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 Trimpes 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.”

De Campi is currently writing No Mercy for Image Comics and Dark Horses’ latest crossover Archie vs. Predator. Click here to check out de Campi’s comics and here to donate to the Hero Initiative.


  1. * rabble-rouser
    a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons

  2. Paragraph 1: “The Phoenix Comicon pro-actively sends emails with links and forms provided so this wouldn’t be an issue.”

    “I was told to go get my city sales license, and I just ignored it. That’s what I normally do…. 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.”

    So she was told and ignored it, but then was still annoyed with the con—that sent out advance warnings and form links. Maybe she should have checked her e-mail…?

    I always check with cons about sales tax licenses because odds are good the tax people will always show up, especially since pop-culture cons like NYCC and SDCC have proven there’s money to be made; the states want their cut, even if it’s a few dollars. If the con doesn’t provide the information on their site, I ask what tax bureau I should contact to apply. I had to get a sales tax license just to sell in my own state (NY). It’s just normal business.

  3. I want to believe this is one of those cases where being quoted in print (or its digital form) makes the person come off worse than would be the case in conversation. But, yeah, de Campi does sound almost willfully unaware about some fundamentals of convention selling. That she chose to turn her unpreparedness into upside for the good work the Hero Initiative does is definitely great, but her underlying problem being unready for mercantile capitalism are (as she seems to acknowledge) entirely her own.

  4. If you’re an artist just hoping to make back the cost of going to a convention and usually making no more than that, getting a sales tax license in dozens of localities is a colossal hassle. Anyone who’s had to do it will tell you some cities’ and states’ licenses and taxes take almost as many hours to apply for and file than you’d spend actually working at the show. A lot of tax hungry districts are going after cons and craft shows, many of whose out-of-town artisans just won’t show up any more.

    If getting the fee and the $3.62 in sales taxes from creators really is that important, the zillion different tax authorities really ought to get a single national one stop clearing house for filing all cities and states at once. But that’s science fiction.

  5. The taxes in Arizona are primarily going to the privatized prison system. Schools are closing, bridges are crumbling, and various areas aren’t getting the funding they deserve. If a creator is going to make a couple of hundred books, then i say who cares.

  6. @Henry – So deprive them of further taxes and retreat? That’s pretty lame. It would appear she was given the info and ‘ignored it’. Most business people don’t/can’t do that.

  7. Must we insist that every creator be a business? Must every guitar player on the street pay taxes on what falls into his or her case? Should we not, as a society, realize that artists’ time is better spent creating art? Or do we declare it just another commodity?

  8. Then do what she did and give it away and continue to do so. Making money off it and NOT paying taxes is antithetical to making money in a shared economy.

  9. We will have to disagree. What artists contribute to society is well worth public subsidy. If the government won’t pay them all a living wage, what they create should at least be free from taxation.

  10. I always thought people who tried avoiding taxes are deadbeats. It’s okay for the rest of us but some people feel they are above the common people and don’t have to contribute. Cheapskates.

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