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10 Must-See Events at Phoenix Comicon 2013

The main exhibition hall at Phoenix Comicon 2012.
The main exhibition hall at Phoenix Comicon 2012.
Benajmin Leatherman

Exactly one month from now, 40,000 people will invade downtown Phoenix for one reason: to geek out as hard as possible during Phoenix Comicon.

During the annual Memorial Day weekend (Thursday, May 23, to Sunday, May 25) convergence of pop culture, sci-fi, fantasy, and (of course) comic books, there are plenty of things they'll be doing.

See Also: - John Barrowman (a.k.a. Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood) Is Coming to Phoenix Comicon - Five Life Lessons Learned from Phoenix Comicon 2012 - Best Geekfest - 2012: Phoenix Comicon

Like interacting with any of the estimated 300 special guests, hanging out at after-parties both official and unofficial, roaming the expansive exhibition halls, or stopping by one of the more than 1,000 different geek-oriented panels, lectures, seminars, or workshops.

Plenty of people we know are planning to attend and each has something they're awaiting with anticipation. Photographer Jonny Synthetic is looking forward to the vast amount of cosplay. Local Star Wars guru Dustin Diehl is excited to catch some stars from HBO's True Blood. And Lightning Octopus blogger Jonathan Simon is eager to see Firefly's Jewel Staite.

We've got our own to-do list of must-see event for Phoenix Comicon 2013. Oh, and Jackalope Ranch has plenty of additional Comicon coverage in the weeks ahead (including guest interviews and other previews), so be sure to check back often.

Local burlesque performers in the vein of these folks will show off a little skin on Friday, May 24.
Local burlesque performers in the vein of these folks will show off a little skin on Friday, May 24.
facebook.com/provocatease

10. Talk Nerdy to Me Burlesque As any Phoenix Comicon regular of the male persuasion will excitedly attest, attractive geek women scantily clad in costumes is one of the hallmarks of the event. Ecdysiasts and performers from Burlescapades and Romantasy Cabaret, as well as other striptease artists from the Valley scene, will take things a step further starting at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 24, inside the Salon room of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

They'll likely dress up in geeky costumes before taking (most) of it off for the delight of those in attendance during the 18-and-over skin show. Maxi Millions and ribald musician Tom Tuerff will host and a "few other little surprises" will also take place. Get there early to grab a good seat, but keep your camera and phone stowed as pics won't be allowed.

9. Jewel Staite

Speaking of events that will be well-attended by men,

Firefly

cutie-pie Jewel Staite, who played the lovable gearhead Kaylee Frye on the cult sci-fi show, will offer a Q&A at 3 p.m. Friday, May 24.

While the chances that she'll ever get the chance to work on the Serenity's nacelles anytime soon are infinitesimally remote -- so don't bother asking, seriously -- she might dish on her more recent projects, like the recently cancelled (she's got the worst luck) CW show The L.A. Complex or her adventures with cooking for her new food blog.  

A nerd fight in progress during last year's Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown.
A nerd fight in progress during last year's Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown.
Benjamin Leatherman

8. Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown Who has more daddy issues: Luke Skywalker or Bruce Wayne? And was Doc Brown's DeLorean a cooler time machine than the T.A.R.D.I.S.? And what dystopian film is more effective at killing children: Battle Royale or Hunger Games? Such are the questions that have been posed at this annual Comicon event, which will return for its third year on Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24.

Organized by Lightning Octopus' Jonathan Simon, Andrea "Midnite Movie Mamacita" Beesley, and social media geek Jeff Moriarty, P.U.G.S. is a competition featuring participants debating nerd-oriented topics in point-counterpoint fashion. The eventual winner gets bragging rights, the pride of being king or queen geek, and crafty trophy adorned with action figures.

10 Must-See Events at Phoenix Comicon 2013
Phoenix Comicon

7. Timothy Zahn If the Mouseketeers running Disney wind up rebooting the Star Wars Expanded Universe (i.e., anything not depicted in the movies) with the newest films in the sci-fi franchise, it will essentially nullify some pretty memorable characters from that galaxy far, far away, including many creations of Timothy Zahn.

Believe us, the 61-year-old author, who's appearing at all four days at Comicon, has conjured up some epic star warriors and scenes in his novels from the saga (including the Heir to the Empire trilogy, the Hand of Thrawn duology, and his most recent tomes). And even if Disney rewrites Star Wars history, our copies of said novels will remain unchanged and become even more beloved with Zahn's autograph.  

6. Mike Mignola

The 56-year-old comic book artist and writer created crimson-skinned, Nazi-killing demon Hellboy, which is reason enough to want to meet the dude when he signs autographs while meeting and greeting his fans from the Friday through Sunday of Comicon.

The fact that Mignola also was behind such other projects as the steampunk-filled Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (he designed The Dark Knight's Victorianesque suit) or such other books as Hellboy spin-offs Lobster Johnson and B.P.R.D., as well as The Amazing Screw-On Head one-shot, is just more of an incentive to talk to the man about his particular art style, which Alan Moore once described as "German expressionism meets Jack Kirby."

From left: Chandler Riggs, Michael Rooker, and Laurie Holden.
From left: Chandler Riggs, Michael Rooker, and Laurie Holden.
AMC

5. Walking Dead Cast Members Last year, Phoenix Comicon featured an entertaining and humorous appearance by Walking Dead actor Jon Bernthal, who gushed about alternate scenes and lamented the death of his tough-guy character Shane Walsh (who got a killshot to his melon after becoming a walker in the season two finale).

This year, however, even more cast members of AMC's hit zombie serial will appear. Danai Gurira (Michonne) may have backed out of Comicon, but at least three other actors from the drama will be showing up. Both Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes) and Michael Rooker (Merle Dixon) will visit on Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26; while Laurie Holden (Andrea) is scheduled for Friday through Sunday.  

Aaron Forrester's impressive Iron Man armor from Phoenix Comicon 2010.
Aaron Forrester's impressive Iron Man armor from Phoenix Comicon 2010.

4. The Cosplay We don't envy the judges working any of number of costume contests occurring at each and every Comicon, purely because it would be hard to choose amongst the all amazing and extravagant outfits. Walk around the event and witness a non-stop parade of eye-popping and ensembles embodying geekdom's more renowned heroes and villains. And, yes, plenty of hot chicks.

We've seen a wealth of expensive-looking that push the boundaries of creativity exponentially, like fully armored Iron Man doppelgangers, not tosamurai versions of Boba Fett, or life-sized Optimus Primes. Not every one is a winner (c'mon, put some effort into it, unlike this fellow) but even the worst costumes are memorable in some fashion, like one hairy dude last year wearing a Speedo, cape, sandals, and, um...not much else.

If you don't wanna be like that guy or wanna assemble some snazzy gear yourself, a surfeit of costume panels and programming takes place all four days.

The Geek Prom at Phoenix Comicon.
The Geek Prom at Phoenix Comicon.
Darby Simon

3. Geek Prom Comics and pop culture by day, partying at night. That's the typical schedule for Comicon as themed fiestas and shindigs go on after the sun goes down, whether it's at hotel ballrooms or more private fetes in suites and rooms. Attendees who aren't getting sack time after an exhausting day of traipsing about the exhibition hall with loaded plastic bags in hand will probably be found at nightlife events like the Monster Bash, Adventure Time Rave, Captain Cantina, or -- the biggest party of the all -- the Geek Prom.

Commencing at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 25, in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, it will -- as it always does -- boast a big turnout, revelers in the finest or freakiest clothing, and more than a few jags of awkward dancing. Fittingly, a uniquely decorated archway will be set up for photos.  

Clockwise from top left: J. Michael Straczynski, the Babylon 5 station, Claudia Christian, and Bruce Boxleitner.
Clockwise from top left: J. Michael Straczynski, the Babylon 5 station, Claudia Christian, and Bruce Boxleitner.
Warner Bros/Wikimedia Commons

[Note: Boxleitner wound up cancelling his Comicon visit due to a new television project he's filming.] 2. Babylon 5 20th Anniversary More than 500 followers of Comicon's Facebook page hit their like buttons in December when organizers announced that a huge chunk of '90s science fiction serial Babylon 5's cast, as well as series creator J. Michael Straczynski, would show up at the event next month. We guarantee that three times as many people will cram into the largest room of the Phoenix Convention Center at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, for a 90-minute reunion of the show's thespians in honor of its 20th anniversary. (If you don't wanna fight the fracas, two overflow rooms will each be set up with video simulcasts on big screens.)

The cast members scheduled to attend Comicon include Bruce Boxleitner (Captain John Sheridan), Claudia Christian (Commander Susan Ivanova), Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi), Julie Caitlin Brown (Na'Toth), Stephen Furst (Vir Cotto), Bill Mumy (Lennier), Walter Koenig (Alfred Bester), and others.

Other B5 programming is planned throughout the weekend, including panels related to the groundbreaking program (which aired for five seasons) and its creation, as well as its devoted fandom, underlying themes, fictional technology, and enduring legacy.

Oh captain, our captain.
Oh captain, our captain.

1. John Barrowman There are a million questions we're planning on asking the recently announced guest of this year's Comicon during his Q&A session, if we can manage to wrestle the microphone away from the thousands of other geeks aiming for a moment of his time. Make no mistake, John Barrowman is one of the highest-profile actors appearing this year, owing to his popular portrayal of wisecracking time traveler Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood. He's also the first-ever guest at the 'con who's associated with the show.

If we're lucky enough (or early enough in line), we're hoping for the answer to such queries as "Who'd you piss off at the BBC to be left off the 50th anniversary special?" or "Are you creeped out by Harkness and Doctor Who slashfic?" Here's hoping Barrowman's cool enough to answer such things, or to maybe show up at Comicon's annual "Party Like A Time Lord" soiree.

Phoenix Comicon takes place from Thursday, May 23, to Sunday, May 26, at the Phoenix Convention Center. Daily admission prices are $15 to $30 while a full event memberships is $50.

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