PropBan 2017: Phoenix Comicon vs Ultrasabers

Following the comicontroversy that was the Phoenix Comicon prop ban, things between the convention runners and the geek retail giant got heated.

After an armed gunman–real firearms, not the painted Nerf guns or foam guns that were prevalent at the con Thursday night–managed to get past multiple security checkpoints before being apprehended, Phoenix Comicon issued a press release banning all props from the convention and mandating that vendors selling weapons (real or prop) package their weapons at the point of sale. The following day the ban was revised to allow more harmless props like stuffed animals to be carried, but lightsabers were still among the banned items and vendors were still required to bag up or otherwise package all weapons, unlike previous years where simple peace-bonding with zip ties at the booth was considered sufficient.

Ultrasabers either didn’t get the memo or didn’t care. By the time I heard the news, Ultrasabers was already kicked out of the con and Phoenix Comicon had issued an official statement regarding the encounter, which you can read below:

So basically, according to Phoenix Comicon staff, Ultrasabers refused to comply with the newly-issued weapon bagging protocol, after which there was a dispute and Ultrasabers ultimately had to be removed from the convention–with a police escort.

I have heard many rumors and opinions regarding this edict, but as I said, by the time this all went down Ultrasabers was long gone … or were they?

Following their ejection from the convention exhibitor hall, Ultrasabers employees managed to acquire badges to the con and enter. Again, this is something in the tenuous area of rumor and hearsay, but regardless of the circumstances, Ultrasabers managed to circulate flyers outlining their version of the events:

Who was in the right here and who was wrong? It’s hard to say, but clearly this was a heated issue for both parties. Ultrasabers was somewhat understandably upset at being forced to put their expensive product in trash bags, and Phoenix Comicon was upset at the lack of compliance from what is arguably their highest-profile seller at the con. What does this mean for Ultrasabers and Phoenix Comicon? From vendors’ and attendees’ points of view, the loss of Ultrasabers as a vendor could seriously hurt the convention in the future if Ultrasabers does not return. Fickle congoers faded from view as their in-person access to the pricey sabers was cut off. Though a small percentage of attendees visit the con solely for the purchase of one or more of these sabers, the absence of Ultrasabers was still felt on the con exhibitor hall floor. Attendee numbers thinned out considerably following the prop weapon ban, and where were the Jedi and Sith? I could count the number I saw after the prop ban on one hand and still have fingers left over. In fact, my husband and I left our Doctor Who/Star Wars mashup cosplays in the motel room Sunday because, well, what’s a Jedi TARDIS or a Sith Time Lord without a lightsaber? Most parties believe, however, that Phoenix Comicon will survive despite the loss of the prop giant… though likely at a considerable loss for the con.

Though Ultrasabers is a large enough company to have a presence at cons across the country, this loss could potentially affect them as well. Their booth went from a constant line around the booth and down the hall to no one in sight in the blink of an eye. Their con reputation could also be hurt by this fiasco, as some other conventions may want to avoid conflict with a vendor who has, at least in Phoenix Comicon’s eyes, been hostile and disruptive. Despite this, I don’t see Ultrasabers coming through at a high loss. Perhaps a few hundred sales will be affected–people who didn’t want to pay for shipping or couldn’t afford it might not be able to get their high-end saber, but the company does enough sales that I doubt they’ll be overly hurt by this controversy in the future.

As of this posting, it is unknown to me whether or not Ultrasabers will elect to vend at next year’s Phoenix Comicon–or whether they’ll even be allowed the option. For attendees, this could spell trouble for the con if the saber-making giant is permanently banned from the con floor. For vendors, it’s a somewhat sticky subject. More attendees clearly means more traffic in the exhibitor hall, and more traffic means more potential sales. Will the Phoenix Comicon/Ultrasabers ultra-heated conflict lead to a financial loss for both parties, or will the con live on?

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