When the toy and comic-book convention Ultracon assembles at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center this weekend, its founder, Irving Santiago, will hold the biggest vendor's booth of all, displaying 4,000 G.I. Joe action figures.
The Miami Gardens toy collector says the past 35 years spent building up his plastic army through hobby stores and conventions have taught him how to organize conventions of his own. But learning was, well, half the battle.
"I used to have 14,000 figures. The Cobra Terra Drone in 1986? I have 11 of those. I'd take four or five of those to toy conventions in the '90s, and oh, my God, they would be worth so much money, and that's how I'd fund my events," Santiago, 51, says. "I'm probably going to have the biggest G.I. Joe display in the United States."
But Santiago, whose conventions since 1995 have appeared at Sheraton Suites in Coconut Creek, the Ramada Inn in Hialeah and elsewhere, says Ultracon will be his largest ever, with about 150 vendors, slinging Hot Wheels, vintage sports cards, Godzilla and Transformers figurines, the Avengers comic books and anime memorabilia. A cosplay contest will take place Saturday and Sunday.
Guests will include the Garcia Brothers from Syfy special-effects-makeup reality series "Face Off"; and Palm Beach comic-book artist Jose Delbo, who in his 50-year career illustrated "Wonder Woman," "Superman" and "Transformers."
Ultracon will run 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday at Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd. Admission is $15-$25, $30 for festival pass. Go to UltraconOfSouthFlorida.com.