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Phoenix Comicon Is A Hit

Thanks To The Volunteers

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Heath Corson and Meredith Finch. Image from Twitter.
Phoenix Comicon Is Coming Back To The Phoenix Convention Center This May, But Perhaps Only Thanks To The Hundreds Of Unpaid Volunteers Who Work Behind The Scenes To Make It Happen

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

May 6, 2015 - Phoenix Comicon has been slowly climbing the ladder of comic book convention prestige over the past decade or so and as of last year, it became one of the premier conventions in the country. With an attendance that neared 80,000 visitors — which is expected to grow even more this year — Phoenix Comicon is only rivaled by that of San Diego Comic-Con and a few other massive events.

This year, the Phoenix con is set to once again take over the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St., Phoenix, from May 28 to 31 with all of the usual cosplay, exhibitors, comradery and of course, comic books. There will also be the usual amount of panels and special programming with many of the hundreds of guests that are being brought in by the event’s planners.

What people may not think about whilst they are wandering around the convention floor or watching one of their favorite stars of the big screen answer a question or two is just how much work goes into making it all happen. Phoenix Comicon requires literally hundreds of people to make it work on an all-year schedule. Moderators, event planners, volunteers and even people to serve food are all needed to make things run smoothly.

"It's a year long process that we go through to create the convention,” said Shawn Demumbrum, the manager of comic book programming for Phoenix Comicon. “Everyone from the attendees to the guests to the volunteers that help out with the convention, they all have a love of something. It's easy with the heat and the crowds and the lines and whatnot to get frustrated but I think it's important to remember that we're all there to have fun."

Demumbrum is responsible for helping to bring in the comic book related guests and to plan what those guests will be doing at the convention. That is an ever-evolving process that takes a lot of time and work.

"You look at the guests who are coming and you try to come up with creative programming that involves those guests, because there is some expense bringing them out,” Demumbrum said.

Aside from being fun for the fans, the panels yield some creative results as well.

"What we've found is a lot of times these creators who are on panels go on to work with each other,” Demumbrum said.

Guests who attend the con will see the volunteers, moderators and security guards at the convention, but there are lots of people working behind the scenes to make sure that the convention will be a great experience for everyone as well. Demumbrum thinks one group inparticular deserves a lot of credit.

"I think over the years what's helped us is that we have a really great guest relations department. The people that take care of all the people that we bring out,” Demumbrum said.

He says the positive experience guests have had in years past helps to bring new guests in via positive word of mouth, which he largely attributes to the guest relations staff. It appears to be working, because the convention has roped in some big names this year including Back to the Future star Christopher Lloyd, Hellboy himself Ron Perlman and everyone’s favorite member of JJ Abarms’ starship Enterprise, Karl Urban, who played Bones in the most recent Star Trek films.

Heath Corson, writer of DC’s Assault on Arkham and co-host of the Nerdist Writers Panel: Comics Edition podcast will also be returning to Phoenix Comicon this year with his podcasting partner Adam Beechen.

"The thing that I loved about the Phoenix con was just how much heart there was and how much focus there was on comics and comic book characters. That was just really fantastic to me,” Corson said. "The people who work on this con are unbelievable. They made sure that all of the members of our group were well taken care of."

Corson actually coordinated with Demumbrum throughout the process of his first trip to the convention and he sights it as one of the main reasons he looks forward to coming back.

"He really brought us into the process. He basically said 'give me your wish list of who you guys wanna talk to and let me see if I can make that happen.'"

Corson also said that he was impressed by the fans of the convention and their dedication to it.

"It was probably the most cosplayed show I have ever been to which I just thought was so much. The cosplay in 110 degree heat? That was just unbelievable,” Corson said.

With the growing popularity of Phoenix Comicon, the organizers are doing their best this year to ensure that things run smoothly and are making adjustments to make that happen. For instance, the the convention will be in two buildings, instead of three. The convention will utilize some of the upper levels of the buildings in order to try and keep things more organized and not make guests walk so much between buildings.

The street outside the convention will also be closed off again this year allowing for food trucks, a music stage and more to take place outside and to ease traffic congestion. With all of the work that goes into Phoenix Comicon, Demumbrum has a recommendation for guests.

"If you can just thank the person or be cordial to the person who's volunteering their time that goes a long way. They take that positive energy and they turn it around and make everyone's experience better,” Demumbrum said.

The convention is still looking for volunteers and those looking to volunteer should email volunteers@phoenixcomicon.com.

For pricing, tickets, guest lists and more event details, visit http://www.phoenixcomicon.com/.

Ryan Scott is a contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He lives in Mesa.
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