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Tampa Bay Comic Con draws a cast of characters

TAMPA — Cindy Gaspie became a fan of actor Jason Momoa before it was cool.

Her obsession formed years ago, she said, when Momoa appeared on her television in a pair of red swim trunks.

"I've liked him since the Baywatch days," she said, "but don't say that, he hates that."

Since then, Momoa, 34, has gone on to star as the title character in the 2011 movie Conan the Barbarian and is recognized as Khal Drogo in HBO's Game of Thrones.

His success only bolstered Gaspie's passion. Since 2008, she has met him five times at various conventions.

On Saturday, she made it six.

Gaspie, a 51-year-old secretary from Ft. Walton Beach, headed to the Tampa Bay Comic Con to have her photo taken with Momoa. She plans to post it on the Facebook fan page she helps run, Simply Momoa.

Held at the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa Bay Comic Con presold more than 20,000 tickets. At one point in the afternoon, the line to get in snaked through two levels of the convention center and spilled outside onto Franklin Street. Some people waited in line for more than two and a half hours.

Fueling the frenzy: a chance to meet celebrities.

The draw for 15-year-olds Lauren Woodall and Samantha Tusing, both of Fort White in Columbia County, was an opportunity to meet the actor who plays Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire movies.

Willow Shields, 13, autographed two movie posters for the beaming girls.

"It's really exciting," Woodall said. "I'm going to hang it on my wall."

"This is sacred," Tusing piped in, clutching the poster to her chest.

Doug Molina, 32, bought tickets for the event after learning characters from his favorite television show, Game of Thrones, would be available for autographs and photos, including Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark.

"I'm just a huge fan of the show and I got hooked on it," said Molina, a Jacksonville police officer. "You get so caught up in the characters and the story that it makes you want to meet them, get a photo with them."

Molina asked Williams, 16, to sign the first Arya chapter of his Game of Thrones book. Molina then spent the next several hours waiting in line for a chance to have a photographer snap a photo of him and Williams together, for which he prepaid $30 online.

Williams, Momoa, and fellow cast member Rory McCann closed the day with a panel discussion, taking questions from a standing-room-only crowd and entertaining fans with stories from behind the scenes.

Williams explained the difficulty of learning to sword fight left-handed (she's naturally right-handed), McCann made fans laugh with a story of the show's producers frantically trying to contact him in the offseason (he was aboard a boat, and unreachable), and Momoa lamented his character's death.

Towards the end of the discussion, a female fan pledged her affection for Momoa, then asked if his character Drogo could return in future seasons, possibly in a dream sequence? The hulking actor smiled.

"I'll do my best," he said.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

>>if you go

Tampa Bay

Comic Con

The event continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. $20 for one-day admission with 12 and under free. Autographs and photos with celebrities cost extra. (407) 619-2128.

Tampa Bay Comic Con draws a cast of characters 08/24/13 [Last modified: Sunday, August 25, 2013 1:35am]
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