Even for South Beach, it was a peculiar moment. Cousins Kaitlyn and Alex Latorre, strolling the floor of the Miami Beach Convention Center, suddenly whirled and drew .45 automatics from their pockets. “On your knees!” they screamed at another teenager, Alez Head, who dropped to the ground with a horrified look. The Latorres chanted a prayer of execution, consigning his evil soul to the deepest levels of Hell, and pulled their triggers.
“I sooooooo don’t know you,” said Alez , scrambling to his feet. (It turns out orange plastic pistols are less lethal than you might think.) “I soooooo am not here with you.” Onlookers shrugged, then moved on, only momentarily surprised at this latest bit of weirdness at Florida Supercon.
The 10th annual Supercon got under way Thursday and continues until Sunday night. Some 50,000 fans are expected to have filed through the convention center, flaunting costumes that range from inexplicably strange to awesomely grotesque as they buy comic books and attend lectures on how to convincingly attach entrails to zombie teeth or events like Nerd Burlesque, specially crafted for the socially dubious.
You could call Supercon “a combination comic-book convention and pop-culture event,” as spokeswoman Alexandra Figueredo does. Or you could call it Nerd Nirvana, a place where Wonder Woman and Batman gambola with Freddie Krueger and Darth Vader as the podcast Nerdstravaganza.com (seriously, that’s a thing) does the play-by-play.
“There is a huge fandom of geeks who love all this stuff,” said Figueredo.
The Latorres, for instance, were reenacting (with the unwitting and unwilling participation of their soon-to-be-ex-friend Alez) a scene from the film 1999 film Boondocks Saints, loathed by critics (“a juvenile, ugly movie,” began one of the milder reviews) but unaccountably venerated by nerds, in which crime-fighting Irish twins rid Boston of criminals without the niceties of warrant and trials and stuff.
“But only mafiosos, rapists, thieves, all those kind of people,” explained Kaitlyn earnestly, waving her .45 for emphasis. “Not, like, somebody who takes candy from a baby.”
To be fair, that sounds like family fun compared to some of the films being screened at Supercon, including the previously lost 1978 classic Headless, in which “a masked killer wages an unrelenting spree of murder, cannibalism and necrophilia,” according to the convention program.
The Supercon crowd is diverse, to put it mildly. There were paunchy middle-aged men in skin-tight Spiderman suits. There were princesses. There were robot princesses. There was a kid wearing a rubber pig mask and carrying a bloody baseball bat, and girls in floppy bunny ears and Satanic little horns.
There was a Tinkerbell and a Mr. Ed. (Sorry, old person’s joke. If you’re under 50, go ahead and Google it. Anyway, it was a horse.) There were so many costumes that there was even a Costume Medic booth, where a team of seamstresses repaired ripped or collapsed costumes — and, occasionally, their occupants, whose widespread belief that cloth can be attached to human skin with Super Glue without dire consequences was being sadly refuted.
There was green hair, blue hair, lavender hair. There was hair in colors so profoundly ugly that they were indescribable in the English language. Or Spanish. Or Klingon.There were people wandering about in pallid corpse makeup. Well, maybe it was makeup. Hopefully it was makeup.)
There were a disquieting number of men in Turkish fezzes, which —of course, you knew this, right? — was a tribute to the venerable British sci-fi hero Doctor Who, who cruises time and space in a blue phone booth. It seems that in one episode of the many iterations of the Doctor Who television series, he donned a fez and proclaimed it the ideal headgear for killing unseemly space aliens.
“The rest of the group thinks he’s silly,” sadly mused Blake Collier, 18, of Boynton Beach, as he stroked his own fez. “Some friends.”
“They’re right, it is silly,” interjected James Parra, 17. “I’m your best friend, and I think you’re silly.”
“There you go,” Collier said sadly. He diplomatically refrained from questioning the fashion-police credentials of Parra, who was wearing a ski mask and goggles, which — of course, you knew this, right? — are the instantly recognizable garments of D. J. Scully, the zombie-killing hero of the video game Killing Floor.
Genre celebrities abounded, from Peter Mayhew, the British actor inside that furry Chewbacca costume in all the Star Wars movies, to 91-year-old Allen Bellman, who helped draw Captain America comic books back in the 1940s. “I’m the most famous guy in this entire building,” Bellman proclaimed. “You see my name in all the finest hotels in America.”
Bellman was selling his sketches — many of them showing Captain America whupping Adolf Hitler’s butt, a frequent comic-book theme during the years of World War II — for about $15 a crack. Artist and character definitely shared a common temperament. When youthful customers resisted Bellman’s urgings to “buy, buy, BUY!” with a plaintive, “I need some time to think about it,” he inevitably retorted: “I don’t have time to wait! I’m 91!”
His was not the only unconventional sales pitch emanating from the vending booths. At one a hawker shouted, “Do you want to personally experience witchcraft?” Even the costumed cannibals and psycho killers scuttled nervously away.
Less aggressive were the two women running the honest-to-God NASA booth who were trying to promote awareness of the space program on social media while fending off people who wanted to show them authentic photos of real space aliens who have somehow eluded NASA’s detection. “This is not our, ummm, usual crowd,” said a diplomatic Tiffany Nail, who usually works inside the Kennedy Space Center.
The booths were selling everything from a $1,200 Japanese Spiderman slot machine (once you’ve lost your life savings to it, it also plays movies and video games) to a $55,000 copy of the 1941 comic book featuring the first appearance of Captain America. (Sure enough, the cover shows him punching Hitler in the mouth.)
At those prices, the 3-by-4-foot famed artwork John Pross of New Jersey was selling seemed a bargain, especially for those Star Wars fans — that would be, approximately, all of them — who hate the fumbling, awkward and thoroughly annoying orange amphibian character Jar Jar Binks. The picture shows the rest of the Star Wars cast roasting Jar Jar on a spit over a campfire.
“This is how everybody wanted the last Star Wars movie to end,” said Pross.
At stand-up comedian Lisa Corrao’s booth, sales were brisk for a T-shirt bearing the picture of Game of Thrones hero Jon Snow (well, ex-hero; he got killed in the season finale a couple of weeks ago) (oops, pretend you saw a big SPOILER ALERT LABEL earlier in the sentence) over the message “I joined the Nights Watch and all I got was this lousy yak pelt.”
Corrao confessed she created the T-shirt herself. “I’ve always been a nerd,” she said. “This is the coolest I have ever been.”
Elsewhere, there were rooms where you could play vintage arcade games like Space Invader and Ms. Pacman, and even a room for technophobes to rent and play board games. Most popular item there: a game called Kittens in a Blender.
“It’s pretty much like it sounds like,” said the guy at the counter, who when he saw a reporter writing down his words hastily added: “But it’s not like it’s gory. It’s not like you play with real kittens.”
Some of the movie and TV stars who attend these conventions find the intensity of their fans unsettling, but they soon get used to it.
“It doesn’t feel as strange as it used to because of social media, “said Miami actress Arlene Tur as she signed a stack of publicity photos. “People are all over you now on Facebook and Twitter in a really personal way.”
Tur became a sci-fi cult heroine since she played a doomed surgeon in the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood. And her stature will doubtless increase with her voiceover role in the animated The Beach Chronicles, now on the film-festival circuit, in which the fate of the world sadly rests in the hands of a South Beach detective.
“That’s great, as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “There’s a fanaticism in these fans that I just love.” She didn’t even blink as a hefty man in battle fatigues skipped down the aisle in front of her booth chanting “eenie-meenie-minie-mo” as he juggled an AK-47 in the air. It was plastic. Hopefully.
If you go
What: Florida Supercon
Where: Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr, Miami Beach
When: 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday
9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday