A look at Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2014

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Not every comic convention is so Amazing that it takes you an entire week afterward to recover. Well, Jimmy S Jay’s Amazing! Arizona Comic Convention did just that to me. Holding the honor of kicking off Comic Convention season (which, in all reality, is less of a “season” than it is 11/12th’s of the year),  Amazing! Arizona Comic Convention (AACC) took over the Phoenix Convention Center with force. Adding to that the fact that January in Arizona is, fittingly, amazing, the masses came out en force (to the tune of nearly 24,000 people!), traveling in from across the country to revel in comics, creators, and cosplay.

One of the first things that was noted by myself and everyone else in downtown Phoenix was the overly festive atmosphere and the huge mix of people wandering around both outside and inside of the convention. With the city hosting two other major events (Nitro Circus and Monster Jam) the same weekend, it was impossible to not be awed at the crossover crowds (who doesn’t want to see Spider- and Bat-men mingling with monster trucks). Hanging out in front of the convention and around the city center was nearly as fun as going into the Con. Nearly.

Once inside, the entire hall was packed with the best the comics and pop culture have to offer. One of my favorite aspects of AACC is the depth of talent and the focus put on the creators.  Amazing! does this better than most other conventions I’ve been in attendance for. This year, the amount of creators in attendance was massive, featuring over 175 artists, illustrators, inkers, colorers, cosplayers, writers, and more in Artists Alley, and exhibitors and vendors numbering somewhere around 100. From artists who work for the Big Two, to local guys writing/drawing/printing their own books, to industry vet’s who continually write and draw simply for the shear love of it, the amount of talent in the Exhibitors Hall was quite simply staggering. It would be impossible to list every single persons whose art and books I personally enjoyed without accidentally slighting someone, so I won’t even try. The list would take up the rest of this review. Click here to check the list out for yourself. As if that wasn’t enough, through a massive collaboration of creators, Amazing Arizona attempted to break not 1, not 2, but 3 Guiness World Records. The goal: getting over 101 artists and 25 writers to create a complete comic from inception, to publication, over the course of the weekend. While official ruling is not yet back, let me just say that people were working furiously to beat the previous benchmark.

Click on any photo to begin gallery. Photos taken by the GNN team. All rights reserved.

Cosplay also centered largely at AACC this year, feeding off of Arizona locales apparent penchant for dressing up and marauding about in costume. Featured guests Jessica Nigriand Monika Lee wandered the main hall meeting guests and fans, posing for pictures, and offering inquiring minds insights and tips on creating their own cosplays. Anabel Martinez made a huge splash as well with her Men Vs Cosplay booth (featuring calendars-of and information on- male cosplayers who oft go unnoticed and under-appreciated), and local favorites Rosanna Rocha and Toni Darling both draw large crowds to their booths.

For those wanting the inside-track on comics and pop-culture, the panels at this years AACC were not to be missed. Panel highlights included a Q & A with Robert Kirkman, creator of Walking Dead, spotlights on guest creators, and cosplay how-to’s (such as creating your own armor, Special FX Makeup, and sculpting props). Amazing! was also home to the world premier of The Image Revolution, a documentary which follows the beginnings of Image Comics from it’s inception up till today. Fitting with the rest of the convention, there was something for everyone to sit in on. And for those 21 and up, there was something to do Saturday night. While not a panel, it was the place to be to hang back and relax with your favorite creators from the show. The official Amazing Arizona after party was held at Copper Blues, a local bar featuring local brews and local bands, located just a few blocks away from the convention center and floor, and judging from the sheer number of people packing the patio and inside tables, it was a smashing success.

Having been an AACC attendee since the days it was held in the Mesa Convention Center, Jimmy Jay and his amazing team have outstripped my expectations annually. Yet again, Amazing Arizona has set the bar for this years conventions nice and high, and I can’t wait to see how other shows stack up. If you were unfortunate to have missed Amazing Arizona Comic Con, you can catch two more Amazing! shows this coming summer: Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con (June 20th-22nd) and Amazing Houston Comic Con (August 29th-31st).

 

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Joe Abbruscato
The Jack-of-all-trades, caffeine fiend, and wearer of many hats (figuratively and literally). Photographer, writer, educator, fedora, driver, trilby’s. My photography teeth were cut in the live entertainment industry, shooting concerts, live events, and conventions. I came to photography for an additional creative outlet to supplement my writings and as a side gig to my college teaching position, and I’ve now been shooting for the better part of a decade. Music and concert photography are my biggest passions, though I had to learn the harsh lesson that head banging and holding a camera steady don’t readily mix. A literature geek first and foremost, I read the entire Lord of the Rings series in 3rd grade, began a lifelong love affair with the Star Wars extended universe shortly after, and wrote my MA Lit thesis on Neil Gaiman. When not shooting or editing, you’ll find me incorporating Star Trek into lesson plans, playing some iteration of Zelda on any one of my Nintendo System, geeking out about indie comics over a very large iced coffee, or simply writing. Follow me on twitter at @MrAnathema, or contact me directly for whatever your photography needs are at jmabbrusc@gmail.com or facebook.com/mranathemaphotography
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