When you think about Fort Lauderdale, of all the things that pop into your head, chances are comic book conventions aren't one of them. And there's a reason for that. There aren't really any.
But Joey Cammisa and Troy Humble are hoping to change that with Wap! Comic Con, Fort Lauderdale's first large-scale comic book, video game, and pop culture convention. And if there are two people in South Florida who can do it, it's these guys.
Joey, 28, and Troy, 40, are comic book fans. Not the kind who throw on a cape and a pair of non-prescription glasses and head to the newest super hero movie premiere. No. These guys are legit. If they punch you in the face, a little bubble that says BAM would probably materialize next to your temple.
Joey started working at the country's second largest comic and gaming store right out of high school before moving back to his hometown of Davie, and opening his own comic shop called War and Pieces.
Troy first got his hands on a comic book at age seven when his father tossed him an old stack. That inspired him to embark on a career as an artist, and after he graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2005, Troy started his own graphic design and fine arts business, Humble Ink, which he's been running for the past eight years.
Joey and Troy met at Joey's shop, War and Pieces. Joey eventually left the store, but his friendship with Troy remained strong, and their love of all things comic books even stronger.
After attending a few comic conventions together, Troy and Joey began to wonder: Why don't we do this? After all, there really were no conventions in Broward. All they had to do was rent a venue, sell some space to vendors, and BAM, they'd have a convention.
Things were nowhere near that simple, but after seven months of all the gritty details of big-scale event planning, they'd finally put together Wap! Comic Con. And on May 9-11 at the Broward convention center, their dream will become a reality.
"Because we're a first year show, we have a lot of people that will look at us and say, 'Are you legit?'" Joey explains. "Once they see all these pieces, and once they see the passion and amount of effort that me and Troy are putting into this, it tends to swing them back over to our side."
Troy and Joey didn't just want another typical convention. They wanted a true comic book convention, something that would appeal to both the casual and hardcore fan. "We wanted to bring it back to what we loved about comic book conventions," Troy says.
The two managed to secure a rare collection of original art from comic book legend and member of the Comic Book Hall of Fame, Jerry Robinson. Robinson worked at DC Comics in the '40s and created the Joker. During his time there, he was able to secretly amass a huge collection of original art, which was difficult because, at the time, there were very strict paper rations due to the war.
"You where only allotted a specific number of pages per book," Joey explains. "After you finished the art and they went to print, the original pages had to be re-pulped so you could be reissued paper for the next book. So most the original art from this era was destroyed."
The two also landed comic book stud, Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He'll be speaking at the convention about his previous work and his contributions on the new, Michael Bay-produced Ninja Turtles movie.
A portion of the proceeds from each ticket bought will go to the Dan Marino Foundation, a charity that provides research, services, and treatment programs for children with neurodevelopment disabilities.
Joey and Troy have been doing monthly charity events for the Dan Marino Foundation leading up to the convention on May 9. Their next one is this Saturday, February 22, from 7 p.m. to midnight at C&I Studios in Ft. Lauderdale. The event is called Wap the Wall, and anyone who makes a donation will get to graffiti a 30-foot wall with whatever they please.
It has by no means been easy, but Troy and Joey hope Wap! Comic Con will put Florida on the comic convention map.
"For me this is a project to make South Florida one of the biggest comic convention locations in the United States," Joey says. "Right now when people think comic conventions they think San Diego and New York, and I want to add a third one to that list, and I want it to be South Florida."
WAP! Comic Con will take place May 9 through May 11 at the Broward Convention Center. Tickets cost $25. You can get them here.
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