Phoenix Comicon: A look back at the event that spawned Fan Fusion | Phoenix New Times
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Phoenix Comicon: Vintage photos from the event that spawned Fan Fusion

In honor of Phoenix Fan Fusion 2024 this week, here are vintage photos from the event’s early years.
The logo of Phoenix Comicon in 2011.
The logo of Phoenix Comicon in 2011. Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr
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Phoenix Fan Fusion has come a long way over the past 22 years. The popular Arizona pop-culture and geek event debuted back in June 2002 as Phoenix Cactus Comicon at a Best Western Hotel in Ahwatukee. Launched by local comic book collector and former Minnesota resident Matt Solberg, the one-day, one-room event featured 32 dealer tables and a total 432 people in attendance.

From these meager beginnings, a geek empire was born. Over the next several years, the event became known as Phoenix Comicon and grew exponentially, moving to various locations across the Valley (including the Glendale Civic Center and the Mesa Convention Center).

By 2010, Phoenix Comicon had transformed into an Arizona pop culture juggernaut. It moved to the Phoenix Convention Center and hosted appearances by scores of celebrities, legions of cosplayers and thousands of artists and vendors. Now known as Phoenix Fan Fusion, it continues to be Arizona’s biggest geek event and comic con each year.

In celebration of Phoenix Fan Fusion 2024, which runs from May 24 to 26, here’s a look back at vintage photos of the event’s early years.
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Indie comic book creators Jim Mahfood (right) and Eric Mengel (left) at the first Phoenix Cactus Comicon in June 2002.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Phoenix Cactus Comicon co-founder Matt Solberg (right) at the event’s debut in June 2002.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Jill Solberg (far right) outside of a Best Western Hotel in Ahwatukee during the first Phoenix Cactus Comicon in June 2002.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Cosplayer Jessika Malic (right) at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2003 in Glendale.
Jessika Malic
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Attendees of Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2003 in the event's exhibitor hall inside the Glendale Civic Center.
Square Egg Entertainment
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A comic book dealer at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2003 in Glendale.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Cosplayer Jessika Malic (right) at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2003 in Glendale.
Jessika Malic
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Brian Pulido (far right), the comic book creator behind the legendary character Lady Death, at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2004.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Actor Herbert Jefferson Jr., best known for his role as Lieutenant Boomer on the original "Battlestar Galactica," appears at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2004.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Renowned comic book artist Steve Rude (right) speaks with a fan during Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2004 at the Glendale Civic Center.
Square Egg Entertainment
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Promotional material for Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2007 at the Mesa Convention Center.
Matt Hinds
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Steam Crow co-creator Daniel Davis (center) with his son Kaid (left) and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola (right) at Phoenix Cactus Comicon in 2007.
Daniel Davis
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Anime cosplayers at Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2008 at the Mesa Convention Center.
viciouswargoose
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A full event badge for Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2008.
Matt Hinds
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Wil Wheaton speaks at Phoenix Cactus Comicon in 2008. The legendary actor, author and geek icon has made multiple appearances at the event over the years.
Flickr
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"Star Wars" cosplayers outside of Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2008's exhibitor hall at the Mesa Convention Center.
viciouswargoose
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Geek icon Wil Wheaton playing "Rock Band" during Phoenix Cactus Comicon 2009 at the Mesa Convention Center.
TaraRebeka/CC BY 2.0/Flickr
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Attendees of the Geek Prom during Phoenix Comicon 2010 at the Phoenix Convention Center. It was the con's first edition in downtown Phoenix.
TaraRebeka/CC BY 2.0/Flickr
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Spawn makes an appearance in the exhibitor hall at Phoenix Comicon in 2011.
Kevin Dooley/CC BY 2.0/Flickr
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A crowd of Phoenix Comicon attendees outside of the Phoenix Convention Center in 2011
Kevin Dooley/CC BY 2.0/Flickr
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