Attending the Phoenix Comicon (Or, How I Learned to Stop Caring and Just Eat Brains)
It would be easy to dismiss an event like Phoenix Comicon by pointing
out all the nerds and laughing at their elaborate Ouran High School
Host Club costumes or their excitement over the presence of Spawn
creator Todd McFarlane. Make no mistake, there were plenty of "nerds" (in the most traditional sense of the word) at this weekend's event, held at the Mesa
Convention Center. But if you scratched the geeky surface, you would've found some pretty cool things: a zombie brain-eating contest, an appearance by 7-foot-3 actor Peter "Chewbacca" Mayhew, and lots of people wandering around who didn't seem to give a crap what anyone thought of them, which is always pretty cool in my book.
On a large patch of grass outside the convention center, about 50 anime fans, most not yet old enough to drive and most wearing anime fan gear and costumes, gathered to learn the hare hare yukai dance performed by a character on the show The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
I talked to some high school girls before the event started who dubbed themselves "anime freaks." Only one of them was familiar with the hare hare dance, but they were going to give it a go anyway. This made me feel a little better, because I was going to try to join in, even though I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
Once the instruction started, I tried mightily for about five minutes to follow the group's moves, but I ain't no spring chicken anymore. And I have about as much rhythm as a chair. So, in the interest of escaping with my body -- and ego -- intact, I let the kids do their thing. The dance reminded me of a slightly more complicated and less-annoying version of the macarena, but everybody was pretty into it -- and we're talking equal parts guys and girls -- so that made it a little less lame.
Yukiko, the fashion director for the Phoenix Comicon and the dance instructor, said hare hare yukai fan dances have become immensely popular at conventions, and a search on YouTube returned a number of results.
After the anime lovers got their collective groove on, eight Comiconers competed to see who could get the freakiest in a zombie brain-eating contest. The brains really did look like brains, but, to my relief, smelled like peaches. And we all know real brains don't smell like peaches -- they smell like pineapple. The contestants sucked down their brains like it was going out of style (though I'm not sure sucking down brains was ever in style, unless it was 1991 and your last name was Dahmer). They all gave it the old college zombie try, but only one winner would stand. In case you were wondering, the key to brain-eating, said winner Justin Croft, is taking tiny bites, opening up your throat, and letting it slide down. Yum!
In addition to the events, there was also some great people-watching, "celebrity" sightings, and, of course, the merch. Lou Ferrigno, a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk, was charging $20 for Polaroids with him. I was going to ask if I could just take one of him on my digital for free, but he looked as though he could turn green and start whaling on people at any second, so I thought better of it. Instead, I set my sites on checking out some awesome costumes -- of course, there were the requisite Star Trek and Star Wars getups, but I also saw a Blood Elf Paladin from World of Warcraft, tons of anime characters and, strangely, Buckethead, formerly of Guns N' Roses. It was pretty much in keeping with the theme of the weekend: sure, why not?
Overall, it appeared to be a fun -- albeit overrun with high school students -- weekend. For such a large event, it seemed well organized, though a little more clarification on the individual programs would have been nice. Also, why put Wil Wheaton, a.k.a. Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation in such a small room? Despite little kvetches, though, if you're a sci-fi/anime/comic book/gaming fan, you likely walked away happy.