On the scene: Phoenix Comicon 2013

Phoenix Comicon didn’t look anything like it did last year. While there was a smattering of industry news, it seemed like the industry in the southwest was pretty dormant. Which was a bit surprising with all the attention this show got. The city had PHX information all over the place, and it was promoted on various local news outlets. Did it need it? Probably not, but a show that originated in the tiny, cramped Mesa Center has avalanched into what some were calling a “Mini San Diego.”

There were just too many comic book guests to list. On the last day, after the con was finally over and the dust settled I got to meet Mike Choi. “One of the most organized conventions I’ve been to,” were Choi’s thoughts on the efficiency on the organizers and staff. Some said they were treated like royalty. Staffers would go around and give the guests food, drinks, and go as far as escort creators to their panels. Others coined this convention a comic-con in the middle of a cosplay event.

Final numbers weren’t released, but I heard 50k. Last year there was an issue with capacity and the fire marshal was called, but this year was different. At about 4:03 p.m. on Sunday fire alarms silenced a convention floor of thousands of people. Everyone was looking around thinking it was a joke or a part of the announcements, but a repeating emergency response recording was alerting people to head to emergency exits. I witnessed a father say to himself, “Oh my god I have to find my daughter!” and ran.

Attendees stood in the unforgiving Arizona heat on what was supposed to be the last hour of a joyous weekend. Fortunately, the closing hour was pushed back from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Mike Norton tweeted Saturday night a warning there was going to be a fire alarm prank at Hyatt (the main convention hotel) the night before. There might be a connection, but catching the culprit might be slim with a convention floor of masked characters.

Thankfully, security and volunteers did a great job by getting everyone to safety and relaying information during the evacuation. One of the volunteers told me it was a fire alarm prank, and an officer advised me a smoke alarm on the third floor of the convention center triggered all of the alarms. I’m very thankful that a convention full of people who READ could empty so quickly and efficiently. Volunteers helped the pros out safely and contacted them on their cellphones when it was safe to enter the exhibitor hall again.

The only negative things I heard about the volunteer staff was in the three hour lines for Kevin Eastman and Greg Capullo. One of the line staffers on Saturday was (jokingly) telling people she appreciated their patience but she was tired of looking at their faces, over and over again.

There were plenty of eating establishments and bars within walking distance of the event, including very inexpensive and quality eateries. I went out to eat at Cooperstown, home of “THE BIG UNIT.” The establishment was featured on the infamous Man Vs Food.

PHXCC has always been known for a show with amazing cosplay but nothing like this. It was like 1 out of 3 people were cosplaying as Homestuck characters,  Star Trek, or members of the Village people. People were just dressing up in whatever they wanted to. Anything goes, even Mickey Mouse ears.

Publishers like Oni Press, BOOM Studios and Avatar Press were present and seemed to had some success. Maybe when attendance numbers are announced, others publishers will consider attending but I know the word mouth from the creators should appeal to their peers. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a major spike in female attendance. There was a big celebrity presence in the Star Trek Universe and various sc-fi film/television, but forgive me for my lack of focus on that subject because my heart is in comics. It was nice to see the Hero Initiative partnering up with a ton of the big name talent trying to raise money for the cause.

Sadly, it’s over and I’m sure that I’m not the only one excited for next year.

cthwnd On the scene: Phoenix Comicon 2013

Comments

  1. Henry-
    another great convention report. I think you do a great job with your coverage, getting the actual FEEL from the convention floor as opposed to merely posting laundry list of panel announcements, etc.

    Best-
    Jimmy S. Jay…

  2. Torsten Adair says:

    Yup. “Ordinary Comic Cons Hitting Five Digits in Attendance” is one of this year’s Zeitgeists.

    I suggest that the large attendance figures of local cons will encourage other local events to add comics to programming, to encourage greater attendance. It will also encourage local talent, which will also be proactive in expanding coverage. (How many local comics shops had artists signing and sketching during Free Comic Book Day?)

  3. The only thing I regret not writing about is the panels. The programming was great this year and I’m glad that they didn’t stream the panels online. I feel like that’s an experience that should be shared with people who took the time (and money) to attend to the event.

  4. This is good news for everyone — creators, publishers, fans, cities, and promotors! Hooray for comics!

  5. Mike Morris says:

    My wife and I have attended Phoenix Comicon every year since we moved out here from the Northeast, and it is an awesome convention! I’ve been going to cons my whole life (including NY Comicon for the first 3 years of its existence) and this is my all-time favorite. It’s the perfect balance of comics and other media (including enough comic vendors for those looking for bargains). The comic-related guests are also a great mix of “big company” talent and big names in independent comics (we’ve been thrilled to meet many favorites ranging from Garth Ennis and Neal Adams to Stan Sakai and Terry Moore). As mentioned in Henry’s article, there’s also plenty of Star Trek and Star Wars presence (we attended panels by William Shatner last year and Nichelle Nichols this year), plus tons of cosplay for both participants and observers. It’s a well-attended event, but extremely well-organized (particularly the last 2 years) and you don’t feel overwhelmed by the crowds.

    I’d highly recommend Phoenix Comicon for any fans interested in an AZ vacation next year, and certainly hope to meet more great creators as the good news continues to spread.

  6. This was my first con and I was more impressed than I ever thought I would be. There was a perfect mix of comics, anime, science, and miscellaneous pop culture. I even got addicted to a comic series while there! The cosplay was incredible, and I was so glad I made a costume for the event. I agree it was incredibly well organized, and the staff and security were actually nice! Some of the organization also can be credited to attendees; I’ve never seen lines that snakes in an orderly fashion with no ropes! Anyway, it was an amazing event and I’m sure my standards are going to be hopelessly high for any other cons I attend.

  7. You call THAT “unforgiving Arizona heat”?

    Tomorrow’s forecast high is 106.

    You got off light. Some of us have to live here.

    Seriously though, good piece. It was a fun con and I got to see most everybody I wanted to, including a chance to chat with Don Rosa for a bit. Can’t beat that.

  8. @Thad – I live in Tucson. I know your pain.

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