Phoenix Fan Fusion convention director Matt Solberg likens his upcoming event to a legendary tourist destination.
“It’s really like Disneyland for geeks to come to our show,” he says.
After a multiple-year pandemic-dictated break, Phoenix Fan Fusion will make its return to the Phoenix Convention Center Friday, May 27, to Sunday, May 29.
Solberg assures that only minor changes were made to the 20-year event. It’s still a one-stop shop for actors, comic book creators, authors, cosplayers, costume groups, vendors, artists, creators, dealers and publishers.
“We are bringing badges back, which has been a long-standing attendee request, given their collectible nature,” Solberg adds.
“We are expanding gaming that we do into its own hall within the convention center. We are also really focusing our efforts within the exhibitor hall. I’m creating great energy within the hall by having the actors, the costuming groups, the exhibitors, authors, artists, creators all in one space on the lower level of our exhibitor hall.”
Anticipated guests include actors Doug Jones (“Hellboy,” “Star Trek: Discovery”) and Felicia Day (“Supernatural,” “The Magicians”), along with authors Erin Jade Lange (“Mere Mortals”) and Lisa McMann (“The Unwanteds”), comic book creators Fabian Nicieza (co-creator of “Deadpool”) and Tony Parker (co-creator of “Mayday”) along with various cosplayers and costume groups.
“We’re bringing three full days of the exhibitor hall, panels of events, a full lineup of celebrities, comic creators, authors, costume groups, after dark parties, theatrical events,” Solberg says.
“For our attendees, it should be no different than when they’ve attended our shows in the past. We’re bringing back everything they have come to love and expect.”
Author Lisa McMann and her husband, Matt, will moderate panels at the event.
The Tempe-based couple debuted at Fan Fusion in 2011 with their daughter, actress Kennedy McMann, with Lisa presenting her book “Cryers Cross.” The story was inspired by Kennedy’s OCD and her acting.
“She (Kennedy) came along with me to Phoenix Fan Fusion, and we did a little panel with the two of us,” Lisa says.
“She spoke about her mental illnesses, with her OCD, and I spoke about the plot of the story and how Kennedy influenced it.”
Kennedy shared her local theater experiences and how that helped calm her. Appearing as Nancy Drew in the CW show of the same name, Kennedy followed her dreams and controls her OCD.
Lisa and Matt have been asked to return to talk about her series “The Unwanteds,” which recently ended its 14-book series with “The Unwanteds Quests: Dragon Fury,” among other books. The event generally falls around their wedding anniversary in May.
“What a better place to hang out with a bunch of people dressed up like fantasy characters,” Lisa says.
Matt adds, “I think it’s such a blast and love seeing all the cosplay and meeting all the authors. It’s exciting for me to return this year to serve as a moderator on some of the author panels.”
At the event, Lisa will speak about “Map of Flames,” the first of the “The Forgotten Five” series.
“It’s about five supernatural kids who were born and raised in a deserted hideout, a secret criminal hideout. Now they’re between the ages of 10 to 13 and their parents have disappeared and the last one who stayed with them passed away,” Lisa says.
Devoid of modern amenities like electricity and flushing toilets, the kids are left with a flaming map to Estero, their parents’ city of residence. Via the map, the children are tasked with finding one of their mothers. Consequently, they are trust into a new environment where their powers are criminal.
The next book in the series is set for a November release.
Among the other attendees is comic book, graphic novel creator and storyteller Tony Parker who has attended Fan Fusion since 2008, when it was held in Mesa. He will appear all days of the convention.
Formerly of Phoenix, Parker is looking forward to returning and seeing everyone. “It’s not just the fans and friends I get to see year in and year out,” he says.
“There are new people who come by and talk to me. It’s such a ‘people’ show and is a great family show as well. You can see people of all ages enjoying themselves and enjoying what they see around them.”
“There is really something for everybody at the show, given our interests,” Solberg says.
“It’s a great chance just to people watch. We always have attendees who come out in amazing costumes, and everybody is just in a good mood.”
Phoenix Fan Fusion
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 27, and Saturday, May 28; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 29
WHERE: Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third Street, Phoenix