State Highway 238 is only sort of a shortcut — honestly, we're not sure whether it's a time-efficient shortcut. But it's a beautiful drive and a nice change of scenery for vacationers like us, who have made the Phoenix-to-San-Diego-and-back trip so many times that we could do it with our eyes closed in a dust storm. If you live on the west side of the Valley, starting your trip to San Diego is a no-brainer: You take Interstate 10 to State Route 85, then head west on Interstate 8. But East Valley residents have more options. From Chandler or Mesa, you can do the 10 to the 85, or you can choose to head south on State Route 347 (Maricopa Road), jog right at State Route 84, then get on I-8. After a jillion times on the latter route, we got the itch to start heading west as soon as possible, just for kicks. The 238 veers off of the 347 just as you get to Maricopa, coming from the north. We took it once at night a few years ago, before it was paved — let's just say it was the first time the wife was ever happy to see Gila Bend. Now it's asphalt the whole way. The road is much hillier, twistier, and more narrow than most highways around here, giving a more intimate and fun Sonoran Desert experience. You won't make up much time on this shortcut, but the time you do spend will seem to go faster.
Admittedly, he won't go down in meta-history as the most super of superheroes. But in the minds of native Phoenicians such as ourselves — whose embryonic years included a daily dose of The Wallace & Ladmo Show — Captain Super was one of the more memorable übermenschen of our collective pre-pubescence. Clad in red, white, and blue regalia, "Supe" (as he was dubbed) stood out from the cadre of kooky characters making up the cast of the legendary local kids' show, which aired weekday mornings on KPHO from 1954 to 1989. It certainly wasn't because of his "powers" (which were non-existent) or any actions that were even remotely heroic. Instead, his buffoonish breakfast-time antics always brought smiles to our faces. Portrayed by renowned radio newsman Pat McMahon (who also starred as Gerald, Aunt Maud, and a half-dozen other Wallace & Ladmo sidekicks), this milquetoast Man of Steel was utterly ineffectual and incompetent, yet eternally arrogant and ignorant of his deficiencies. Self-described as "Arizona's official hero," Captain Super would burst onto the set, spewing chauvinistic and self-deluded soliloquies to the show's hosts. An avowed enemy of communism, he'd stop at nothing to fight the "red menace," even if it meant grappling with grade-schoolers in the audience whom he felt were relatives of Joseph Stalin. And if anyone dared to jeer him, why, they just didn't understand. "The day will come when future generations will look back and realize that Captain Super was the great moral leader of this century," he stated during one visit. Though that's unlikely to happen, Supe, you'll always have a spot in our hearts.
Writer, artist, and Scottsdale resident S.S. Crompton invented the character Demi the Demoness in 1992. Since then, stories of the sweet and sexy devil girl have been published in more than 25 comics by Rip Off Press, Revisionary Press, Eros Comix, and Crompton's own publishing company, Carnal Comics. The comic's enduring popularity can be attributed to a couple things: First, Demi is a cute, little cartoon character with big breasts who gets into all sorts of erotic adventures with her girlfriend, a banished cat-goddess named Kit-Ra, who also has exaggerated boobs. And second, Demi's incredibly dense for a demon; though she has long, curly raven hair, she often acts like a stereotypical airhead blonde, which makes her both laughable and lovable.
In a small classroom of about 30 honors students, Professor Diane Facinelli is teaching her students superhero basics. We're not talking weapons, X-ray vision, or the gift of flight (though we'e heard that can be learned on the ASU Quidditch team) — no, this is much more a look into what exactly makes a superhero. Students are encouraged to read comic books, pulp magazines, and graphic novels and apply themes and characters to everyday situations. Sure, a few honors kids might not be able to save you if you're getting mugged on Mill Avenue, but they just might have the costumes to play the parts.
This annual, three-day event provides programming for a wide range of geeks, from anime films and costuming to hard-science panels and horror movie buffs. But the highlight of Phoenix Comicon has always been the comic book programming. In addition to the massive "dealer's room," where fans can find a treasure trove of new and rare comics, there are dozens of panels geared toward comic book culture, from drawing to writing to self-publishing. There are also the guests — Phoenix Comicon regularly brings in some of the biggest names in geek chic culture, including actor Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Spawn creator and action figure mogul Todd McFarlane. This year, the biggest name on the guest list was Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man, Hulk, and X-Men). Even if it weren't for the dealer's room and panels, PCC's ability to draw the comic world's biggest living legend to the Valley makes it untouchable by any other local comic convention.
Kryptonite doesn't necessarily have to be glowing and green to damage those vulnerable to its forces — kryptonite comes in many forms. U.S. Senator and former presidential hopeful John McCain's kryptonite is blonde, a little on the ditzy side, and has a pretty decent rack. McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, is hell-bent on de-conservatizing the Republican Party — one gay marriage at a time. Before what was dubbed early on as the "fight of McCain's political life" — a conservative showdown with J.D. Hayworth — Meghan, a self-described "social liberal" boasted that her father was "coming along" when it came to his tolerance of gay marriage. Gasp! Weakened, but not dead, McCain fought on and defeated his interparty enemy, ensuring that the lesser of two evils will always prevail.
Arizona Pop Culture Experience
At first glance, the inside of the Arizona Pop Culture Museum in City North looks like a toy warehouse. Everywhere you look, there are rows of shelves crammed from top to bottom with colorful boxes housing action figures. The walls are adorned with numerous posters for comic books and sci-fi films. In short, it could be a kid's paradise — except that nobody's allowed to touch these toys. This massive collection of action figures (more than 10,000 in all) is the private bounty of Valley resident John Edwards, who's been collecting them since 1966. In an effort to promote education and creativity through his collection, Edwards put his treasures on display at the AZ Pop Culture Museum — and what a display it is: hundreds of Marvel Universe action figures (many custom-made just for Edwards) in a glass display case; every Star Wars and Star Trek action figure imaginable (including the coveted and valuable Caped Jawas), and dozens of figures by renowned comics guru Todd McFarlane. There are even G.I. Joe dolls of Bob Hope and Teddy Roosevelt. With an action figure collection like this in town, who needs to ogle eBay listings?

Best Local Comic Store to Appear in a Major Motion Picture

Atomic Comics in Kick-Ass

Atomic Comics
If you dig on movies based on comics, chances are good you saw Kick-Ass, the film adaptation of the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. And why not? This film gives comic fans what they want: fistsful of action, a parody of Batman, and even an 11-year-old who drops the "C" word. Hell, Kick-Ass even gives a nod to local comics empire Atomic Comics by including it in the film. No, seriously. Check out the film. The producers could have come up with a random comic store name, but instead, they gave a shout-out to Atomic Comics.
Not far from the Arizona Biltmore, there's a "bat cave" where more than 20,000 bats live. Every year, beginning in May and lasting through September, bats migrate to the area to give birth to their young. Around sunset each evening, the bats can be seen flying out of the tunnel in large groups, hunting for bugs. According to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish's Bat Conservation and Management program, there are two types of bats in the cave: Mexican free-tailed bats, and western pipistrelles. People can learn more about them each month during the summer, when the Game and Fish Department holds bat workshops near the cave. The bat cave is actually part of a Maricopa County Flood Control ditch, and getting there requires parking near 40th Street and Camelback Road, then walking along the north side of the Arizona Canal for about half a mile. The bat cave entrance is north of the canal and is marked with signs.
If you're the son of a certain former vice president — and may have some political ambitions of your own — and feel the need to spill your guts about your broken "moral compass," you're gonna need an alter ego. Otherwise, your "Dirty" ways could come back to haunt you in a very public way. And you don't want that. GOP congressional candidate Ben Quayle's alter ego, while ultimately not alter-ego-y enough to avoid being revealed, takes the cake. While writing for "The Dirty," Quayle penned articles under the name "Brock Landers" — a fictional porn star from the movie Boogie Nights. What better way for the son of a "family values" politician to throw any nemesis off his trail than to assume the identity of a fictional porn star. His true identity probably never would have been outed, either, if it weren't for a super villain with an alter ego of his own: the notorious "Nik Richie."

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of