I’ve been going to the Phoenix Con since it was in Mesa, I believe my 1st con was in 2006 and I’ve been returning every year. When it was in Mesa it occurred in January, which is a REALLY nice month in Phoenix. When they were able to move to the MUCH larger Phoenix Convention Center they also moved to Memorial Day weekend. It’s a lot hotter, but the convention center is beautiful and the larger venue has allowed the con to grow by leaps & bounds every year.
Like most “comic cons” this is really more about pop culture. There are a lot of people there for media guests, cosplay fun, anime, etc. but it’s all good. These different fan genres mingled together and coexisted all weekend & it was CROWDED. This is a great sign, Phoenix & the surrounding areas are crying out for an event like this and it fills the need admirably.
As a comics fan I love this show. The comics-focused panels are not too crowded and the Con has really ramped up attendance by some big name comic guests who were very accessible in Artist’s Alley & at the booths. Creators like Neal Adams, Mike Allred, Greg Capullo, Frank Cho, Geof Darrow, Peter David, Kevin Eastman, Christos Gage, Kieron Gillen, Dan Jurgens, John Layman, Kevin Maguire, Mike McKone, Mike Mignola, Terry Moore, Mike Norton, Wendy & Richard Pini, Don Rosa, Steve Rude, Arthur Suydam, Ben Templesmith, Billy Tucci, Ethan Van Sciver, and Matt Wagner to name just a few.
There were also booths from some fabulous publishers: AdHouse Books, Aspen Comics, Avatar Press, Big Dog Ink, Boom! Studios, Oni Press, Valiant Comics, and Zenescope. These publishers almost all had creators present at their booths for the entire show and it was very easy to stop and chat with them. There were some great discoveries there for new fans and fabulous access to the people behind the Indie comics we love for existing fans.
One of my favorite parts of the Phoenix Con was notably absent this year, the Saturday evening Charity Art Auction. The live auction used to be a great place to hang out with fellow fans and pros and bid on art contributed by pros in attendance, with the proceeds going to charity. This was replaced with a silent art auction that was running all weekend. This still raised money for charity (and I got some nice piece of art on Sunday) but it didn’t have the same vibe as the live auction. I’ll be starting up an art Blog soon and post some of the great art I acquired at the con!
I had a great time at the show. I reconnected with “con friends” I’ve made over the years, including artists Dave Beaty, Frank Beddor, Ben Glendenning, Travis Hanson, Mike Norton, Tony Parker, Norm Rapmund, Stuart Sayger. I made some new “con friends”, notably the crew from AdHouse Books; Chris Pitzer, Jim Rugg, and Tom Scioli. I picked up a LOT of books from AdHouse, they have some fabulous stuff that is easily overlooked by people who primarily shop in stores that stock mostly “Big 2” or “Front Half of Previews” fare. I’ll be reviewing some of their stuff over the next few weeks & months.
In a bizarre ending to the con, a fire alarm was set off in the late afternoon on Sunday that meant they had to evacuate the entire convention center. Since the show floor is below ground, this meant everyone had to walk up 4 flights of stairs to get to street level. I’m convinced this was part of some clandestine Nerd Fitness Program. Nowhere else will you find this many comics fans trudging up 4 flights of stairs carrying heavy loads of books. Here’s a fan video of the evacuation taken on one of the stairwells:
It ended up being a false alarm & after about 30 minutes we were allowed back inside. I will say that the evacuation went very smoothly and was professionally handled by the con staff & volunteers. A lot of people just took this as an opportunity to head home, but they actually extended the hours of the con from a closure time of 5pm to 6:30. A lot of the exhibitors just packed up, but others cleverly took advantage of the situation with “Fire Alarm Sales” and added a bit of a discount to rack up some decent last minute sales while their neighbors packed it in.
In summary, if you love comics and pop culture and can make it to the southwestern US some Memorial Day weekend, the Phoenix Con is well worth your time. If you decide to go, let me know and we can meet up!!!
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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