Fan Fusion Rises from the Ashes post-COVID

It’s been 3 years since we had our last Phoenix Fan Fusion (previously Phoenix Comicon before the San Diego event had their little temper tantrum) here. The con coordinators kept trying to plan something but, due to COVID, the event was postponed multiple times. The event finally got scheduled in its normal Memorial Day weekend spot. It was good to see everything getting back to normal, but things definitely weren’t what they used to be yet.

There always used to be a start to the con Thursday night, but I found that it was only Friday through Sunday this time. Passing through security Friday morning wasn’t too bad, especially in comparison to how things were the couple of years prior to COVID following a weapon scare when security was locked down. I grabbed the con booklet and started looking at the panels for the day. I was disappointed that there weren’t as many panels as I would normal want to see but I found one on LGBT in the Marvel universe and a couple cosplay ones. Since I had time, I went down to where the dealer room was to wander around and start seeing what was there until I had to head up to the first panel.

I started wandering around and saw the booth for Justice League Arizona in there. They are a local DC Comics cosplay group that I always enjoy stopping by so it was good to see them, but they were usually up in the Hall of Heroes on the top floor of the convention center. I noticed the cosplayers of Ghostbusters and Transformers characters were down in the same are as well. What I would find was that, at least for this year, there was no Hall of Heroes. A large section of the vendor hall was blocked off for things that used to be up there including the autograph booths for the celebrity guests. This definitely meant there were a lot fewer vendors at the show. I don’t know if everything was moved down there because they had fewer vendors renting space because of COVID or if they just limited the space on purpose. (When I went to the third floor later, the whole end of that level where the room that house the Hall of Heroes used to be was roped off for no access.)

Another thing I noticed less of was cosplayers. One of my favorite things to do is to check out the people dressing up as the characters they like and get pictures of them. There were some but not as many as I was used to. I figured maybe there would be more of them on Saturday. There were more but still nowhere near as many as I was used to seeing. There were definitely some good costumes there though. I noticed that a majority of the cosplay seemed centered on anime. I like anime but with the abundance of it out there, I didn’t know who most of them were. It came as no surprise that Wolverine and Harley Quinn got replaced by the Scarlet Witch as the most popular Marvel or DC character to come as this year. I’m hoping there will be more cosplayers to see next year and I really need to get going on either redoing my staff to play Starman (Jack Knight) again or to work on one of the other characters I’ve wanted to do like the Black Knight.

The panel selection wasn’t much better on Saturday which was a bit disappointing. I always loved sitting in on interesting discussion and often found a selection of comics and cosplay ones to enjoy. There was another LGBT panel about comics in general but was disappointed when it turned out to be a one person panel who led it like a college lecture with no discussion time for the attendees. It was good to see Fan Fusion including LGBT programming again after it was cancelled by a new team taking over the con a number of years back. I did get to see the one guest I most wanted to see, John Barrowman. His talks are always a lot of fun. An openly gay actor who has been on Arrow, Doctor Who, and Torchwood, he always has a ton of stories and filters things only as much as he absolutely has to. The crowd loves John and the room is full every year he comes back. One other event I had been looking forward to that was always on Friday nights was Men Strut Your Stuff. It was an 18+ amateur chance for the male con goers to have some fun, dance on stage, and sometimes do a strip tease to levels that were acceptable for a public venue. Everyone who participates gets a ribbon. (I won “Biggest Flirt” the year I gave it a try.) I was disappointed when I didn’t see that but ended up finding it in a non-gender restrictive form on Saturday. Being gay, I have to admit I enjoyed it being just guys on stage (other than the MCs). The girls did put on a good show though, often being more outgoing than a lot of the guys were. It was a lot of fun and a good way to end Saturday even though it was 11:30 pm when we left. (If you check out the Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 gallery page, you’ll see a lot of pics from the Strut Your Stuff event along with pics of other things at the con.)

Overall, the con was a good time. I think that it, like a lot of other things, still needs time to get back to where it was pre-COVID. It was definitely nice to be able to get out and see what was there though and I’m going to look forward to next year.

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