Bam!: Tucson Comic-Con to take over the TCC this weekend

The first Tucson Comic-Con took place in the exhibition space of a Sheraton hotel near the University of Arizona in 2009. Comic book writer Henry Barajas attended with his sister and he noted that it was a small event in those days.

“It was a small room,” the Tucson-born Los Angeles-based author said. “You could do a whole show in like 20 minutes.”

500 people attended that year, and the convention grew over the following years. This year’s Comic-Con is a three-day event. Organizers reported more than 19,000 people moved among the exhibitors and vendors last year at the Tucson Convention Center.

“There was the whole goal of Tucson Comic-Con: to create a comic convention that promotes literacy and celebrates the medium,” Barajas said. “It was always about breaking even, but with Brian and Francisco Pulido involved now and becoming major stakeholders in the show, they’ve brought a business acumen.”

32-year comic professional Brian Pulido was part of a new leadership team that came into place in 2016. His challenge over the years has been to grow the event while keeping things focused on comic books and associated fandoms.

“Our unique selling proposition for Tucson Comic-Con is that it’s a friendly regional event. I’d like to think that we offer a balance of guests and experiences,” said Pulido. “Though we do have prominent comic book professionals, we also bring in some celebrities in other fields like high-profile people in the world of games… I’d like to think that it’s balanced and focusing broadly on pop culture.”

In addition to comic creators, this year’s event will include guests like wrestling’s Honky Tonk Man, actress Tracy Lynn Cruz and game designer Luke Gygax.

Blatant localism

One of the attractions for the convention in Tucson, Pulido notes, is the “amazing” talent here, whether it be in comic books or other sorts of art.

One perennial exhibitor is Cynthia Naugle, who is the owner of &gallery. She sees Comic-Con as a great opportunity for local artists, many of whom will be featured in the event’s “artist alley.”

“It’s always a really good spot to see new artists,” Naugle said. “Sequential art, fan art too… it’s all valid. It’s a cool time to check out and highlight that kind of stuff.”

Her gallery will be running a “worlds collide” show in conjunction with Comic-Con, featuring pairings of local artists that usually wouldn’t work together.

Naugle will also be hosting a panel on women in comics on Sunday afternoon.