"As Aaron was growing up, every time I had something to do on one of the cars, I made sure he was there so I could teach him," Raymond says. "We've redone his car a couple of times. I've always been a gearhead, ever since I can remember, and Aaron's got that same affection . . . But that superhero costume is a lot of work. He's got a lot more patience than I've got. I couldn't spend that kind of time on it."

In addition to his full-time job at Atomic Comics, Forrester is a full-time student, studying industrial auto design at Mesa Community College. He plans to transfer to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, within the next couple of years.

Maybe he'll build a Batmobile. "If I had one, I'd drive it all over the place," he says. "In a perfect world, if money were not an object and I were done with school, I'd have my own car company and design exotic cars for a living. How many people can say, 'Hey, look — I thought of this car and designed it with my own two hands.' That's down the road."

Aaron’s finished “arc reactor.”
Aaron’s finished “arc reactor.”
Phoenix Comicon director Matt Solberg draws all sorts of characters to his events, including giant bears and fans of Japanese cartoons.
Phoenix Comicon director Matt Solberg draws all sorts of characters to his events, including giant bears and fans of Japanese cartoons.

For now, his focus is to finish his Iron Man costume so he can wear it to Phoenix Comicon with the Arizona Avengers and meet Marvel maven Stan Lee. "It's very important for me to get a photo with Stan Lee," Forrester says. "Stan's the creator of so many classic characters. It's important for us to be there with him and to show the world, 'Hey, here we are with the creator of so many different Marvel characters and the icon of Marvel comics — with us! C'mon, check it out.'"

"That's motivation for me to finish the suit," Forrester says. "And bragging rights, I guess."


The biggest comic convention in the United States was founded in 1970, when a man named Shel Dorf held the first Golden State Comic Book Convention in San Diego. That annual event is now known as San Diego Comic-Con International, and almost 140,000 people attended last year.

It's gotten so big that it pushes the capacity of the San Diego Convention Center. This year's event takes place in July and has been sold out since last November.

For Aaron Forrester, who grew up in San Diego and attended Comic-Con many times, the event has gotten so big in the past decade that it's hard to enjoy anymore. There are long lines from the entrance to the booths and the panel rooms — and in the background of every photo he's taken, herds of random people clutching plastic bags.

"San Diego is not what it used to be," Forrester says. "It's so big and there are so many panels and so much going on. It's an entertainment compound. It's not just a comic con anymore. You have movies, video games, novelists, cartoons, everything pop culture in San Diego."

"It's good because it brings all these closet nerds out in the open," he adds, "but if you want more straight-up comics, you've got to go to Long Beach or Chicago — or Arizona, which is going to become a really cool icon because of the hard work of Phoenix Comicon."

The presence of so many comic creators in the Valley doesn't hurt, either. In the past several years, Phoenix has become a haven for industry talent: In addition to Lady Death comic writer and The Graves director Brian Pulido, the Valley is home to Spawn creator and action-figure mogul Todd McFarlane, Chew writer John Layman, best-selling sci-fi author Michael Stackpole, and award-winning Outlander series author Diana Gabaldon. Every one of them is a confirmed guest at this year's Phoenix Comicon, and fans won't have to wait in line for hours to meet and mingle with them.

For costumers like Forrester, there's more room in the limelight at Phoenix Comicon, too. They don't have to share the cameras with as many other self-made superheroes or spend 30 minutes clearing people from the background before posing.

When you spend thousands of dollars on costuming, as Forrester does, the price of attending conventions matters, too. Not counting transportation costs from Phoenix, a four-day pass to San Diego Comic-Con costs $75 (more if purchased from a scalper), and hotel costs run anywhere from $500 to well over a thousand dollars for the weekend.

Weekend passes for Phoenix Comicon, on the other hand, cost $30, and if attendees want to rent a room at the nearby Hyatt Regency (where there will be additional convention programming and events), they start at $119 a night.

For the first time, this year's Phoenix Comicon will feature a cash bar. That could make things doubly interesting. Hopefully, the zombies can hold their liquor and the stormtroopers won't use their helmets as yuck buckets.

But more importantly, at least for people like Aaron Forrester, there's the opportunity — all weekend long — to run around in elaborate, colorful costumes that show off their creative flair. Costuming is huge in the Valley, with several costuming groups dressing up for events (and for the heck of it) all year long.

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6 comments
garage door repair irvine
garage door repair irvine

Maintaining a home can be very expensive. From running the electric to running the water, it all adds up. One of the most important and expensive utilities in the home is heating water. Having a proper hot water heater effects all different sorts of daily life. It is a fact than 10% of all utilities are spent on heating water, that's why having a proper residential water heating service is important. And a residential water heating service is there to help you figure out and choose exactly what is right for your home.

garage door repair irvine
garage door repair irvine

Maintaining a home can be very expensive. From running the electric to running the water, it all adds up. One of the most important and expensive utilities in the home is heating water. Having a proper hot water heater effects all different sorts of daily life. It is a fact than 10% of all utilities are spent on heating water, that's why having a proper residential water heating service is important. And a residential water heating service is there to help you figure out and choose exactly what is right for your home.

Jo Denny
Jo Denny

Oh wow, Costume parties are always fun man!

Louwww.anon-posting.at.tc

Terra Walker
Terra Walker

It's not a costume party:) There are groups of us that appear for charities, and Phoenix Comicon is the premiere pop-culture event in the southwest. You should join us sometime! It would be great to have another face.

Jason
Jason

HOLY SHIT! You guys managed to capture Pedobear on film! Hopefully you guys stopped him before anyone was carried off.

Ruth Carter
Ruth Carter

Almost everything you wrote about the 2010 Epic Super Hero Battle was inaccurate...and you didn't give credit to the organizers, Improv AZ. I think you need to publish a correction in your next edition.

 
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