Phoenix Comicon 2016: a dozen (or more) don’t-miss events

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Bender approves of NERDVANA's event recommendations!
Bender approves of NERDVANA’s PHXCC event recommendations!

Here in the Valley of the Sun, that buzz is in the air again… and this time we don’t mean the ultrasonic transmissions being emitted by our alien overlords. Nope, we’re talking about the anticipatory excitement being generated by pop culture fans eagerly awaiting Phoenix Comicon 2016, the Southwest’s grandest and geekiest nerdfest.

For the uninitiated and con veterans alike, trying to hone in on the “best of” the convention can make your head spin faster than an actual sailor at a Sailor Moon panel. Time is of limited supply (with the exception of certain Steampunk guests) and you have to be on your game to make the correct event decisions.

We’ve scoured the PHXCC schedules and guest lists and, as usual, among the plethora of programming there is definitely something for everybody, from the flat out fun (see ComicBook LIVE! Improvised Cosplay Comedy) to the truly bizarre (When Poop Hits the Fan: What Happens After You Flush.)

Through our extensive and tireless research we’ve developed a comprehensive list (below) of what we consider to be the top dozen (or so) ‘don’t miss’ events at this year’s Phoenix Comicon. (Please follow the provided links for date, time and location information.)

The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb (1975)We’re gonna need a bigger boat

Carl Gottlieb literally wrote the book on the movie Jaws, ‘The Jaws Log,’ in addition to co-writing the iconic film’s screenplay with the novel’s author, Peter Benchley. On a side note, Mr. Gottlieb also co-wrote the funniest film of all time, The Jerk. The good folks at PHXCC have really outdone themselves by bringing this writer/actor/director to their event with two incredible panels: You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat: The Science of Jaws with Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, and Jaws “Film School!” – Special screening of Jaws with writer Carl Gottlieb!, sponsored by ASU Film Spark and Filmbar Phoenix. It’s gonna be more fun than swimmin’ with bow legged women!

In Phoenix, no one can hear you scream

Although he’s written dozens of original sci-fi and fantasy books, PHXCC guest and Arizona resident, Alan Dean Foster, is probably most famous for his novelizations of iconic film franchises like Alien, Star Trek, and Star Wars (including ghost-writing the original Star Wars novel that was credited to George Lucas, and the recent novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.) Mr. Foster will be participating in two excellent panels: Writing the Star Wars Universe, and Someone Else’s Sandbox.

Weird & wacky word warfare at the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown (PUGS)

Batman v Superman has nothing on the unlikely (and humorous) battle scenarios that the PUGS organizers dream up on an annual basis. Watch local geek heroes throw down using imagination and wit as their only weapons in determining, for instance, “Which is the cooler hat: Dr. Who’s fez or Jayne Cobb’s knit hat?” PUGS is always one of the most popular shows at the convention and they WILL shut the doors when they reach room capacity – so make sure you grab a seat early for both the Preliminaries and the Finals.

Bill Mullins' Steampunk Marvin the Martian at the Steampunk Fashion Show - PHXCC 2015
Bill Mullins’ Steampunk Marvin the Martian at the Steampunk Fashion Show (PHXCC 2015)

Form and function at the Steampunk Fashion Show

There’s so much more to pop culture convention costumes than superhero tights and masks, and time-after-time the Steampunk Fashion Show produces the best of the best, where almost every outfit is an original character with their own fun and unique story to back up the Victorian era designs.

Here, there be monsters

Don’t believe what Mommy & Daddy told you…there are real monsters and PHXCC is going to tell you all about them at their scheduled panels Forgotten American Monsters, and World Full of Monsters, both of which cover creatures from mythology and folklore (like Sasquatch, the Jersey Devil, and the Kitsune of Japan) that may or may not really exist.

If you’re more into fictional monsters, then be sure to check out the granddaddy of them all at the H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos panel, where local author Hal C F Astell and friends will discuss the history of the “Great Old One.”

Tarzan on FilmEdgar Rice Burroughs’ triumphant return to Arizona

Be it comic-book superheroes, Star Trek or Star Wars, the majority of wonderment you experience at Comicon can be traced right back to the late, great-grandfather of pop culture, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the legendary author of Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars. Burroughs has interesting connections to our fair state, and the guardians of his oeuvre will be at PHXCC to discuss the author’s past, present and future, including the upcoming summer blockbuster, The Legend of Tarzan. Get all the latest details at the Edgar Rice Burroughs at Phoenix Comicon event page.

Blinded by weird science

Beyond the cavalcade of coolness at PHXCC, it’s also a great place to have a fun learning experience; and this year’s show is offering a myriad of science-minded events, like Hera Give Me Strength: The Science of Wonder Woman, and Good and Evil: What Science and Humanism Have to Say About How to Save the World. And if you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and by shoe you mean meteor, then you might want to check out Here Comes the BOOM!: The Science of Cosmic Disasters.

Passion and pop culture prose at the Nerd Poetry Slam

One of the most exciting PHXCC events that we look forward to every year is the Nerd Poetry Slam, hosted by Arizona’s Nerd Poet Laureate (as officially decreed by NERDVANA), The Klute. The featured spoken word artists at this year’s show will include:

  • The Klute at PHXCC 2015
    The Klute at PHXCC 2015

    Rowie Shebala – A Native American spoken word artist of the Diné (Navajo) tribe, who was born and raised in the Navajo Nation.

  • Vocab Malone – Local Phoenix Poet, Podcaster, Theologian, and host of many GI Joe Panels at Comicon. Winner of last year’s Nerd Poetry Slam.
  • Lauren Perry – Phoenix poetry slam innovator, pinup model, author, and the Night Queen of the Phoenix Horde.
  • Truth B. Told – Spoken word artist who has appeared in independent films, opened for Floetry, Mint Condition, Musiq Soulchild, Bilal, Dwele, Chrisette Michele and Elle Varner; also a National Poetry Award winner.

This year’s con will also feature a second ‘poetry‘ themed event with the Poetry of Comics panel, which will have Amazing Arizona Comics creator, Russ Kazmierczak, and Birdie Birdashaw (Bunny Vomit), speaking to the history of comics and the poetic balance between words and images.

Bionic guests are better … stronger … faster …

In the 1970s our television superheroes were built with bionics, in the form of Steve Austin (Lee Majors), The Six Million Dollar Man, and Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), The Bionic Woman; and this year at Phoenix Comicon you can see them both together at the Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner Spotlight panel. The stars will also be available for multiple autograph sessions (unless I can coax Ms. Wagner into running away with me.)

Building up steam

The ever-growing Steampunk genre continues to make a bigger and better footprint at PHXCC, and this year that copper and brass print is being made by an original Steampunk superhero, meticulously designed for the convention by the local geniuses at Brose Brothers Productions. Learn all about this eccentric endeavor at the Brose Brothers’ Production’s Steam Hero Creation panel.

Do you have an idea for your own Steampunk creation, but don’t have the tools to bring it to life? TechShop Chandler will have workshops each day of the PHXCC event where you can see all that their facility has to offer crafty creators who may not have a garage full of equipment.

Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv WolfmanOld school comic creators

Let’s not forget the COMIC part of comicon and that the event was created thanks to the fandom that stemmed from the hard work of old school creators like Marv Wolfman (Crisis on Infinite Earths, The New Teen Titans, The Tomb of Dracula, and Marvel’s John Carter, Warlord of Mars), Mike Zeck (Secret Wars, Master of Kung Fu, Aquaman, Captain America), Don Rosa (The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck), George Perez (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman, JLA/Avengers), and Basil Gogos (Eerie, Creepy, The Spirit), all of whom will be present at this year’s convention.

Where no man has gone before

On September 8, 1966, a little television show call Star Trek debuted and changed everything, and for its golden anniversary PHXCC is celebrating with the Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective panel, which will look back at Gene Roddenberry’s original ‘Star Trek’ series.

So, okay, we know that’s more than a dozen events (even more than a baker’s dozen), but just like donuts, it’s hard to stop once you get going (and we DID manage to limit our choices to only a dozen event categories.) Of course, every attendee has their own idea of what’s fun for them, so feel free to share YOUR plans in our comments section below, and we’ll see you at the con!

Originally published May 26, 2016

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