For me, Phoenix Comicon is the best weekend of the year. As a local, I love seeing downtown, which is usually a ghost town, all of a sudden crawling with superheroes, Time Lords, Browncoats, steampunks, Storm Troopers, and furries. The guy offering rickshaw rides from the parking garage is dressed like Darth Vader, the convention center sound system is playing the Star Trek theme song, and everywhere there are nerds. Old nerds, young nerds, in costume and not, eyes shining, clutching their latest purchases, deep in discussion over all things geek. Ahhh….this must be what heaven looks like…
It’s a whirlwind of a weekend, where I always make grand plans to see everything, and somehow only see a fraction of it. But it’s okay. Over the years, I’ve come up with a list of Phoenix Comicon Must-Dos — 10 panels and activities that will make PHXCC weekend the best four days of your year.
As Phoenix Comicon attendance grows, so does the Vendors Room! 2014 promises to be the largest collection of swag yet, dominating the basement level of Phoenix Convention Center. Take your time and wander the aisles. Stop by the Society for Creative Anachronism booth and see knights in shining armor, check out the massive Lego display, and get apocalypse survival tips from the folks at The Department for Zombie Defense. This haven of geek shopping is the beating heart of Phoenix Comicon.
As long as we’re talking about the Exhibitor’s Hall, I’ve gotta mention the artists tables. If you’re going to Phoenix Comicon for the actual comics, first of all, I applaud you, and second of all, don’t miss this area! Towards the back of the hall, you’ll find some truly fantastic, independent comics, not to mention spectacular artwork for reasonable prices.
The Movies of 2015 – 2017 Panel
Gareth von Kallenbach has arguably the best panel (not to mention the best name) at Phoenix Comicon. There’s no large array of celebrities, no screenings, no contest. It’s just Gareth, founder of the movie news site Skewed & Reviewed, talking about upcoming films for the next 2 years. And it. Is. Glorious. Imagine having a good friend who’s in the know about all the goings-on in Hollywood, and you get the gist. Gareth keeps a casual atmosphere while being highly informative, so this panel has become a favorite in the past couple of years. Get there early to get a good seat, and, if you can, stay after for some sweet giveaways – last year’s was a custom Xbox controller!
Steampunk Weapons Panel
The Arizona Steampunk Society hosts some awesome panels and booths at Phoenix Comicon, but this one might be their best. If you’re curious to see what Steampunk culture is all about, I would highly recommend starting here. AZ SPS members are in attendance to share their considerable knowledge on every stage of Steampunk weapon creation, from dollar store Nerf gun to steam-powered big game rifle. Plus, they have some incredible weapons and gadgets to show off.
People Watching in the Upper Halls
Let’s be honest, the best part of convention season is getting to nerd out together! Meeting other geeks, and admiring the amazing cosplays is one of the best parts of any comicon, and Phoenix is no exception. While walking through the exhibitor’s hall is a blast, try taking a seat in one of the upstairs hallways, near the panel rooms. There are always tons of people around, waiting for panels to start, grabbing a quick bite, and comparing nerd credentials. It’s the perfect opportunity to chill with other attendees.
The Rose and Crown
As a Phoenix local, people are always asking me where they can grab a good dinner between panels. My answer? Head across the street to an amazing British pub called The Rose and Crown, then, order a pint of local beer (try Four Peaks’ Kiltlifter!) and relax on the patio with other costumed convention-goers. Just promise me you won’t leave without ordering the beer battered onion rings!
John. Fucking. Barrowman.
If you watch Doctor Who, you know what I mean. If you don’t…you should probably go watch Doctor Who…I mean, really…
Gathering in the Hyatt Lobby
After you’ve seen the last panel of the day, and you’re ready to relax a bit, head to the nearby Hyatt. Its lobby is filled with comfy couches, and over the past five years, it’s become a sort of unofficial gathering place at the con. The hotel gets into the spirit of the weekend, decorating with superhero memorabilia, playing Star Trek episodes on the lobby TVs, and encouraging the staff to be in costume. Stick around long enough, and not only will you meet some awesome fellow nerds, but you may catch a glimpse of panelists like Wil Wheaton and John Barrowman.
Conventions mean nerding out all day and partying all night! Luckily, Phoenix Comicon has got a party for just about every fandom. Bust out your bustle and head to the Steampunk Ball. Or, join your fellow Browncoats and enjoy this year’s Captain’s Cantina party. There’s an anime pajama party, a duck tape costume contest, and, of course, the annual Geek Prom, presented by favorite local bookstore, Bookman’s. All in all, plenty of opportunities to dance the night away!
Explore Something New
Here at the Nerd Assembly, we’re big fans of exploring other fandoms, and what better place to do that than at a gathering of 50,000 nerds?! So, if you can, do something that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Check out a costume building panel, or join the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. Watch an anime screening, or attend the Department of Zombie Defense boot camp. There’s a whole world of nerdom out there to explore, so go explore it!