Tampa Bay Comic Con is getting some competition for the hearts and wallets of local geeks, gamers, cosplayers and newbs when a new convention rolls into downtown Tampa this fall.
MegaCon Tampa Bay arrives Oct. 28 to 30 with a lineup of celebrity guests and comic book creators; hundreds of vendors selling art, toys and all manner of fandom-related memorabilia; and panels, paid photo-ops and other yet-to-be-announced ways to geek out.
Among the stars set to appear at the Tampa Convention Center for MegaCon are old-school Star Trek icon William Shatner, and Karl Urban, who plays Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the new Star Trek movies. Doctor Who's David Tennant (also Jessica Jones) and Billie Piper (also Penny Dreadful) are also on the list.
It's stepping into territory normally occupied by Tampa Bay Comic Con, literally. That event moved to the Tampa Convention Center in 2013 to accommodate bigger crowds and bigger celebrities. Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl on The Walking Dead, is among the big-name guests at this year's Tampa Bay Comic Con, returning Aug. 5 to 7. Last year, the convention drew an estimated 50,000 people.
MegaCon Tampa Bay is being produced by the larger Fan Expo HQ, the same Canadian company that runs Orlando's MegaCon, the biggest pop culture convention in the Southeast. That event drew more than 100,000 people in May when Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee made an appearance, the company said. It also runs massive conventions in Toronto, Vancouver and Dallas, among others.
Tampa Bay Comic Con co-owner Stephen Solomon said he thinks the Tampa Bay market can accommodate two large, geeky conventions, but feels his Florida-based company has an advantage when it comes to originality.
"I look at it I suppose how most people look at competition, not necessarily a bad thing. It can help you improve your product and service, but it's still competition, so it can be frustrating at times," Solomon said. "I would consider theirs a little cookie cutter. They're run by a board of directors in Toronto. We lived here our whole lives, went to (Tampa Bay Comic Con) when it was really small, then bought it and grew it. … A lot of our guests have been people who have never appeared anywhere."
Via email, MegaCon show director Andrew Moyes said that with Orlando MegaCon's rapid growth, the company saw an increasing appetite for their particular brand of pop culture convention in Tampa Bay.
"Fan Expo has a strong history of providing a very well rounded convention experience," Moyes said. "We continue to foster the very best in all things comics, anime, sci-fi, gaming and horror."
There are also already several smaller annual conventions for similarly-minded fans in Tampa. Metrocon, which focuses on anime and cosplay, expects to draw around 11,000 people to the Tampa Convention Center July 21 to 24. Science fiction, horror and fantasy convention Necronomicon is at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay on the same weekend as the new MegaCon Tampa Bay.
Land O’ Lakes resident Scott Beaver attends Tampa Bay Comic Con, MetroCon and Orlando MegaCon to find content for his pop culture blog strangebeaver.com. He believes interest in comic conventions already peaked a couple years ago.
"It's good for Tampa residents to have more of this stuff in the area, that's always great, but
another big (convention) like that? That's a hard sell," Beaver said. "With ticket prices and all the extra charges for meet and greets and other stuff, that's going to hurt a lot of people."