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Phoenix Comic Fest disrupted by fire alarm, changing name again

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Comic Fest)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Comic Fest concluded Sunday without incident, one day after a fire alarm caused an evacuation and a year after a gunman disrupted the proceedings.

As it turns out, the 2018 version of the event was the first and last under the Phoenix Comic Fest title.

The annual celebration of comic book culture, science fiction, fantasy, horror and, of course, costumes said it was changing its name yet again.

The event, which is run by Square Egg Entertainment and was known as Phoenix Comicon until this year, will be held next Memorial Day weekend under the moniker Phoenix Fan Fusion.

“One of the things we’ve heard most was that Phoenix Comic Fest just doesn’t roll off the tongue,” Square Egg’s Kristin Rowan said at a news conference Sunday morning. “We heard you, and we’re listening. It doesn’t sound quite right to us, either.”

The name was initially changed in response to a trademark lawsuit initiated by San Diego Comic-Con against Salt Lake Comic Con.

Whatever the name, the festivities were in full force around 7:30 p.m. Saturday when a fire alarm went off at the Phoenix Convention Center and the evacuation was ordered.

By the time technicians and the Phoenix Fire Department determined it was a false alarm, the decision had been made to suspend programming for the night. The last event had been scheduled to run until midnight.

Attendees who had Saturday-only passes were allowed to return Sunday, and some of the events were rescheduled.

It was the second consecutive year the convention experienced a safety issue.

In 2017, a 31-year-old man entered the facility carrying four guns and wearing body armor, allegedly planning to kill police officers.

In an interview with police, Matthew Sterling said he was the Punisher, a popular comic book character who hurts people who do wrong.

Police received a tip about Sterling’s intentions, and he was arrested before doing any harm.

He was charged with one count of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.

Enhanced security procedures were put into effect for this year’s event, including a thorough inspection of all cosplay props.

Rowan said Sunday morning that attendance was down slightly from 2017 over the first three days but it was higher than organizers projected. She said last year’s Phoenix Comicon drew a total of 80,000 visitors.

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