Tampa Bay Comic Con pop culture festival arrives this weekend

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Just one week after tens of thousands of fans, geeks and cosplay aficionados converged in California for San Diego Comic-Con International – the mother of all pop culture conventions — Tampa Bay area residents will now enjoy its own version.

Tampa Bay Comic Con, which runs Aug. 1-3, will be at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa.

Hours are Friday, noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to regular events, there will be after hours programming, on Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $30 for one day or $60 for all three days.

Tampa Bay Comic-Con has become the region’s top annual family-friendly event, beginning as a similar — and much smaller — gathering under a different name and ownership in 2000.

Action 3 Events & Promotions, founded by Bill Rocker and Stephen Solomon, is the force behind Tampa’s Comic-Con as it stands now.

Although the convention will have everything one can expect — vendors of comic books, magazines, toys, games, anime, manga, cosplay, artwork, sketches and apparel – the will also be a schedule of guest creators, celebrities and industry notables available to meet with attendees.

The focus is on fun and accessibility for families, with low admission prices for adults and free admission for children.

Last year, nearly 28,000 attendees attended throughout the weekend. Organizers upped the expectations for year’s event to more than 30,000.

Among the celebrities featured are Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal from “Game of Thrones” and John Rhys Davis of the “Lord of the Rings.” films.

“It’s certainly exciting having Richard [Madden] on-board for the upcoming Tampa Bay Comic-Con,” Solomon said in a prepared statement. “We are already well known by Game of Thrones fans from our guests last year. Solidifying TBCC as an event that draws big names from around the world that no other similar event has ever drawn, is a big positive.”

TBCC will also present film and television stars, such as Evan Peters and Daniel Cudmore of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Kyla Kenedy and Brighton Sharbino of “The Walking Dead,” and Caity Lotz of “Arrow.”

From the comic book world, guests of honor include artist and writer Jim Steranko and writer Marv Wolfman. Other comic book creators appearing at this year’s event, are Mike Zeck, Cullen Bunn, Frank Brunner, John Beatty, Mike Grell, Rob Hunter, Joe Rivera, Paolo Riera, Bernie Wrightson, Bob Camp, among others.

Steranko has been, at one time, and illustrator, musician, art director, designer, filmmaker, lecturer and publisher, escape artist, magician and fire-eater.

According his TBCC bio, Steranko was behind more than 100 innovations as an artist-writer for Marvel titles such as S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America and X-Men. Several of the techniques Steranko introduced revolutionized the comic book style.

Steranko has work shown at more than 200 exhibitions worldwide, such as the Louvre in Paris and Washington’s Smithsonian Institution.

Wolfman is widely known for the long-running Marvel Comics title The Tomb of Dracula, and with artist Gene Colan created the vampire-slayer Blade. He also worked on DC Comics’ The New Teen Titans.

In 1972, Wolfman arrived at Marvel Comics, where he would work on The Tomb of Dracula, Daredevil and Marvel’s adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burrough classic John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

On the TBCC schedule –available at www.tampabaycomiccon.com – is a wide range of panels, question-and-answer sessions, makeup and costume programs, a zombie costume contest, roleplaying, gaming and speed dating.

Discussions will be on everything from “Doctor Who” to the publishing industry.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.