Don’t worry. It’s not the rapture. It’s Phoenix Comicon 2011! Every year, fans of comics, anime, science fiction and fantasy come together for one big celebration. This involves a LOT of costumes! If you’ve ever seen a Trekkie convention, this blows that out of the water. Though, Leonard Nimoy and George Takei ARE here through weekend!
(Courtesy of Jennifer McLellan – Arizona Republic)
Like zombies in a post-apocalyptic movie, a swarm of pop-culture heavyweights, industry merchants and thousands of fans of comics, anime, science fiction and fantasy will take over downtown Phoenix this weekend during the 10th Phoenix Comicon, Thursday-Sunday.
Last year, the 3 ½-day convention doubled its guest lineup and tripled its vendor space after moving from the Mesa Convention Center to the Phoenix Convention Center’s South Building. It also broke its own attendance record with just under 14,000 attendees.
This year, the pop-culture expo moves to the convention center’s larger North Building, once again expanding the number of vendors, celebrities, authors, activities and programs. Organizers expect to break the 20,000 attendance mark.
“The San Diego Comicon is the gold standard with 150,000 attendees,” Solberg said. “Once you cross 10,000, it puts you in more exclusive club. If we hit more than 20,000, we’ll be in the same realm as Dragon Con in Atlanta or the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.
“Our goal is to put on a great show for attendees and really become the signature Comicon of the Southwest.”
Big-name guests include Marvel Comics giant Stan Lee and “Spawn” creator Todd McFarlane, who are both returning from last year.
Actors Adam Baldwin, who plays Casey on “Chuck,” and Kristin Bauer who plays Pam on “True Blood” are new this year, along with steampunk novelist Cherie Priest and comic book artist J. Scott Campbell.
Leonard Nimoy and George Takei will join the former-”Star Trek” actor delegation, along with four-time Phoenix guest Wil Wheaton, who currently plays Dr. Issac Parrish on SyFy’s “Eureka.”
Guests will participate in discussion panels, sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans.
Along with celebrities and dozens of vendors, Valley clubs will add to the fun of Comicon.
The Dune Sea Garrison, the Arizona chapter of the international Star Wars costuming club known as the 501st Legion, which represents only the bad guys from the films, will join four other fellow Star Wars clubs to host activities to raise money for charity.
Among other activities, members will host Imperial Cadet Training, an obstacle course where kids learn to shoot at rebels with Nerf guns, and a Smuggler’s Run scavenger hunt where participants must collect items from around the convention without being caught by roving Imperial patrols.
“All of Star Wars groups that are out there do it for charity,” said Lee Palmer, who dresses as a Kashyyyk Trooper in the Dune Sea Garrison. “It’s not an inexpensive hobby – we spend hundreds of hours and lots of money. But it’s all to put smiles on kids’ faces.”
Additional activities are scheduled at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, across the street from the convention center.
Friday, there’s a Steampunk-themed ball where guests are encouraged to dress up in masquerade ball costumes. Saturday night is the always popular Geek Prom, where guests dress up as nerds and vote on who to crown the king and queen geeks. The dance raises money for Kids Need to Read, an organization that supports youth literacy programs.
Starting Thursday afternoon, there will also be a 24-hour-a-day table-top gaming area featuring more than 50 tables at the Hyatt. It’s free with convention admission.
The extensive social programming, scheduled both during and after expo hours, is one thing that sets the Phoenix convention a part from others, Solberg said.
“It’s a time to enjoy those hobbies and genres that are apart of your life,” Solberg said. “I say the geek can be chic for a weekend.”
Some activities, including photo ops, the Geek Prom and the improv show, cost an additional fee.
What: Pop-culture heavyweights, industry merchants and thousands of fans of comics, anime, science fiction and fantasy gather for the Phoenix Comicon.
When: Various times Thursday-Sunday, May 26-29.
Where: Phoenix Convention Center, Third and Jefferson streets.
Admission: $20-$35 single day, $40 weekend pass. Children 12 and under are free.
Details: 602-635-1711 or phoenixcomicon.com.