Saturday, June 2, 2012
Phoenix, Arizona — Last weekend, Phoenix fans of comics, science fiction, horror, fantasy, cos-play, anime and manga, Society for Creative Anachronism, and more, marked a milestone as the city held its tenth annual Phoenix Comicon at the Phoenix Convention Center. The event — which is entirely the work of more than 700 volunteers according to coordinator Colin Aprill — generated around US$5 million for the “Valley of the Sun” during its four-day run. Wikinews was there.
As one unknown source from the crowd was overheard saying, “It’s all about the fans.” Descending into the hall by escalator gave a sense of the scale to the creativity in the center. Fans could be seen scattering about in a flurry of motion on their way from one event to another and producing their own spectacle, most in costume, on their way.
This year the four-day convention in the Valley was estimated to set a new attendance record as 30,000 visitors showed. Most were clothed in costumes that transformed themselves into Batmans, creeper box heads, furries, Lady and Knight couple, pirates, pixies, Star Trek officers, Star Wars’ Empire troopers, Superwomen, and zombies. One of the most common activities at Comicon was people taking photos of each other while they took turns posing or snapping shots.
The Camp family stopped intermittently to have their photos taken by others. The Camps were led by eldest brother Jim “Batman” Camp. He attended Comicon with his sister Tina “Good Witch” Camp, who brought her daughter Katie “Super Woman.” Sibling Tony Camp, who attended with his daughter Stella “Bat Girl,” was said to be “the instigator” behind the family’s turnout at Comicon. “You get to be dressed up and can act goofy, and you don’t feel weird because everybody is dressing up, too,” said Tony about the family-friendly event.
The exhibit hall was filled with artists and merchants selling comic books, trinkets, memorabilia, wares and keepsakes. Amidst the shoppers, the photo opportunities continued to attract the most attention. For all the star-studded autograph booths and an artist alley with famed comic book artists, the most fun was simply enjoying the presence of other fans in costume.
The Thirteenth Floor Haunted House took advantage of the photo-op activity by supplying monsters “Nemesis” and “Collosus” for more of this activity. Manager Tim Pugsley says the company owns five out of the top 1300 haunted houses in the United States. The monsters’ human counterparts remained anonymous on purpose. “The characters don’t get ruined that way,” said a handler.
Montana E. had his picture taken with “Nemesis” by friend Joey Deihl, while Eddie Deleon and young Raquel Munguia posed with “Collosus.”
Fans also gathered Saturday for a flash mob event, in which people danced or acted to Michael Jackson’s mega-hit song “Thriller”. An entertainment group calling themselves “The Zombie Chicks” attended the flash mob and then later drifted in trance through the exhibitor hall of the convention center. “We’re here for the performance, not for the stuff,” said Tori Hoganson, who pointed like a bored consumer at the trinkets in a stall. She was careful to use as few words as possible to speak her mind out of character before going back mindfully to her mindless performance. She was accompanied by her friends, who in human form are known as Emmalaine Wright and Lyle Yanak. The group was watched closely and held at bay by “The Keeper” Ben Fondren, who lurked nearby as a faceless shadow.
The fans also turned out to see big stars, like William Shatner, who portrayed Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series; LeVar Burton, who is synonymous with the ship’s engineer Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation; or Jon Bernthal, who was the sometimes hero and sometimes anti-hero Shane Walsh in the TV series The Waking Dead.
Father and son John and David Phelps, who are both Star Trek fans, attended the event together and were excited to see Shatner. “He can be funny, but he’s also fun to laugh at,” said John Phelps with a smile. His son David liked to laugh at Shatner when the artist attempted to sing. Shatner has had an alternative “tongue-in-cheek” career singing hits such as “Common People” on the 2004 album Has Been.
Hunter Lewis got Jon Bernthal’s autograph, which came penned with the message, “I F@&#’in hate Zombies.” Zombies were the main source of the angst that bedeviled characters in his hit TV show. Hunter’s friends Justin Rose, Ryan Scola and Taylor Fagen also met with Bernthal in the autograph line. This was just one of many examples of how friends and family were bonding and sharing together in the spectacle throughout the convention center.
There were also breakout sessions for classes, performances, gaming, and crafts. Nyki Robertson Crosby, a.k.a. “Lady Thunder,” who is the matriarch of one of the largest houses for the Society for Creative Anachronism in the Phoenix area, sponsored a class on creating a “Basic T-shirt Tunic” so that anyone who wanted to attend an S.C.A. event in costume could fit in with a minimal investment in time, effort and money. She said the secret is to create a costume that could be one someone would wear between 600–1600 A.D. “We’re the Society of Creative Anachronism and not the Society of Creative Accuracy,” Robertson Crosby said.
The Phoenix Comicon was carnivalesque in its look and feel. And it spread well beyond the convention center as knights and Wonderland characters and more walked the streets of Phoenix and lunched and dined with the “civilians”. The civilians were the ones who kept asking, “What’s going on?”
They may have been “out of towners” visiting the “Valley of the Sun” between May 24–27, because after ten years, Phoenix now has an established tradition.
This year’s largest Comicon is to be Comic-Con International San Diego 2012, July 12–15 in California.