It wasn’t until I saw someone taking a picture with Han Solo that I knew I had arrived at Tucson Comic Con. After all, my wife and I had just entered the Tucson Convention Center a few minutes prior and were greeted to an entirely different group of fanatics, that of the Occupy Tucson movement, who were evidently sharing the building with the Con that same afternoon. Quickly making our way through the petitions and protest signs, we found our home among Stormtroopers, Daleks, Browncoats and Avengers at a convention that has grown mightily to accommodate its ever-expanding stable of comic readers and cosplayers.
There were definite signs of growth in the event even before getting to the show floor. Not only were there dozens of Arizona-affiliated geek groups (like the AZ Ghostbusters) lining the main hallway, but there was also a lengthy line of people waiting, tickets-in-hand, just to get downstairs to where all the action was and the convention had been opened for three hours already. By comparison, the year prior I had walked into the same hall around the same time and wondered momentarily if the event had closed early, as there was only a small smattering of groups and absolutely no wait to get to the show floor.
Walking down each aisle of the show floor is a discovery all its own as artists mingle with local comic book shops and independent comic creators are seated beside vendors; you never know who or what you’re going to find as you peruse the show floor but you can be certain it’ll be related to comic books. Bigger comic conventions like to hang their hat on securing well-known actors and actresses as their main attraction but what I enjoy most about Tucson Comic Con is that it never loses sight of the comics or its creators. Not only did local comic shops like Fantasy Comics and Heroes and Villains offer comic-related paraphernalia at their respective booths, but both shops also had a comic personality signing books and sketching for the con-goers. Both Ben Truman, writer and co-creator of A Man Named Hawken, and Eric M. Esquivel, creator of Thor: Unkillable Thunder Christ were inundated with fans each time I passed the Fantasy Comics and Heroes and Villains booths, respectively.
One of the first things I do at a convention is take in the showcase of artwork, specifically hunting down the exclusives. As we are want to do each year, my wife and I stopped immediately at the booth of Rob Osborne for his Tucson Comic Con exclusive print. This year’s print featured a rendered superhero donning the colors of the Arizona state flag lifting a large portion of the desert landscape above his head. When I asked Osborne how the convention had been going for him so far, he was in good spirits, noting that he had an alternate of his exclusive print featuring The Incredible Hulk that had sold out an hour after the show floor had opened. Other wildly sought after exclusive prints included Red Nebula Studios’ Arizona TARDIS print and Matt Hawkins’ (of Image Comics) Aphrodite IX print.
In terms of non-exclusive merchandise, there were plenty of other prints to be had in varying sizes, prices, and designs. Most prints ranged between the criminally low price of $5 to the upper-echelon of $20, and the subject matter couldn’t have been any different. Superheroes of course were the dominating figures, such as in Jason Pedersen’s print of Hellboy and Batman that the Tucson Comic Con used for all its promotional material, and rightly so. Just next to Pedersen’s booth was Benjamin Glenndenning offering up a completely different style, including a print of a fantastic mash-up between Army of Darkness and My Little Pony. If you’re looking to fill up some wall space, buying art from any of the artists at the Tucson Comic Con is not a bad way to solve that dilemma.
Most of the time I spent at the convention was among comics, either sifting through the ridiculously affordable 3 for $10 trade paperback sale at the Heroes and Villains booth or checking out independent comic creators looking to get their books in the hands of readers. The Amazing Arizona Comic booth offered free sketches as a means to get eyes on their offerings, while Unbound: The Awakening urged us to check out their Kickstarter campaign. My wife and I had a great time talking with Rob Hicks and Rueben Rosas of Spiral Ink Comics, who were there to promote their art as well as the comics Dark Light and Hooded Cobra. Rosas had never been to a con before and was enjoying watching all the cosplayers stroll by as we spoke. If you’re someone that has never been to a con before, Tucson Comic Con is a great first con to ease into the madness that is something like Phoenix Comic Con.
The one downside to the entire event was that after a few hours of walking the floor and spending all of our cash, there was nothing left to do. Tucson Comic Con does offer panels throughout the day but unfortunately I didn’t find out about them prior to the event. I had checked the official website a few days before but saw no information about programming and the event guide we would eventually pick up on our way out was only handed out outside the hall where the panels were taking place. It seems like handing out these guides with each ticket would be of better use than the current procedure. Yet for an $8 daily pass ticket (or $10 for the weekend), Tucson Comic Con is money well spent. It could be considered con-light compared to major conventions throughout the country, but the focus of the event still spotlights comics and for that it’s definitely worth supporting each year.