In a homemade black tunic studded around the edges, 20-year-old Adrian Gonzalez was in his element.
On the first night of Florida Supercon, a mecca for comic book, animation and video game fans, the Miami Dade College student made instant friends with a group of fantasy devotees in spiky pink wigs. He had spent hundreds of hours rewatching TV episodes and crafting costumes to prepare to talk shop with other fans.
“I love all the geeky things,” Gonzalez said Thursday, dressed as Gajeel Redfox from the Japanese manga series Fairy Tail. “I love anime; I love video games. I’m a very social person. I figured, why not go where everyone has the same passions as me?”
Gonzalez was one of dozens of brightly costumed and sharp young people visiting the 10th annual Florida Supercon, which opened Thursday and continues through Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. This year’s change of venue from the Miami Airport Convention Center helped bring in an expected 30,000 attendees, up from about 20,000 last year, said event coordinator Lisa Niven.
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Some attendees are hobbyists; others have made fantasy a career. A creative-writing major, Gonzalez hopes to work for a video game company after graduation.
“I want to be the person who creates entire universes and stories, and people fall in love with the stories as much as I do,” he said.
On Thursday night, booths sat empty awaiting celebrity artists. Conference-goers can see Dan Harmon, creator of NBC’s Community; Sesame Street’s original Big Bird, Caroll Spinney; Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa and the voice of Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants.
But until the actors and comic book artists arrived, an 18-year-old in a hot pink jumpsuit was creating an artistic world all her own.
With watercolor and Sharpie, Carolina Carreno turned Supercon attendees into adroit animations. The Miami resident — emulating her favorite character from the anime TV show Skip Beat! — beautifully captured two friends who declined to dress up but gamely flashed the Vulcan salute from Star Trek.
Carreno geeks out at Supercon in a way the soon-to-be Florida International University student said she doesn’t get to do in her day-to-day life.
“I went to orientation and no one knew I was a nerd,” she said.
Some parents not only accompanied their young fans, but also went all-out with them. Susan and John Barimo, with their daughter, Sophia, shot imperial glances from under elaborate headpieces in their roles as time lords from the BBC’s Doctor Who.
“When your 14-year-old wants to do something with her parents, you do it,” said Madam Inquisitor — nee Susan Barimo, of Homestead.
Shannon Moore brought her 17-year-old daughter, Bethany, all the way from Everest, Ga. A straight-A student with her sights set on Harvard, Bethany taught herself to sew so she could create her own costume — a mix of Captain America and the anime protagonist Sailor Moon.
The Moores have been to at least 20 conventions all around the Southeast. Bethany said she really loves to get into the characters, and her mother doesn’t mind encouraging her daughter’s creativity.
“This has given her a chance to be around other people who think like she does,” Shannon Moore said.
Ultimately, that’s what Florida Supercon is all about, Gonzalez said — giving devoted fans a place to indulge their hobbies without shame.
“If I go out dressed like this normally, it’s like, ‘What is he wearing?’” he said. “‘What’s wrong with him?’”
But around “geeky people like us, I feel at ease. I feel comfortable.”