6 MAY 2023
Happy Free Comic Book Day!
Amidst all the Con stressors and disappointments of recent years, something unexpected has happened: Phoenix Fan Fusion got really good.
You might think of it as Phoenix Comic Con but it's had a new name for a few years now and I believe it now is under new management. And it shows. The guests this year are so good that it's definitely worth coming despite a few drawbacks. And it's not too late to get a badge and hotel! Let's review.
What's great about Phoenix Fan Fusion - this year
Easy access - badges and hotels are yours for the asking. No stress here. There are also plenty of great restaurants in downtown Phoenix and you won't wait an hour to be seated. There are also plenty of resorts with incredible water parks and spas and casinos that are now at the off-season rate.
The events - I can't speak to the quality, but the organizers have scheduled a good variety. Poker tournaments, cosplay contests and roasts, costume proms, magicians, drag shows, stand-up comics, escape rooms, burlesque shows, and "after dark" parties - it's all there. There's also a Villains' Ball, the Adams Family Reunion, the Anime rave, a horror version of Kill Marry Shag, Disney feud, and like 20 others. Really, it's a lot.
Fandoms - Harry Potter, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Disney, Supernatural, DC comics and the list goes on. This convention has always had some nice anime events and that seems to continue this year.
The guests - this is what has been blowing everyone's mind. Some of the guests are amazing this year, with stars from Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, WB, Marvel, Harry Potter, the Last of Us, and actors from Halloweentown, Hocus Pocus, and the Nightmare Before Christmas. I am feeling it and so is everyone else I know.
The timing - I like that it is not Memorial Day Weekend as it used to be. MDW is often full of family traditions, from visiting cemeteries to renting a lake house, and it's precluded some people from attending. Now it's the first weekend in June when many people have zero going on.
Child-friendly programming - They do some nice stuff for kids - not just kids' panels but actual events and activities that are genuinely exciting for youngsters. My friend's 9-year-old is going as his big birthday present this year and when my friend realizes how much he could participate in, it turned into a big multi-parent/multi-kid extravaganza with all of them buying badges. Your kid does not have to be a baby nerd to enjoy PFF - there is a lot of mainstream fun for any kid.
What's been not so great - in the past
I have no idea what this year will bring. All of this will probably be better this year except the heat.
Subpar shopping - in short, it often has the booths you see everywhere else full of old horror DVDs, keychains, voodoo dolls, dragon art, and gimmicky objects you regret buying one hour after you get home. I'm hoping this year will be better.
Minimal comic book presence - there were years when semi-big publishers would show up, complain they didn't sell anything, and never come back. Some good creators show up but often just once for the same reason. The back issue shopping has been average. The comic-centric panels were scant. So far the comic talent looks good for this year but not spectacular.
An adolescent attendee base - Some years, you could be 28 and feel like you were in a Logan's Run sequel. Many of the events seemed designed for teenagers and very young adults. Some of the panels would then go wildly in the other direction, like bringing in Dick Van Dyke, Adam West, and Julie Newmar, and then you'd realize there actually were older people present. I don't mind having teenagers afoot everywhere but the events themselves seemed juvenile to me. That seems to be changing.
Logistical failures - Too many to list here, but I've heard vendors and guests complain about how they were treated; there were a few incidents of making people wait too long in the heat, with some attendees needing medical attention; one year they made us pin our badges on instead of giving us lanyards, and when the badges promptly fell off some attendees, they were told to pay full price for new ones. So far the new team seems to have sharper organizational skills, so I'm expecting a smoother experience.
The panels - some have been okay but others have been so amateur that people walked out. The schedule this year looks more diverse but still iffy. I don't think people come to this Con for the panels.
The heat - You're not going to be outside much so it shouldn't be much of an issue, unless you're one of those people who can't function in high temps. Be smart with sunscreen, drink more water than you think you need, do not go hiking, build in some extra downtime. Don't bravely decide to walk 4 blocks to a restaurant - book a Lyft. The sun is much stronger than you think it is.
Do you want to go?
You can still buy from an assortment of badges OR upgrade the one you have.
Also - photo ops and autographs go on sale Monday morning, May 8, at 10:30 am PST.
And you can still enter the Masquerade - including the junior edition!
Just something to think about if you're facing a Con-less summer or just want to pre-game before San Diego. I'll cover the entire Con - so if you're headed there, stay tuned.