Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Phoenix Con Wrap Up

Sunday the 4th was the third annual Phoenix Cactus Comic-con, and the second one I have worked at and attended. Last year's was an interesting affair; being used to the largeness of San Diego, the quaint one-day, six hour Phoenix Con in a ballroom with four aisles was quite a change. This year's show remained the same size and length, albeit with fewer professional guests, so I wasn't expecting a great deal from the show.

For what will likely be the only time this year, I worked for my friend Brian Johnson, owner and overlord of Khepri Comics. So that meant I was in for a long day, even for a short con- setting up and tearing down a booth can take hours, and even for a six hour show, that doesn't change. That meant my Sunday morning started at five a.m...

I've never actually wished for the flu before.

Unfortunately, I remained healthy.

The show still had a couple of reasonably high profile guests: Steve Rude was on hand, as well as local guy gone Crossgen, Brian Pulido. Now, I don't have anything bad to say about either guy, but their appearances pointed out some of the real oddities of the Phoenix Con, some things that Brian put better into words than me.

Rude's work has been something I have enjoyed for around fifteen years. He remains as strong an illustrator now as he has ever been. But that also demonstrates the problem with bringing him to the show: Steve's primary audience is guys like me and Brian, people over the age of thirty. Today's newer reader has no clue who Rude is, even with his recent Marvel mini-series. He has THE MOTH starting from Dark Horse, but the younger reader drawn to the con by the X-Men or Spider-Man films has no clue about the book or why he should pay Rude $5 for the first issue. Throw in the fact that Rude arrived nearly two hours into the show and also did a one hour panel, and it might have been Steve's easiest con day ever.

On the flip side, Pulido was an oddity in his own way. His booth was next to ours, so I had the chance to observe him frequently throughout the day. He has a very strong following from his Chaos days, and he was smart in bringing previews for his Crossgen LADY DEATH series and his upcoming Avatar work. But oddly enough, he wasn't selling anything.

In all the cons I have ever been to, I can't ever recall seeing a pro guest with his own booth not selling anything. It's pretty standard, really. But Pulido was content to sign promo posters, chat with fans, and hold a drawing for a whole shitload of Lady Death merchandise. He also had another guy sitting with him who had no nametag or identification of any kind, which made a lot of people wonder just who the Hell he was.

There were plenty of wisecracks in bad taste in response.

I got away from the booth on a couple of occasions in order to go be "comic reviewer guy" and had some fun. Pulido was a decent guy, and he passed on issue one of LADY DEATH for review. It'll be here at this site soon. We also discussed our mutual admiration for Steven Grant who wrote a few projects for Chaos. I was impressed with how accessible Pulido was to his fans; I never really read any Chaos stuff, but it was very clear that he inspired an amazing level of fan loyalty, and that's hard to do. I tip my cap to him.

I walked the floor and started picking up mini-comics, all of which I will review here, and bumped into the amazing Rob Osborne, the Gilbert, Arizona writer and artist who won the first Isotope Award For Excellence In Mini-Comics. I had met Rob briefly at San Diego last year, so it was nice to get a longer chance to talk to him. AiT/PLanetlar will be collecting his minis into a full-fledged trade paperback this fall, so we discussed that, as well as his future plans beyond that. It also turned out, in eerie coincidence, that as I was showing my boss and her husband around the con, that she and he were schoolmates here in AZ. It's a small world. Rob's a really humble, nice guy, and I'm happy that he's beginning to see some success. It'll be interesting to see how far he gets in the industry.

Brian, who really does possess a wonderful brain for these types of things, brought up a good point after the show about how to make a small con like this one grown and expand, and it's pretty simple: you need at least one or two pro guests who have credits for drawing Spider-Man, Batman or X-Men. Something where the casual viewer of the cartoons and films has an "in" to wanting to see the con. Makes good sense, doesn't it?

So that was pretty much the gist of the show. We came, we saw, we worked, we left. Cactus Con has plenty of room for improvement, including Brian's suggestion above. But it does do a decent job for what it is, and I tip my cap to the crew who runs it. I know they have a desire to be a bigger and longer show, and it's possible that some day they will. But they have to perfect the smaller one first. I think it'll only be a matter of time.

I left there with a shitload of stuff to review. Check back later this week to see some of it!

Review materials may be sent to: Marc Mason, P.O. Box 26732, Tempe, AZ, 85285.