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Reflections on Phoenix Comicon 14

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If you live in Phoenix, have access to social media, and have any interest or friends with interest in the topic of this piece, then chances are you’ve been inundated with images and commentary on the 14th Annual Phoenix Comicon. Well, here’s some more.

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The four-day event began Thursday afternoon and took over the Phoenix Convention Center (and surrounding businesses) through Sunday afternoon. The unavoidable image of a fan gathering is the collection of people in elaborate costume, whether it be the Geek Prom King of Skeletor, or the creative crossovers like the Storm Troopers with Marvin the Martian helmets and armor skirts. Final attendance numbers have not yet been disclosed, but anyone experiencing past PhxCC’s can easily estimate an increase in bodies, especially on Saturday with long waits to enter or reenter the main building.
(*UPDATE: Final attendance count exceded 77,000.)

One recent addition was the street fair on 3rd Street. Many fan built duplicate vehicles were on display, from the AZ Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 to the Back to the Future time machine. This particular Delorean, lovingly rebuilt and customized by BttF fans, tours the country raising money for Parkinson’s Disease research. Additionally, the outdoor venue featured food trucks and live entertainment. This portion of the con was free to anyone walking by. A wise decision considering the 100+ heat.

I personally did not have time to attend any spotlight panels. From what I heard from others, they went over well. There have been some complaints about the lines for the ballroom. Truthfully, it’s not as bad as the spotlight events at San Diego Comic Con. For their famous Hall H panels (where they introduce, among other things, the announcement of major motion picture productions like Batman v. Superman ), the line is up to eight hours deep, is mostly outside, and they don’t clear the rooms between panels. Imagine the nightmare of doing that in Phoenix in June. Here, they keep the line inside and let people know when they won’t get in.

I did stand in line for one autograph. I added Nathan Fillion’s (Firefly, Castle) name to my Dr. Horrible DVD, along with the Felicia Day signature I acquired four years ago (where is NPH?). There was an hour wait for me prior to the guest’s arrival at the table; but, he arrived 20 minutes earlier than scheduled and got right to the fans who had been waiting for almost three hours. Interactions were brief. He asked each person their name, offered a handshake and a thank you. I take the brevity as a necessity to accommodate the number of people in the line. I had a similar experience with Leonard Nimoy in 2011. What is the purpose of pursuing an autograph? Everyone has different reasons. For me, if I admire someone’s work, and that admiration is shared by others, I’m curious to see how they accept that admiration. Just showing up to an event like this is a demonstration of good will. And it actually is hard work to be polite and smile and talk to hundreds of strangers individually for hours on end. I personally thought Fillion did well with this task. I’ve heard others complain that they found him to be cold and impersonal. I’ve also heard others praise John Barrowman (Dr. Who, Arrow) for his energy, enthusiasm and personal attention to each fan. I hope he returns. I wouldn’t mind witnessing this for myself.

Much of my own con experience was wrapped up in the film festival, the film challenge, and the Adult Puppet Slam. I had two short films screening and the closing act in the slam. All of these events were well attended (which was not always true of the film festivals in PhxCC past), and it was a thrilling experience for me personally. There are few experiences more satisfying to an audience than the sound of hundreds of people appropriately laughing and cheering for your work. It’s an experience I wouldn’t mind repeating a few times.

The Phoenix Comicon was overall a great time. It felt to me like a weekend at Disneyland. Sure, there are small issues here and there with crowd flow and communication, but I do believe the con organizers learn every year and make a distinct effort to improve things with each passing event.

*UPDATE!!! Now with the 77,000+ head count, PhxCC is #7 in North America, #5 in the USA.
(Rating based on unique attendance.)

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