For a first time event of this type, there were naturally some organizational hiccups to be expected. There was also the threat of rain that could dampen (pardon the pun) the spirits of those cosplayers who went all out for this event. And yet, with all that could have gone wrong, the FanFest is pretty much being viewed as something of a success. Yes, there are those naysayers who are either unhappy with the venue, or possibly unhappy with when the event was scheduled. We didn’t get to speak to anyone in terms of who organized, but it’s a forgone conclusion that the people responsible looked at all possible venues, as well as all possible times to host it. Given all of the activity that is going on right now in downtown Phoenix it makes some sense as to why it was held at the stadium, and given that Phoenix is playing host to the next Superbowl, trying to schedule the event anytime in January is laughable, and if you wait into February you might as well just not have the event at all and wait for Comicon to return at the end of May. So with all that it’s no wonder why the event was held when it was held, and where it was held.
Some could call this Comicon light. Maybe that’s fair. It did have its share of celebrities, Ben Bowder, David Ramsey, Eddie McClintock to name a few, but it felt like the real jewel of this event was not the celebrity guests, rather those who were in attendance in the “dealer’s room.” Yes, there were some of the familiar vendors we have seen in past cons, but there were others that we had the pleasure of meeting, ranging from pushing a product that had been successfully “kickstarted,” to artists who were looking to sell that one unique item that no one else would even think to carry, and even to groups who aren’t in it for themselves, but are rather there on behalf of others. But what is the one thing that ties all of these things together? They are fans as well. They don’t peddle their wares, or push their cause, just because they can. They do it because they are fans, just like we are, which truly made this event a FanFest.
We meet so many wonderful and interesting vendors, writers, and artists while there. At one table we met some people from Bink Ink LLC who had successfully produced a very professionally looking board game about the national parks in the United States, and the name is naturally called, Trekking the National Parks. Keith and I were immediately taken by the basic premise of the game, given our love of such board games as Rail Baron and Ticket to Ride. So interesting was how this game was presented that we actually purchased it ourselves to play (and we will give a review once we do).
Another interesting vendor was an artist, and he took famous photos (e.g. the sailor kissing the woman after the victory of WW II) and gave them a Star Wars twist. For example, with the sailor kissing the woman he turned it into Han kissing Leia on the landing platform at Cloud City. Another famous photo, “Raising The Flag on Iwo Jima” was reinterpreted with Stormtroopers. This artist even went so far as to create portraits of Han Solo and Darth Vader (with his helmet off), but in pure historical nerdy goodness, added some “vignetting” around the subject to sort of give it a Civil War feel.
Among other people we met was an author who just published her first sci-fi book, the first of the Korvali Chronicles series, and was selling it at her table, as well as meeting an organization, that is helping comic creators in need, and they are called the Hero Initiative.
Again, what made this possible was that we were all gathered together as fans at this FanFest. We all come together because of our mutual love for the various genres that were represented, and in doing so it could be said that the Phoenix Comicon organization was doing more than just providing an event by which all of us could be entertained for a few days. I would go so far as to say that it provided a service where ticket buying fans could meet other fans in the form of vendors of all types, and in meeting them come to discover what is possible, that a young high school student, with a talent for art, could become an entrepreneur and start a business selling art in a never before seen form. Perhaps a young girl with a vivid imagination, could come to this event and meet another fan who just published her first book, and realize that there is a whole new world out there in the form of writing. Be it art, writing, or game design, this was an event where fans could truly come together AS fans, and when that coming together happens, a community is formed, and when communities are formed in this way we all benefit from it.
So let me just say bravo to Phoenix Comicon for staging this FanFest. It was a very enjoyable event in its own way; different from the annual Comicons we’ve been attending, but enjoyable nonetheless.