Phoenix Comicon 2014 Countdown: Meet the AZ Universe

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The Official Handbook to the AZ Universe
“The Official Handbook to the AZ Universe” debuts at Phoenix Comicon 2014

You have probably heard of the Star Trek universe, the Marvel universe, and the Star Wars universe; but did you know that Arizona has its own unique universe of colorful super-characters? That’s right, in a galaxy not so far away our local pop culture themed artists and writers have created a multiverse that would leave Neil deGrasse Tyson in awe.

With everything from a Joe Arpaio helmed super-team (Amazing Arizona Comics by Russ Kazmierczak, Jr.) to a blue alien missionary (OCHO by Eric Mengel) and paranormal exterminators in a demonic turf war (Fallen, Inc. by Heather Martin), Arizona creators have weaved an entertaining and imaginative web of fantasy worlds and adventures; and debuting at Phoenix Comicon 2014 is a book that will help you get caught up and keep track of these desert born do-gooders.

Denny “Dennmann” Riccelli
Denny “Dennmann” Riccelli
and “Cousin Harold”

Local math-teacher and comic creator, Denny “Dennmann” Riccelli (author/illustrator of Jenny Spookawski, Cousin Harold, and Lollygaggin’ Adventures), has spearheaded an ingenious project called, “The Official Handbook to the AZ Universe,” which will be available for purchase at this year’s Comicon and provides the lowdown on seventeen of Arizona’s independent comic creatives and their original characters.

Dennmann has been making comics since the mid-1990s, but became more deeply involved in the local comic scene in 2008 after finishing college. Mr. Riccelli said, “I always thought that it would be so cool if we could show everyone how talented and diverse the Arizona scene is. That was the goal of this book – to show how awesome the Arizona Creators are.”

The seed for the AZ Universe project was cultivated during an after-comic-con dinner with two other Valley comic-book mainstays, Eric Mengel and Russ Kazmierczak. When Riccelli mentioned he had been contemplating creating a handbook for his Cousin Harold universe, the trio began thinking about applying that concept to the whole AZ comic community. Dennmann said, “The next day… we made a list of forty creators … and set the ball rolling to create the book. We ended up with 17 creators/creations … not bad for a first try.”

“Each Character has their first appearance listed, some history, contact info of the creator, plus an awesome drawing. I wanted everyone to have their own page and I wanted everything to be uniform. I kind of stole the layout design from the Marvel Universe handbooks,” said Dennmann.

AZ Universe participant Heather Martin, creator of "Fallen, Inc."
AZ Universe participant Heather Martin,
creator of “Fallen, Inc.”

The list of local creators contained in this first volume of The Official Handbook to the AZ Universe includes: Dennmann, Ross Demma, Eric Schock, Al Sparrow, H.L. (Heather) Martin, Bryan ‘BG’ Graham, Gren Radcliff, Kevin Coulston, Andy Bohn, Joshua Green, Rob Hicks, Jeff Pina, Scott ‘Doc’ Vaughn, J. Gonzo, Thomas Keith & Caleb Warner, Eric Mengel, and Russ Kazmierczak, Jr. Mr. Riccelli said, “Since making the book a bunch of creators have contacted me to be in future issues, but we will have to see how this one does, then plan how we should proceed from there.”

Riccelli designed the layout of the handbook and did most of the post-production work on it, but said, “I did have some help assembling the books from Gren Radcliff, Kevin Coulston and Reed Chappell. We all got together one Saturday morning for a folding/stapling/trimming party, or as I like to call it, ‘a free lesson in how to make comics the Dennmann way.’”

If you are headed to Phoenix Comicon 2014 (June 5 – 8), you’ll be able to find the AZ Universe Handbook at any of the participating creators’ tables. Cost is a bargain at only $3.00, and if you’d like to hear some of the artists involved talk about the project, there will be a special Comicon panel celebrating the book on Saturday, June 7, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

After the dust has settled from Phoenix Comicon, Dennmann plans to have The Official AZ Universe Handbook available at comic shops throughout the Valley and Tucson.

For up-to-date details about Phoenix Comicon 2014, go to: For all of NERDVANA’s Phoenix Comicon coverage, click HERE; and follow our ‘live’ Phoenix Comicon 2014 coverage on Twitter @nerdvana.


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Bob Leeper
Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.