Moving Forward With The Con
Phoenix Comicon Showed It Is Going To Continue To Grow This Year And It Can Get Even Better In The Future, According To Ryan Scott, Our Resident Con Expert
By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine
June 4, 2015 — The 2015 Phoenix Comicon recently wrapped up its takeover of the Phoenix Convention center, and it was the biggest, and arguably best in the history of the event. Though the official numbers haven’t been released yet, word is that there were more than 80,000 attendees this year, about 9,000 more than 2014.
“It seemed like a larger crowd, but it didn't feel like it because of the changes with the vendor hall. The most important things are, were the attendees happy, were the guests happy and did the vendors make money. Attendance numbers are unimportant if those three factors aren't successful,” said Shawn Demumbrum, director of comic book programming for Phoenix Comicon.
Fortunately, those three factors seemed to be very successful for this year’s convention. The people behind the convention seemed to anticipate the growth quite well and their layout for this year’s festivities reflected that. All movie and TV programming was moved to the third floor of the North building, easing congestion on the exhibitor floor.
With the growth in numbers, the event planners were able to draw in some very big names for this years con including Jason Momoa, Edward James Olmos, Alyson Hannigan, Karl Urban and Ron Perlman.
As of right now, Phoenix Comicon is among the biggest conventions in the entire country, only topped by the monster that is San Diego Comic Con, or SDCC. What makes SDCC such a massive and coveted event is not only its size, but the amount of exclusive and debut content that is brought to the event. If Phoenix wants to continue to grow and make the step up to that level, which it most certainly can, some of that type of programming would be a very big step towards making that happen.
Though Phoenix Comicon should try and pursue event exclusives in the future, part of what makes creators and guests want to come to this particular event is that it hasn’t lost sight of what it really is. It is a “blue collar” convention that at its very heart, is still about comic books and the surrounding fields. It isn’t dominated by Hollywood. Sure, SDCC is very appealing in that way, but in a lot of ways it has become more of a pop-culture convention as opposed to a comic book culture convention.
In the pursuit of exclusives in the future, Phoenix Comicon can try and tailor those exclusives with that idea in mind, which would offer a very unique and valuable experience for the community. Perhaps the convention could try and get DC to debut one of their animated features. Try and hold screenings of comic book related TV that hasn’t debuted yet. Have authors do readings and presentations of upcoming work. Make it exclusive but make it fit what already works.
Phoenix Comicon already has plenty to offer convention goers that they can’t necessarily get at something like SDCC though, and that shouldn’t go away in the process of trying to make the con evolve. For instance, this year 80/20 Records sponsored a concert stage outside that featured various local and touring music acts performing throughout the weekend. The idea of inflating that concept to something like a mini music festival being held in tandem with the convention is exciting and could offer something that no other con really has.
Another potential area of opportunity is with the guests themselves. Most of the big names that are featured in the large ballroom panels are simply doing a Q & A with the audience. Though this is a good way to allow for guest interaction, there is programming potential that isn’t often being taken advantage of.
These panels should have some unique element of programming to them and should have a talented moderator who can execute that programming. For instance, this year three members of Battlestar Galactica were on hand at the convention. Perhaps the three of them could have done a panel together with a retrospective of the show. Then used the last segment of the panel for Q & A as opposed to the whole hour.
This is the type of thing that New York Comic Con and SDCC do and do very well that Phoenix Comicon could try and do as well in the future.
To be clear, Phoenix Comicon is an excellent convention and has something for everyone. It is already one of the best there is, so these suggestions are merely things that some convention goers would love that could potentially enhance the experience even more. It is sort of like having great cake and suggesting that we all have ice cream with that cake.
One thing that Phoenix Comicon is already doing to enhance their delicious convention cake is adding a second event at the end of the year called Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest. Last year was the first year for the event and dates have already been announced for this year.
Fan Fest will be taking place December 4 through 6 at University of Phoenix Stadium, which is the same venue that was used last year. The idea of building out the brand to hold multiple events throughout the year is different and can only benefit fans.
Last year’s Fan Fest focused much more on the exhibition aspect of the con as opposed to guests and panels. That isn’t a bad thing, but those attending should know that there won’t be a lot of panels and programming to choose from if they go. Not to say that won’t change in the future, but based on last year, that is what to expect.
The nice thing about Fan Fest is that it allows for the con experience but in cooler weather and without the perhaps overwhelming nature that can come with something like SDCC.
Phoenix Comicon has already announced dates for next year’s convention, which will be June 2 through 5 and will once again be taking place at the Phoenix Convention Center. Those hoping to reserve a table in the exhibitor hall should do so sooner as opposed to later due to the event becoming so popular.
Changes or not changes, growth or no growth, I am absolutely looking forward to next year’s Phoenix Comicon and can’t wait to see what the organizers have in store for us.
For more information on anything related to Phoenix Comicon, visit the event’s website at http://www.phoenixcomicon.com/.
Ryan Scott is a contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He lives in Mesa.
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