Comic Con in the Desert: Attending Tucson Comic Con 2014

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Can you believe another convention has come and gone in Arizona?!!! We just don’t know what to do with ourselves over here. This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 7th annual Tucson Comic-con. I wore many hats as a cosplayer, photographer and civie (aka your average attendee/fan). I will start with my overall perspective of this convention: the fans were GREAT! I attended the convention with a friend who also cosplayed. Since we were both in costume it was often difficult to find places to put our belongings when fans asked for pictures. Much to our surprise and thanks, many a polite stranger offered to bear our belongings as we snapped photos. Typically I would not trust my belongings with someone I do not know but the folks at this convention had a way of making you feel welcome and safe. This was a very unfamiliar experience; CMX 2014, held last month, is about as close as I have come to finding such a courteous band of social misfits. It was amazing knowing that you did not have to worry about being robbed every time you put down your bags.

Along with the secure ambiance there was an excitement I have not experienced at other conventions. Certainly fans have been excited at previous events but the buzz at TCC is hard to beat. The vendors were welcoming, the cosplay alley had great Star Wars, S.T.A.R.S and AZ Judges (from Judge Dredd) displays; they also allowed fans to take pictures free of charge (no joke, other conventions will try to charge you 5 bucks to take a pic with a dude in a half-way decent Dredd costume). The only concern about the vendor hall I had was the lack of “re-charging” stations aka food. There were only two food vendors in the hall. At one point we had to wait half an hour just to get a chicken wrap! At least they had a separate refreshment station so we could grab a drink when needed. Unfortunately, outside of the vendor hall (which was incredible) the convention did not have much to offer. They had split an enormous ball room into two equally large spaces for panels that boasted no more than 20-50 people a session. Additionally, the programming schedules were never delivered to the convention so staff had to keep the only paper copies of the schedule on a booth outside these two panel rooms. It made planning your day a little difficult when dozens of attendees were trying to share the same print out.

To make matters worse, the lack of organization with regard to scheduling complicated the cosplay contest pre-judging and competition. I have attended several competitions (three at this point) and each have had their ups and downs: PCC was cramped but on time, Saboten was behind schedule but had plenty of resting space and then there is TCC…How I do loathe that experience. Don’t get me wrong, I got so see some AMAZING cosplays and the people in line were a lot of fun to talk to. There was just this little issue of there being more competitors than the convention expected. Complicating matters further was the fact that pre-judging occurred in an open space so cosplayers were being pulled out of line to take pictures with fans which caused some delays as we had to stay in our categories’ group (novice, intermediate, expert, etc.). Pre-judging started a little past three and ended around 5:45pm. This immediately alerted me to the fact that the competition, which was scheduled for6pm, would be delayed. I mustered my patience and stood in line with dozens of cosplayers (no chairs were provided to rest as we waited) until about 6:45 pm.

HERE is where the calamity begins. The staff let EVERYONE, cosplayers and attendees alike, into the competition ballroom at once. This split groups, cause confusion and eventually broke the cosplay line. Thankfully we all had numbers and were quickly sorted into our assigned groups. My excitement to enter the ballroom was stifled when I was told the competitors had to stand against the back wall and wait their turn to go on stage. At this point I had been in my costume for 8 hours without giving my feet rest. I wasn’t even sure if I could perform the skit I had planned (I actually had to change my skit because I was so exhausted). Thankfully, once the competition began it went rather fast. I assume the other cosplayers felt the same exhaustion – there was little in the way areas of skits. Some cosplayers literally ran across the stage. All complaints aside, there were some amazing costumes and the judges were extremely delightful.

All in all, my favorite part of this event was the vendor hall. I mean, look at it!

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Photo by Samantha Kitts

It was amazing! I got to meet some interesting vendors, incredible writers and entertaining artists. This more than made up for the chaos that was the cosplay competition and the general lack of rest areas at this convention space. While this is not number one on my convention list it is worth a second try. I already have plans to attend next year and, worst case scenario, if the convention is bad there is always the astounding Dia de los Muertos parade held the same weekend in Tucson that I can sneak off to.

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