The Phoenix Cactus Comic-Con: Less Than Zero

A column article by: Ace Masters

Ah, the Phoenix Comic-Con . . . the memories I have . . . so few of them good. My memories of the Phoenix Comic-Con are less than stellar, whether I have attended as a fan, or had a booth. The recently held 2012 edition of the Phoenix Comic-Con did little to nothing to change that, even if I did meet my personal hero.

In fact, the only reason I attended this year’s Phoenix event was to meet one person: William Shatner. Yes, Shatner was at the Phoenix Con, I finally meet my hero, got my picture taken with him and a couple of items signed. I also attended his Q&A panel, which was less Q&A and more one-man show.

Meeting Shatner, albeit briefly because of his schedule, was awesome. I also meet the greatest WWE Intercontinental Champion (I do believe this) of all time, The Honky Tonk Man. While not as epic as meeting Shatner, The Honky Tonk Man is one cool cat.

However, any excitement in meeting Shatner was cooled by the sheer disorganized mess that is this con, as my string as bad experiences continued even before the con began.

Thanks to the esteemed boss man of ComicsBulletin.com, Jason Sacks, I was able to attend the con as a member of the press.

Or that is how it was supposed to go; as I was under the impression I was to receive a Press Pass. Instead, I was giving a Media Pass, which doesn’t have the same weight as a Press Pass. A week before the con I e-mailed them to confirm that I had the pass and asked about how to go about setting up interviews, specifically if there was a chance to interview Shatner. I received a pleasant enough response, which confirmed I had a pass, but never answered my questions about interviews.

When I went to pick up my Press Pass, the gentleman working the booth couldn’t find my name and told me twice I wasn’t on the list and didn’t have a pass. I had to take the list from him and show him my name, which was third from the bottom. Sorry, but Ace Masters, doesn’t exactly blend in as a generic name.

Not only that, there were no media or press packets and the gentleman couldn’t tell me anything about requesting interviews or where the Media Pass could get me into. The info desk wasn’t much better; they knew nothing about Media or Press inquiries. Furthermore, when I, and others, asked about the William Shatner photo op, they told me the ten-thirty to eleven-thirty photo op session was ‘closed’ and ‘sold out.’ Talk about misinformation.

The info desk was wrong as I am many others were still able to get into the 10:30 to 11:30 photo op with Shatner. The photo op was cool and I had my chance to meet Shatner and get a photo taken. Unfortunately, a lot of people listened to the info desk and left, missing out on meeting Shatner.

While waiting for the one-thirty Q&A I wandered around the convention and noticed that for a Comic Con, there was a lack serve of Comic Book presence, in my opinion. I can only remember one publisher (Avatar) being in attendance, and only a handful of booths selling comic books. Of course, there were a number of artists, small press and local guys. However, the presence was nowhere as strong as it should be, or has been in the past.

I vividly remember the ‘Ghostbusters’ booth. Where a group of fans – excuse me ‘local chapter’ of Ghostbuster – were doing reenactments of scene from the Ghostbusters movie. No, really.

Once one o’clock hit I was at Shatner’s Q&A and thanks to the Media Pass was about to get a font row seat. I was able to record about forty-five minutes of the hour-long session before the battery of on camera run out, but I got a lot of good stuff.

The Q&A devolved into what seemed to be Shatner doing a version of his one man show, mostly because the questions people asked where bland and generic (what was your favorite episode . . . filled in show name here). It was a fun good time . . . unfortunately that didn’t last long for the majority of Shatner fans.

Ace with William Shatner

Directly after the Q&A Shatner was set to do a signing for another hour, his second of the day. This did not go well. A few hundred people had their photo taken with Shatner in the morning – photos that were sent out to an off-site lab for processing and were supposed to be back by two o’clock at the latest. Well, they weren’t. The lab LOST all of the Shatner photos from the morning Photo Op and had to re-process and reprint every picture.

Many people were extremely upset as they have paid for the photos and promised they would be back in time for the two-thirty signing, so they could get the photo signed if they wanted. A good number of people didn’t bring any items, but were instead planning to get the pictures taken with Shatner signed.

The con tried to appease people by having Shatner do a third signing and even offering refunds to people who wanted it since the pictures where not back in time. When I left the Phoenix Con around five that afternoon, the majority of the Shatner pictures were not yet back.

To be fair, it wasn't just the Shatner pictures affected, but the Shatner batch was the only one in which ALL the pictures had to be re-processed. On the plus side, at least it was only the printed pictures that were screwed up and not the negative.

In a follow up to this, I, and many others, received an e-mail about the photo op system failure. This is an excerpt from that e-mail:

We are aware that our printing system for photo ops failed on Saturday and Sunday, and that numerous photo ops were not printed in time to get signed by the guest, or were not ready by end of the day (or end of the convention) to be picked up.

They are mailing out the photos at no cost to the attendees, which as written in the e-mail as well is “frankly, is the very least we can do.”

My biggest complain about the comic con, other than being disorganized and disappointing many people when it came to Shatner pictures and signing, is the lack of being a Comic Con. I have heard this complaint from a lot of people over the last few years about other Comic Cons as well. It seems like they have segued from ‘Comic Con’ to ‘Pop Culture’ con.

I only went to meet Shatner, which was an experience in itself, but I once again come away with poor memories, and bad experiences. Odds of me returning to future Phoenix Cactus Comic Con events can be stated as such: low to zero. 

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