St. Petersburg held its first-ever comic con over the weekend, merging the worlds of superheroes, villains, sci-fi, fantasy, anime and cosplay together under one roof.
Thousands of loyal fans, many in cosplay (elaborately dressing as one’s favorite fictional character), descended upon the two-day event at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. The convention was a sight to behold in any galaxy – and one that fans felt was long overdue for St. Pete. Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando have three or more comic cons annually, while many smaller Florida cities also hold similar events.
Dewey Caruthers, a St. Pete comic collector, organized the convention and was pleased with the turnout through the first day. He said 1,800 tickets were sold as of Saturday morning, and by Saturday afternoon, over 1,000 people were in attendance. “We’ll do well over 2,000 for the weekend,” he predicted.
Caruthers said the size of the crowd exceeded his expectations. He added that he attends all the conventions across the state, and to see such enthusiasm for St. Pete’s first comic con was a clear sign of the event’s popularity.
“Most first-year cons, if they hit a thousand, they’re jumping up and down,” said Caruthers. “So, we’re very pleased.”
The convention was a hit for fans of all ages. The world of Star Wars was well-represented, and it was not uncommon to see a child in stormtrooper attire asking for Darth Vader’s autograph. Cosplay costume contests were held both days, with winners receiving cash prizes and medals that provided recipients with various “superpowers.”
The convention also provided attendees the opportunity to meet some of their favorite anime (Japanese animation) voice actors and comic book artists. Comic artist Sam de la Rosa, well-known for his work on Marvel’s Venom and Carnage characters that have since spawned two blockbuster movies, attracted long lines for his autographed memorabilia. The artist’s Marvel credits also include Spider-Man, Black Panther, The Avengers and X-Men.
De la Rosa said this was his first time visiting the city, and thought the support from the community both days was “awesome.”
“It was a fantastic crowd,” added de la Rosa. “I saw a lot of people filling up the aisles. Usually, Sundays are half as much as Saturday, but I still saw it was well-packed.”
De la Rosa said that while he traverses the country attending similar events as a job, he sincerely enjoys meeting people that are fans of his work and share similar interests.
“I’m also a fan,” he said. “I’m appreciative that people want to meet me and get stuff from me, but I’m happy to talk to people whether they get something from me or not.”
Vendors and exhibitions filled the Coliseum to capacity, and exhibitor spaces sold out before the events. Booths featured a myriad of artists showcasing their work and vendors selling memorabilia, and some who offered photo opportunities in front of elaborate sci-fi backdrops.
It would not be a comic con without comic books, and there were thousands of comics on display ranging in price from just a few dollars to the tens of thousands. David Hess, representing Ontario-based Dr. Comics, proudly showed off his “Giant-Size X-Men” #1, with an asking price of $20,000. A copy in near-perfect condition sold for $67,900 in March of 2021.
While there were older comics in better condition priced much lower than the “Giant-Size X-Men” #1, the 1975 comic introduced a new team featuring beloved characters such as Storm, Nightcrawler and Wolverine.
“It’s because of what this book represents,” said Hess. “That’s why it’s worth more money.”
In light of the success of St. Pete’s inaugural comic con, Caruthers is organizing Anime St. Pete 2022 Sept. 16-18 at the Coliseum. St. Pete Comic Con 2023 is already scheduled for next Jan. 6-8, also at the Coliseum.