Phoenix Comicon is the leading comic and media convention in Arizona. Last year nearly 78,000 members attended the event and it was estimated 80,000 or more attended this past weekend. With a convention so large I am honestly surprised to admit that the sheer number of people spanning three floors of two convention buildings wasn’t overwhelming. The only day where the crowd became a nuisance was Saturday (which is typically the day where member attendance increases). For those wondering why I call PCC attendees “members” here is your answer: that is what convention staff call them. Phoenix Comicon is moving away from attendee focus, where people are seen as numbers, and towards member focus where customers are seen as an integral part of the event. This was clearly evident in the positive treatment I received (even as an active volunteer I was treated to polite and helpful responses from onsite event staff) during the four day event.
Day One, Thursday, also nicknamed “Preview Night” went smoothly. I arrived a bit later than I had intended however; this did not delay my schedule as the registration area was organized, attentive, and swift in their motions. Line and access control worked hard to divert members to their proper registration lines. This aided me in my attempt to check-in as a panelist and ensured my punctual arrival to the panel I was due to host. The panel, hosted by myself (ThermoCosplay), Firelight Cosplay, CleverFox Cosplay and StevieSpade Cosplay focused on Foam Smithing for Beginner Cosplayers. Foam Smithing is one’s ability to manipulate foam for prop, armor and/or accessory fabrication. Much to our shock over 284 members attended the panel and nearly 90% of those who attended had little to no history in foam crafting. The panel was quite successful and the staff assisted us in documenting the event for future reference. There was one hiccup however…I fell on stage. Yep, excitement got the best of me and I accidentally kicked my chair out from underneath me so when I sat back down…the stage greeted my bum instead of the chair. Despite moderate humiliation on my part, the crowd was supportive and staff members were quick to come to my aide (yes, I am clumsy…the armor didn’t help). Now I have an amusing anecdote to tell people like all of you!
As the convention progressed into Friday I found myself caught up in the whirlwind of cosplay activity. Cosplay at this convention is incredible. Novice and Masters alike walk together and share ideas in a one of the largest brainstorming sessions I have ever seen. The convention had a strict “Cosplay is not Consent” policy and when someone violated that policy they were warned only once before being escorted out. I have to give props to security. They were everywhere and I had little difficulty interacting with them which was a wonderful experience compared to other conventions I have attended where Security was a hindrance instead of a help. I did notice that badges were not checked in all places which made me a little nervous until I discovered that badges were checked at the entrance of each panel, exhibitor and event hall. I know it sounds strange to be worried about someone not having a badge but knowing someone is documented and could be held accountable for any negative activity they partake of is comforting for those of us who have been in such situations.
Saturday of the convention was…well, I am at a loss of words to describe it. I attended the convention with a large Borderlands cosplay group. Getting through weapons check took some time but was relatively easy. The zip ties were also easy to hide with one’s hand for times when photo ops cropped up…and there were A LOT of photo ops. In fact, this convention was one of the more welcoming events for cosplayers of all skill sets. At times, as a cosplayer, I am faced with some individuals in the community who place themselves on a pedestal. I’ve nicknamed them the “Cosplay Elitists”. These Elitist were nowhere to be found at PCC and it was a relief. Support from members, fellow cosplayers and staff was gratifying. It made the experience all the more enjoyable. If you are a cosplayer DON’T MISS OUT on next year’s convention. PCC welcomes cosplayers and even dedicated an entire convention hall to those who adore costuming and role play.
The only disappointment I experienced on Saturday revolved around my interaction with the Masquerade. My team was competing and upon our turn in the pre-judging green room we were told our time had been cut from 5 minutes (1 minute per person) to just 3 minutes. This meant that two of us didn’t have the opportunity to speak about our cosplay build progress with the judges. Additionally, during the Masquerade our audio was cut short by 20 seconds (there were some really amusing lines in those last seconds too). While this frustrated me it did not overshadow the immense effort that those who coordinated the Masquerade put into the event. As someone who has attended Masquerades in the past I have come to expect chaos and there was certainly a fair share of it in the PCC costuming department. Despite the hurdles, con staff worked diligently to overcome the obstacles; they finished strong with an entertaining Masquerade.
Sunday was the only chance I had to walk the Exhibitor hall in its entirety. The exhibitor space spanned SIX very large convention halls and had a mix of everything from comics to clothing to cosplay to weapons and more! They even had food stations so you could have a quick snack without having to work your way back out into the convention’s center. Artist Alley, one of my favorite sections, was a little difficult to navigate and the selection this year lacked the impressive merchandise I have seen in past PCC events. I know the waiting list for this space is well over a hundred people long and I hope to see new faces next year.
All in all, this event provides what it promises. There are indoor events (for those trying to avoid the 100 degree temperatures in AZ), there are outdoor events (for the avid car enthusiast there is even a collection of comic decorated cars), there is an atrium in the Hyatt dedicated solely to gaming (YES! AN ENTIRE ATRIUM!), there are comics, costumes, panels, guests, photo ops, autograph sessions…pretty much ANYTHING that falls into the pop culture genre can be found at Phoenix Comicon. As this event grows I look forward to the improvements it promises.
For those who cannot wait an ENTIRE YEAR for a Phoenix Comicon Event check out their new convention: Fan Fest. Fan Fest is held in early December at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona. This is the perfect event for those just starting to get into the convention scene or those who need to do some last minute Christmas shopping . Information on Fan Fest can be found here: www.phoenixcomicon.com
Last but not least, check out these great photos from the convention…