If it feels like you’ve been waiting forever to attend Phoenix Fan Fusion, you’re not alone. Regular attendees of the annual multiday pop-cultural event, which last took place in 2019, are ready to don cosplay, meet celebrities and geek out again after a three-year hiatus.
Meanwhile, Fan Fusion’s organizers have begun announcing the special guests who will appear at this year’s event, which runs from Friday, May 27, to Sunday, May 29, at the Phoenix Convention Center. So far, they’ve only revealed a relatively small amount of names, but they’re definitely iconic. Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston, Billy West from Futurama, Star Trek: Discovery’s Doug Jones and Sailor Moon voice actress Linda Ballantyne.
As is the norm with Fan Fusion, there will also be a number of renowned authors and comic book creatives.
More names will undoubtedly be unveiled in the coming weeks and months. To help tide you over until Memorial Day weekend, here’s a complete rundown of every Fan Fusion guest that’s been announced for 2022.
Numerous movie stars, voice actors and geek icons famous for their roles on both big and small screens will take time away from Hollywood to attend this year’s Phoenix Fan Fusion. As is the norm, there are folks from a variety of nerdy franchises, ranging from Doctor Who and Star Trek to the world of animation.
British-born actor Christopher Eccleston is famous for portraying the ninth version of The Doctor on long-running British sci-fi standard Doctor Who (and helping relaunch the BBC show’s current run in 2005). It’s not the only geek-friendly gig he’s played during his 33-year career. He was Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, Major Henry West in 28 Days Later and Claude Rains on an episode of Heroes. Outside of geekdom, Eccleston has had an illustrious career as a leading man and character actor. He’ll only appear at PFF on Saturday, May 28.
While you’ve seen Doug Jones in a ton of nerdy projects over the last decade, you’ve probably never seen the actor’s actual face. The character actor is famous for donning elaborate prosthetics and makeup effects to play fantastical creatures and non-human characters, starting in 1986 as the piano-playing moon man in McDonald’s “Mac Tonight” commercial. Since then, Jones has been the zombie Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus, Abe Sapien in the first two Hellboy films, Faun in Pan's Labyrinth, Star Trek: Discovery's Commander Saru and the Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water. He's making his first-ever appearance at PFF and will be there all three days.
Longtime anime fans will likely recognize Linda Ballantyne as the voice actress behind Serena Tsukino (aka Sailor Moon) in 77 episodes of the show’s Americanized version. (Her other anime roles include Kaori Sakiyama in Air Master, Lucy in BeyWheelz, and various characters in an episode of Bakugan Battle Brawlers. Ballantyne also has been featured in Western cartoons, such as Totally Spies!, Mia and Me, Fangbone! and Cyberchase. She'll be at PFF throughout its run.
Children of the ‘90s, especially those with cool or absent parents, grew up watching cartoon characters played by voice actor Billy West. He played Philip J. Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan on Futurama, which are arguably his most iconic roles. West also voiced Ren and Stimpy on the show of the same name, the titular character of Doug, and Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in Space Jam. Anyone who sneaked a listen of Howard Stern’s infamous radio show in the mid-‘90s might have heard West during his stint in the cast. He’s scheduled to appear all weekend at Fan Fusion in case you'd like to quiz him about Hulu’s recently announced revival of Futurama.
Voice actress and singer Jodi Benson has played characters in various Disney animated films and television shows, such as Barbie in the Toy Story series, Sam in Enchanted, and Lady in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure. Her biggest role for Disney, though, came in 1989 when she provided the speaking and singing voices of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Benson is scheduled to appear on all three days of Fan Fusion.
Every hero or heroine needs a teammate, and in the case of iconic Sailor Moon, it's her frenemy Sailor Mars. The badass character is featured in dozens of Sailor Moon episodes throughout the anime’s run and is voiced by Canadian-born voice actress Katie Griffin in the English dub. She has starred in any number of animated projects starting in the ‘90s, ranging from films like Care Bears and Totally Spies! The Movie to such kids shows as Mysticons, MetaJets, and the television version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. She's set to appear from Friday, May 27, through Sunday, May 29.
A selection of comics from an edition of the Phoenix Fan Fusion.
Comic books have been in the backbone of Fan Fusion since it launched in the early 2000s (back when it was known as Phoenix Comicon). So it's no surprise the medium and its various creators will have a presence at this year’s event, including appearances by some famous names from the industry. They’ll be available to chat, sign autographs and create artwork within PFF’s “Hall of Heroes” and the lower-level exhibitor hall at the Phoenix Convention Center throughout the event.
While he’s best known for co-creating New Mutants with the legendary Chris Claremont in the early ‘80s, it’s not Bob McLeod’s only comics claim to fame. The penciler and inker also had prolific runs on a number of Marvel and DC titles, including drawing the first issue of G.I. Joe for the former and helping launch Superman: The Man of Steel in 1991 for the latter. Comic book nerds may also remember him for inking the landmark “Kraven's Last Hunt” arc in various Spider-Man titles in 1987.
Inker and cover artist Scott Hanna is a veteran of the comics industry who has been bringing superheroes to the masses for more than three decades. He spent 15 years working on various titles featuring Spider-Man, helping the legendary web-sling do whatever a spider can. (Hanna also has worked on The Avengers, Iron Man and The Hulk.) Over at DC, he put in time on such legendary series as Detective Comics, Green Lantern Corps, Wonder Woman, Justice League and Superman.
If you’ve picked up a copy of the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual or Heroes Reborn: Peter Parker, The Amazing Shutterbug last year, you’ve seen the astounding work of Mike McKone. Both featured cover art by the British-born penciler and are among some of the best work he’s created recently for Marvel. He’s also famed for contributing his art to the company’s Exiles title in the early 2000s, which landed him a gig on DC’s Teen Titans. Catch him during all three days of Fan Fusion and he’ll likely tell you all about the experience.
Livio Ramondelli's painterly renditions of Optimus Prime, Megatron and other famed Cybertronians for the covers of IDW’s various Transformers series (including Infestation, Robots in Disguise and the More Than Meets the Eye 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. In addition to dabbling in previously established franchises, the artist, penciler and inker also has created his own title, The Kill Lock, for IDW.
Valley resident Scott Godlewski lives and breathes comics. He has worked as a writer and artist, penciling and inking superheroes for major publishers like DC (most recently on Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes) for nearly a decade. In 2011, he drew Dracula: The Company of Monsters for BOOM! Studio and later co-created the retro-futuristic space Western title Copperhead with Jay Faerber for Image Comics. And when he isn’t creating comics, Godlewski is busy talking about them on episodes of The Illustrious Gentlemen, the geek podcast he co-hosts with fellow artist Ryan Cody.
When BOOM! Studios adapted Philip K. Dick’s influential novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in 2009, they tapped longtime artist Tony Parker to illustrate all 24 issues. It’s considered one of his finest works and earned him an Eisner Award nomination. Parker’s resume also includes drawing the 13-issue maxiseries Mass Effect: Foundation for Dark Horse Comics and the Ascencia mini-series for Wake Entertainment, as well as stints with publishers like Aspen MLT, Image and DC.
Word nerds can also get their fill at Fan Fusion, as numerous authors of books featuring science fiction, horror, fantasy or any combination thereof will make appearances and discuss their craft. They’re each set to appear every day of the event.
Tempe resident Lisa McMann is the scribe behind a few different YA-oriented series. There’s The Unwanteds, where adolescents in a dystopian future society are sorted into two categories that determine their fates in life (sort of like Harry Potter crossed with The Hunger Games). And her ongoing Wake series involves a psychically gifted teen who has the power to enter the dreams of others.
Marissa Meyer is a New York Times bestselling author who has penned such hit YA fantasy and sci-fi series as The Lunar Chronicles and The Renegades Trilogy, as well as the graphic novel duology Wires and Nerve. Her 2020 contemporary romance novel Instant Karma also has been optioned for an HBO Max show and she also hosts the popular podcast The Happy Writer. Not bad for someone who started out posting her fanfiction online.
David Hatcher Childress
Author David Hatcher Childress shares a few things in common with Indiana Jones. Like the famed cinematic adventurer, he’s studied archaeology, traveled the world, studied ancient civilizations, and has a particular fascination with unexplained and otherworldly phenomena. The subject matter of Childress’ books bears this out, as he’s written such tomes as The Time Travel Handbook, Lost Continents and the Hollow Earth, and Yetis, Sasquatch and Hairy Giants.
Renowned urban fantasy author Melissa Marr writes books for both the YA and adult crowds. Her Wicked Lovely series, which spans five different novels, is aimed at the former, while books like the 2011 Gothic mystery Gravedigger and the 2013 fantasy Western title The Arrivals are more for the latter. She’s also written a trio of graphic novels set in the Wicked Lovely universe and two short fiction collections.
Joanna Ruth Meyer
Writer and Valley resident Joanna Ruth Meyer has penned a few different best-selling and critically-acclaimed YA fantasy books, including the fairy-tale novel Echo North and its companion titles Beneath the Haunting Sea and Beyond the Shadowed Earth. The latest book in the series, Wind Daughter, is set to debut in May and is described as a “hauntingly beautiful fairy tale about love and loss.”
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.