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Phoenix's Geek Scene Is Gearing Up for the Return of Cons

The boys and ghouls of Mad Monster Party Arizona will return in July.EXPAND
The boys and ghouls of Mad Monster Party Arizona will return in July.
Benjamin Leatherman
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For local geeks, the wait is almost over. As the pandemic continues to wane, conventions and other nerdy gatherings are beginning to return to metro Phoenix starting in July.

Over the next few weeks and months, local events like the horror-themed Mad Monster Party Arizona, the anime-centric Saboten Con, and the Arizona Toy Con are being staged as promoters and companies pick up where they left off before COVID-19 sent the geek scene into the Phantom Zone for more than a year.

(And it isn’t just in the Valley. Notable events like Anime Matsuri in Houston this summer and the famed New York Comic Con in October will offer in-person versions this year, albeit with reduced capacity and social distancing.)

Some of the Valley’s biggest cons (such as Phoenix Fan Fusion) are being extra cautious and won’t happen until 2022, while Greg Fennell, one of the organizers of Saboten Con, and other local promoters feel it's safe enough to go forward with their events.

“Depending on the level we are at [with COVID-19], we will have specific things that need to be followed so we can react fast to whatever place we are in when we open the doors to [our show] this year,” Fennell said on Facebook in April.

Here’s a look at recent news from the Valley’s geek scene, including info about events happening during the summer, fall, and into early 2022.

Costumed attendees of Mad Monster Party Arizona in 2018.EXPAND
Costumed attendees of Mad Monster Party Arizona in 2018.
Benjamin Leatherman

Mad Monster Party Arizona Finalizes Guest Lineup

If you’ve ever wanted to be granted an audience with the King of Hell (without having to endure fire, brimstone, and utter damnation), this year’s Mad Monster Party Arizona will give you the chance to do so … more or less. Famed character actor Mark Sheppard, who starred as the insidious Crowley on Supernatural, will be one of the biggest special guests at the event, which takes place from Friday, July 2, to Sunday, July 4, at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel in Glendale.

Other actors scheduled to appear at the 2021 version of Mad Monster Party Arizona, which celebrates horror fandom, include Scooby Doo’s Matthew Lillard, James Remar from Dexter, Scream’s Skeet Ulrich, and P.J. Soles of Halloween fame. Organizers recently added a few additional names to the lineup, including Doug Bradley (who starred as Pinhead in the first three Hellraiser flicks) and actress Felissa Rose from the 1983 cult film Sleepaway Camp.

Single-day admission to Mad Monster Party Arizona 2021 is $30 to $40 in advance, three-day passes are $80, and a "R.I.P." package loaded with perks is $199. Masks will be required and social distancing will be implemented.

Bill Oberst Jr. Is Coming to Phoenix Fearcon X

Mad Monster won’t be the only horror fest happening in the Valley in the near future as Phoenix Fearcon X will haunt Sun Studios of Arizona in Tempe on Friday, October 15, and Saturday, October 16. Promoters recently announced that renowned character actor Bill Oberst Jr. – a star of such cult horror films as 3 From Hell, Werewolf Rising, Devil's Junction, and Scary or Die – will make an appearance at the event and might perform his off-Broadway solo piece "Ray Bradbury's Pillar of Fire."

Oberst joins a special guest list that already includes such names as Fred Williamson of From Dusk Till Dawn, Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm series, and Troma Entertainment co-founder and director Lloyd Kaufman. Tickets for Phoenix Fearcon X are $30 each day, $50 for the weekend, or $75 for VIP admission. More details about the event can be found here.

Anime fans will flock to Saboten Con in September.EXPAND
Anime fans will flock to Saboten Con in September.
Benjamin Leatherman

Saboten Con Day Passes Are Now On Sale

Local anime fans looking to show off their costumes or hang out with fellow otaku can now purchase tickets to Saboten Con 2021, which will run from Friday, September 3, through Monday, September 6 (a.k.a. Labor Day weekend) at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

For those of you who aren’t weeaboos, Saboten Con is the biggest anime event in Arizona and boasts upward of 10,000 people in attendance each year. Organizers will have reduced capacity for this year’s event, though, and will utilize other safety measures like social distancing. Admission costs are $25 for Friday, $35 for Saturday and Sunday, and $20 for Monday. A full event pass will run you $55. Complete details can be found here.

Arizona Toy Con Happening in August

In the market for some vintage playthings or collectibles to add to your growing collection? The annual Arizona Toy Con has announced its 2021 edition will take place on Saturday, August 28, at Glendale Civic Center. As in previous years, dozens of vendors and collectors will have tables filled with old-school items of the Star Wars, Transformers, and G.I. Joe variety for sale, as well as a variety of video games, decor items, and more modern toys available for purchase. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $5 per person.

Cosplayers spotted at Tempe FanCon in 2020.EXPAND
Cosplayers spotted at Tempe FanCon in 2020.
Benjamin Leatherman

Tempe FanCon 2022 Announced

January 2022 is going to be a busy month for local geeks and cosplayers. In addition to Phoenix Fan Fusion making its long-awaited return, the decidedly smaller-scale Tempe FanCon 2022 will also happen. The family-friendly event, which occurs on the outdoor courtyard of the Tempe Public Library, features a mix of local vendors, appearances by artists and authors, children’s activities, and a costume contest with prizes in multiple categories. Library officials announced recently the 2022 edition is planned for Saturday, January 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be free to attend. (You can check out our photos of the event from 2020 here.)

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