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12 Must-See Phoenix Comicon Guests

The crowd outside of the Exhibtion Hall at Phoenix Comicon last year.
The crowd outside of the Exhibtion Hall at Phoenix Comicon last year.
Benjamin Leatherman

Geeks of Arizona, we sincerely hope you've been pinching pennies and stashing away your cash as of late. It's really going to come in handy this weekend during Phoenix Comicon, whether you're buying up back issues or variant covers by the metric ton, picking up a few outstanding-looking mementos, or -- more importantly -- getting the autograph or some face time with one of the hundreds of special guests.

And given the sheer number of actors, celebrities, creatives, and icons from the realms of science fiction, fantasy, and comics that will be a part of Phoenix Comicon when it takes place from Thursday, June 5, to Sunday, June 8, your bank account better be loaded. Keep in mind, however, that your disposable income isn't the only thing that's finite.

See also: Nathan Fillion to Discuss Serenity, Softwire, and Sci-Fi in Tempe June 7

By any measuring stick imaginable -- be it the amount of attendees, exhibitors, programming, or guests -- Comicon is expected to be bigger than ever this year. And despite the fact that organizers have expanded its hours, you'll have only a certain amount of time during the four-day event to experience everything that will transpire at the Phoenix Convention Center and nearby hotels.

With that in mind, here's a list of which specials guests we'll definitely be seeing.

John Rhys-Davies

Fans of The Lord of the Rings are familiar with this longtime character actor for his portrayal of axe-toting dwarf warrior Gimli, while anyone who's seen Raiders of the Lost Ark will remember him as Indy's sidekick Sallah. We're actually old enough to have seen Rhys-Davies way back in day when he starred in the miniseries adaptation of James Clavell's historical epic Shōgun.

Needless to say, Rhys-Davies has been nothing if not prolific during his 40-year acting career, which includes other geek-friendly roles in Sliders and Star Trek: Voyager. While he could easily be described as one of those "hey, it's that guy" actors who's famous for his wide variety of acting jobs over the decades, the Welsh thespian stands apart because of his wizened countenance, Falstaffian stature, and unmistakable basso profundo voice, which will echo through the convention center's North Ballroom on Friday afternoon during his Q&A spotlight.

 

Batman Cast

While we greatly admire the taciturn and brooding depictions of the Dark Knight that actors like Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, and Peter Weller have proffered over the years, we'll always have a soft spot for Adam West's decidedly upbeat and campy take on the caped crusader from the 1960s television show. It was this kindler, gentler Batman that we cut our teeth on as children, and despite its campiness (Pow! Biff! Bam!) being the polar opposite of the character's darker origins, is still amusing to watch from a nostalgic perspective.

And even though both Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway are famous for bringing Catwoman to life in respectively manic and empowering fashion (we're forgetting that Halle Berry's version for the sake of our sanity), Julie Newmar's vamped up version of Batman's femme fatale nemesis that truly helped define the character.

Needless to say, we're eager to encounter West, Newmar, and the Robin actor Burt Ward during Phoenix Comicon. Call it a three-for-one. The trio will be featured during a Saturday morning spotlight session in honor of Batman's 75th birthday this year.

Stephen Amell

And after meeting both Batman and Robin, y'all might want to consider rubbing elbows with any other members of the Justice League that will be hanging out at Comicon, like maybe Oliver Queen (a.k.a. Green Arrow). Stephen Amell, who wields the bow as the titular character on The CW's hit DC Comic adaptation Arrow, is likely to pack in the fans during his gab session on Saturday afternoon at the North Ballroom, either to get some dish on the show or just to see the handsome actor up close.

We're expecting he'll provide plenty of behind-the-scenes info on the show (which just finished its second season with quite the epic episode) like what it was like to off arch-villain Slade with (spoiler alert) an arrow to his one good eye. Who knows, he might just drop some tidbits about what's in store for the show this fall, though we're sure that contractual obligations mean that it won't be too juicy.

 

Chris Claremont

If you've enjoyed any bit of the X-Men canon over the last three decades or so -- be it the well-remembered FOX cartoon of the '90s, the cinematic adaptations (save for that awful Wolverine one), or the actual comics themselves -- then be sure to thank Chris Claremont if you interact with the him during Phoenix Comicon. The esteemed scribe, who spent most of his lengthy career in the comics biz working for Marvel, is one of few in the company's famed bullpen who helped reinvigorate the franchise, particularly during his 16-year run on The Uncanny X-Men.

Claremont helped breathe new life into the adventures of Professor X and company in the mid-1970s when he introduced more complex and cerebral characterizations, helped create some of the X-Men's more iconic mutants, and crafted its most popular and memorable storylines -- like "The Dark Phoenix Saga," "God Loves, Man Kills," and "Days of Future Past." And if any of those tales sound familiar, it's because they formed the basis of most of the X-Men movie series, including the latest blockbuster flick that hit theatres a few weekends ago.

Len Wein

And Claremont got his gig on The Uncanny X-Men thanks to the astuteness and prudence of Len Wein, who happened to be Marvel's editor-in-chief in that era and gave the young writer a shot. Along with legendary comics artist Dave Cockrum, Wein had already helped revive the X-Men in 1975 after a lengthy hiatus away from newsstands a few months prior before bringing in Claremont. It's one of many influential efforts that Wein is responsible for during his time at Marvel, not the least of which came in 1974 when he helped create arguably the greatest mutant superhero of all time: Weapon-X, better known to millions as Wolverine.

Fittingly, Wein is scheduled to co-star at a panel devoted to the adamantium-clawed berserker along with Claremont that's entitled "Wolverine: The Most Dangerous Mutant" on Saturday at noon during Phoenix Comicon that will likely cover everything from the character's origins in an issue of the Incredible Hulk to Hugh Jackman's interpretation of the character on the silver screen. (Wein will also be a part of a separate panel later that evening celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary due to his late '70s tenure at DC Comics writing for the Dark Knight.)

 

Stan Lee

And, of course, there wouldn't have been an X-Men, Incredible Hulk, or probably even Marvel Comics itself without the creative genius of comic book czar Stan "The Man" Lee. Nor would there have been a Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, or any of dozens of other signature heroes and villains that he co-created with Jack Kirby and others during his impressive 60-year career.

If anyone could conceivably rest on his or her laurels after decades of hard work, it'd be Lee, but the 91-year-old still stays surprisingly active in the comic book world. In the past several years alone, he's been busy creating programming for his YouTube channel Stan Lee's World of Heroes and such new characters as the Annihilator. He also constantly pays visits to conventions like Phoenix Comicon, where he'll appear on Sunday afternoon for his own showcase followed by autograph and photo op sessions.

Cary Elwes

Despite what the wiseacres at Family Guy might tell you, Cary Elwes is famous for more than just The Princess Bride. Sure, playing stable boy Westley and the Dread Pirate Roberts is something that millions of geeks (including the several thousand that will cram into his Q&A at Comicon) adore him for, but it's by far not the only thing he's done.

Elwes is famous for playing cads, stuffed shirts, and dullards with aplomb, and has shown off his excellent dramatic and comedy chops in flicks like Glory, Hot Shots!, Kiss the Girls, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Cat's Meow, and even Saw. He was great on such small screen outings as Seinfeld, The X-Files, Law & Order: SVU, and most recently on the reboot of Cosmos.

He'll also gladly sign an autograph for you (in exchange for $20, of course), even if it's Westley's famous line, "As you wish." Plus, he was cool enough to show up at Family Guy's writers room after the aforementioned joke at his expense aired in 2012 and played along in good humor.

James O'Barr

Hollywood is seemingly hell-bent on turning every single good movie from the '90s into bad modern-day remakes that pale in comparison to the originals. Fact. And after years of aborted attempts, it looks as though The Crow will finally be getting a reboot. We were dreading such news, until hearing that James O'Barr, the creator of the gorgeously gothic comic book series, had signed onto the project and gave it his blessing.

Despite the artist once telling our sister paper the Dallas Observer that a remake of The Crow would be "kind of ridiculous," he's reportedly been working closely with Spanish filmmaker F. Javier Gutiérrez on adapting the original source material more closely than the poignant 1994 version starring the late Brandon Lee. As a result, we're eager to hear from O'Barr on Friday about what's going on with the film and whether he truly thinks it will a quality reimagining of the twisted revenge tale of Eric Draven.

 

Danny Glover

You couldn't really say that actor Danny Glover would ever be pigeonholed as an actor in geek projects since there's little on his resume (save for 2012, Predator 2, or a couple of Saw films) in the way of genre projects. Frankly, we're more impressed with his acting skills, period, as well as his history as a social activist and a rabble-rouser.

He's rallied in support of the United Farm Workers and labor rights, protested wars, rubbed elbows with deep thinkers like noted philosopher Cornell West, raised money for the Jazz Foundation of America and other worthy causes, and has even been arrested a couple of times for his passions and causes. Definitely beats getting collared for DUI like some of his fellow celebrities. We're expecting that Glover will discuss such social-minded adventures at his Sunday afternoon Q&A at Comicon.

John Barrowman

If you were attended Phoenix Comicon last year, you might have seen John Barrowman about, and not just at his hour-plus gabfest depicted above. The erstwhile Captain Jack Harkness also unexpectedly popped into the Who-llywood Squares being staged by local Doctor Who group AZ TARDIS and providing other unique interactions with fans. And then he was nothing but entertaining when he hit the stage for his actual appearance, becoming a virtual song-and-dance man who wowed the packed crowd with his humor and singing talents, as well as impressing with candid anecdotes about his sexuality and longtime relationship with his now-husband Scott Gill.

It left us wanting more, which is why we're glad he's returning for a second round in 2014. As the Comicon website so aptly states, "Barrowman is an Entertainer with a capital E," and we're hoping he'll one-up himself on Saturday afternoon. We're also dying to see what, if any, interaction the actor might have with Nathan Fillion, since he's especially twitterpated with the Firefly star.

 

Nathan Fillion

And Barrowman's not the only one who's excited about the chance to share oxygen with Captain Malcolm or Richard Castle, depending on your particular fandom. Like many Comicon attendees, we're gonna geek out exponentially on Saturday afternoon when the Firefly/Castle/Dr. Horrible star waltzes onto the stage inside the North Ballroom. (Better bring earplugs, since the air is gonna be thick with squees and screaming.)

We're also burdened with a lot of burning questions (pun intended) we're hoping that he'll answer, and not a one has to do with Firefly. Like, what the deal with that whole season-ending cliffhanger on Castle where Fillion's character might have been turned into a charcoal briquette? Oh, and will he ever find time for the oft-promised Dr. Horrible sequel, and will Joss Whedon give him a cameo in The Avengers. Enquiring minds want to know and will be waiting with baited breath during Comicon.

Bruce Campbell

His career-defining role as the Evil Dead trilogy's ass-kicker extraordinaire Ashe should be reason enough to want to meet Bruce Campbell, get his autograph, or, at the very least, attend his Q&A session on Saturday afternoon. As any geek will tell you, however, the famed character actor has done more than just shred Deadites with a double-barreled shotgun. Campbell's made unforgettable turns in cult flicks like Maniac Cop and Bubba Ho-tep, and starred in the criminally unappreciated '90s television show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., as well as regularly appearing in Hercules, Xena, and Burn Notice.

Campbell also makes for a fantastic storyteller, as evidenced by the two books he penned (including the excellent If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor) and several lively interviews he's given over the years. And from what we've seen on YouTube, his convention appearances are profanely humorous experiences where he not only dresses to the nines but also keeps the audience in stitches with his witty tales, wry observations, and wealth of zingers. Hail to the king, baby.

Phoenix Comicon 2014 is scheduled for Thursday, June 5, to Sunday, June 8, at the Phoenix Convention Center and other downtown venues. Advance tickets are $15-$40 for daily admission, and $70 for the entire weekend.

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