Monday, April 23, 2018
Events

Confused about cons? A guide to geeky conventions in Tampa Bay

This weekend's Tampa Bay Comic Con might be the largest fan convention in Tampa Bay, but it's far from the only local option for geeking out on pop culture amongst like-minded and likely costumed brothers and sisters.

MetroCon brought out its biggest crowd ever last month, and the company behind the best-attended fan convention in the Southeast will challenge Tampa Bay Comic Con as the area's premiere fan gathering when it debuts MegaCon Tampa Bay this fall.

There are also at least a half dozen smaller conventions under the vast geek culture umbrella that have carved out niches in the local market by focusing on specific genres or franchises, from horror flicks to video games to Doctor Who.

If you're feeling con-fused, here's a glance at some of the various cons coming after Tampa Bay Comic Con, and what they're all about.

Tampa Bay Comic Con: The best-attended local convention has hundreds of vendors with comic books, toys and apparel, Q&A panels featuring celebrity guests and special events such as speed dating, a film festival, a board and RPG games area, a giant costume contest and, this year, a production of a hip-hop musical titled Lil' Women. Their guest list is always heavy with Game of Thrones and Walking Dead actors.

Who'll be there: Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Ian McDiarmid (Star Wars), Jack Gleeson (Game of Thrones)

If you go: Friday to Sunday, Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St, Tampa $30 to $6

MegaCon Tampa Bay

The new player in town is the Canadian company that runs some of the largest fan conventions in the United States, including the massive MegaCon Orlando that brings out 100,000 people and premiere guests such as Stan Lee. As with Tampa Bay Comic Con, this con casts a wide net in terms of genre, with lots of vendors, artists and panels, but the inaugural event is leaning more toward science fiction in terms of guests.

Who'll be there: William Shatner (Star Trek), right, David Tennant (Doctor Who), Karl Urban (Star Trek)

If you go: Oct. 28 to 30, Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St, Tampa. $25 to $65. megacontampabay.com.

ShadoCon

The area's most video game-focused convention also caters to fans of anime and comic books. There's a massive room for gamers featuring arcade games and consoles from every generation, from Sega Genesis to PlayStation 3. The Breakdance Breakdown, a dance comedy show featuring anime and game characters, is an annual highlight along with the Final Fantasy Ball.

Who'll be there: Maile Flanagan (Naruto) and nerd-focused improv troupe Anirage.

If you go: Nov. 18 to 20, Hilton Bayfront, 333 First St. S, St. Petersburg, $40 to $75. shadocon.com.

Necronomicon

Fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror have been turning out for 34 years for this convention named after the H.P. Lovecraft-coined term for a book of spells. This one caters more to readers of novels than comic books, and provides a good opportunity to get a book signed. The annual masquerade party in the hotel ballroom is a highlight.

Who'll be there: Sci-fi and horror writer Tananarive Due, right, and her husband, Steven Barnes; they collaborate on the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series.

If you go: Oct. 28 to 30, Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa. $25 to $55. necrofl.com.

Time Lord Fest

It's all about Doctor Who as Whovians gather to check out vendors (lots of fan-made TARDISes), guests and a lineup of musical performances headlined by the Ken Spivey Band, the world's foremost Doctor Who rock band combining "steampunk elements with mad Celtic energy," "timey-wimey" theatrics and comedic revelry.

Who'll be there: Colin Spaull, right, who has appeared in both classic and modern-era Doctor Who episodes

If you go: Oct. 9, the Event Factory, 7565 Hillsborough Ave., Tampa. $18 to $25.

The Grand Brony Gala

The term "brony" started as a way to describe adult male fans of the girl-targeted cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Bronies now encompass the surprisingly large subculture of people who geek out on the Hasbro toy line and series that originated in the '80s. There will be vendors, panels, children's activities and Pony-themed stage shows.

Who'll be there: Voice actors Nicole Oliver, Peter New and Kelly Sheridan. All three have credits on My Little Pony, as well as dozens of other cartoon series.

If you go: Aug. 12 to 14, Sheraton Tampa East, 10221 Princess Palm Ave., Tampa. $10 to $80.

Bay of Blood

Some have referred to Tampa horror fandom and indie movie production as the "hottest cult movie and horror movie scene in the country," and this con, catering to fans of gore with a focus on the cult films of the '70s and '80s, plays right into that. There will be photo ops, movie screenings, panels and vendors.

Who'll be there: Lots of cast members from the cult horror classics The Burning and My Bloody Valentine, as well as Steve Dash, who played Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part II.

If you go: Sept. 23 to 25, Holiday Inn Westshore, 700 N Westshore Blvd., Tampa. $30 to $60. bayofbloodweekend.com.

Pinellas Comic and Maker Con

It's billed as the "biggest comic convention" on the Pinellas side of Tampa Bay, but there's a special focus on DIY projects, tech geeks and electronic hobbyists. HackerBox, a monthly subscription box service that sends out projects, components, tools and other tech gear will have an exhibit, and guests can explore the campus' new Innovation Lab, its 3-D printer and virtual reality headsets.

Who'll be there: More of a "what" than a "who," but the TARDIS that went viral when a homeowner's association ordered it removed from a Manatee County driveway will be available for photos.

If you go: Sept. 10, St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St., Seminole. Free. pcmcon.com.

MetroCon

The focus is squarely on anime and manga--Japanese-style cartoons and graphic novels — but there are offerings for fans of other genres, and it tends to bring out some of the most creative cosplayers in the area. Fans of MetroCon praise it for being less crowded, with more emphasis on the community-run fan panels, while focusing less on celebrity guests and shopping.

Who'll be there: Usually, a lot of anime voice actors and professional cosplayers.

If you go: Returns to Tampa Convention Center summer 2017.

     
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