Phoenix Comicon just passed and we are all still sorting through our thoughts and feelings. Phoenix Comicon is the largest pop culture convention in the Phoenix area and has come a long way towards becoming one of the top Comicon in the country with over a hundred thousand attendees each year. A lot of the Nerd of the Day crew has been attending this con almost since it began and thus have been privileged to see it grow each and every year. This year was no different, bigger, better, onward and upward.
This year at Comicon had a few new additions as well as a couple unfortunate surprises. there was a very strong scientific presence this year which came with a lot of cool new features. Several panels which explored many interesting topics, presented by PhDs as well as undergrads from ASU and other institutions from around Arizona, offering real scientific perspective on things such as sci-fi, and pop culture media. I myself attended about half a dozen of these panels myself. Panels such as “Baking Bad” the science of cooking where the presenters explained the different chemical reactions between different ingredients while baking, There were panels which explained the very vast difference between the actuality of forensic pathology as opposed to its portrayal on shows such as Bones and CSI. There was a very interesting panel which took medical cases straight from the show House and went down the line symptom by symptom to show how accurate or inaccurate each illness was shown and treated on the show. We even got to see more fun panels from such as the science of Futurama where the presenters discussed classic episodes and just how plausible they were. I learned here that one of the creators of Futurama actually had a background in physics. you might actually be surprised how plausible the show actually is. in retrospect, some of the scientific analysis of Futurama was a bit more realistic than some of those regarding bones and house.
In addition to the panels, we also had the addition of planetariums in the hall of heroes. I regret that I didn’t make it all the way up there until the final day of the con but there was a lot of really cool exhibits done by the Phoenix art museum, the Arizona Museum of Natural History and the Lowel observatory just to name a few. This strong presence of actual science and history experts definitely added a lot of fun to the con this year. there have been science related panels and exhibits in the past by in my years going to con it seemed a lot more prevalent this year.
Another great thing that happened this year was the heightened awareness of the con by downtown business. there is usually a couple places that, for lack of a better term, exploit con goes. The change the names of a few menu items to Nerdy cliche’s to attract some of the crowd. honestly, it’s a little insulting. This year however many nearby businesses really joined in the fun. almost every place near con had some sort of Comicon deals or special menu items. some business even participated in a scavenger hunt of sorts where you followed a map to different places participated in a deal such as a $2 appetizers or playing arcade games or bowling and you’d receive a pin. once you had 5 pins or more you could go and get a grand prize which was a rechargeable battery bank you cloud use to charge your mobile devices, cleverly called the “extra life” charger. This was a fun way to introduce the area to Comicon and vise versa.
Now as I mentioned before, this year brought with it also some unfortunate events. while everyone was relaxing, unwinding and having some fun, there was at least one person who wasn’t. Matthew Sterling, a man who I believe was severely mentally ill came to Comicon this year with the plan of killing Jason David Frank, the actor who played Tommy the green ranger and later the white ranger in the early episodes of the mighty morphing power rangers. This was in addition to Sterlings threats against actual police officers who were at the event for security.
This man didn’t last too long in the event and was quickly apprehended and removed however he did make it into the con with several weapons. Thank God no one was hurt and though this man was heavily armed he wasn’t able to use any of these weapons. The result, however, was that stricter security procedures had to be implemented at very short notice. Extra officers and security personnel was brought in to make sure everyone who was entering the con was checked and that no one was bringing in any contraband. additionally, there was a ban on costume weaponry and props. This is where things got a little heated.
Those of you who are unfamiliar with cosplay or cosplayers may not know that some of these crafters spend a lot of time and money on their cosplay. sometimes the cosplay they wear at Comicon represents the who year since the last Comicon in fabrication, sewing, printing, painting, polishing, wiring, crafting and planning and some cosplay can cost hundreds of dollars or more to create. to be told after all that effort that you aren’t allowed to bring half of your cosplay with you was a serious blow to the cosplay community. The cross the broad ban was one that outlawed all props indiscriminately and some props which would have been less potentially harmful than a lot of everyday items such as water bottles or car keys were not allowed. when coupled with the extream short notice at which they put all this extra security together there were understandably quite a few issues and a very long line to get in. It didn’t take very long for the operation to become much smoother and lines weren’t so long after that first day of extra security but the ban on weapons or props was not removed. I personally can understand the need for more security as the con grows and surely no one wants a repeat of this incident in the future. Comicon has always been a very safe very fun and very positive experience. I have been going for years and have never heard of so much as a fight breaking out or any such thing. even with over a hundred thousand people in the building, everyone is generally still very happy and excited to be there.
Bow and Arrow By Uria Evan
One of the best things to see at Comicon this year was the amazing fortitude of the cosplay community in using their creativity to poke some fun at the new rules while also having fun and not letting this situation get them down. We say things like storm troopers wielding French bread as weapons and this guy who very cleverly used a bow from a present as his Bow and I even say someone dressed as the green ranger whose weapon was a smaller dagger using a foam knife given out as for marketing within the con as his weapon. very creative on the spot thinking which exactly what cosplayers are known for.
My hope for the future is that instead of a ban on props that guidelines can be established that can help keep us all safer but not deprive these artists of their ability to wow us with their crafting. Cosplay and the ability to walk around and see our favorite characters come to life is a huge part of Comicon. we love the panels and the vendors but the cosplay is just as big a part of the experience. It’s my opinion that the cosplayers walking around, graciously posing for pictures and dealing with all that makeup, foam, plastic, wiring in what is normally a time of year that has temperatures well over 100 degrees, are what makes the inside of Phoenix Comicon and any con for that matter, feel like another world. Like the worlds of the comics, anime, manga, movies, shows and games we all love. the reason we go, our connection to Comicon in the first place. Comicon without cosplayers would be like going to Disneyland without Mickey Mouse.
I love our cosplay community for rolling with the punches and I hope that this will all be but a memory next year.