Pop-Break Live: Phoenix Comic Con 2014

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As darkness falls and the Bat-Signal shines bright against the skyline of Phoenix, it can mean only one thing…… Phoenix Comicon has begun. Now I know what you’re thinking, but you are wrong. They really do have a Bat-Signal. Yeah, I thought it was pretty awesome too.

For months Phoenix Comicon told us that they were going to be bigger and better than all of the previous years. They promised more guests, more panels, more events. They delivered on everything they promised and more. By the time I got home Sunday night, my head was spinning and I was completely exhausted.

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We arrived at the Phoenix convention center Thursday evening to pick up our badges. We were immediately greeted by the A-team van, Kitt from Knight Rider, the Ninja Turtle Van, Doc Brown’s Delorean, and more vehicles. Great start. We made our way to the convention floor to get the lay of the land. There was a ridiculous increase in the amount of vendors from previous years. There were also considerably more booths for industry professionals than they had previously. All good signs of what was to come. The convention had obviously grown exponentially. We checked out the layout and tried to formulate a plan for the rest of the weekend (Our plan proved moot as the weekend went on, as there was just too much to do). They were phenomenal displays set up. There was a huge interactive Star Wars area for photo ops complete with the Mos Eisley Cantina (very high quality and had a ton of props). There was also a gigantic Lego display with everything from the Hall of Justice and Legion of Doom, to Spaceballs and the Ghostbusters. My words cannot do this area justice. After we got the lay of the land, we were off to our first party of the convention, The Superhero Headquarters Party. I’ve got to say that for a Thursday night party, there was a great turnout. There were a ton of people in fantastic costumes. Great music, check. Stocked bar, check. Dance battle between three different Deadpools, check. As the night came to a close, I became very anxious about what the weekend was going to bring.

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Friday, we arrived early and the streets of Phoenix were already mobbed. We started out slow and hit the convention floor. We made our way around the convention checking out vendors and artists tables. I was able to find Uncanny Xmen 134 (first appearance of the Dark Phoenix) for my daughter at a reasonable price, which was exciting. She immediately wanted to make a b-line for Chris Claremont’s table, so he could sign it for her. For those of you that don’t know who Chris Claremont is, all I can say is: if there is an Xmen story that you like or are familiar with, it was written by Chris Claremont. Stan Lee may have created the Xmen, but Chris Claremont made them popular. We arrived at his table and he introduced himself. I explained to him that my daughter had recently started getting into comics and her favorite character is the Phoenix. In one of the most surreal moments in my life, I got to stand and watch as Chris Claremont taught my daughter all about the Xmen. He was gracious and humble and was more than happy to talk with us for as long as we wanted. It was incredible. We grabbed a bite to eat from one of the food trucks outside (possibly the greatest addition to the convention this year), and began the night of parties.

We started out at the “Party like a Time Lord” party. There were costume contests, great music, and a million Doctor Who characters. How could you go wrong? From there we started making our way to the next party, and that is when we learned that throughout the weekend, there were bands playing in the street between two of the convention center buildings. We checked out one of the bands for a little while and then we were off to the “Geek Prom”. The Geek Prom is an event that is held every year and that every attendee looks forward to. Unlike the rest of the events, admission to the prom is not included with your membership, but the proceeds of the ticket sales go to the charity Kids Need to Read, which was co-founded by Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle). The Geek Prom is a blast. There are so many costumes, so many contests,and so many raffles and giveaways. There was also a fireworks show over Chase Field, right next to the convention center. In another surreal moment I looked up to the sky to watch the fireworks, and I look next to me to see Lando Calrissian. We didn’t want to leave, but alas, all good things must come to an end.

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The only word I can use to describe Saturday is insanity. Our goal for Saturday was to hit as many different things as we could. Our true goal was to hit every panel, screening, and event, but that is one hundred percent impossible. Our day began with waiting in line for a photo op with Nathan Fillion. After that it was go time. We went to the South Building of the convention center to go through the haunted house setup that was on site, then immediately proceeded to the Zombie Obstacle Course. From there we had to virtually run to catch the Cosplay panel with Holly Conrad, which my wife loved. It was really informative and Holly was very candid and funny.

After the panel was over, we spent some time at the Artist’s Alley buying prints and getting autographs. I cannot even begin to tell you how many great artists and writers were at the convention. Some of comic’s heaviest hitters were in attendance like Dan Jurgens, Ethan Van Sciver, Mark Bagley, Tony Moore, Todd MacFarlane, and of course let’s not forget Stan Lee. And for those who are more into the Sci-Fi, Horror, TV, and movies, there were guests like Bruce Campbell, Michael Rooker, Mark Sheppard, Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, John Rhys Davies, and the list literally just goes on and on. Then came, you guessed it, more parties. Saturday night started with the Minecraft Block Party. This party was interesting to say the very least. They supplied tons of boxes for all of the children to build whatever they wanted. It was really cool to see all the kids running around and having a blast.

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From there it was onto the Browncoat Jamboree (a Firefly themed party). The party was awesome, complete with costumes, contests, decorations, and even a dance battle between a Browncoat and Charmander (yes, Pokemon Charmander). It was hilarious. Once the Jamboree ended, we spent a little time at the food trucks and caught a steampunk band at the outdoor stage. Then it was off to the Villain’s Aftermath Party. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The premise of the party is the Aftermath of the villains winning. The dance floor was absolutely mobbed at this party. We rounded out the night by going to the outdoor Street Party. This was by far one of the most amusing parts of the entire weekend. An Arizona Diamondbacks game ended in the middle of the party, and the fans started pouring out into the street right into the middle of the street party. Just watching the faces of the D’backs fans as the stumbled upon all of the costumed party goers was absolutely priceless. All were very nice and some even joined in the festivities.

Sunday was going to be our relaxing day. Of course that is, after we stood in line for about an hour to meet Stan Lee. Worth every minute of the wait. Let’s be honest, what fanboy doesn’t want to meet Stan Lee? After that, Sunday was very relaxed. It didn’t have the gigantic Saturday crowd, but there were still a ton of people. We just kind of sat back, checked out more of the costumes, more of the vendors, and industry professionals.

Phoenix Comicon hails itself as ‘The Signature Pop Culture Experience of the Southwest”. After this weekend, I would certainly have to agree. Every year they take leaps and bounds to make the con bigger, better, and more fun. Thus far, they have been extremely successful at it. There were so many events that we didn’t get to catch like movie screenings, a film festival, comedy shows, a roller derby, poker tournament, panels on everything from comic writing to cosplay and special effects. The guest list was huge and loaded with great guests. There is no possible way to do everything, but there is certainly something for everyone. I, personally, can’t wait to see what they do next year.

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