The Tampa Bay Comic Con wants you to help break a world record.
Last year, so many people in capes, tights, masks, wings, utility belts, green foam muscles, cat ears, wookie fur, metal bikinis, arc reactors, adamantium claws and joker smiles queued up outside the convention on opening day that the line stretched out of the Tampa Convention Center and over the Harbour Island Bridge.
This year, the people who run things thought, why not harness that crowd to make a little history?
So costumed fans will gather outside the Tampa Convention Center at 11 a.m. Friday in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the “largest gathering of people dressed as comic book characters,” Comic Con spokesperson Kailee Baylor said.
Baylor said she's confident the Tampa convention will smash the record of 1,530 set in 2011 at the opening of the World Joyland theme park in China.
The convention expects to welcome nearly 50,000 people between Friday and Sunday, based on advance ticket sales. Many will show up in costume for three days of browsing the hundreds of vendors, attending the dozens of panels, and generally geeking out at more individual events than ever before.
Like most comic book conventions, including Comic Con International in San Diego, the world's largest, the Tampa Bay Comic Con holds onto its core of being a comic book event by hosting a long list of writers and artists and offering thousands of plastic-sleeved back issues for sale, while drawing the real crowds by catering to fans of blockbuster movies, TV shows and pop culture in general.
The list of celebrity guests who will appear this year includes Evan Peters from the Emmy-winning “American Horror Story” and a movie-stealing role as Quiksilver in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal, who play Robb Stark and Oberyn Martell on HBO's fantasy phenomenon “Game of Thrones.” John Rhys Davies, from the “Lord of the Rings” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, and Katy Lotz from television's “Arrow” will also be there to answer questions at panels (free with admission) and sign autographs and pose for fan photos ($30 to $50).
Baylor said the convention has taken steps to remedy the long lines that plagued the event last year, when a huge turnout caught organizers off-guard and some people waited hours to get into the main exhibition hall, even if they ordered tickets in advance.
“We definitely switched up the way we set up the lines. It will be a lot more convenient now,” Baylor said. “Pre-orders are completely separate; they'll go straight in. Cash and credit card payments will get multiple separate lines, and there will be separate re-entry lines.”
The convention also decided to open its doors at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, several hours earlier than previous years, and added after-hours programming from 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Those who want to participate in Friday's world record don't have to attend the convention, Baylor said. There is only one rule: costumes must represent characters that first appeared in print comic books.
NEW THIS YEAR
♦ Nerdy Double Dare: Marc Sommers, the original host of Nickelodeon's 1990s game show “Double Dare” (you may remember something about picking a flag from a giant nostril) will host a live competition on an obstacle course built with help from set designers on the original show. Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
♦ The Cinema: Cult classics of all varieties, from "The Princess Bride" to "Spaceballs" to "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" will screen in the film room. Friday, 12:30 p.m. to midnight
♦ YouTube Stars: Popular YouTube channel creators from the geek scene will host their own panels, including Disney impressionist Bri Ray, LGBT activist and web host ElloSteph and Chase Bunker, host of ThatNewShow, who shares his brutal and often hilarious takes on video games and pop culture. Friday to Sunday.
♦ Way of the Sword: Enter the arena as a spectator or warrior as Way of the Sword, a statewide organization devoted to the combat sport known as “boffer fighting,” where participants use foam-padded weapons to battle in medieval combat, hosts battles over all three days.
♦ Zombies invade: The con's first-ever zombie walk will have a hoard of the undead stumbling through the convention center followed by a zombie costume contest. Line up at 2:30 p.m. Friday to participate.
♦ Nerdy Speed Dating: You don't have to travel to a galaxy far far away to find someone special. The popular event lets you experience dozens of two-minute mini-dates over an hour to see if there's a connection. Saturday and Sunday
♦ Costume Contest: The con's most popular event featuring hundreds of costumed attendees strutting their stuff for the crowd in hopes of winning cash prizes. Tip: Handmade costumes always do better. Saturday, 4:30 p.m.