Entertainment

Star-filled comic con in Tampa features Beckinsale, Kilmer, many others

Kate Beckinsale will appear at this year’s Tampa Bay Comic Con.
Kate Beckinsale will appear at this year’s Tampa Bay Comic Con. TNS file

It may seem “inconceivable,” to use his most famous character’s catch-word, but you may see Wallace Shawn walking around downtown Tampa this week.

Or you may stop in a restaurant and see him having dinner with Val Kilmer and Kate Beckinsale.

Shawn, Kilmer and Beckinsale are the biggest names at one of the most star-filled installments of the Tampa Bay Comic Con.

It’s only in its eighth year, but it’s huge and growing furiously. Only about 600 people attended the first event, which was held in a hotel ballroom in 2010.

If recent years are an indication, something like 60,000 people will turn out for this year’s Comic Con. It’s scheduled for July 28-30 in the cavernous Tampa Convention Center in downtown Tampa.

Like a lot of comic conventions around the country, Tampa’s has become something of a cultural phenomenon, with major celebrities drawing fans from miles away, and attendees coming in expensive costumes in homage to their favorite superheros, supervillains or characters from fantasy, sci-fi and anime films.

Only about 600 people attended the first event, which was held in a hotel ballroom in 2010. If recent years are an indication, something like 60,000 people will turn out for this year’s Comic Con.

But, organizers say, they still consider it a comic book convention, and they make sure that plenty of comic book writers and artists are on hand, along with all the mainstream celebrities.

So for the comic book connoisseur, the guest list at this year’s convention includes artists Mike Mayhew, David Nakayama, Eric Nguyen, Ariel Olivetti, Jimmy Palmiotti, James Pascoe, Ron Randall, Afua Richardson, Trina Robbins, Roger Robinson, Alex Saviuk, Christian Slade, Arthur Suydam and Steve Uy. Anime artists and fantasy novelists will be on hand as well.

But most of the throng at Tampa Bay Comic Con will be there to see celebrities from mainstream films and television shows. This year’s lineup includes Shawn (best known, at least in the fantasy/sci-fi world) from his role in “The Princess Bride,” Kilmer (who was once a Batman) and Beckinsale (from “Underworld” and many other action flicks).

Organizers say they still consider it a comic book convention, and they make sure that plenty of comic book writers and artists are on hand, along with all the mainstream celebrities.

Also scheduled to attend are Nichelle Nichols (from the original “Star Trek”), Khary Payton (from “The Walking Dead” and several DC comics-based films), Renee O’Connor (the sidekick from “Xena”), Allison Mack (“Smallville”), Austin St. John (a former Power Ranger), Sean Maguire (“Timeless”) and Michael Biehn (“The Terminator”).

They will be at the Convention Center at different times and some are only there for one or two days. Kilmer and Shawn will be there on Saturday and Sunday, for example, and Beckinsale only Saturday.

Saturday will have the highest concentration of Hollywood stars, but it’s worth checking times and dates at tampabaycomiccon.com if you’re interested in specific people. You might want to bring some old-fashioned folding money with you, too, because there’s an extra fee for autographs and photos with most of the celebrities, and some of them don’t take plastic.

After you meet your favorite action hero or comic book artist, a fun aspect of Tampa Bay Comic Con every year is its series of costume contests. There will be lots of costumes on the streets of downtown Tampa all weekend, but the costumes in the contest are especially impressive. Some of the entrants work on their costumes year-round and they are ornate, expensive and meticulously detailed.

Details: July 28-30, Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa. Noon-midnight Friday, 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $33.53 Friday or Sunday, $44.02 Saturday, $65.02 all three days. tampabaycomiccon.com.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

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