by Al Kessel
WAY back in the dark ages of 1970, comic store owner Richard Alf and publisher Ken Krueger organized a three day celebration of comic books they called San Diego's Golden State Comic-Con. What started in a basement with a mere 300 people attending has turned in to a world wide phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of attendees dressing up to look like their favorite comic book/sci-fi/fantasy character.
Ok, enough of the history lesson. Over the weekend of May 28-31, 2015, Phoenix, Arizona played host to the 14th annual Phoenix Comicon, and Joyce and I were lucky enough to get our hot little hands on a couple of media credentials for this wild, crazy and geeky extravaganza! Let me tell ya'....it was a different kind of experience for us.
Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you that although I am a self-proclaimed Sci-Fi geek, I've never, ever been to a ComiCon in my life. Ever. I'd always been curious, but never went to one. So, on a whim, we decided to apply for media credentials earlier this year and to our amazement...we were accepted.
Being our first year and all, we decided to go slowly. With that said, we only covered two days (May 28-29), because of various reasons. So, we decided to take the first day and check in, get our credentials and then just kind of scope things out. Being the first day, things were kind of slow, not a great deal going on, not too many attendees (which was kind of nice really), but still enough to see to give us a taste of what was to come.
So, after checking in and kind of looking around a bit, the first panel we attended was 'The Dark Side of Doctor Who', which I thought was to be about, you know, the dark side of our favorite Time Lord. And it sort of was...sort of. The panel consisted of five 'Whovian's' (Dwayne Plain, Jesse Canfield, Mack Duncan, Matt Duncan [no relation] and Sean Mushro), all of who are 'experts' in one form or another on Doctor Who. The topic was actually the top 10 darkest episodes of the series according to the panel. Which was still pretty interesting. They covered Doctors from the original run and the newer version. The presenters were actually pretty fun and humorous, and all in all, it was a good way to start our ComiCon experience.
|Doctor Who Panel of Experts...|
The next panel we saw (and the last actually on Thursday) was Star Trek: The Ongoing Comic and Book Adventures, hosted by David Williams and Ted House. This was a bit more 'out of my league' as I've never really read any of the Star Trek comics, but have read a few of the older novels, and poor Joyce was completely in the dark. She likes Star Trek, but isn't one for comic books, or sci-fi novels. This panel covered the interconnecting story lines between the comics-movies-series-books, and was really interesting. I even won a comic book! Yep, an IDW Star Trek The Q Gambit issue 6, for answering a trivia question correctly. (Let's see if you can too: In the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura take a shuttle craft down to Qo'nos to look for John Harrison (a.k.a. KHAN). From who did Kirk mention he got the shuttlecraft? I'll put the answer on our Facebook page.) There were some pretty interesting things discussed in this panel, like WHY Khan looked so 'white' in Into Darkness, when he's supposed to be Asian; some backstory on Spock, etc. All in all this was another fun panel.
|Winner of the 12 and Under Brain Eating Contest|
After the Star Trek panel, we rushed over to the OTHER side of the world...err, of the Convention Center to sit in on some Zombie action. The Brain Eating Contest to be more accurate. To be honest, we weren't sure WHAT this was about, but we figured it would be a lot of fun. And it was. It was a brain eating contest. Well, maybe not REAL brains, but it did look kind of creepy. There were two rounds to the event: Round One consisted of the qualifier. Contestants had to eat dirt as fast as they could - with their hands behind their backs - and the winner would go on to Round Two. The graveyard dirt was actually mashed up Oreo Cookies with some gummy worms mixed in. Round Two was the actual 'meat' of the competition: BRAINS (or Jello with some red food coloring
|Winner of the OVER 12 Brain Eating Contest|
After watching all that brain eating, we decided to grab a quick lunch, so we headed outside. Yeah, Phoenix. Remember? HOT!! It was about 103º. Anyway, out in front of the Convention Center there were a few Food Trucks set up, and boy howdy were they busy! And nothing like I remembered Food Trucks to be. I'm used to the veritable greasy spoon, where they served hot dogs, hamburgers and chips. THESE bad boys are all gourmet now. We decided on a truck called Rock-A-Belly, which served soft tacos...excuse me, GOURMET soft tacos. And honestly, they were awesome. Joyce and I both got the 'CASH' plate, which was shredded chicken (white meat...they only serve white meat), with some really tasty sauce and veggies, with a side of homemade tortilla chips. On a scale of 1-5 (1 being that greasy spoon I mentioned, and 5 being CORN DOG'S!), Joyce and I both gave Rock-A-Belly a 5. Awesome soft tacos for sure. However, the price was a little shocking. $10 each. Which, I suppose isn't all that bad, but when you think you're paying for a taco, you're expecting a little....well, less cost. But well worth it.
|Ariel and Eric from Little Mermaid|
After lunch, we strolled around the 'Con' a bit more then called it a day. We wanted to make sure we were fresh for Friday....when the REAL ComiCon started!
Friday. 9:00 am
So...this was the day I'd REALLY been looking forward to. Four panels, back to back, that I was really amped up for. Now, let me pause a moment here. Joyce and I'd been to the Disney D23 Expo (not with Media Credentials, but as fans), and every panel we attended encouraged the use of video and photography. But (and I was told this was the first year for Phoenix to do this), not at the 'Con'. All the 'premium' panels (movie/TV stars) were held on the third floor, in a HUGE room. But they did NOT allow filming of ANY kind. In fact, if you were caught filming, they'd kick you out of the 'Con'. What's more, as far as the Media Credentials were concerned, they gave us absolutely ZERO privileges. None. There were no roped off sections for us, no reserved seating, no special dispensations on filming for our media outlets. Nothing. In fact, IF we happened to be in a spot that the 'official' ComiCon photographers wanted to be in, we had to move. So, this was the one thing that really irked me. (Soap Box Time) If you're going to give out Media Credentials and ask your event be covered in order to help with marketing, publicity, etc, perhaps you should consider allowing them to, you know, COVER the event?! I mean, how can one cover an event adequately from the back of a room? In the future, I'd like to see those awarded Media Credentials just a LITTLE professional courtesy.
So, back to the story. The first presentation was from Jim Beaver. You may not recognize the name, but you've most likely seen him. He's been in everything from Deadwood to Breaking Bad to Supernatural. Great guy and a lot of fun. He chatted about his roles, (mostly Supernatural), his philosophy on acting, his relationships with his co-stars and took a lot of questions from the audience. While I enjoyed hearing Jim speak, it was really just the 'warm up' for me.
|Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell|
|Jason Isaacs with the MONSTER lens!|
|Isaacs and Malfoy's cane|
Then came the reason I was even interested in covering the Phoenix ComiCon! Edward James Olmos. I've been a fan of his for a long time, and was thrilled to get the chance to not only hear him speak, but to actually cover it! Once again, we stayed in the room so as to hold on to our great seats. Now, if you don't know who Edward is, you've probably heard of some of the stuff he's been in. He was (most notably)
|Edward James Olmos|
|McDonnell posing for me|
After the Olmos/McDonnell presentation, we decided to 'free style' for the rest of the day and just explore the Phoenix ComiCon. We ventured down to the 'lower level' of the Convention Center where the Exhibitor Hall was. THIS is where all the fun happens! All the vendors you could imagine were set up down here, and this is where most of the cosplay action took place. They also had a pretty cool Star Wars area set up, with sets where you could take some fun photos, a Zombie Containment area and lots and lots of Sci-Fi geekery for sale. We met Thor, Groot, Star Lord, quite a few Doctors and T.A.R.D.I.S.'s, Jedi's, Carl (from UP), Spidermen and many more.
|Doctor Who, T.A.R.D.I.S and Doctor Who|
Live Long and Prosper
|Carl from Up|