So I’ve spent the weekend here in phoenix for Phoenix Comicon. There’s quite a bit of stuff to talk about so let’s try to take it in chunks, shall we?
First there is the issue of accessing the venue itself. The facility is huge and therefore lends itself to being able to support multiple points of entry. I believe the organizers of the event did a very nice job of having as many entry points as they needed to on opening day.
However that leads us to the first issue we encountered during the con: that being the unfortunate incident involving a disturbed individual who brought multiple firearms and knives into the convention center in an attempt to engage and harm or kill police officers, NOT fans.
Regardless, this incident prompted Matthew Solberg, the organizer of Phoenix Comicon, to institute new entry procedures and standards for attendees. All attendees would be required to enter through only 3 entrances, a street closure billed at the “Con on Third,” was closed to the public, who had been able to enter that street and be entertained by the assembled crowd and some of displays, such as the fan owned cars, including the Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1 and other pop-culture inspired vehicles.
All fans would now have to go through a bag check prior to entry (which they had not needed to on Thursday), then be wanded by an increased number of security personnel than had been present on Thursday. I have heard that the number of security personnel had been reduced substantially this year from previous years’ numbers in a cost saving move. If true, I cannot help but wonder if this was a result of the change from volunteer help to fully-paid staff, and, if so, whether or not this is a by-product that will change attendee costs for future events as I postulated HERE.
I know that additional security folks were hired/called back starting Friday, and learned from one of them that the individual in question was able to gain entry to the venue through an unsecured door that was NOT one of the designated entrances. However, I have also heard that ALL the doors to the facility were unlocked, but cannot confirm that. Either way, it seems the individual was able to access the event due to the lack of any security, not a failure of reasonable security precautions (such as bag checks and being directed to weapons stations if attendees were bearing a weapon) like those in place at every other convention I have attended.
Also, the now-well-known-in-con-goers circles, the decision was made to ban ALL prop weapons, be they firearms, blades (both steel and wood/plastic), and a great many props that might be considered weapons. While there has been much uproar about this blanket ban on basically any item that might be brought into the venue, it is not much different from the weapons ban the Denver Comic Con has in place. That being said, I hope that in future years Matthew Solberg and Phoenix Comic Con will address the security first, and resort to bans only as indicated by lapses in that, instead of the apparent reversal of that process this year.
The organizers were at least generous enough to offer refunds to those who wanted them in the wake of these changes.
For my peeps back in Salt Lake folks, I wouldn’t anticipate Dan Farr or Bryan Brandenburg making any drastic changes to the policies for our convention, as that has been one of our strong points in the past. However, I don’t speak for them, so take that into account.
There was one more bit of fall-out from these changes. All vendors that sold anything falling into the category of weapons had to package them before sale. One vendor apparently didn’t want to play by those rules. You can read more on that HERE. Suffice it to say, anytime a situation like this happens, it always turns ugly, but in this instance, I would tend to believe the organizers, not the vendor.
And I own THREE of their product, so it’s not like I’m biased.
But enough of that, for now.
The event itself was very well run for the most part. There was plenty of room for anything you could want to do. Ample conference rooms for the panels of all types, and even a room designated for the Phoenix Comicon Film Festival. Food choices were plentiful both inside and in the surrounding areas which was a nice change from the standard con choices of hamburgers, chicken fingers, etc.
One minor SNAFU on the celebrity side to report. Rachel Skarsten of the CW’s Reign, (and of Fox’s aborted all-female superhero effort Birds of Prey) was taken from the airport on Friday morning to the wrong hotel, causing her to be late to her autograph session.
Oops. On the upside, she was great with the fans, and was very conversational when I talked to her about said Birds of Prey. She is way cool.
However, today had a huge sticking point, one that hits a lot of cons I attend: photo op line and time management. This time up, the culprit was Dick Van Dyke’s photo. Granted, he is 91 years old (or young: it’s Dick Van Dyke for Pete’s sake), but his one o’clock photo ops weren’t done until approximately four-forty-five. Part of that was that he needed a break (see above), but part of that was apparently (from those I spoke to) that the line folks weren’t keeping non one-o’clock folks from jumping into the line ahead of those who had already been waiting and letting non “Speedpass” folks into the “Speedpass” line.
So, I didn’t get through my three-thirty photo op until four-fifty, and I was near the front of that pack of people, but by then we had been told that the photo printers had stalled. Keep in mind that there was a bank of at least a dozen, probably more, photo printers. I had to go back later and retrieve my photo.
It’s awesome. 100% because it’s got Dick Van Dyke in it.
Tomorrow will be a day of making a final run-through of the vendor floor and artists’ area before catching my flight home to Salt Lake City. Probably won’t pick up much, as, you know: luggage.
Overall, this was a pretty good event, one I certainly wouldn’t mind attending again in the future. Problems aside this time around, I didn’t really hear anyone say anything truly negative about it, even from those that have attended in years past. They had a great guest list, a huge swath of artists and vendors, and a variety of panels to appeal to many different interests.