May 21, 2020
By: Tiffany Razzano
TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Comic Convention “lives on,” event organizers wrote in a Facebook announcement Tuesday.
Despite similar conventions throughout the region and across the country canceling or rescheduling their events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, TBCC will move forward as planned this summer. The convention, which is produced by Imaginarium Agency and draws tens of thousands of people each year, will take place July 10-12 at the Tampa Convention Center.
San Diego Comic-Con, which usually takes place in July, was canceled this year. Meanwhile, local events Necronomicon and Florida Supercon have also been canceled, and a scaled-down MegaCon Orlando has been rescheduled for Oct. 30 through Nov. 1.
“After nearly two months of agonizing uncertainty, we have received confirmation from the Tampa Convention Center and Tampa Fire Marshal that TBCC 2020 will move forward with numerous health measures enacted by the venue and various levels of government, to keep attendees, exhibitors, guests, and staff as safe as possible,” organizers wrote.
Temperature screenings will be required for everyone entering the convention center, and the venue has increased cleaning and disinfection procedures in high-traffic areas. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up throughout the venue, and occupancy in the exhibition hall, ballrooms and meeting rooms will be limited.
Organizers added, “We’ve been waiting in limbo, not knowing and not having answers for quite a while. Now, we can resume guest announcements, along with exhibitor/artist alley invoicing, and guest bookings.”
Confirmed celebrity guests include Paul Bettany (J.A.R.V.I.S. and Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” films) and Kevin Nash (actor and retired professional wrestler.)
The announcement was met with mixed reactions on social media. Some were happy to hear the convention would take place, while others thought the move was irresponsible.
Brand Stark, an author, artist, and paranormal investigator who has presented at previous TBCC events, understands both sides and is “of a mixed mind” regarding this year’s convention.
“If it takes place in July it would be a nice break from having so little to do and it would be a return to normalcy,” she said. “At the same time, it does put people in close contact, and I have no idea how they are going to social distance and enforce that.”
Still, she “miss(es) the scene” and is considering attending TBBC on Friday when attendance is typically lower. She will make her decision based on her results after taking a COVID-19 antibodies test and the number of reported coronavirus cases around the time of the convention.
“We may well be within a second wave of the pandemic at that point,” Stark said.
Kevin Daniels, who will be presenting on the art of lightsaber combat at this year’s convention, is excited it will still take place.
“To be honest, I was very happy to see that they were going ahead with the event,” he said. “I feel comfortable with the measures the convention center is putting in place and the precautions other people have adopted. I think the convention will be just fine.”
Author Terri Lynn Coop, who was on staff at last year’s TBCC, is concerned this year’s event will be “a social distancing disaster,” though, and will not attend.
“Indoors is only part of the story. The crush outside the convention center, that is shoulder-to-shoulder during peak hours, cannot (be) monitored or controlled,” she said. “The comic con staff can’t do much more than direct the crowd to the various entrances. The winding line to the box office to buy or pick up tickets will also be next to impossible to maintain distancing. When the entrance line is over a block long, taking temperatures is going to be problematic.”
This brings numerous questions to mind, she added.
“Who is going to do it? Are they hiring medical personnel? And who is going to enforce it? The mostly teenage staff? Law enforcement? Private security?” she asked. “The precautions, which don’t appear to discuss masks, seem weak and ineffectual, and provide only false security.”