Ten years ago, the landscape for geek culture in South Florida was pretty scattered. There were comic shops, sure, but the region lacked a unifying event — a convention big enough to attract not just South Florida fans, but celebrities, professionals in the industry, and visitors from all over the area. Mike Broder set out to change that. “In 2006, when I started Supercon, there was a real lack of geek culture events in South Florida, and no real comic-con,” he recalled. “Back then, you had to travel to Orlando or Atlanta to go to a big event.”
It started as a small gathering of Superman fans, hence the name, but Florida Supercon has exploded in popularity, outgrowing venue after venue until it finally landed at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where this weekend close to 45,000 guests are expected to attend.
Before launching Supercon, Broder had made a name for himself working for a variety of indie film distribution companies in New York City, including Arrow Entertainment, Small Planet Pictures, and Winstar Cinema, which explains his support for the Super Geek Film Festival, happening alongside Supercon at the Convention Center.
Despite his time in New York, South Florida was always home — he even graduated from Broward College in 1995. So when he returned, he jumped right into Supercon. But that was just the start. As president of Superconventions, he now overseas not just Supercon, but Animate! Miami and Magic City Comic Con, as well. For him, diversity has been the key to attracting a growing audience and a wide variety of guests, which this year includes Karen Gillan, Kevin Smith, Tom Kenny, Paul McGann, Nichelle Nichols, Billie Dee Williams, and Arlene Tur, among a slew of writers, artists, gamers, wrestlers, comedians, and even a tap-dancing ensemble.
“I try to cover as many fandoms as possible, and be as inclusive as possible,” he said. “That means catering to comic book fans, anime fans, sci-fi fans, video game fans, cosplay fans, cartoon fans… I seriously think we have one of the most diverse guest lists, and programming, of any show in the country.”
And part of that diversity means having events and panels for everybody. While there’s plenty of G-rated content during the day, from costume contests to Super Smash Bros. tournaments, after dark the Convention Center kind of turns into one big grown-up party, with late night raves, 18+ hentai panels, and nerd burlesque shows. Most conventions end when the hall closes, but Broder has made the choice to keep things going until 2 a.m. “I always knew I wanted to keep the party going into the late night,” he admitted. This is South Beach, after all.
While the first few shows were definitely a bit of a learning process, Florida Supercon has persevered. And it remains a family affair, led by Broder and his wife, Sandy Martin, the convention’s chief operating officer, along with plenty of help from a small army of employees and volunteers that even includes his parents and in-laws.
Actually, it was through Supercon that he met his wife in the first place. According to Martin, she had been running a comic book shop, and Broder came up to her and told her everything she was doing wrong. “Obviously the way to a woman’s heart,” she said with a laugh during a press event this week.
Together, they might be considered the king and queen of South Florida’s geeks. At least, for this week, as the fans descend on South Beach, many in full costumes, whether they’re kids or adults. “My job is to be a host,” he said. “A host for 50,000 or so people, at one giant party, and it’s my job to make sure as many people as possible are having a good time.”
Florida Supercon runs from June 25 – 28 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive.