Phoenix Comic Con ’13: A Wretched Hive Of Scum and Villainy

Phoenix Comic Con was upon us again this past Memorial Day weekend. A four day event of wacky misadventures, cracking wise, and reTARDIS behavior. I was accompanied this year by my usual (or unusual, however you want to look at them) good friends Chris and Curtis, and a noob, Jason.

Quote of the weekend:¬†“Now if the drummer from Def Lepard had NO arms,¬†then I’d be impressed.” – Chris

Let’s get started.

Day 1

Preview day was a great start to the weekend. Much more elbow room and laid back. We got to roam the exhibit hall and search for good deals on comics. Also got a preview of what the costumes were going to be this year. Doctor Who. So much Doctor Who stuff. I also saw the actual Comic Book Guy. Weird ponytail skullet, goatee and everything. Not a costume. Actual person.

Chris picked out the first panel we went to. Something called Avengers Assemble! Sounded promising. Turned out to be fans of the Avengers movie dressed as the Avengers answering questions as if they were the Avengers. Chris lost his panel picking privileges after that. The next panel we went to was the best one of the whole weekend. It was a panel on SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) and habitable planets with Paul Davies and other professors from ASU who were experts in Astrobiology. One of the best panels I’ve been to, it was very educational and cool. The last panel we went to was something called Ultimate Nerd Smackdown where fans debate one another on something like, who is the better team: Justice League or Avengers. It was completely ridiculous and very entertaining. We did get to see a guy (champion from last year’s debate) use the panel to propose to his girlfriend, which was cool to witness her awkward acceptance.

Day 2

Since when do you need a wrist band to see Wil Wheaton’s Awesome Hour? Maybe since always, I don’t know. This was the first time, and last, I tried to go to his panel.

We went through a zombie obstacle course on this day. Sounded cool. We waited in line for almost two hours just to run a few loops through a big ball room at the Renaissance Hotel that took about a minute. So, a group of you would walk through the course of chairs and boxes while zombies (theatre students with makeup) would come after you and try to scare you. Luckily, we the helpless were escorted by the D.O.Z.D. (Department of Zombie Defense) to make it through alive as they would shoot the zombies dead with their orange tipped, plastic guns before they could get to us. Thank God. I’m pretty sure the lady protecting me shot me point blank in the temple. Twice. Chris too. ¬†I lost my event picking privileges after that.

Our Zombie fun wasn’t over yet. Later that night was the Zombie Walk. It reminded me of the parade at Dragon Con, but just zombies and the D.O.Z.D. So a bunch of people got painted up like zombies, clothes covered in blood, gory gashes in their faces, white faces, etc. They all gathered out in the street in a horde and then set off around a few blocks groaning and limping. Sounds cool, except that a bunch of moms with strollers walked among them unscathed. Photographers kept getting into the crowd to take pictures. And a lot of zombies just weren’t in character. Just didn’t feel like they were the walking dead.

We went to another panel that day called the Science of Drinking. I think Chris picked that one, and totally redeemed himself! It was these two guys who came up with a bunch of drinks that were sci-fi related and provided the recipes. They have a blog. Check it out. Anyway, at this panel they mentioned a few of the drinks (Vulcan Mind Meld, Romulan Ale and Sonic Screwdriver) would be served at an after-party called The Captain’s Cantina Party. They didn’t mention the drinks would be overpriced. $9 for a glass filled with too much ice. The party itself was… sobering. Especially the young lady on an acoustic who took the beat poet route to making us feel uncomfortable.

Day 3

Here’s a Con tip: When you go to a Jewel Staite panel and line up to say what you’ve been dying to say, don’t start off with, “I’ve been TV stalking you since you were a little girl.” Especially if you’re a really creepy looking dude. And don’t leave off with, “The Child of Darkness still wishes to see tomorrow.” Or some such nonsense. You tend to come off a bit psychotic. (creepiness at 12:09)¬†She handled it well, though.

Always a pleasure seeing Jewel Staite. You can tell she really enjoys going to these things and talking to her fans. Even The Child of Darkness. I learned at this panel that she has a food blog called Happy Opu. It’s pretty cool. Check it out.

Once we got back from lunch at a great little pizza place called Pizzeria Bianco, we walked the exhibit hall some more looking at art work. Later we went to another panel Chris had picked out about Star Wars, which was run by a group of teenagers who were not creative experts on the subject at all. Just really intense fans. Chris lost his panel picking privileges again.

But then he totally redeemed himself, again, by picking a panel about upcoming movies for the next two years so that I can be prepared not to pay money to see any of them. Basically, everything scheduled to come out in theaters for the next two years is a sequel, reboot, ¬†rehash, unoriginal idea. All of Disney’s plans for Star Wars alone made me sick. Like, seven more movies, an animated series, a live action series, stupid shit like this. Watch that. Let it sink in. Try to keep your lunch down.

Ended the night seeing the first part of the costume masquerade, which was a bunch kids dressed in anime costumes standing awkwardly on stage with some epic TV theme song playing, or a group of kids dressed like the Justice League and for some reason started pretend-fighting each other. Why would members of the Justice League fight each other? Followed that up with Comedy Hour, which was hilarious, and way better than last year.

Day 4

Some yahoo thought it would be a good idea to pull the fire alarm. We had left the con for a bit to get lunch at the Rose and Crown and when we got back everyone was outside. Fortunately, we didn’t have to bare that very long, because they let us all back inside shortly after we returned. Missed all the excitement. As a result, they extended the con hours. Unfortunately, half the vendors left along with a lot of the crowd. The Cosplay girls dressed down (or covered up) and it just wasn’t the same.

I did buy some new artwork. A hauntingly and heartfelt  piece of Mr. Freeze looking on a music box ballerina by Livio Ramondelli.

At the end of it all, we bought alcohol, went back to my place and made our own Sonic Screwdrivers and watched new episodes of Arrested Development. A great end to a great weekend.


Phoenix Comicon ’12: Valley of the Guyses

What can I say about the Phoenix Comicon other than I was completely surprised?

I’m from Phoenix, AZ. Grew up and lived here for almost 25 years before I moved to the great Northwest, and there was never a spectacle such as the Phoenix Comicon that entire time I lived here. Since I moved away, I have attended many conventions, mostly in the Seattle area while I lived there (Emerald City Comicon, PAX, Aki Con), and the great sci-fi con in Atalanta, Dragon Con. Never did I expect my boring home town of Phoenix to hold a candle to those conventions. I was genuinely surprised to see that the Phoenix Comicon surpassed that of ECCC in size and dedicated fans in full sci-fi/fantasy/comic/anime costumes. So many people showed up in costume, it was almost a fraction as intense as Dragon Con. It occupied all of the Phoenix Convention Center and two hotels. There were plenty of big name guests. and it only cost $45 for all four days. (My friends and I didn’t go all four days, but it was still cheaper to pay for the four days than two separate days.)

However, where ECCC has Phoenix beat is the number of comic vendors at the show. On the main floor, there were plenty of artists and writers to meet, but not very many vendors representing local comic shops selling their goods. Emeral City had shops from all over the northwest coming out to promote their business. Either way, neither con had the books I was looking for to add to my collection.

Artists & Writers:
Garth Ennis was at this con representing Crossed with Avatar Press. I missed him, unfortunately. I did get to see and speak with Crossed artist Jacen Burrows again. This time I got him to sign the #1 issue of Badlands with the limited Phoenix Comicon cover. Hopefully Ennis will be there next year so I can get his autograph as well.

There weren’t any other big names there that I was familiar with. I met some new people, though. There was this amazing artist there, an AZ¬†local,¬†Shelby Robertson,¬†selling his prints for $10. A most excellent price for quality work, and he was a hell of a nice guy.

Sharing a booth with shelby was a very talented young artist named Chris Burkheart, who stood and shook my hand when I recognized the Orwell reference to Oddity Commodity’s magazine: Room 101. Yay for literature nerds! I feel bad, however, because I didn’t grab a copy and have the guys sign it. I really should have. Instead, I was like, “Is this an Orwell reference? Peace out!”

My friends and I went to a DC panel. That was different. On the event guide it was listed as DC Universe: Flashpoint.
Cool. DC Universe panels are always great because they let us know what cool new things will be happening with DC comics. Unfortunately, we had no idea what Flashpoint was. It was an entire panel on just The Flash with six different creators of recent Flash titles. “Oh dear god. We made a horrible mistake.” The panel was so boring, it made us lethargic and we couldn’t run away.
Here ‘s an idea for The Flash’s next villain: That panel. They¬†confront The Flash and bore him so much he can’t run away.

I met another young comic creator new to the trade, and this time, it was a…. WOMAN! That’s right. A woman. Apparently they have imaginations too. J.P. Roth was pushing her book, Ancient Dreams. As she was telling me about it, I¬†was thinking, “Wow. This sounds horrible.” But I bought a copy and read it, and it’s actually pretty goood. The artwork is decent and the coloring amazing.
Notice in the picture I’m holding the comic upside down. That’s what a cute girl in a wig and frilly tutu does to me. It’s like a metaphor for my relationships. Crazy girls turning my world upside down.

J.P. Roth

Notice I’m holding the comic upside down.

Big Shot Celebrities:
Phoenix Comicon brought out some big names for the event. Ol’ Bill Shatner¬† was there. I’ve seen his panels before, so I didn’t make a point to go see him. However, I did go to the Star Trek: Next Gen 25th anniversary panel, which included LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton.

  • LeVar Burton was pretty cool. He got the audience to sing the Reading Rainbow theme with him.
  • Michael Dorn seemed like a really nice guy. I think he genuinely wanted to be there and talk about Star Trek until the other cast members kept cutting him off and interrupting him. At one point he just stopped responding to questions.
  • Marina Sirtis was actually kind of a bitch. She kept making bitchy comments to the audience and the¬†other cast members. She interrupted Michael Dorn at one point to go on some rant about Arizona’s SB1070 law. Maybe she couldn’t sense that there were other people sharing¬†panel time with her. She really gave off the impression that she was rational and level headed. This other blog I read hits the nail on the head about her.
  • Brent Spiner, of course, was hilarious. Sirtis earlier pointed out in a very bitchy manner the plural possesive use of the word guys. Spiner turned it into a joke, you know, to make the audience feel a little more comfortable, not annoyed. But they brought up a good point I had never noticed around here before, but heard it my whole life. People pronounce guys’ as guyses. Hence, as Spiner put it, must be an Arizona thing. “Welcome to the Valley of the guyses.”
  • Wil Wheaton. I’ve never seen him in a panel before this, and the guy is pretty cool, I must say. He was so nice to the people asking questions, even when you could tell he thought the question was kind of stupid. He had these very philisophical, deep and intense views on things. I liked listening to him.

Another celebrity I got to meet: Lou Ferrigno.¬†I had been wanting to meet and talk with this guy for a while. I had seen him at ECCC and Dragon Con, but never took the time to go to his booth. And¬†I always felt bad about that since he would just be sitting there alone and hardly any¬†con-people approaching him. So I made it a point to see him here, and there was actually a line. I really just wanted to pick his brain about weight lifting, since I’ve been¬†trying it for a couple years now¬†attempting to bulk up and gain some muscle mass. He is not the conversationalist. Maybe I wasn’t approaching the subject correctly, but he really wasn’t interested in talking to me. Plus, it cost me $40 to get a picture with him, with my own camera. That was money well wasted. That wasn’t a big deal, though. I really just wanted to meet the guy.

Lou Ferrigno

We’re like the Avengers, or something.

Other than going to nerd panels and flexing my muscles at bodybuilders, my friends and I did a lot of perusing of the tables, chewing the fat with comic creators and fellow nerds, getting pictures taken with cute girls dressed up like fictional characters, and a whole lot of people watching. There were some amazing costumes at this con. So many kids dressed up like Anime characters. It was cool walking by a local bar and there would be a moster drinking a martini on the patio with Poison Ivy.

The 501st Legion Dune Sea Garrison was there in full force (no pun intended). Trekkies everywhere. Plenty of obscure comic book and movie characters.

And then there was me. A real super hero. but nobody noticed because I keep a low profile.

One last thing: We also went to the late night, adult comedy hour. It was definitely late at night. It was definitely for adults. It was about 80% comedy. There were some great amateur comedians there. However, when you end the show with a guy who dresses up like the Joker from the Dark Knight and all he does is say lines from the movie, and at one point brandish a knife and pretend to cut the throat of someone in the audience, I fail to see the humor in that. Just because we’re comic book geeks doesn’t mean we’re going to get off on someone’s final for their improve acting class, even if it’s from one of our favorite movies. It would have been much better if he just told some jokes.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures.