The Phoenix Comicon looked like a blockbuster success. The attendance figures are predicted to hit over 80,000 passes sold, but there were some issues the fans wouldn’t have noticed. The Arizona Department of Revenue were on site making sure all the exhibitors had acquired a Phoenix Privilege (Sales) Tax License before the con opened it’s doors. The Phoenix Comicon pro-actively sends emails with links and forms provided so this wouldn’t be an issue. Phoenix Comicon was notified a week before the event that state tax representatives were going to be present, according to the Manager of Comic Book Programing for Phoenix Comicon: Shawn Demumbrum.
Exhibitors and guests were forced to pay state and city taxes on all sales. Alex de Campi decided to take a loss and give all her books to the Hero Initiative.
“Downtown Phoenix, fairly quiet at night, is a really lovely place,” de Campi stated. “The convention is mostly well run. The Arizona cosplay teams are really active and creative. There was a team of guys and girls who did Mariachi Avengers. Mariachi Captain America was hot, he was like six-foot-four.” de Campi said. “There’s a real sense of fun and it’s a really good family convention.”
Obviously, de Campi can’t make the same money a cartoonist would at conventions, so she attempts to sell all of her books before she flies back to her home in Maryland. “This year I brought out 50 pounds of books and started to set up and there was information on how get my city sales license, and I just ignored it. That’s what I normally do,” de Campi said. The Phoenix tax rep questioned de Campi and advised her to acquire her licenses and pay taxes for every item sold. “I got a little bit grumpy because I thought that the least the convention can do is email us beforehand and warn us, or simply apart of the table fee.” Phoenix Comicon doesn’t collect the taxes, but management gives exhibitors all the information and applications for licenses.
The rabble-rouser heard that the inspectors and enforcement were a last minute ordeal, so she stated she doesn’t blame the Con entirely. “I’m going to donate all my books to the Hero Initiative. Take that, tax man! So rather than making a little bit less money but still some money at the convention, I decided I’m not going to make any money on principle. Ladies and gentleman, I suck at Mercantile capitalism so badly!,” de Campi said.
Michael T. Malve, Hero Initiative representative at Phoenix Comicon, and former Atomic Comics store owner, said the money goes to helping some of the less fortunate, struggling work-for-hire comic book creators. “We pick up Russ Heath, age 88, and take him out to lunch once a week. He tells us some stories, and (we) buy him $100 in groceries once a month,” Malve said. “We paid for some of Herb Trimpe‘s surgeries the last couple of years. When he passed away, his wife asked fans to make donations to the Hero Initiative because we were so helpful. We paid for Gene Colan’s first cataract surgery.”
“There’s nothing out there to help these comic book creators because they’re all ‘work for hire’. They were paid $8 a page to work in 1964 on Batman, and they might have created an iconic villain you see on shirts, but they didn’t get any (royalties),” Malve said. “We aren’t just looking out for the old creators, we’re also helping some of the younger artists.”
“The awesome thing is, I feel incredibly free. I’m actually able to see some of (the Con), wander around to buy t-shirts for my daughter,” de Campi said. “I feel great because I’ve done something for the Hero Initiative. I get to do extra signings at Dark Horse and talk to more fans. Everyone wins.”
Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies. He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas and Google+.