Phoenix Comicon FanFest Has Lots of Awesome, Even Without an Author Track

Fanfest

The biggest draw for me at Phoenix Comicon is the author track. Point blank. Yeah, it’s cool they had Nathan Fillion and Bruce Campbell, but for me the money was in the panels featuring the likes of Jim Butcher, John Scalzi and Pat Rothfuss.

And the Con has doubled the awesome with a second event this year, FanFest, which runs from Friday through Sunday, Dec. 12-14. at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Sadly, the author track is absent from this event – by design. According to author organizer Lee Whiteside, FanFest is designed to focus on comics, costuming and pop culture exclusively due to space constraints. So don’t expect any writer’s panels until May. Lee is promising his usual awesomeness then, however!

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Author and Artist James A. Owen.

There will be one author on hand though. YA fantasy author and illustrator James A. Owen is attending, with a spotlight on Friday night. I’m particularly excited about this — I discovered James’ comic Starchild at the first con I attended 20-odd years ago, and have since enjoyed his YA series “Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica”.

There are still lots of cool things to check out beyond writers though. At the very least there’s going to be a football field covered with vendors and artists. But there are also several cool guests slated to appear. Here are some of the guests I’m excited about:

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Sixth Doctor Colin Baker.

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Eighth Doctor Paul McGann.

Colin Baker  and Paul McGann — Yes, I’m a Whovian. And yes, I’ve been a Whovian for over 30 years, so I’m more intimate with the classic Doctors. So a chance to see the 6th and 8th Doctors together has me pretty jazzed. Neither are my Doctor (that’s #5, Peter Davison), but this is still an exciting opportunity for 14-year-old Michael.

And 18-year-old Michael as well! Paul McGann’s cult classic Withnail and I was a formative flick in my college years. They will be appearing at successive spotlights on Friday, starting at Noon. Both will be available for photos together and separate.

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Iconic Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue #85 “Snowbirds Don’t Fly.”

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Legendary comic artist Neal Adams reinvented Batman, saved the X-Men and made comics relevant with Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

Neal Adams — I’m not as big into comics as I was 20 years ago, but despite the questionable editorial decisions and the “New 52”, I’m still a DC man. And Neal Adams is the bedrock of Silver Age DC. He is responsible for the modern Dark Knight, salvaging Batman from the camp of the ’60s TV series. And, along with Denny O’Neil, he crafted the well-meaning but sometimes ham-fisted, “relevant” Green Lantern/Green Arrow series. That series, with the liberal Arrow traveling across America with the conservative Lantern, examined race relations and drug abuse and was one of the first forays against the stifling Comics Code.

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Terminator star Michael Biehn

Michael Biehn — The go-to co-star for James Cameron in the ’80s, Biehn is recognizable from his roles as Reese in The Terminator and Hicks in Aliens. He has also appeared in such flicks as The Abyss and Grindhouse. My favorite, however, is his delicious turn as Johnny Ringo opposite Val Kilmer in Tombstone. He will be available for photos alone and with his wife Jennifer Blanc and will have a spotlight on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Image Comics co-founder Whilce Portacio.

Whilce Portacio — One of the authors behind the X-title “X-plosion” in the late-80s and early 90s, Portacio created the popular character Bishop and worked on titles like The Punisher, Longshot, X-Force and X-Factor before becoming one of the founders of Image Comics.

Whilce Portacio's Wetworks #1.

Whilce Portacio’s Wetworks #1.

At Image, he was best known for co-creating the over-the-top black ops team Wetworks.

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Comic Artist Jae Lee.

Jae Lee — While not one of the seven founders of Image Comics, Jae Lee was in the creator-driven comic imprint at the beginning working on WildC.A.T.S. and Youngblood miniseries in the early 90s. Since then his elegant style has made him a favorite at both Marvel, where he worked on the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and D.C., where he drew several of the Before Watchmen titles.

Valley artist and Lady Death creator Brian Pulido will appear at Phoenix Comicon FanFest.

Valley artist and Lady Death creator Brian Pulido will appear at Phoenix Comicon FanFest.

There will also be the usual local comic suspects, like Tony Parker and Brian Pulido. And without an author track taking all my time, I have the chance to see some of them!

For a complete list of guests as well as a rundown of pricing and programming, visit Phoenixcomicon.com. And come back here for updates and announcements regarding the full convention in May!

—Michael Senft

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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