Phoenix Comicon: It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times
Phoenix Comicon had been in the mouths of many people even prior to the actual event weekend due to a number of reasons: a change of policy, a questionable ban on a vendor, an awkward survey that asked intimate questions, a change to paid panel seating for certain guests and so much more. Despite these many mishaps, a lot of geeks in Arizona consider Phoenix Comicon as the Wrestle Mania in terms of events. It is by far the largest event of the year locally and I will even admit that I take immense pride in the event because I honestly believe it can be incredible.
Unfortunately, a string of events transpired during the weekend that sent a wave of discontent throughout the community. On Thursday night, the opening night for Phoenix Comicon, a man was found carrying loaded handguns, knives, and a shotgun. This man made videos of his intent to want to kill police and a guest which were reported to the authorities and ultimately led to his arrest. With this sudden event, the Phoenix police department made an announcement the same night that cosplay props would be banned the entire weekend.
As you can imagine, this wrecked the cosplay community who had been creating their costumes all year for this event. Even more so for those who compete professionally in the masquerade where they are judged by professionals after a prejudging and performance. Many cosplayers took to social media to complain about their frustrations while either demanding a refund or switching their cosplay line up to accommodate the change.
On top of this whole situation, the Phoenix Police announced that the amount of entry points would be scaled down to only three with complete security checks including bag checks and wanding. This took effect on Friday and it resulted in lines of incredible length. This also caused many to ask for refunds and simply refuse to come this year to Phoenix Comicon because it was such a hassle.
Now that we have gotten past the major drama surrounding the event, let’s get on with the actual review!
The Phoenix Convention center is one of the largest venues in Arizona for conventions. Many convention goers are familiar with its layout as they have traveled those same hallways year after year. Phoenix Comicon utilized a majority of its space including the entire exhibitor hall, all of the panel rooms in the north and west building, the third floor area and also the Hyatt areas. Each and every area was packed full of fun events con goers could participate in from Escape Rooms to panels debating controversial topics like whether Star Wars was better than Star Trek, and a giant room where you can give over your money in exchange of fantastic items.
I’m not sure what the official reports are but I feel that there were far less people who attended Phoenix Comicon this year than the 100,000+ last year. While this might seem like a bad aspect, I can assure you that it made everything so much better. Last year there were so many people that the vendor hall was closed off due to reaching the maximum capacity. Every where you went was a line and the experience suffered because of it.
With the lighter attendance count, everyone found themselves being able to attend events with ease, have a personal bubble, and even the local businesses had more space available for con goers at their establishments.
This is a rough aspect for Phoenix Comicon due to the prop ban, any cosplayers faced the issue of either going into a convention without their main weapon or switching their line up to include costumes that either looked great without it or a character that simply did not have a weapon. Cosplayers who attended on Friday morning found themselves in incredible lines in the sun that lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
The real tragedy lies with those cosplayers who participated in the masquerade where cosplayers go to get their costumes judged professionally. Many reported having issues even getting proper information prior to the event and then after a series of emails they got their costume and props approved only to no longer be able to use those props at the event.
When the event did arrive there was a mix of cosplayers with props and others without, incorrect music played, categories swapped for certain cosplayers and so on. This was the grand stage for many costumers and the show was riddled with mishaps. Despite the many flaws the show continued resulting in fantastic cosplayers still achieving success such as Amber Skies Cosplay winning the Masters category with her Nebula cosplay! Congratulations to her!
There were a lot of great events that took place at Phoenix Comicon from panels featuring celebrities such as Dick Van Dyke to events like the Talk Nerdy to Me burlesque show! because less people came to Phoenix Comicon this year, it was easier for people to access these events and enjoy them, some of which were for the first time. Events to note were the Dobutsu Lounge that happened on Friday where lines were out the door to enjoy the companionship of wonderful men and women! There someone dropped $700 during their auction.
The Talk Nerdy to Me burlesque show went off without a hitch on Friday night that featured performers such as Anya Graves, Mia PiaCherrie, Vis A Vee, Primrose Path and so many others. They rocked the stage as various geeky characters before stripping down in quite the seductive manner for the audience. They did such a great job and I can not recommend following their events enough in the future!
The security after the incident on Thursday were like hawks, constantly eyeing everyone for badges and literally stopping those whose badges were hidden and pulled them from line until they could prove they had a valid badge. This is exactly how security should be at such large events. Despite how dedicated they were at their job, they still made time to answer questions or resolve non emergencies like spills or giving directions.
I give the on site convention staff a lot of credit for all the hard work they put in over the weekend. It is easy for convention goers to place the blame on convention staff for all of the mishaps that occurred when really they caused none of the problems and only ever tried to provide solutions.
One of my major complaints about Phoenix Comicon is their horrid communication. Every time something happens they always take too long to address an issue and typically only respond to concerns if it escalates to a point where far too many have taken notice. Beyond this, getting information about anything before the convention seemed like pulling teeth for a number of people. Obviously this is more of manpower issue than anything else because I know a number of Phoenix Comicon staff and know for a fact they are some of the most hardworking people around. Despite their best efforts certain deadlines were missed and the future was difficult to plan because of this lack or delay of information.
As always, Phoenix Comicon had so many dope vendors that is was hard NOT to drop a ton of cash on their wares. This year I learned of a a couple vendors I hadn’t really known before such as Chibi Murete, and Sincerely Sam. Chibi Murete is a new line of figures that resemble the popular Pop figures but with a dis de los muertos twist. They are a brand new line and although I don’t know too much about them right now, I can say that they look fantastic and I can not wait for more!
Sincerely Sam is an artist that is pretty well known at a number of conventions and always brings great artwork. Despite being so young she just oozes professionalism and talent, although I have known about her I never got the chance to actually talk with her like I did at Phoenix Comicon. I am glad I did because she was nothing but a delight and I am proud to say that I got the chance to interview her!
There were plenty of other vendors that were just as, if not better, wares that were happy to chat with con goers as they walked the exhibitor hall from anime vendors to artists, authors, and so on!
The convention had major flaws both leading up to the event and during the event and the way certain situations were handled only added more fuel to the flames. However, I honestly can not say that Phoenix Comicon 2017 was terrible. The fact that the attendance was reduced and security was increased finally eased the minds of many, it is unfortunate that it took a terrible event to force them to increase security however. This was legitimately my favorite year for Phoenix Comicon, this may be due to the fact that I had such low expectations or that everyone around seemed to be in the best of spirits because we fought through long lines and drama to get into the doors of this event and we’d be damned if we wasted that time being salty.
My advice for next year is to focus on having a solid convention.Go back to the roots of listening to the community instead of financial advisers, give love to local talent or more indies rather than breaking the bank on major celebrities. Take care of your staff and ensure they have all of the hands they need in order to deliver on their promises without working endless hours. Maintain a healthy amount of security that never relaxes no matter how long there is in between terrible events. Above all else: Have crystal clear communication with your attendees. A lot of what happened this year would have easily been forgiven had responses been quicker and more detailed.
I love my state and every convention that takes place under its hellish sun and will absolutely be back next year and recommend others to attend as well! Because if so much drama happened this year and yet the convention was still fun, I can not wait to see their comeback for next year!