Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Weekend at Phoenix Comicon

This weekend I did the one thing I’ve always wanted to do, but could never pull off. Things like time or distance had pushed me away as much as my wallets lacking in girth. But that changed this weekend!

Yes, I went to a comic book convention.

I went to the Phoenix Comicon 2010. As I walked through the doors to the Phoenix Convention Center I was overwhelmed by the sight of costumes, comic books, and art of all sorts. Now, being that I was a virgin to this I didn’t know what to think. This type of convention is notorious for movie and television clichés that show the geeks coming out of the woodwork to heatedly discuss who would win in a battle between Obi-Wan and Spock. And though such discussions do happen along with many other credible debates, I started to see there are many people whom you would had never guessed to be geeks; the CEO dressed in his favorite Avenger t-shirt looking for a rare signed graphic novel, the teenage girl sporting cat ears and tail attending the seminar on the latest NASA project, and the waiter cosplaying a rather impressive robot warrior suit posing for pictures for the fans. These were normal, fun loving, regular people having a good time with their peers. Such conventions are a place where geeks can be themselves…or at least feel safe enough to be anything they want. In other words, I was home.

Now let’s start from the beginning. I had first heard of the Phoenix Comicon a little over six months ago in a flier printed by at a book signing (Brandon Sanderson for The Wheel of Time: The Gathering Storm if anyone was wondering). This was almost too good to be true. A comic book convention in my backyard and I never knew it. I scoured the Phoenix Comicon website for more information. I emailed questions and received prompt and helpful responses from the amazing volunteer staff followed by an open invitation to their kickoff event.

On January 28th I went to the Phoenix Comicon Kickoff Event where everyone was given a tour of the convention center and where everything was going to be set up. It was there that I met Matt Solberg, the Convention Director, who told me the history of the Phoenix Comicon. What impressed me most about him was his genuine nature and desire to listen to the attendees to make the convention better. It’s thinking like this that makes it all the more obvious why the Phoenix Comicon is “The signature pop-culture event of the southwest.”

During the same kickoff even I ran into many amazing individuals from fans to volunteers to business owners looking forward to the event. I spoke to many people to include two great guys the artist Jeff Piña and graphic novel reviewer Thomas Healy. Both were gracious enough to give me a moment of their time explaining their excitement for the event both from a business perspective and as long time fans of the very spirit of this and any other convention like unto it.
I was convinced; now all I had to do was convince my wife the expense and my friend and collaborator, Andrew, that this would be great exposure for Henchmen (Yeah, you saw what I did there—Shameless promotions make the world turn). With Andrew the conversation went fictionally like this:



“Let’s go to Comicon.”

“Sweet, I’m in.”

My wife on the other hand:

“Hello my beautiful and loving wife!”

“What do you want?”

“It’s a small convention that…”

“How much will it cost this time?”

“Well it’s a whole weekend of…”

“Wait, you think I’m going to let you leave me for three days with our kids so you can run around with a bunch of geeks?”

“I…I love you!” (At this time I give her as innocent of a look a 26 year old guy could ever give)

“Fine, but you owe me big time.”

As you can see everyone was just as eager and happy as I was for this trip to the Phoenix Comicon.

As time drew closer Andrew and I made preparations by building costumes and posting episodes. Naturally we dressed as two of the main characters from the series named “Lock” (The one in the gray helmet) and “Herbert” (The one in the green helmet) (By the way, if anyone there got pictures of us, I’d love to see them. So please feel free to post links in the comment section).

On May 28th we walked into the Phoenix Comicon and were blown away. Guests, vendors, and attendees alike were amazing! Let me give you a few that stood out to me:

As I stepped into the vendor hall Kirby Krackle handed me a set of headphones so I could listen to their newest album. After listening to “On and On” a rock song about Wolverine, a personal favorite character of mine, I was convinced I had to have their music (I’m listening to them as I write this post).

I then saw the table for Entity Eye Entertainment where I was introduced to their current project Stronghold, a web series about soldiers, the apocalypse, and alien invasions. Need I say more? I can’t wait to see what they guys do!

Nearby were promoters for The Wild Wild West Con. A steampunk event in Tucson…heck yeah will I be there! I even entered their raffle…I wonder if mentioning them here would help my chances of winning?

Next to the Wild Wild West Con guys were the Arizona Ghostbusters, these guys are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. If you have a cause that needs joy to spread who are you going to call? The Arizona Ghostbusters that’s who.

Turning around I ran into the 501st Legion specifically the Dune Sea Garrison. There we talked shop about armor building…or rather I asked questions like a raving fanboy about what I could do to build my own Stormtrooper armor. I hope they didn’t see the drool.

Walking around, I saw many characters both in costume and in personality. One of which that stood out was Bill Kelly. Being the CEO of World Wide Villains, Bill would occasionally yell out “Evil!” startling passing attendees emphasizing “Evil…It’s the new good!” I’ve never met such an entertaining man that had no fear (By the time I had talked to him he was asked by the staff to calm down his shout outs to evil…Twice!). This man was going places and looking into his comic Major Crush Hazard I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

Later on I ran into Paul Hobbs writer, artist, and creator of Finch! Former Sidekick. What could be better than a fired sidekick trying to become a hero? A fired sidekick trying to become a hero with potty humor that is! This is a great comic and a just as friendly creator, not to mention fun to follow on twitter. Check out his DeviantART page.

As I was finishing yet another of what would be the thousands of laps I made in the vendor section I saw a simple booth set up with some cute looking bears, pins and b/w comics. The booth was for Chu Chu Chums. It was run by Sam and Angela a couple of friends who put together their resources for a booth. One of the many highlights was their comics; a sore loser boxer meets the tooth fairy after loosing a tooth in a fight and a real monster going to a late night movie. If either Sam or Angela read this: Thank you for the card, the Chu Chu clouds on front are adorable.

Among the vendors sat the creators of Probed: Signals. Not only did I visit their booth but I also went to their screening of the final episode of the Probed: Signals (Thankfully it was a season finale, not the end of the series. These guys are too good). I made sure to snatch up a copy of their Phoenix Comicon Limited Edition Collector’s DVD. You’re looking at the proud owner of #6 of 100 signed by the cast and some of the crew! On a similar note, check out Mondologues, you will thank me later.

Another screening I saw was of Mr. E's Comics, a fun look into the life of a comic book store. It has a Clerks feel, yet it still has its own original flair. Filmed as a web series it premiered as a directors cut short film at the Phoenix Comicon Film Festival. Being a guy who had seen the series before the film, I have to admit it was cut together superbly. They also gave me a free t-shirt, so that puts them high on my list (Note: I am willing to give good reviews to anyone else willing to give me a free t-shirt as well).

I watched a live recording of Slice of Scifi... I wonder if I could get a job with them; I’ve been told I have a good face for radio…

I had a great laugh watching Wil Wheaton. That man gives me hope…Not for fame and fortune, but that even a geeky guy can have a strong and healthy relationship with his family without losing out on being a nerd.

Last but not least as the day was winding down I got a free sketch by Travis Hanson! In case you’re wondering it was of a halfling monk fighting off an ogre. My wife (Yes she came one of the days) received a sketch of a robot making a stew…you don’t suppose she was implying something?

The Phoenix Comicon gave me a memory I will always cherish and make into a yearly tradition as I go and enjoy for years to come.

Thank you to the many staff and volunteers that made this the signature pop-culture event of my life. You have a loyal fan in me.

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