If You See Aliens In Phoenix…

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phoenix comicon 2011 If You See Aliens In Phoenix...

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 McLellanArizona 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.

Over the last decade, the popularity of the Phoenix convention has  “exploded,” said founder and director Matt Solberg.

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 votemag glass 10x10 If You See Aliens In Phoenix...  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.

Phoenix Comicon

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.

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