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Tonight's Feature Presentation


a dispatch from phoenix comicon 2016

In a world that is becoming more and more divisive, we need unifying experiences like Phoenix Comicon 2016 more than ever.  Heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful people who come together to make the con experience one of the world's best.

“I don’t like bullies.  I don’t care where they’re from.”

– Steve Rogers, Captain America: The First Avenger

For many people – far too many, from the perspective of anyone with the slightest bit of human empathy – the world can be and is a frightening place.

For some, this is the result of generalized fears and anxieties.  Fear of crowds.  Fear of open spaces.  Fear closed spaces.  Fear of loud noises.  Fear of speaking to others.  Fear of being spoken to.  Fear of being touched, even accidentally.  Those sorts of things, and many more.

For others, the world is frightening because of fears of non-acceptance, shaming, ridicule, or – worst of all – outright violence.  These fears can involve societal non-acceptance of one’s appearance, weight, gender, religion, sexual orientation, style of dress, physical challenges, mental challenges, interests… literally anything.  (If you can’t wrap your head around that idea, think back to grade school and try to remember all of the things kids made fun of other kids for, and then tack on all of the complexities that come with adulthood, sex, gender identity, and so on.  Yeah.  Everything.)

For some, this has been a life long struggle. 

For others, this has come as the result of trauma, be it from a single horrific event or from the weight of a world gone horribly wrong.

But, regardless of the what, regardless of the why, and regardless of the how long, the fact is that for so, so many people, the struggle is real, and medicine – when affordable or available – can only go so far.

Cue the Bat Signal.  Step into the TARDIS.  Wave a magic wand in Diagon Alley.  Catch ‘em all!  Friendship is magic!  May the Force be with you!  For many people with fears and anxieties, fandom has become a conduit for acceptance and healing.  In the pages of books and flickering on screens, many people who may otherwise feel afraid or marginalized can and have found characters like themselves, and in turn have found acceptance within the world at large in the form of other people who enjoy the same comic books, television shows, and movies that they do. 

Yes, Virginia, Barbara Gordon overcame the physical challenge of being in a wheelchair and became The Oracle. 

Yes, Cedric, people of color can command respect, just like Ben Sisko on Deep Space Nine.

So, Pat, you’re fat or thin or Muslim or Buddhist or Polish or Rwandan? And you like Batman?  Cool!  Your same sex partner does, too?  Great! Welcome to the Bat Family! 

We call this beautiful thing the fandom community.  And from this was born the amazing phenomenon known as the Fan Convention.

For so very, very many people, the Fan Convention is the single most wonderful experience on Earth, and the One Large Social Gathering where they can truly feel safe and accepted.  Phoenix Comicon 2016 played host to over one hundred thousand people over the course of four days, and during that time, I saw and felt nothing but acceptance.  It didn’t matter who you were, what your fandom was, whether or not you were in costume, whether what you wore was “traditional” to your gender or not… none of that mattered.  You were there, and that meant you were family.  What’s more, it meant you were safe.  Along with the ubiquitous “Cosplay Is Not Consent” signage and the Convention Staff and Phoenix Police presence, the fan community itself was there to take care of its own.  And that vibe spread throughout the Convention Center and the surrounding area, and those attending understood.  And so people who otherwise felt fear coming out into the world at large instead found themselves amongst a hundred thousand friends, all ready to stand in their defense should something untoward occur.

A hundred thousand people who wouldn’t even think about shaming others for how they look.

A hundred thousand people who wouldn’t even think about shaming a woman in a hijab.

A hundred thousand people who wouldn’t even think about shaming a man a dress.

A hundred thousand people who wouldn’t even think about shaming a same sex couple.

A hundred thousand people who would never, ever allow anyone to get away with threatening anyone for any reason, ever, and who would certainly not allow anyone to come to harm.

And the magic didn’t stop there.  Let’s face it, Arizona is not exactly known as a liberal hotbed, but during Comicon weekend, the aura of acceptance extended to the entire downtown area.  It had to; I heard more than one business owner point out the Comicon weekend is their most profitable of the year.  (This in an area that plays host to a plethora of other conventions and that is also surrounded by stadiums.)  Think about it.  An entire extended weekend when countless people who would otherwise have felt unsafe could mingle amongst the group of a hundred thousand plus attendees overall and feel safe and accepted. 

That’s wonderful.

That’s amazing.

That’s the power of Comicon.

And it’s a good start.

Thank you, Phoenix Comicon, for providing a safe haven for those who might otherwise not have an outlet for acceptance.

Cards aren't always against humanity; sometimes, they bring humans together.

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Ladies display their power.
It's good to be the King. ;)
- Written by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2016

With thanks to the community of fans at Phoenix Comicon 2016, and to the organizers who made this wonderful event possible.

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

Promotional/still images copyright their original authors. If you're going to drink, please do so legally and responsibly. Thanks.