by Jennifer McClellan The Arizona Republic May. 24, 2010 02:18 PM
Card-carrying comic book geeks aren't the only people buying tickets to the ninth annual Phoenix Comicon.
Fans of all types of popular culture, from movies and television to anime and action figures, will find something for them inside the convention doors.
Along with 3 1/2 days of activities and a sold-out vendor floor, some big-name guests are scheduled this year. Convention guests can meet Marvel Comics giant Stan Lee, talk to "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane, and get an autograph from James Marsters of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Valley best-selling author Diana Gabaldon is scheduled to appear and "Star Trek" actors Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton and Wil Wheaton will be on hand. Even Lou Ferrigno, the original Hulk, will be there.
"We've adopted a big tent view of the convention," founder and director Matt Solberg said. "We're all fans of different genres. In some ways it's saying, 'I don't want to limit myself when I go to a convention.' "
Along with a guest list that doubled from last year, the show has a larger home this year. Moving from its four-year home at the Mesa Convention Center to the south building of the Phoenix Convention Center, the pop-culture fest was able to triple its space.
"In many ways it's not the same as last year because of the tremendous growth," Solberg, 35, said. "In Phoenix we have room to grow for years to come."
And, while organizers like Solberg (who is also an anime vendor at the Comicon) want the show to keep expanding, guests such as "The Looking Glass Wars" author and film producer Frank Beddor hope it can keep the intimate atmosphere it has become known for.
"We'll see if it can keep the same spirit," he said. "It'll be interesting to see if the character of the event changes with location."
Beddor, who travels to Comicons around the country, said the Phoenix show has gained a reputation in the industry as a place where creators can interact on a personal level with interested fans. It's this kind of face-to-face opportunity that Beddor said allowed him to cultivate such a loyal fan base in the Valley, one of his biggest markets.
"When I first went to Phoenix, on the surface, it seemed small and cramped," he said. "But, it turned out all of the fans were great connoisseurs of pop culture."
This will be the first year Jaime Paglia, creator of Syfy Channel's "Eureka," will be at the show. He's a San Diego Comicon veteran, and said he's excited to come to the Valley show, which "Star Trek" actor Wheaton recommended to him.
"Sci-fi fans are the best fans in the world," he said. "They're loyal and passionate. It's exciting."
Like many of the creators at the show, Paglia will present a teaser from his latest project, the fourth season of "Eureka," a show he described as " 'Northern Exposure' with 'X-files' and 'Twilight Zone' mixed into it."
"It's the same town but with some big changes," he said of the upcoming season. "It will retain all the things we love, but raise the game for all characters."
Make sure to check out the Geek Prom, Elegant Lolita Tea Party, Zombie Beauty Pageant, Japanese Fashion Show, and Masquerade Ball. There are also live musical performances throughout the weekend. Most of the evening activities are held at the Phoenix Hyatt Regency.
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