Phoenix Comicon 2017


Author: Erin Roland

During this Memorial Day weekend, lasting from Thursday, May 25 to Sunday, May 28, was Arizona’s premiere pop culture convention, Phoenix Comicon. When discussing Phoenix Comicon 2017, it’s probably best to address the elephant in the convention center right off the bat. Thursday afternoon, as the earliest birds were checking into hotels and registering for badges, a guy with a warped agenda and a grip on weapons trolled the convention floor.  The merchandise floor wasn’t even open yet, for crying out loud! The guy could slip in, unchecked, and was spotted casing the place with a camera. Allegedly, he was posting his ill intentions on social media, and fortunately for all, a quick-thinking acquaintance called the police and told them there was a real villain afoot.

Phoenix PD responded quickly, apprehending the suspect without further incident. Naturally, the folks in charge (of the con AND general public safety) had to create a new set of security protocols to ensure everyone’s safety going forward. Of course, guests all know what that means: LINES ON LINES ON LINES!!!! Once again, 70,000 people started singing the blues because they had to wait for long periods to gain entry into the Phoenix  Convention Center. Granted, anytime drones of people are corralled together in one spot, the words “wait” beam out like a beacon summoning boredom and disdain; then add enhanced security to make sure nobody gets shot, and you have a mass of grumpy cosplayers on day one.


Still, it wasn’t exactly the lines to get inside that had people ruffled most of all. It was the prop ban. Originally, all props were banned, from wands to weapons, shields to sabers. Wizards and warriors were forlorn without these essential pieces that completed their look. But Saturday, the list was refined to exclude wands and certain simple props from the ban. Still, the pop culture community is nothing if not resourceful. These Macgyver skills led to some incredibly inventive alternatives. My favorite was an Edward Scissorhands who had replaced his signature shears for America’s favorite culinary utensil: the humble spork. 

Even without the enhanced security, lines galore were inevitable. To begin with, one could expect to wait in line anywhere where food was being served. The options are always scarce inside the hall. The unaffiliated may wonder why nobody ventures out in town for food.  With the nearly two (sometimes pushing three) hour wait to get back inside, most people didn’t feel inclined to leave. Newbies and families are the largest offenders of this crime, while the savvy con-goer brings snacks and sandwiches.

Secondly, there were quite a few extra merch booths this year. The overflow spread through the Hall of Heroes, where the autographs and photo ops have been for the past few years. With several badge holders only able to attend a single day or two, the lines inside on Saturday rivaled even the Great Bruce Campbell Debacle of 2014 – a line mess so dramatic the convention center finally expanded to a third floor the following year.

The biggest contributing factor to lines was Saturday’s special guest, Dick Van Dyke! He had never attended such an event, and it drew fans, young and old, from all over the country. I met a couple in his autograph line who had come out from Ohio, clutching original My Fair Lady vinyl pressings to have signed. His panel was so anticipated that the Powers That Be decided early on to charge an extra 45 smackers for those who wanted good seats. Whatever seats were left were tossed in a proverbial hat and doled randomly to the interested general masses. This decision caused a commotion as attendees short on cash were forced to miss his panel.

Once the real-life Dick Van Dyke Show finished, things got worse. His autograph session was pushed back almost an hour, and his first photo op ran so late that they had to cut it short and move it into the second tier’s time slot. Panic ensued once con-goers realized that Alan Tudyk and Jon Bernthal had ops around the same time. 

I was forced to miss my Alan Tudyk op to ensure I would make my Dick Van Dyke op. To combat the snarling throngs of fans, the volunteers eventually formed four open space pens to herd us. Like farm animals on the way to slaughter. It proved fairly effective, but the lack of loudspeakers or any other voice propulsion equipment increased tension as volunteers’ instructions fell on deaf ears. Going forward, I need PHXCC to get a grip on this problem, or I’m not likely to go again. My idea of a fun time does not include a Saturday stuck in the line, pressed against strangers, triggering a mild claustrophobic reaction. The convention even had the audacity to stop complimentary photo protection sleeves. This year, the only way to ensure safe passage of your photo from con to hotel was to purchase one for 5 dollars. I wasn’t a fan of that at all. 

Nevertheless, by the end of the day, I had a photo of my darling niece in her Mary Poppins Halloween costume signed by Dick Van Dyke for my mom (who made the costume) and a wonderful photo of me standing next to one of the greatest comedic legends of the modern age. Truthfully, I would not have suffered such conditions for anyone else. These are opportunities to meet our living heroes and have all attendees willingly undergo insufferable and agonizing hours of anticipation. 

Lines aside, everything went pretty well, considering last-minute security measures that were understandably forced to happen. The floor was full of tried and true stands and many new contenders. The panels were entertaining and well attended, with new friends made and laughter shared. Fan-created evening parties were a blast, while determined tabletop gamers were seated inside the Hyatt well into the night.

Each year of surviving convention teaches all of us new lessons. This year taught me patience and sacrifice. Expanded lines and longer wait times can really cause someone to snap, but instead, it allowed me to get to know my fellow attendees. Choosing who on your wishlist to meet means accepting dropping those that time will not permit. As for the convention, here’s to hoping the lessons they learned were bullhorns and line organization. 


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