even though the comic book aficionado and collector is still the central figure in the plot, comic cons also embrace the very, very popular worlds of anime (Japanese animation), films and TV, sci-fi, horror, roleplaying games and the 3-D fantasy world of cosplay (dressing, to an elaborate degree, like a fictional character).
Dewey Caruthers, a St. Pete comic collector, has organized (along with his teenaged daughters Blu and Scarlet, who are avid cosplayers) the St. Pete Comic Con, Saturday and Sunday at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. This is the city’s first-ever such event; special guests include famous comic artists, animation and game voice actors; there’ll also be exhibitors, vendors, retailers, cosplay contests and more.
A comic con, Caruthers said, “is a place for geeks and nerds to gather! We used to be made fun of.”
More than 1,000 tickets have already been sold for the event.
“Comics are well into the mainstream,” explained Caruthers. “The Marvel Comic Universe, we’re talking about really big movies. So there’s a lot of pop culture also driving people to these conventions. Because where else do you go to celebrate a Marvel movie or a Justice League movie? You go to a con.”
Several of Florida’s most renowned cosplayers will be in attendance. “I’m just so impressed with the talent of these cosplayers,” he said. “The amount of time they put into these builds, it’s amazing. Many of these people work for months on these things. To me, the talent and the creativity are awe-inspiring.”
At the Caruthers family’s count, there are more than 40 comic cons in Florida, including the ginormous Tampa Bay Comic Con, held over the summer at the Convention Center in Tampa. It’s one of the family’s favorites.
“As we learned about all of these cons,” Caruthers said, “we realized that St. Petersburg is the 5th largest city in the state, but doesn’t have a comic con. The other four cities that are bigger, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, they all have at least three each. Per year! And we don’t even have one.
“Then you look at smaller cities. Lakeland has a great comic convention. Pensacola, a much smaller city, has a tremendous comic con. We did the numbers and found that there were almost 20 smaller cities that had great annual comic conventions. So we said ‘This can’t happen. We live here.’”
Along with Blu and Scarlet, Caruthers first created floridacomiccons.com. The website is curated – meaning every event is given a profile, with all sorts of details about what’s scheduled to be there, why it’ll be cool, et cetera (i.e. “5 Marvelous Reasons to Attend Villicon 2022”).
“Our audience is avid comic con fans – people who would go to numerous conventions per year – and cosplayers,” Caruthers explained “They’re looking for something more curated.”
Florida, he said, “is a very rich state in comic cons. The bottom line is, if you’re in the Tampa Bay-Orlando area, you’ve got a comic con within a two-hour drive at least a couple times a month. So the purpose of the website was to make it easy for people in Florida to go to as many cons as possible.”
And so they went a little further, giving life to the very first such convention in St. Petersburg’s already storied history. “There’s a lot of demand for it here,” said Caruthers. “Comic con fans and cosplayers are a very loyal audience. And they want more than to just go to one con a year.”
And the Caruthers family has the solution: They’re arranging a St. Pete anime convention for mid-September.
All information and tickets here.