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A stormtrooper in a dress welcomes you to Phoenix Comicon 2016!
Tonight's Feature Presentation


a dispatch from phoenix comicon 2016

This is the first in a series of articles about Ziggy’s experiences at Phoenix Comicon 2016.  Heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful people who come together to make the con experience one of the world's best.

“There's an eye-opener, and no mistake.”

– Samwise Gamgee, The Fellowship of the Ring

For some people, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.  But for others, Santa Claus takes a back seat to the likes of Deadpool, Dr. Crusher, and Samwise Gamgee, and the magical long weekend that brings them all together under the banner of “Con.”

How about we split the difference, call it Christmas in June, and reflect on some of the awesomeness that was Phoenix Comicon 2016?  Yes, let’s… and I’ll be doing so as a fan, thank you very much.  It’s only right, after all, since Phoenix Comicon has gone to great lengths to maintain its fan focus without giving in to the financial temptation of becoming a more studio staged ‘factory’ Con.  (And I will, of course, be presenting my standard cheese and beverage pairing at the end, so stay tuned.)

To call Phoenix Comicon a total pop culture extravaganza is an understatement, though the convention’s organizers have made sure that comics are still quite visible as the beating heart of the event.  Artists and writers abound, proud to show off and sign the books they’ve worked on that have come to serve as the very foundation of so much of our modern pop culture mythology.  (Harley Quinn, Justice League, Star Wars… yup, they’ve done those, and hundreds more.)  They’re also more than happy to showcase more personal projects, including prints and stories one is not likely to run into outside the magical world of Con.  Looking to go even further beyond DC and Marvel?  No problem.  Publishing houses – many local to the Phoenix area – that are smaller with their print runs but just as large on talent have hundreds if not thousands of new worlds for you to discover, and independent artists and storytellers have yet more amazing stuff that they’ve developed solo.  I try to make it a point at every convention to pick up something new, and walked away from this one with several new titles to try, with at least half from indie publishers.  I also walked off with more art than I have wall space for, but with this kind of talent on display, how could I not?

Prefer your reading material to be of the “words only” variety?  Phoenix Comicon 2016 featured more novelists than you can shake a sonic screwdriver, again proudly showing off and signing their books, but also in several cases hosting other events of interest to the aspiring writer (or to the fan who just wants to learn more).  Want to adapt your work for the screen?  Want to polish your project up to the point where maybe- just maybe – you could start to earn a living with your keyboard?  Had you been at Phoenix Comicon, there were already-successful authors ready to help your quest!  The same holds true for film pros, make-up artists, and more.  It’s not just a Con; it’s a compressed career fair, if you want it to be!

Or maybe you’re into movies, like me.  Well, it just so happens that Phoenix Comicon has an attached film festival, giving attendees an opportunity to see several recently finished films before they hit the screen or the streaming service.  (You can read more about the one I caught on opening day right here.)  Dig short films?  Blocks of them await!  Or, for those more keen on the classics, this year’s Phoenix Comicon featured the treat of a special screening of the movie that first defined the term “blockbuster” – that would be a little flick called Jaws, by the way – with Carl Gottleib, the guy who wrote the screenplay!  How cool is that?

And hey, if you wanted to meet some of your big or small screen heroes in person, guests representing just about every genre were there ready to shake your hand or sign your memorabilia (for a little extra, of course; this is, after all, the 21st Century).  I’m happy to say that I was able to get four original posters from my personal collection (I’m a lifelong movie poster collector) signed this year, and will soon be taking those straight to the frame shop before finding yet more vanishing wall real estate for them. (They will never see the light of eBay, thank you; that’d just be wrong.)  I’ll admit that I had to make ibuprofen my special friend after standing in some pretty long lines on hard concrete, but it was totally worth it.  (And if Karate Kid is your thing, this would have been the year to score – three members of that cast were on hand.  And holy “Dr. Who,” Batman!)

Wait, was that an old school video arcade nestled amidst the halls hosting the film festival?  Why yes; yes, it was!  Who wants to play “Tron” and race light cycles?!

Or go outside between the convention buildings to see the car show?

Or grab a lightsaber to take part in the saber walk through Phoenix?

Or head upstairs to do some tabletop gaming?

Or check out those awesome room-sized Lego setups?

Or pose to shoot Greedo in the cantina?

Or do some good for the community by supporting one or several of the great charities represented at the event like Comicare or Kids Need To Read?  Or be a real life superhero by donating at the Comicon Blood Drive?

Yeah, folks; you could do all of that.  All of that and more, so long as you could squeeze it into the space of four days.

All right, so it’s physically impossible to do it all in four days.  But that’s why Phoenix Comicon is an annual event, n’est ce pas?

One of the coolest experiences I had at this year’s Phoenix Comicon – and one that I’d never personally seen attached to any Con before – was the “Star Wars vs. Star Trek” concert presented by the Phoenix Symphony on Thursday night.  Billed as a 75 minute show with no intermission, the orchestra instead went all out with a full two hour program, evenly divided between the music of the “Star Wars” saga and the various incarnations of the “Star Trek” universe… right up until the encore, for which the concert’s attendees were invited to vote by text whether “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” would emerge victorious.  (Maestro Tito Munoz signaled the winner as “Star Wars” by stepping up to the conductor’s podium with a lightsaber, which he then began to use to conduct “The Imperial March.”  I approve.)

And, oh yes, there was the dealer’s room.  Comic books, original art, toys, jewelry, costumes, clothes… anything pop culture you can think of, it was there.  But the best – the very best – part of that room, or of any area of Phoenix Comicon, for that matter?  It was my fellow fans, be they dressed in full costume or just a pair of jeans and a favorite nerdy t shirt.  These were My People, and I was one of theirs, and together, we were in Our Place.  For one long weekend, somewhere over a hundred thousand people could just relax and be themselves, knowing that they were among friends.

And that’s a great reason to keep coming back.

(Oh, you wanted to hear more about the costumes?  That’ll be in my next dispatch.)

Phoenix Comicon 2016 proved to be a pretty popular event.

Doom Cheez Cinema is now Cinema on the Rocks. Thank you for your support!

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A Tusken Raider is excited to see the Phoenix Symphony!
Greetings, Programs!
What Kind Of Cheese Is It?
Melted Cheddar

Projected high temperature in Phoenix during Comicon: 118 degrees Fahrenheit.  Actual high?  Damn well close enough.  So yes: melted.  But oh so very good.

Pairs Well With...
Harley's Squeeze

This one comes courtesy of Peter, bartender at District in the Sheraton Grand Phoenix, who created this mixological wonder as a just-for-Comicon Thursday night drink special.  Start with a gigantic heap of grape cotton candy placed in a martini glass.  Then pour over a mix of Deep Eddy grapefruit vodka, Triple Sec, and lime juice, and watch the tower of sugar melt into a delicious riff on a Cosmopolitan.  Great theatre, delicious results.  A perfect match for Comicon.

- Written by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2016

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

And hey, let's raise a baton to the Phoenix Symphony, and a glass to Peter behind the bar.

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.