Ben’s Breakdown | Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 Wrap-Up
Over the past year or so, we have started to see the convention circuit open back up after being unceremoniously shut down due to the Great Pause, “Damndemic,” or use whatever term floats your fancy that best describes this quarantine nightmare. So we became accustomed to living in isolation. Perhaps, we even became scared to be among large masses of people. Nevertheless, fan conventions started to return, and Phoenix’s own Phoenix Fan Fusion was no exception. There was a plan to bring it back sooner, but when new variants of COVID crept up, it was decided to push it back yet again. This placed Phoenix Fan Fusion right back on its Memorial Day weekend (where it has historically been scheduled). It was met with an expected mix of anticipation and trepidation, especially by me.
Two years ago, we here at TG2 Studios purchased table space for our own Tommy Cannon, the highly talented artist who draws the Sunday Funnies for our website. He has bummed tablespace from other people in the past, so we chose to have our own table where he could work and even sell some of his own comic artwork. We also decided to stay at the table and sort of advertise who we are in the hopes that it might build our audience and brand name. Only time will tell if this was a good idea or not. Still, what we observed at this convention was most illuminating.
The programmers for Phoenix Fan Fusion did their best to bring in a wide variety of guests, ranging from celebrities with a legacy of work (Chuck Norris) to stars of current television shows (Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp from Star Trek: Discovery, who are two of THE NICEST men we have met in a very long time). There were also panels for all ages, some for children learning how to wield a magic wand, to those that were for 18 years or older due to the risqué or foul nature of the content. Mind you, there was nothing ever going on that would be considered overtly inappropriate, but there was one trivia contest where there was plenty of bad language being thrown about purely for comedic purposes. In the end, this convention provided something for everyone who enjoyed geeky entertainment. However, this convention became something more than that.
If you dare to step inside the Exhibitor’s Hall, also known as the Dealer’s Room, you will find a plethora of merchandise and artists packed in there so tightly it threatens to knock the walls down. There are the big commercial retail companies that come in to sell their products, but the real joy comes in seeing the smaller, independent businesses. These are the people who are in it for the love of what they do, and their numbers are legion. These vendors make their living by selling at conventions. While many of them do have some online presence, the bulk of their income comes from attending events such as Phoenix Fan Fusion or San Diego Comic-Con. However, as great as it was to have an event where independent vendors could sell their wares, the true joy was something entirely different.
The Geek Community is something that has been growing for nearly 50 years, and possibly even longer than that. We have always been considered to be some anomaly in the mainstream world. However, over the last couple of decades, there has been a shift in both number and perception. Our size continues to grow, and the nerds of the last couple of decades, who were viewed as outcasts, are now in positions of power. We have finally become “the cool kids on the block.” As Huey Lewis once sang, “It’s hip to be square!” We have also become a surprisingly large community of fans who have found joy in being around others of the same ilk. Sadly, this is what the Great Pause denied us for the last couple of years. We were forced to live isolated lives, only to find some solace in tiny gatherings from time to time. There were the other artists and perhaps even friends that we had not seen in a long time.
I must share a delightful moment when Anthony Rapp was going through the Exhibitor’s Hall, and he stopped at our table. We chatted with him for a few moments, and he then agreed to take Tommy Cannon’s two-minute monster drawing challenge (Tommy had some monster-themed cards with very descriptive terms and settings, and he would draw in two minutes whatever the cards described). Tommy signed the artwork and gave it to Mr. Rapp, who graciously accepted it. It was a moment that none of us will ever forget!
For this reason, Phoenix Fan Fusion became more than just a convention. It was not only a reunion but a celebration for having endured this dark time brought upon by COVID. We were together again, rejoicing in each other’s company. Seeing friends, I had not seen for a long time made this past weekend one of the most memorable I’ve had in a very long time. Even at our own TG Geeks table, we were reunited with old friends and even thrilled at meeting new people who are just as crazy as we are. These last three days were such a joy that I had mixed emotions when it came time to pack everything up as the final minutes of this year’s Exhibitor’s Hall were coming to a close. We were both exhausted and were looking forward to going home (we stayed at one of the host hotels near the convention center). Still, I found myself saddened at having to say goodbye, all too soon, to these wonderful friends I had missed for the past two years.
Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 wasn’t perfect. It had a few hiccups, but given that this was our first time back after two years, it doesn’t take much to overlook any minor issues that were present. In the end, Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 was a fantastic event. But, as pointed out earlier, it was a celebration for both our geekdom and for having started to come out of the other side of this dreadful Great Pause.