Florida Supercon invades Miami on Fourth of July with G.I. Joe Sgt. Slaughter, patriotic Hacksaw Jim Duggan


Miami Herald Writer

Some didn’t spend their Fourth of July at the beach or barbequing. Instead, they embraced their inner-nerdom at the Florida Supercon at the Miami Airport Convention Center.

The eighth annual event kicked off on America’s birthday and continues through Sunday, July 7 with a full lineup of wrestling stars, voice actors, TV legends, artists and more.

Among those in attendance was Sgt. Slaughter, who has been an iconic figure of American patriotism throughout his career. However, the WWE Hall of Famer isn’t just known for his success in the ring, but as the model for the popular character in G.I. Joe.

“It’s great for people to come up to me here,” Slaughter said. “I just had a lady who came up with her nephew who said, ‘I grew up watching Sgt. Slaughter on G.I. Joe. I didn’t watch wrestling, but I did watch G.I. Joe.’ He happened to be a big G.I. Joe fan also. She shows him the animated movies and cartoons I was in. He was like, ‘That was really you. You were the real guy?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I’m the original G.I. Joe. The first animated live character.’ So it’s a lot of fun.”

The “Sarge” gets a thrill when people ask for an autograph, take a photo with him or ask to be put in the Cobra Clutch, his famous pro wrestling finisher. Having the event on this holiday brings an added feeling of appreciation.

“It’s a real honor here to be the ambassador for WWE and to represent them, but I’m probably ambassador for a lot of American institutions out there,” Slaughter said. “Freedom is not free. For us to be here today or go to a baseball game or have a wrestling match or just enjoy our day came with a lot of sacrifice. Some of them had to give their lives for us to do these kinds of things. It’s a real honor to them. So happy 237th birthday America, and don’t take it for granted. Enjoy every day, not just the Fourth of July.”

Fellow WWE Hall of Famer Hacksaw Jim Duggan is also known to represent the red, white and blue with pride. He finds it interesting to compare wrestling conventions with comic book ones.

“Just last weekend I did a totally wrestling convention up in Rhode Island,” Duggan said. “There was nothing like this. We didn’t have nearly as good a turnout. So it’s great to be here, as this is really a pop culture convention. It’s great. I get a lot of fathers who bring their sons or daughters up and say, ‘I was watching this guy when I was your age.’ So it’s nice to be remembered after all these years. It just shows the appeal to professional wrestling to all age groups…I wrestled Yokozuna here at the Miami Arena back in the day. He almost broke me in two. He did a big Japanese splash.”

For Hacksaw, it’s an honor to be seen as such a prominent patriot.

“A lot of folks go, ‘Hacksaw, you’re an American hero,’” Duggan said. “I say, ‘No, no I’m a guy who is privileged to carry our flag. The American heroes are all those brave men and women out there who keep us safe and free.”

Theodus Crane, known for his role as “Big Tiny” on the hit show “The Walking Dead”, has the size of a pro wrestler and a background in fighting. He enjoys conventions like the Florida Supercon because it not only gives him the chance to meet interesting folks but lets him be a fan, too.

“I get to see people who I love and look forward to meeting,” Crane said. “I’ve met Lee Majors and Billy Dee Williams. I actually just found out Jim Kelly died, and I met him in Washington D.C. Actually, Peter Mayhew, who is Chewbacca, and I get to see him every now and again. It’s just a lot of fun. Eventually, you get to see people on a regular basis, and you build friendships…

“I’ve never been to Miami before. This is my first time. I live in New Orleans, and it’s hotter there. The worst day was like 90 something degrees, and it felt like 109. The humidity is really bad here, but it’s neck and neck with New Orleans. I can deal with it. I’m used to it.”

Travis Love, who plays Shumpert “The Bowman” on “The Walking Dead”, shares the same sentiments.

“It’s awesome,” Love said. “I’ve been to a couple of conventions, and it’s always good to be in the presence of people who make you appreciate all the hard work you put into it. That’s exactly what these people do. There are a lot of hot days, especially on these shows and weather conditions that we work through.

“Then when we come to things like this and hear about people who drive so far and you know are so happy to see us. It makes us proud of the work we put into the show. It’s a pleasure for me to be here, and I hope to be back in the future. I’m having a ball.”

One of the Governor’s right-hand men on the show remembers being star struck himself over meeting John Amos at a recent convention.

“As a child I was a fan of the show ‘Good Times,’ and he played James Evans. He had a number of other roles, but that one was the most I remember him for. I met him, and it was such an awesome experience. You have to think this is all new to me. Three years ago I was in a classroom grading papers and stuff.

“So when people come up to me and are in shock, I love it and appreciate it. Then I see people who I saw on television and go, ‘Oh ****!’ He was just an awesome guy, very wise man and someone who I admired. It was a pleasure to meet him because I pursued my dream of acting. None of this, if I didn’t give acting a shot.”

A long list of voice actors is also drawing visitors to the popular Miami event including Richard Horvitz. His impressive resume includes voicing Zim on “Invader Zim” and Alpha 5 in the “Power Rangers” series.

“I just got back from Australia where I was there for two weeks doing SuperNova,” Horvitz said. “This is my third year doing Supercon, and I love it here. It’s always great people, great fans.”

Robert Axelrod, known as the voice of Finster and Lord Zedd on the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” does about 15 conventions a year. The longtime actor thinks it’s great to interact with enthusiasts.

“A lot of fans come out and say, ‘You made my childhood. You were the greatest villain ever,’” Axelrod said. “It’s really nice to get that feedback.”

• The Florida Supercon continues with a jam-packed schedule of activities, meet-and-greets, photo opportunities, wrestling matches and more through Sunday, July 7 at the Miami Airport Convention Center. Admission can be purchased on each of the remaining days. For complete details, visit www.floridasupercon.com.

• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, as I will be tweeting on Saturday from the convention.

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