Spiderman, Pikachu, Princess Ariel, The Transformers, and many other fan favorites will overtake the Phoenix Convention Center on Memorial Day weekend. This marks the 16th year of Phoenix Comicon — a massive gathering of comic book, video game, TV and movie enthusiasts — that has become an Arizona entertainment and tourism staple, drawing more than 100,000 fans.
Phoenix Comicon enthusiastically encourages cosplay — dressing up like characters from books, video games and movies. Convention-goers get to see, meet and take photos with their favorite superheroes and cartoon characters. Attendees also can meet or get autographs from comic book authors and actors and take in more than 700 exhibits and presentations.
While the event primarily caters to adults, Phoenix Comicon has become more family friendly in recent years. Face-painting, story times, kids arts-and-crafts areas and even astronomy and STEAM demonstrations will keep younger fans entertained. Older kids can learn to draw anime or play video and card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon. A weekend film festival also offers kid-friendly movies.
Other Phoenix Comicon events and offerings for kids include:
- Youth Art Room. Crafts, books, coloring and special activities throughout each day for kids and families.
- Lego Lounge. “It is, just like it sounds, a room full of Legos,” says Joe Boudrie, Phoenix Comicon’s programming director. “But there’s a lot of pre-built displays, superhero and popular movie-themed things. Then we’ll also do competitions with one of the local Lego enthusiasts groups like Cactus Brick.”
- Phoenix Saber Academy for Kids. Ages 6 and up can learn footwork, blocks and strikes with foam light sabers (provided).
- Learn to dance “Thriller.” All ages can learn the moves to Michael Jackson’s iconic music video.
- Actually, it IS Rocket Science. Join the Tucson Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for a session of rocket building. The event, geared toward K-12 students, lets participants design, build and launch their own straw rockets.
- Superhero Sidekick Training. Experts from East Valley Krav Maga’s Young Warrior program teach kids superhero moves. Sidekicks will punch, kick and jump their way through superhero training.
- Harry Potter Astronomy. Crawl inside a traveling planetarium for a 30-minute show that includes references to favorite TV shows, books, comic characters and video games.
- Youth Fandom Fashion Show. A non-competitive costume fashion show for ages 12 and younger. Goodie bags for all participants.
- So, You Think You Can Dance? Marvel Edition. The Arizona Avengers teach some of the funkiest dance moves from superheroes, including Wolverine and Star Lord.
- KNTR Build-A-Book Program with Steven Riley. Children will create their own stories and illustrations. All Build-a-Book participants will receive a special-edition Arizona Coyotes goodie backpack filled with a new book, Highlights magazine and more.
This year’s Comicon boasts more than two dozen celebrity guests, including Bonnie Wright (who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films), Holly Marie Combs of “Pretty Little Liars,” “Star Trek’s” John de Lancie and even Hollywood veteran Dick Van Dyke, to name a few.
Kristin Rowan, Phoenix Comicon marketing director, says the easiest way to track appearances and events is by downloading the new Phoenix Comicon Mobile app, which is free on iTunes and Google Play.
“Every year we do print a program guide that shows where everything is happening and at what time,” says Rowan. “But especially with kids, having one more thing in your hands is a little bit more difficult, so this year we are launching an event app that will have all of the scheduling and all of the programs. It will also have push notifications for any schedule changes and for announcements.”
Though Phoenix Comicon has a strict dress code, parents may want to watch for costumes that could make kids uncomfortable, like too-scary characters.
“As a dad (who) used to bring younger kids to the show, you (learned to) grab a hand and say, ‘OK, let’s walk this way now’,” Boudrie says.
Also, families can and should bring water.
“We do recommend that people be drinking water all day long … because it is a lot of walking,” says Rowan. An on-site EMT station handles a handful of dehydration and heat-exposure emergency issues every year.
With more than 100,000 people expected to fill the Phoenix Convention Center over Memorial Day weekend, organizers also urge parents to leave oversized strollers at home.
“With really young kids, we would recommend bringing an umbrella stroller,” says Rowan. “They’re just smaller and easier to navigate. It’s really hard to get through the exhibit hall with one of those big folding strollers.”
If you go: Phoenix Comicon is May 25-28 at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St. Four-day adult tickets are $75; single-day passes run $20-$45; $10 ages 3-12 (good for all four days); free for ages 2 and younger. phoenixcomicon.com