1. News

Tampa Bay Comic Con offers speed dating for real characters

TAMPA — Jeremy Mosher sat down and introduced himself to the woman opposite him.

"Hi, I'm Scarlet Spider," he said. "It's nice to meet you."

Dressed in head-to-toe red spandex, Mosher, 27, apologized for his incomplete appearance.

"I thought about wearing my mask," he said, "but I figured it would be weird to cover my face on a date."

Welcome to speed dating at the Tampa Bay Comic Con, where characters are welcome.

Men paid $5, and the ladies were free Saturday at the event held amid the convention inside the Double Tree Hotel. Convention host Croix Provence played timekeeper, counting down the two minutes limited for each date.

"Hello, speed daters," she began. "Are you ready to find love in Alderaan places?"

Though not everyone was dressed in costume, men and women flirted their way through conversations revolving around comic books, video games and conventions.

Nick Krouskos, 26, of Hudson, got straight to the point.

"Are you single?" he asked Krista Foskit, 23, of New Port Richey as soon as the timer began. "Would you like to go out tonight?" he continued before discovering the two share an interest in the video game World of Warcraft.

"That's cool," Krouskos said. "We definitely have to set this up so we can play together sometime."

When a man somewhat resembling Clark Kent sat down across from Leslie Fisher, 30, of Tampa, she had one question: "Why aren't you dressed up like Superman?"

"I should have. I don't have his black hair," James Blaylock, 26, of New Port Richey said. "But you're right, I'm all muscle just like him."

Mosher, of Bradenton, came to the convention Saturday to celebrate his upcoming birthday with friends. When he saw the sign for speed dating, he decided to give it a shot. He seemed to click with a few women sitting across the aisle, but at other times there were crickets.

"What comics do you read?" he asked Natalie Rusnak, 18, of Tampa.

"I don't really like comics," she answered.

Rusnak wasn't very interested in speed dating. Her friends had talked her into it, she said. By the end of the almost-hourlong session, she hadn't written any names on her note card. She was more interested in what came next.

At 3 p.m. Drake Bell, star of the Nickelodeon series Drake & Josh, would be in that very room. He was doing a panel on his work as the voice of Spider-Man in the current animated series of the Ultimate Spider-Man.

When the final countdown ended, the men filtered slowly out of the ballroom's doors while most of the women stayed put.

Screams erupted as Bell came walking in.

A woman in the crowd yelled: "Did we win a date with him?"

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

CORRECTION: In earlier versions of this story appearing in print and online, a Tampa Bay Times reporter not strong in the ways of the force (or Star Wars lore) quoted event moderator Croix Provence as asking, "Are you ready to find love in all the wrong places?" What Provence actually asked was: "Are you ready to find love in Alderaan places?" She was referring to Princess Leia Organa's home world, which appeared briefly in the 1977 film. Regret the error, we do.