June 5 – 8, 2014, saw the return of what is now being labeled as the third largest Comicon in the US (followed by San Diego and New York), and after many of the events that were there, as well as the large number of people who showed up for it, I can certainly understand why. This report will cover a sampling of the multitude of events, as well as variety of people, I had the pleasure of witnessing during my time there.
Starting with Saturday we made our way into the big ballroom where all of the “big headliners” were speaking. Since we were there early there was not much activity, but that changed rapidly. In a short amount of time the stage lights were as was back screen projection proudly proclaiming that this was a Phoenix Comicon. Soon after we were treated to a video from the TV series Batman and there was everyone’s favorite, Adam West as Batman, doing what has become famously known as the “Batoosi” dance. Afterwards certain guests, mainly those dressed up in costumes celebrating the Batman universe, were allowed up on stage to join in a contest showing their dancing skills. All of this served as a nice warm up for what was our first big event of the day; the Batman panel, featuring Adam West, Burt Ward, and the still vivacious Julie Newmar!
Many of the questions asked were about their fondest or unusual memories of their time on the show. West showed that he still has an incredibly dry sense of humor in how he gave his answers. In fact they were so dry that sometimes it became difficult to tell if he was actually being serious! Burt Ward gave very honest, factual answers about his observations during his time as Dick Grayson/Robin, and continued to share his appreciation to the fans of the show. Julie Newmar, however, was totally over the top in her answers that it became incredibly apparent as to why she got cast in the role of Catwoman in the first place! Even at the age of 80 she still appeared with beauty and grace, as well as a devilishly sharp sense of humor and expression. She clearly showed her appreciation to all of her fans of all persuasions and said that the reason the TV show has endured after all these years is because it was fun, and that was the message she wanted to share. HAVE FUN! It will keep you young. Well Ms. Newmar must have had a lot of fun because she looked absolutely amazing.
She finished off her appearance with a special credit to her brother who joined her on stage. It seems that the only reason she went into the crazy world of acting and eventually became Catwoman was due to the encouragement of her brother, to which he received a standing ovation.
After the Batman panel we had a short break before going into our next panel. To help kill some time the moderators brought more people on to test their dancing skills as a means of paying tribute to the musical theater skills of the guest who was about to come on. A number of kids of varying ages were on when all of a sudden on ran John Barrowman who decided to show off his dancing ability, but that of the outrageous kind. Here is where we all got a sneak preview as to the kind of pure loon Barrowman is, especially when he decided to do some twerking on stage. Then, as quickly as he ran on stage he ran off to what was already incredible excitement coming from the audience.
Then, at the appropriate time, Barrowman took the stage and owned it from that very first moment. He took a long video of the audience that he was going to send to a friend in the marines (people from last year’s Comicon might remember the gorgeous, and shirtless, marine who joined Barrowman on stage). Barrowman then regaled the audience with lots of stories of his time with both Doctor Who and Torchwood, as well as sharing some interesting, and humorous, incidents that occurred while filming Arrow.
For those who have never seen John Barrowman live in this type of setting, all I can say is that it is not rated G by any means. He likes to work “blue,” and enjoys pushing the envelope. That is who John Barrowman is. He’s entirely unapologetic as to the type of man he is, and chooses to be completely honest about himself, and that’s what makes him out to be so incredibly popular and beloved by convention goers.
After John Barrowman we had a brief break when suddenly, and without any fanfare whatsoever, on walked Stephen Amell from Arrow. This was a pure exercise in comparison and contrast. As much as Barrowman is gregarious and brash, Amell is thoughtful and low key. Even then, he did enjoy sharing many stories regarding his time filming Arrow, even to where he re-told a story that Barrowman had just shared earlier that same day. What made it enormously enjoyable is that Amell told it with exactly the same detail which only proved the sort of fun atmosphere that is present on the show.
The big surprise with Amell came when he was asked about the eventual Justice League movie to be released by Warner Brothers. Amell stated that while he wouldn’t mind if he were cast to play Oliver Queen, he didn’t view it as a high priority. He, as well as his fellow cast members from Arrow, take enormous pride in their show. In fact, he is so proud of what has been produced that he really didn’t care if he were cast in the Justice League movie or not. It wasn’t about that movie, rather it was all about the series and how dedicated he is to it. Fans may have been initially disappointed to hear that he didn’t view the Justice League movie as that important to be a part of, but that disappointment was almost immediately replaced with a sense of high respect for an actor who clearly isn’t taking for granted what he has, and puts an enormous amount of energy and hard work into the series for the sake of the show as well as its fans.
After the panel we made our way down to the Dealer’s Room. This is much more than a room where geeks are peddling their merchandise. This is an experience. It is a unique world where practically all facets of the geek community come together to celebrate who they are and to share with each other that very thing which makes up the world of nerd fandom.
Let me make one thing clear. I am a nerd and proud of it. Being in this room I felt like proclaiming “THESE ARE MY PEEPS!” It was a joy to be in the presence of such an enthusiastic, and diverse group of people.
There were people showing off their variety of art work, as well as Doctor Who fans showing their dedication to the long running TV series with all sorts of displays including Daleks as well as a mock up of the TARDIS console. Artists of all types were there, showing not only their dedication to whatever shows they love, but also to share their passion for that particular art form.
I then had the pleasure of having a conversation with a comic book artist named Konstantin Komardin. This man is from Russia, and his work is absolutely amazing. It has a very adult, very graphic novel type of look to it, and an unusual darkness that I have not seen produced here in the US, and yet there was something approachable that makes his work fascinating.
Sadly, nothing he creates is being sold in the US, but his work is available on line, including Facebook. When I asked him about the industry there and how the Russian culture has shaped it he said that couldn’t really specify about it only because the comic book industry is still relatively young there. It’s a somewhat new art form so there is no telling what shape it might take in the years to come.
Afterwards I then met someone advertised as “the mistress of cosplay,” and that is Ivy Doomkitty. She is a professional cosplayer who has decided to share her passion for cosplay by telling people that no matter what your age, your skin color, your body type is, or even your sexual orientation, if you have a love for cosplay then there is a place for you. It was with this that I decided to ask her a very specific question, and that is why hasn’t mainstream society embraced and accepted the cosplay community like they have with the geek community in general.
Her answer to that was she felt that it was happening. Yes, there are still some hold outs who look and point their fingers at them and laugh for being the nerds they are, but there are others who are now realizing the importance that cosplayers have to offer, and that people engaged in cosplay need to just “own” what they are doing and that in time the rest of society will catch on and realize that they are valued members, not just of the nerd community, but of society in general.
This was the magic that was Phoenix Comicon. I saw a host of fans, who are not dysfunctional people who are unemployed and living in the basement of their parents’ house. These are smart people who have a passion for creation, and they have chosen to use their skills in an area, which brings them great joy. And to say that these people are losers is a terrible, not to mention entirely false, generalization. During my first full day at the con I met a wonderful married couple that created what I thought to be one of the best costumes I had ever seen. The husband is a computer scientist, and his wife is a schoolteacher. They were both highly intelligent and a delight to talk to.
Comicon showed me once again the incredibly wide world that is the nerd community, and the individuals who make it up. People from all different age groups can come and celebrate who they are and feel safe doing so.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Phoenix Comicon 14 was more than just a convention. It was geek pride.
[Ed: The photos posted here are just a sampling of all of the pictures taken at Phoenix Comicon 14. If you wish to see more, and in large size, please feel free to visit Ben Ragunton’s Flickr album. Thank you!]