Die-hard Marvel Comics fans of the Valley have a busy weekend ahead. And it might just include the chance to hobnob with Captain America, Spider-Man, or other superheroes.
The highly anticipated Ace Comic Con takes over Gila River Arena in Glendale from Saturday, January 13, to Monday, January 15, and is set to feature a slew of actors and artists associated with Marvel Comics and its wealth of colorful characters.
Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Chris Evans and Tom Holland are scheduled to appear, as are a few dozen Marvel-related comics creators, including Stan Lee, Bob Layton, John Romita Jr., and Todd MacFarlane.
And organizers are anticipating a big turnout of people eager to interact with all these big names at the con.
Ace Comic Con co-founder Gareb Shamus told Phoenix New Times that organizers expect 20,000 people will flock to the three-day event.
“It’s going to be big,” Shamus says. “We wanted to bring in the biggest celebrities out there from the geek world.”
And many of the celebs who are scheduled to visit Gila River Arena are making their first-ever public appearances in Arizona.
It’s also worth noting that Ace Comic Con events, which Shamus says will eventually take place in cities across the U.S., features a different setup from other geek extravaganzas. It’s happening in arenas instead of convention centers, and programming and panels will be livestreamed on JumboTrons and other screens throughout the venue.
“Anybody who'd want to watch what's going on, they'll be able to watch on the main stage we have set up,” Shamus says.
And then there’s the fact that each Ace Comic Con is “curated and themed” around a certain group of featured guests.
For instance, the first-ever Ace Comic Con, which took place last month in New York, was centered on the Justice League and DC Comics. Conversely, Arizona’s event will be all about Marvel Comics and its various projects (although many artists involved have worked for DC and other publishers over the years).
“In the case in Arizona, we have the cast of Spider-Man and Captain America coming. So we tailored a lot of the talent towards people that worked on those comic books or worked on those movies or TV shows,” Shamus says.
“If you're a fan of Spider-Man and if you're a fan of Captain America, you're going to see a lot of your favorite artists and writers who have worked on that. You're going to get to meet Stan Lee or Bob Layton or John Romita Jr. The list is pretty extensive of who we have in our lineup.”
And if you’re curious about who else will be appearing at Ace Comic Con in Glendale, we’ve put together a rundown of every single guest that will be in attendance.
Some of the biggest names at Ace
For those who aren’t connoisseurs of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chris Evans has starred as the big-screen version of Captain America since 2011, with appearances in films focusing on the famous character (there have been three so far) as well as the ongoing Avengers series. And, yes, he also played Johnny Storm (a.k.a. The Human Torch) in those two execrable Fantastic Four flicks that came out in the 2000s.
Last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was adored by both critics and fans alike. And one of the bigger reasons was Tom Holland's pitch-perfect portrayal of Peter Parker as a vulnerable and overeager teen learning how to be a real superhero. Expect to hear his take on the character (and maybe some behind-the-scenes tidbits) when Holland and his fellow Spider-Man: Homecoming castmates sit down for a Q&A panel at Ace Comic Con on Sunday evening.
Anthony Mackie had a stellar career long before he strapped on a winged jet-pack and became Sam "Falcon" Wilson in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He appeared in 8 Mile back in 2002 before providing memorable turns in such films as Million Dollar Baby, The Hurt Locker, The Adjustment Bureau, and even Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
This British-born actress is known for her role in the MCU as Peggy, who's Cap’s love interest, co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D., and a kickass special agent. Atwell also starred in one of the more memorable episodes of Black Mirror’s first season (“Be Right Back”), a number of period dramas, and the 2010 miniseries The Pillars of the Earth.
A good chunk of Karl Urban’s career has involved playing geek-friendly roles. He’s been Dr. McCoy in the last three Star Trek flicks and Éomer in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as characters in Pete's Dragon, Doom, Pathfinder, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Xena: Warrior Princess. He’s also one of several actors who has been in both a Marvel and DC film, as he appeared in the Judge Dredd reboot and as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok.
Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of Captain America’s frenemy Bucky Barnes (a.k.a. the Winter Soldier) isn’t the actor’s only high-profile role. He was Jeff Gillooly in last year’s I, Tonya (a performance that earned plenty of praise), Dr. Chris Beck in The Martian, Carter Baizen on Gossip Girl, and Joshua Brummel in Ricki and the Flash.
Laura Harrier’s turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Peter Parker’s love interest, Liz, may have been the first time she starred in a big-budget blockbuster, but it wasn’t her only acting role. In 2013, Harrier played teenager Destiny Evans on the reboot of One Life to Live, followed by appearances in indie films 4th Man Out and The Last Five. Next year, you can catch her as Millie Montag in the television adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.
Jon Bernthal used to be known primarily for his role as Shane Walsh (R.I.P.) on The Walking Dead. Then he became Frank Castle on Netflix’s Daredevil and the critically lauded solo series focusing on The Punisher. Bernthal's acting abilities playing the famed Marvel character have gotten the most praise, and rightfully so.
Bernthal isn’t the only Punisher star that’s appearing at Ace Comic Con, as Ebon Moss-Bachrach will also be in attendance. For those who haven’t binged the Netflix serial yet, Moss-Bachrach plays Frank Castle’s tech guru/sidekick David “Micro” Lieberman, who (spoiler!) winds up getting ensnared in the same conspiracy as the show’s antihero.
Every superhero needs a sidekick, a role that Jacob Batalon served in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The newbie actor, who made his big screen debut in the film, portrayed Peter Parker’s classmate and fellow nerd Ned Leeds. He was one of the more memorable characters of the film, and we’re hoping he somehow makes a cameo appearance in Avengers: Infinity War later this year.
Fans of pro wrestling can indulge their geekdom at Ace
The Hulkster’s feats are the stuff of pro wrestling legend, brother. He conquered countless opponents in both the WWE and WCW with his famed 24-inch pythons, held the world title on 12 occasions, became the face of wrestling in the 1980s, and has been the spiritual leader of Hulkamania for decades.
For 25 years, Sting was the heart and soul of WCW. He started out as a bleached blonde hero and fan favorite to millions before transforming into a vigilante-like character modeled after The Crow. Throughout his career, Sting had legendary matches with the likes of Ric Flair, Vader, and The Great Muta. He capped things off with a brief run in WWE in 2015, including wrestling Triple H at that year’s WrestleMania.
Why was Jimmy Hart was known as “The Mouth of the South” during his time with WWE and WCW? Quite frankly, it’s because he never shut up. Hart was famous for constantly trash-talking the opponents of the wrestlers he managed (including Greg Valentine, Randy Savage, and the legendary Andy Kaufman) through his trademark megaphone. His motormouthed interviews were also pretty manic and hyperactive, to say the least.
WCW Executive/WWE Personality
Eric Bischoff pretty
Creators and Authors:
As we mentioned, there will be tons of Marvel-related creators at Ace
After leaving a gig at Marvel in the early 1990s, where he famously worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, artist and geek impresario Todd McFarlane launched himself into the spotlight. He founded Image Comics, created his signature character Spawn, and became a mogul with his empire of comics, toys, and collectibles.
This renowned comic book creator contributed greatly to Iron Man’s mythos along with David Michelinie in the late '70s, co-writing the landmark "Demon in a Bottle" arc, creating such characters as Rhodey and Justin Hammer, and introducing the idea of specialty armors. On his own, Layton also had memorable stints on The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Micronauts.
Unless you've been stuck in the Negative Zone for the last 40 years, you're well aware of Stan Lee’s massive contributions to the Marvel Comics canon and his influence on geekdom and pop-culture in general. During his stint with Marvel as a writer and editor, he co-created any number of legendary heroes and villains along with Steve Ditko and the late Jack Kirby, including the Fantastic Four, Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Black Panther. He also helped popularize the notion of a “shared universe” in comics.
(Note: As of this writing, Lee is still scheduled to appear at Ace Comic Con this weekend, despite the recent controversy surrounding allegations of alleged sexual misconduct.)
There’s a reason why John Cassaday’s oeuvre – including his efforts on Astonishing X-Men, Planetary, and Captain America – is highly regarded in the comics world. The longtime artist is renowned for his perfectionist nature and for painstakingly creating his work in pencil before inking and coloring it himself by hand.
If you’ve ever picked up the best-selling autobiographical graphic novel of Stan Lee’s life, Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir, you’ve witnessed the phenomenal artistry of illustrator Colleen Doran writ large. Ditto for anyone who’s read A Distant Soil, the long-running epic space opera comic series she created in 1983. Dorman’s also collaborated with some prominent writers during her lengthy career, including Neil Gaiman, Peter David, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Anne Rice, and J. Michael Straczynski.
A passion for comics is strong Adam Kubert's family. His late father, Joe Kubert, was a DC legend, and his brother, Andy Kubert, had a long-running gig with Marvel. Adam's made a name for himself, too, with memorable stints creating the art for Larry Hama's time on Wolverine in the '90s, followed by runs on Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Action Comics, and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. Back in 2008, Wizard magazine even touted him as one of the "Hot 10 Writers and Artists" in the industry.
Comics Writer/Television Producer
Are you a fan of every DC-oriented show on The CW these days? Feel free to thank Marc Guggenheim
This Utah-born artist has gigged for both Marvel and DC, as well as companies like Top Cow and Image Comics. Some of the many titles he’s worked on over the years include Deathstroke, Justice League, Superman, Green Lantern, Uncanny X-Men, and Venom.
Ryan Meinerding’s been creating the look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from its very beginnings. He started out as an illustrator on both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 before becoming the visual development supervisor on Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. Meinerding’s been the MCU’s head of visual development since Iron Man 3 and is likely helping put the finishing touches on the much-anticipated Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.
Afua Richardson has built an impressive resume as an artist over the last decade.
Marat Mychaels is known for his early work for Image Comics (including on the Extreme Studios Brigade series), as well as his gig drawing X-Force and several different Deadpool-related titles. He even illustrated a 2012 mashup of Winnie the Pooh with the “merc with the mouth.” Oh, bother.
Publishers like Image, Top Cow, and Bongo Comics have all tapped Tone Rodriguez to contribute art to their comic books. Hollywood’s also utilized his work and this acting chops, too. In 2007, Rodriguez played a vengeful artist on Dexter and designed "The Dark Defender," a comic book-like alter ego of Dexter Morgan, for the episode.
John Romita Jr.
Comics geeks everywhere consider John Romita Jr. one of the best in the biz. And with good reason, considering his legendary stints as an artist on Punisher War Zone, Iron Man, Wolverine, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Daredevil. He’s worked with plenty of big names during his 35-plus years at Marvel, including Frank Miller, Bob Layton, Ann Nocenti, and Mark Millar.
Mark Bagley has drawn for practically every major Marvel title over the last 34 years. No joke. That includes
The vibrant work of colorist Jordan Gibson can currently be seen in the pages of the Marvel title America, his current gig. He’s also lent his unique-looking linework to such comic books as Spider-Gwen, Where Is Jake Ellis?, and The Amazing World of Gumball.
DC and Marvel have both tapped illustrator Kenneth Rocafort to create epic-looking
If you grew up watching cartoons in the ‘80s, Phil Ortiz helped shape your childhood. For more than a decade, he was a character designer and animator on such programs as The Smurfs, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Muppet Babies, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Denver, the Last Dinosaur. Ortiz also worked on the first few seasons of The Simpsons and later drew for Bongo Comics, including titles like Radioactive Man, Krusty Comics, and Treehouse of Horror.
While fans of the MCU may or may not know the name Andy Park, they’re definitely familiar with his work. Over the last eight years, he served as a concept artist on every flick that Marvel Studios has released, from Captain America: The First Avenger to Doctor Strange. Last year, Park became a visual development supervisor, overseeing the look of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok.
Michael J. Zeck
This comics veteran has practically done it all since breaking into the biz in 1974, including writing, editing, lettering, and coloring. The bulk of his time over the past 44 years, however, has been spent
Danny Miki is primarily known as an inker and cover artist and has done both for such high-profile comics as Batman, The Darkness, Suicide Squad, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and X-Men. He's also
Mike S. Miller
Gamers who are totally into Injustice: Gods Among Us and its hit sequel oughta check out the astounding art that Mike S. Miller created for a number of spinoffs and prequels inspired by both games. He’s also behind the art of a couple of adaptations of Game of Thrones short stories (“The Hedge Knight” and “The Sworn Sword”) and has an extensive history with such publishers as Marvel, DC, and Image Comics.
Greg Horn has created a lot of covers, particularly for Marvel Comics. We’re talking hundreds of ‘em, and on titles ranging from The Amazing Spider-Man and
Spawn never looked better than when he’s being rendered by artist Philip Tan, the artist who created covers and interior art on dozens of titles featuring the iconic comics character. In recent years, however, Tan has worked on Vampirella, The Hellblazer, Suicide Squad, Batman, and Harley Quinn.
Local artist Jay Fotos has illustrated 30 Days of Night, Spawn, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a few different Godzilla comics, and the best-selling Locke & Key. Along with Mark Kidwell, he's also the co-creators of the popular Vietnam War-themed zombie comic ‘68 (think Platoon meets Night of the Living Dead).
Popular fantasy scribe Sam Sykes, who was born and raised in Arizona, prefers writing epics like Bring Down Heaven and Aeon’s Gate that are a bit bloodier than your average sword and sorcery-style tales and typically boast more of a darkly comic influence.
Chad Hardin’s latest projects include bringing the action-packed world of the Teen Titans to life and drawing several Harley Quinn comic books and graphic novels. Prior to that, he’s contributed to several Dark Horse and DC titles.
At the age of 13, Koi Turnbull began transforming his lifelong love of comics into a profession, especially after being mentored by such artists as Randy Green and Rick Ketcham. And over the past 20 years, Turnbull’s laid down lines for titles like Detective Comics, The Flash, Batgirl, Fathom, and
Matt Hawkins spent his first 20 years in the comics world at Image, where he worked as a writer, editor, and executive. Over the past two decades, however, he’s run Top Cow Comics and created titles like Think Tank, Postal, and Aphrodite IX, as well as overseeing pretty much everything they’ve published.
Dishing out pop-punk riffs as the guitarist for Good Charlotte isn’t Billy Martin’s only claim to fame. He's created a variety of covers for Marvel and IDW titles (including one starring Grumpy Cat) and inked and
Livio Ramondelli's painterly renditions of Optimus Prime, Megatron, and other famed Cybertronians for the covers of IDW’s various Transformers series are a thing of beauty. Ditto for his work for such titles as Star Wars: Legacy, Dungeons & Dragons, 30 Days of Night, and Classic Battlestar Galactica.
Clinton T. Hobart
You can find Clinton T. Hobart’s fine art paintings of characters like Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio, Goofy, and Winnie the Pooh for sale at Disneyland. Some of his still life works have also been purchased by a few celebrities, like when Michael Rooker bought Hobart’s “A Portrait of Doritos” for his private collection.
James A. Owen
Arizona’s James A. Owen authored the best-selling Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, which involve fictionalized versions of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and H.G. Wells traveling to fantasy world. And his ongoing MythWorld tales are a slice of urban pulp fantasy involving “ancient manuscripts, zen illusionists, opera, murder, magic, and the alternate history of the world.”
Renowned YA scribe Tom Leveen is nothing if not prolific, having authored such teen-oriented novels as Zero,
Companies like Big Dog Ink, No Gravity Studios, and Zenescope Entertainment have all employed artist Ryan Kincaid to create covers and pinups of their buxom and bikini-clad characters. His portfolio isn’t only cheesecake material, however, as he’s also drawn sketch cards for Upper Deck and Rittenhouse Archives.
Besides having one of the coolest names ever, this artist has a work history that includes drawing for Dark Horse Comics (Shaper), Zenescope Entertainment (Red Agent, Snow White vs. Snow White), and 215Ink (Super Action Man).
Valley resident Ryan Cody is big into comics, to say the least. He created his own book, F.O.E., and has been employed as an artist and writer by Dark Horse, Dynamite Comics, and IDW. He also co-hosts The Illustrious Gentlemen podcast along with fellow comics creator Scott Godlewski, where they frequently discuss the ins and outs of the industry.
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Brian Augustyn has been in the comics industry since the mid-'80s and has had lengthy runs on The Flash and Justice League. He’s also written for several dozen notable books over the last few decades, running the gamut from Ash to Zombie Tales.
Albert Morales has lent his artwork to Ultra Spider-Man and Captain America trading
Remember that locally produced Smiths comic, Unite and Take Over that came out in 2011? Tucson’s Eric Schock was one of many Arizona artists who contributed to the anthology, which one of the highlights of his quirky resume. He also runs indie publishing company Evil Robo Productions and has worked for Upper Deck, Cryptozoic Entertainment, and Arcana Comics.
Ace Comic Con 2018 runs from Saturday, January 13, to Monday, January 15, at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Daily general admission is $45 to $55 and a three-day ticket is $95. Autographs and photo ops are purchased separately, and VIP packages are also available