When conventions are announced, I usually wait in anticipation for the guest lineups and scheduled panels. Even if there are guests that I am not familiar with, it gives me the opportunity to learn more about other fandoms and possibly get interested in them myself. As this year's Phoenix Comicon drew close, the excitement of my friends grew as their respective fandoms would be well represented and they would have the opportunity to show off their costumes, props, and meet friends they may have not seen since the last con they attended. It is an event that surpasses and exceeds pop culture. Nothing could deter that or ruin attendees' fun, and then it happened.
On Thursday afternoon, an individual showed up with numerous weapons, intending to cause harm and possibly kill Jason David Franks (Power Rangers) and law enforcement officers in the area. He was quickly subdued, arrested, and removed from the convention center. The incident made national news. In an instant, the well-oiled machine that is Phoenix Comicon looked as though it would be derailed by that actions of one man. Social media lit up talking about the event. The comments, tweets, and posts ranged from shock to anxiety about the Con and what could have been. Commentary then changed as Phoenix Comicon announced that immediate changes would be taken considering the incident. It was something that very few people thought would happen, but became a reality: a prop ban. There was outrage, fans already deeming this the worst con ever (despite not having even entered the convention center), people asking for refunds, and those who were understandably disappointed at not being able to showcase their handmade, custom props and weapons to go along with their costumes.
Friday morning hit and guests fell victim to the new security measures which enforced the ban and included bag searches and metal detectors. There were early grumblings and even an unfortunate interaction between Comicon and vendors which were now required by the new guidelines to put any weapon style props in bags. As the convention continued, there were a few bumps and hiccups in trying to get adjusted to the new layout and minor changes. There were reported arguments between attendees and photo staff. There were reports of one costumer's dog attacking service animals. There was the joy of a 2AM wakeup call courtesy of a fire alarm for attendees staying in the Hyatt.
Fans and attendees did not let any of this deter them. As the convention proceeded from Friday where many complained of an hour or longer wait to get into the building due to the searches made the best of it. They saw the friends that they wanted to see. They smiled, laughed, enjoyed themselves. People took pictures and made new friends and connections. Attendees who dressed up as characters with weapons made the best of it. In some cases, they made cardboard signs with the words "pew, pew" written on them. One individual dressed up as a storm trooper actually wore a sign around his neck stating "I couldn't hit anything so the Empire took my blaster." Edward Scissorhands became Edward Sporkhands. Fans had their fun despite the ban.
In truth, Comicon for many is not about the props or costumes. In some cases, it isn't even about the pop culture. It's about the connection that we are all making with people whether they share our fandoms or not, whether they look like us or not, or even whether they have been going for years or just attending their first Con ever. It is about this mass of humanity that joins together on a weekend to be safe amongst their friends, peers, and strangers. It's not about the noise on the outside. It's not about judgment or ill will. It's about creating a community of folks that, in many cases, have found refuge in the exhibition halls, panels, or even in admiring the colorful and creative costumes.
Comicon and people's love for it cannot be stopped by the actions of one person or changes and adjustments that are seemingly not fast enough to suit those seeking instant gratification. Animosity was not present in the halls in a way that dampened the overall mood or even the future of Phoenix Comicon. The lines and searches may have been an inconvenience, but it is nothing compared to what Con would have looked like had the assailant carried out his attack by injuring, or worse, killing those whom he targeted. As Con wrapped up on Sunday afternoon, the magic that was present in the halls spilled out of the building as those in their costumes and carrying their bags full of wares and souvenirs walked back to the parking structures and their hotels. All that was on their minds was the joy they had experienced and what was in store for them next year. They were no longer concerned with the prop ban (which was amended and became less restrictive as we hit the weekend), the security inspections (which began to flow more quickly on Saturday morning as Comicon staff had more time to adjust and correct any errors from the previous day), nor were they concerned with delays of panels or cancelled guests. None of that mattered. All they were thinking about was the magic they experienced that weekend. Bring on 2018.