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Hey, isn’t that ‘Johnny Rico’ at Holiday Cosplay?

Bill DeYoung



Casper Van Dien in the 1997 sci-fi film "Starship Troopers." Photo: Columbia TriStar.

In just over a year, St. Petersburg’s Dewey Caruthers has become Con man No. 1 for all of West Central Florida.

That’s Con with a capital C. He’s not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes – he is the producer and promoter of four fan conventions – they’re called Cons – celebrating comic books, anime, cosplay and, soon to come, the all-encompassing horror genre.

Dewey Caruthers. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

Less than a year ago, this was all just a pipe dream for a Caruthers, who operated a “think tank” for solving children’s issues. St. Petersburg, he knew, was the fourth largest city in the state, yet didn’t have a Comic Con or one of the other kinds. So he set out to fix that.

This weekend, Caruthers and his company will be set up in Tampa, with “Holiday Cosplay Tampa Bay” at the Convention Center.

It’s the standard Con lineup of illustrators, anime voice actors and pro cosplayers, contests, photoshoots and how-to workshops, along with a good-sized marketplace.

Special guest is actor Casper Van Dien, from director Paul Verhoeven’s campy 1997 sci-fi classic Starship Troopers (yep, he was Johnny Rico, the ridiculously handsome, giant-bug blasting space soldier).

“He’s just such a nice guy,” says Caruthers. “He’s going to be a joy to have at the event, because he really likes meeting fans and interacting with them.”

The appearance of Van Dien, he adds, should appeal to slightly older attendees, as opposed to the younger ones who’ll get a kick out of meeting present-day voice actors. “We want to have a family-friendly event.”

Van Dien’s other film appearances include Tarzan and the Lost City, the Omega Code and Sleepy Hollow. And a lotta, lotta lotta TV and direct-to-video.

Florida Comic Con – the one that started it all – returns to the St. Petersburg Coliseum Jan. 7 and 8.

New for 2023 will be Sunshine City Scare, the inaugural horror con, May 13 and 14 at the Coliseum.

“We’re calling it a new breed of horror convention,” explains Caruthers. “We’re doing something that goes beyond just meeting live-action actors. We’re defining horror in a broader way – our definition  includes video game horror, anime horror and comic book horror.”

May 14, a Sunday, happens to be Mother’s Day. “We’re going to have something called Happy Murders Day,” Caruthers reveals. “We’re going to celebrate mothers who were murderers, or who have birthed murderers, in horror, anime and comics.

“The idea is that we believe mothers deserve more than a boring ham dinner.”

Find Holiday Cosplay Tampa tickets and info here.



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