Ace Comic Con returned to the Gila River Arena and brought an impressive list of guests for a second year running. The layout was slightly altered this year as the arena floor was for the panel stage and for the photo op lines. Last year they had vendors on the arena floor but the photo op lines were so long that they bleed into the vendor area making it extremely difficult to shop but that was no longer an issue this year. All vendors were located on the main concourse and the third level concourse. Many of the vendors you see at other local conventions were there selling their goods but what was a nice change was a good amount of the artists at the convention were fresh blood for the Phoenix market. The convention also had a little photo op area which was a nice touch which featured a few different superhero themes mixed with hockey (as the arena is home to the Arizona Coyotes). Besides the headlining guests, there were a few more panels on the main stage that featured artists such as Adam Ellis and Hoang Tran but the main draw was obviously the names such as David Tennant and Charlie Cox.
After attending this con two years in a row, I can officially say I am not a fan of the layout at all. Obviously the convention is limited with the options they have with the layout because its in an arena but its just not ideal. I’m guessing the Phoenix Convention Center is priced too high or fully booked but I can’t help but wonder how much of a normal layout would benefit Ace. When attendance isn’t that high (more on that in a minute), splitting your crowd between three levels is troublesome because it gives the perception of lower attendance. I don’t know the official number of attendees but from being there all weekend, I expected to see more people then I did. For a con that had high profile guests, many who were at an Arizona convention for the first time, it was a little shocking to see the amount of attendees who were attending. I believe it was a combination of things: marketing of the convention, attendees who had a bad experience last year, and the cost. I saw someone use the phrase about the Phoenix market “They want a champagne taste on a beer budget” and I would have to agree (a ton of people have had issues with Phoenix Comicon pricing even though the value is crazy good).
While the low attendance could be an issue for the con, it was sort of a dream scenario for myself. Being able to get GOOD seats, a few rows from the stage with the caliber of guests they had without waiting hours was great. Most cons where you wanna see a Tom Hiddleston panel will cause you to get a seat earlier in the day. You could show up 10 minutes before the panel and still get a good seat. The only issue with sitting so close to the stage was the audio was TERRIBLE. You could barely understand what was being said because of the echo. The further you sat, the better the audio got. I was able to get a few good photos of each panel but I was using a dslr camera for only the second time with no practice so don’t kill me too much for some of the photos that turned out a little out of focus 😀
Overall, I went to Ace specifically for the guest panels and was pleased with the experience. More so than last year to be honest. I knew what to expect but for the many who were going thinking it was a normal comic convention, I could easily see how they were disappointed. I’m not sure if they will be back next year (rumor is that they signed a three year deal with venue in Seattle which could also have been done here) but time will tell. In the mean time, enjoy the photos below!
Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Michael Fassbender
David Tennant and Krysten Ritter