Comic Fests and Graphic Novels
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Cover of the first Comic-Con Guide from San Diego’s world famous con in 1970
Cover of the first Comic-Con Guide

from San Diego’s world

famous con in 1970

Where can you find Spider-Man, Disney Princesses, Batman, Thor, Harry Potter, Darth Vader, Iron Man and any other character or superhero you can imagine–all together in one place? At a Comic Con, that’s where.

Did the latest blockbuster movie leave you thirsty for more? After you leave the cineplex, head to a comic store, bookstore, library or a con to keep living the adventure! May 4 is Free Comic Book Day at participating vendors.

You’ll find the Arizona Avengers at Phoenix Fan Fusion this month. Justice League Arizona and Heroes United AZ will be there, too. You can meet your favorite Marvel or DC superhero, but it’s not just caped crusaders—you could also fly by your favorite starship captain, hobnob with hobbits and elves, or see an anime or video game character come to life.

Comic conventions or cons, as they are more commonly called, are very popular. Fans can enjoy a day or long weekend at some of the cons. Families can bond as they dress up in cosplay (costume play) as Big Hero 6, Skywalkers and Sith Lords, or the Incredibles.

The first official comic convention took place nearly 55 years ago. It was held on July 27, 1964, in New York City. It was organized by four comic book enthusiasts—Bernie Bubnis, Ron Fradkin, Art Tripp and Ethan Roberts. They wanted to get together with other collectors, trade comics, buy comics and discuss comics. Less than 100 people attended, but over the years more and more people came to the annual convention and today the New York Comic Con is still thriving.

The San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) began in 1970. Today it is one of the most popular cons, attracting hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. There are cons in nearly every state and in big cities worldwide. 

In Arizona there are cons in both the Phoenix and Tucson regions. Phoenix Fan Fusion and Tucson Comic-Con are the biggest, but there are several anime cons like Con Nichiwa and Saboten Con that are very popular, too.


Two boys in costume

Cons today are different than the early cons that mainly focused on comic books. These days, you can meet celebrities, artists, directors, writers and social media stars. You can attend panels to learn more about your favorite characters, their costumes, their backgrounds—some panelists even do performances, like a scene from a movie or comic. You also can purchase almost anything related to a character or theme, cool merch like key chains, clothing, artwork, buttons, plushies and more.

There are lots of activities that kids will enjoy at upcoming local cons. You might learn how to make your own costume or prop. You can ASPIRE to be a master builder at a LEGO area. You can get tips on how to write and illustrate your own book!

No matter what fandom you identify with, you will find kindred spirits at Phoenix Fan Fusion happening May 23–26. Young padawans can improve their light saber speed and agility at Younglings Saber Training. But don’t get too impudent, or you might come face to face with the dark side! Darth Maul actor Ray Park will be at Fan Fusion May 25–26. 

Would-be wizards can meet the actor who played Neville Longbottom, Matthew Lewis, on May 25–26. Seekers, chasers, beaters and keepers can train with the ASU Sun Devil Quidditch team. The Sun Devils will take the pitch each day!

You don’t have to travel to a pineapple under the sea to meet SpongeBob voice actor Tom Kinny—he will make appearances at Fan Fusion May 24–26. If you’re a fan of The Odd 1s Out creator James Rallison—he will be there, too!

Costume contest participants from Tucson Comic-Con 2018
Costume contest participants from Tucson Comic-Con 2018

Photo: Daniel Sennett, Tao Photo AZ


Julie P is a Tucson resident and has been attending cons since 2011. She has attended the New York Comic Con once, SDCC five times, Phoenix four times and Tucson three times. She enjoys attending panels and seeing families and friends that cosplay together.

“Cons to me, feel very inclusive. It’s a judgment- free zone. You have the opportunity to make friends with people who love the same things you love, which isn’t always easy,” Julie says.

ASSEMBLE with fellow fans—that’s a big reason to attend a con. You can meet fans of every variety and every age—people who love Star Wars, Star Trek (old and new), Harry Potter, Dragon Ball, Pokémon and comic books of every type.

Attendees at Tucson ComicCon last fall had the chance to see a Thanos who was over 7 feet tall! Fans could also go to a panel to learn how the COLOSSAL costume was made and get tips on making their own costumes.

Stan Lee receives an award for ‘Best Cameo’ at the 2017 Phoenix Comicon.
Stan Lee receives an award for ‘Best Cameo’

at the 2017 Phoenix Comicon.

By Gage Skidmore//

Cons are so popular that the Pima County Public Library hosts its own mini-con event. It started as Manga Mania in 2011. Manga are comics or graphic novels created in Japan with a distinctive style. 

The event soon outgrew its space and moved to Pima Community College Downtown Campus in 2013. It grew to include more pop culture touchstones (like cosplay costume contests) and became MegaMania! Last year, teens who participated in a library camp about escape rooms got to show off what they learned by building a Harry Potter-themed escape room for MegaMania. This year the event happens July 13 from 1 to 5 p.m. Best of all, it’s free.

Princesses, pirates and mermaids. Oh my!
Princesses, pirates and mermaids. Oh my!

MegaMania includes all of the great elements of a con, according to Em Lane, Young Adult Services Manager at Joel D. Valdez Main Library. Lane was an organizer for previous events and says it is a great place for “sharing, learning and geeking out.”

At MegaMania, the whole family can share the experience of learning more about their favorite movie, TV show or comic book, or dress up like the characters, Lane says. “Whatever their interest in comic books, it’s a fun thing to do with kids and a great thing for everybody,” Lane adds. “You can do a lot of fun stuff all day with the library.”

Upcoming Arizona Events!

Phoenix Fan Fusion

May 23–26 • Phoenix Convention Center

Con Nichiwa June 21–23 • JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass


July 13 • Pima Community College Downtown Campus

Saboten Con

Aug. 30–Sept. 2 • Sheraton Grand Phoenix

Tucson Comic-Con

Nov. 1–3 • Tucson Convention Center

Kid Highlights— Phoenix Fan Fusion


Younglings Saber Training
at 10:30 a.m. in West 105ABC

Build-a-Book Program with Steven Riley & Kids Need to Read, sponsored by Arizona Coyotes at noon in West 101ABC Event area

Quidditch with the ASU Sun Devils at noon in West 105 ABC

LEGO Free Build & LEGO Build Off (times vary) in West 102ABC

Youth Art Room from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in West 101ABC

Visit the Arizona Avengers, Justice League Arizona and Heroes United AZ in the Third Floor Exhibit Hall


Learning to Draw: My Little Pony!
at 1:30 p.m. in West 101 Event Area


Meet James Rallison—creator of The Odd 1s Out


Meet Matthew Lewis—Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter

Meet Ray Park—Darth Maul from Star Wars


DO: Wear your own costume! It can be homemade or store bought.

DON’T: Take any props that resemble firearms—not even a nerf gun! For more details, see the Costume & Prop Policy tab at under Info & FAQ.