Nerd Culture

Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest vs. Marvel Experience: A Head-to-Head Guide for Geeks

Christmas is coming early for local nerds and comic book junkies. Over the next two weekends, a pair of geek-oriented mega-events are launching at either end of the Valley: the inaugural Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest in Glendale followed by the Marvel Experience in North Scottsdale. And both are going to be can't-miss attractions for anyone who's a fan of comic books and superheroes.

While each is a different sort of event (one's a fan gathering and the other is akin to a massive high-tech traveling theme park and cutting-edge interactive experience) and comparing the two is admittedly an apples and oranges sort of thing, similarities abound. Both are rooted in comics and centered on fandom, will attract scores of geeks, and offer the chance to don another identity. And, oddly enough, there's the fact that both will take place in domed structures (Fan Fest is at University of Phoenix Stadium while the Marvel Experience will occur in a series of seven enormous inflatable domes set up at Salt River Fields).

See also: 7 Must-See Guests at Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest

Up until a few weeks ago, the two events were going to go head-to-head as TMX, which will be open daily through January 3, was originally scheduled to kick off this weekend. Due to unspecified reasons, however, producers chose to move its opening to Friday, December 19.

And while Fan Fest and the Marvel Experience are no longer in direct competition with one another (and both are going to be thrilling experiences to attend) there are still a certain amount of geeks who might not have it in their budgets to afford both, what with it being the holiday season and all.

If you've got the money, by all means you should go to both. Trust us, true believer. Fan Fest offers the opportunity to get in some Comicon-style shenanigans during cooler climes, while TMX boasts what should be an unparalleled experience of becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, having an four-dimensional adventure in "hyper-reality" with The Avengers, and living your superhero dreams.

But if you have to choose, we've done what geeks everywhere have been doing for years and matched up the two events in a head-to-head showdown.

Costumes and Cosplay: Both Fan Fest and Marvel Experience encourages its attendees to come in costume. And given the nature of the latter event, its producers especially welcome cosplay of Marvel Comics characters. That said, they aren't going to bar anyone from entry if they're dressed as someone from the DC Universe (in case you want to pull a crossover) or any other geek-friendly franchise. According to the Marvel Experience's website, however, any sort of accessories or mock weaponry is not allowed. Because of that, as well as the fact that any Phoenix Comicon gathering is going to (naturally) going to be a cosplay paradise, the edge goes to them.

Winner: Fan Fest

Fun Factor: Spending a day at any sort of Phoenix Comicon-produced event is a total blast and a half, especially when you factor in all the costumes, panels, programming, guests, and special activities. However, it doesn't offer such thrills as motion rides, climbing walls with Spider-Man, hologram blasting, or the chance to enter "hyper-reality" like everything the Marvel Experience is promising.

Winner: Marvel Experience

Tech Factor and Attractions: The Marvel Experience is nothing if not high-tech, as it uses cutting-edge bells and whistles to will allow attendees to get face-to-face with superheroes, impressive state-of-the-art "augmented reality" to bring you into the Marvel Universe, RFID technology to track your progress through the adventure, and even a close up look at a realistic mockup of a Qunjet. Plus, you also can become an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Winner: Hands down, Marvel Experience

Merchandise: Most any sort of geek-related shwag, merch, or collectibles that you could possibly want from any sort of fandom or franchise will likely be available at Fan Fest. Meanwhile, Marvel Experience will have an equally impressive selection of toys, comics, apparel, and merchandise available for sale, but will (understandably) be limited to just the Marvel Universe.

Winner: Fan Fest

Special Guests: Fan Fest will include the chance to interact with two Doctor Whos, Kyle Reese from originals Terminator, Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf from Top Gun, and dozens of influential comic book artists and writers who helped bring Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man to life. As for the Marvel Experience...well, they'll have holographic versions of those iconic heroes (plus Nick Fury, Captain America, and others) which will be interactive, but not the same as seeing those characters in the flesh.

Winner: Fan Fest

Bang for your Buck: The Marvel Experience is $29.50 for adults, $24.50 for children, and free for kids up to 6 years of age and lasts approximately 90 minutes to two hours. But with how much you'll do during that time, the admission seems worth it. Fan Fest, however, is $15 to $35 for daily admission and $50 for an entire weekend. You'll be seeing and doing a lot during each day, so you get your money's worth, but the Marvel Experience offers more bang for your buck.

Winner: Marvel Experience

Overall Experience: Given the fantastical nature, spectacular thrills, and high-tech oomph of Marvel Experience, plus the fact its only going to be here a few weeks, it holds a decided edge over the Fan Fest. While its true that the event will only be held over a single weekend, if you wind up missing it, you can always check out Phoenix Comicon in May.

Winner: Marvel Experience

Final Score: By a tally of 4-3, the Marvel Experience eeks out a win. But again, if you've got the means and money to attend both, you should totally go for it. Excelsior!

Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest runs from Friday, December 12, to Sunday, December 14. Admission is $15 to $35 for a daily pass or $50 for the full event.

The Marvel Experience runs from Friday, December 19, to Saturday, January 3. Tickets are $29.50 for adults, $24.50 for children, and free for kids up to 6 years of age.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.