Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2016: A Field Guide to This Weekend's Event in Downtown Phoenix

Rob Liefeld at last year's Amazing Arizona Comic Con with two local Deadpool cosplayers.
Rob Liefeld at last year's Amazing Arizona Comic Con with two local Deadpool cosplayers.
Benjamin Leatherman

Deadpool fandom is approaching critical mass right about now. It's to be expected, considering the comic book world’s notorious “Merc with a Mouth” is finally getting his cinematic due with the release of the much-anticipated Deadpool movie on Friday.

As such, we’ve seen a lot of the Marvel antihero’s masked mug lately, whether he's dispatching bad guys and dispensing snark on tons of commercials for the flick, starring in PSAs advising dudes to check their “man berries” for testicular cancer, or taking over cable channels like Comedy Central and MTV.

And the sightings will probably increase tenfold this weekend, especially at the annual Amazing Arizona Comic Con in downtown Phoenix, where hordes of local Deadpool cosplayers are likely to be hanging out.

Deadpool’s trademark red and black getup is virtually inescapable at local comic book conventions and the like, owing to his rampant popularity amongst geeks. And with that popularity hitting its zenith this weekend, we expect even more Deadpool doppelgangers to be in attendance at the latest Amazing Arizona event, which takes place from Friday, February 12, to Sunday, February 14, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

And many of ‘em will be in the general vicinity of the character’s infamous co-creator, Rob Liefeld. The onetime Marvel Comics artist and writer, who is credited with bringing Deadpool to life in 1991 along with fellow scribe Fabian Nicieza, will be on hand on Friday and Saturday at the event to sign autographs, pose for photos, and dish on the latest superhero movies.

A Deadpool cosplayer at last year's Amazing Arizona Comic Con.
A Deadpool cosplayer at last year's Amazing Arizona Comic Con.
Benjamin Leatherman

And, yes, he’ll also field many questions about his most famous creation during his appearances, most notably at a Friday night screening of Deadpool at the nearby AMC Arizona Center 24 that will include a Q&A, prize giveaways, and exclusives.

While Liefeld’s no stranger to Amazing Arizona Comic Con, having been a guest at the event the last few years, his appearance during the 2016 edition will have a bit more significance due to fact it's happening the same weekend as the release of the film, something he’s been understandably been championing for years.

That said, he won’t be the only comic book writer in attendance at Amazing Arizona whose creations have been turned into hit superhero flicks. To wit: famed X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, who authored such groundbreaking storylines and blockbuster fodder as “Days of Future Past” and “God Loves, Man Kills” will also be there to sign autographs and greet fans. Ditto for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and Marvel’s Steve McNiven, the artist who brought the epic “Civil War” story arc that will be the basis of the next Captain America film.

Truth be told, a majority of the special guests at Amazing Arizona are from the realm of sequential art and superheros, due to the fact that the event, which debuted in 2010 and has been growing steadily in size ever since, largely focuses on comic book fandom. That’s not to say it neglects cosplay, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, or anime, as there are panels, programming, and special guests representing these geeky pursuits every year, including this weekend’s edition.

If you’ve never been to Amazing Arizona Comic Con before, consider the following guide to be a primer containing a variety of pertinent info about what to expect, where to go, and who you’ll encounter along the way.

Local cosplayers at Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2015/
Local cosplayers at Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2015/
Benjamin Leatherman

Dates and Times: Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2016 will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. on Friday, February 12; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 13; and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, February 14. Certain programming, like the costume contest on Saturday night, will happen after the main hall closes. 

Location: A majority of the action and events at the con will occur at the South Building of the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 North Third Street. The Deadpool screening on Friday, which requires a separate admission, will take place at the AMC Arizona Center 24, 565 North Third Street. 

Admission: Only interested in spending a day or two at the con? Daily prices are $25 for Friday and Sunday, while admission on Saturday, which typically has the biggest turnout and the most activity, is $35. Those who want to devote their entire weekend to the event, a three-day pass will run you $60.

VIP Perks: If you’ve got some extra cash and would like to get access to the con before everyone else or get your hands on some exclusive shwag, a few premium admission packages are available, each boasting a variety of perks.

The standard VIP package, for instance, costs $150 and features full admission, express registration and badge pickup, early entry to the main hall 30 minutes prior to the official opening time each day, priority seating at panels, and exclusive prints and comic books (including a Spider-Man/Deadpool crossover by Liefeld).

Meanwhile, several specialty VIP packages devoted to specific fandoms can be had for $175 each. Like, say, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one, which offers a giant gift bag, a priority pass to the Kevin Eastman signing and autograph from the artist, an original TMNT sketch, exclusive lanyard and passport badge, and more. Other packages are focused on Star Wars, Street Fighter, the Marvel Civil War, and (of course) Deadpool.

The main hall at Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2015.
The main hall at Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2015.
Benjamin Leatherman

Age Limits: Amazing Arizona and its panels and events are open to geeks of any age. That said, the Deadpool screening on Friday, which requires a separate the purchase of $45 admission, isn't suited for kids (since the flick has an hard "R" rating). You probably will want to keep your younger kids away from Rob Liefeld in general, considering he’s kinda got a potty mouth. (Just kidding...we think.)

Getting There: If you're coming by car, take the Seventh Street exit off Interstate 10 or 17 and head for Washington Street, which goes right past the convention center. However, the light rail is always your best bet, since there are a two stations less than a block away from the event and you won’t have to worry about parking. Single-ride fares are $2 and an all-day pass is $4.

Upcoming Events

Parking: Prices vary, depending on where in downtown you want to park. Any of the 2,000 individually metered spaces found throughout downtown are $1 per hour if you use coins, $1.50 per hour with a debit/credit card. (Certain meters using the Pango service can be reserved and renewed via you phone, however.) Daily parking rates at nearby garages (including at Chase Tower, CityScape, the Collier Center, and Convention Center) average about $12 to $14.

Weather: Temperatures will be around 85 degrees in the daytime hours all weekend. As such, be sure to find shade when outdoors, stay hydrated, and try to avoid overexerting yourself if wearing a heavy-duty costuming.

Food and Drink: Should you feel a bit peckish, there’s a concession stand inside the main hall, a coffee bar in the convention center’s foyer, and a wealth of bars and restaurants throughout downtown and within walking distance.

Legendary comic book writer George Pérez poses for a photo with a fan at last year's Amazing Arizona Comic Con.
Legendary comic book writer George Pérez poses for a photo with a fan at last year's Amazing Arizona Comic Con.
Benjamin Leatherman

Special Guests: As we mentioned, there’s a huge focus on comics at Amazing Arizona, as well as some influential and world-renowned writers and artists scheduled to appear at the event. And, as you'd expect, many will be involved with Q&A sessions. In addition to Liefeld, Eastman, and Claremont, the lineup features the esteemed George Perez (the man behind Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet and DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), X-Men: The Animated Series writer Scott Lobdell, and current Star Wars comic book artist Charles Soule. 

Amazing Arizona attendees will also have the chance to meet such comics artists Rick Hoberg (who worked on Marvel’s original Star Wars title), Mat Nastos, Chad Hardin, Joe Rubinstein, Joe Ng, and Ryan Ottley. Other special guests scheduled to appear include voice actors like Chris Rickabaugh and Taliesin Jaffe, television personalities Emma Fyffe and Alana Jorden, and costume designer Catherine Elhoffer.

Panels and Programming: Many special guests will also be involved in the con’s eclectic buffet of geek-related programming throughout the weekend, a majority of which will happen at two separate theater rooms inside the main hall. For instance, there will be a Civil War-specific panel on Saturday featuring McNiven that will focus on the original story arc and this summer’s flick or a discussion about Marvel’s mutants with Claremont.

Other highlights include discussions about the legacy of Princess Leia, the supernatural pursuits of local paranormal investigators, the latest adventures of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, voice acting in video games, how to get into the comic book industry, and which anime characters would prevail if pitted against each other in a fight.

Costumes: Wear one if you’ve got one. If not, consider attending one of the many cosplay-related panels and tutorials happening throughout the weekend, hitting up any of the costuming vendors in the main hall, discussing the pursuit with any of local cosplayers visiting the con, or checking out Amazing Arizona’s big costume contest on Saturday evening starting at 7 p.m. 

Bring: Besides a costume or any the usual musts for surviving a weekend-long con (like good shoes, extra cash, a cell phone or camera, sunglasses for outdoors, and a bag to hold all your shwag), water is especially recommended because of the heat.

Don't Bring: Personal drama, disruptive behavior, real weapons, offensive costumes, or a disrespectful attitude towards cosplayers.

A group of Steampunk Wizard of Oz cosplayers at last year's event.
A group of Steampunk Wizard of Oz cosplayers at last year's event.
Benjamin Leatherman
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