Sworn Fest 2024 Review

Sworn Fest

February 23-25, 2004

Mesa Convention Center


As I’ve recounted ad nauseum over the years, I discovered Brian Pulido’s creations in my local comic & games shop in a small city outside Seattle around 1992. Being a massive horrorhound at the time (and still as rabid as ever) the grinning malice of “Evil Ernie” absolute fascinated me and since there were few other morbid titles in that era, it stood out even more. I devoured all the available books and was equally enthralled that these releases were from independent publishers which matched my growing interest in hardcore, punk and metal and its strict DIY ethos. Brian and his crew were always self-reliant and over the last three decades, that dedication to doing things their way has built a massive empire wholly their own.


When I moved to AZ in the mid-00s, I began to reconnect with my comic roots having largely ignored the industry for a decade and one of the first folks to welcome me back into the fold was Brian. He was and is always incredibly kind and personable and I am beyond grateful to call him my friend. Despite hanging out and seeing each other over the years, I’d never taken him up on his offers to attend any of his fan fests and so when the opportunity arose to be “sworn in” so to speak, I was more than willing to accept.

And that’s what Sworn Fest is, a celebration of friendship. The con utilized the small space to create a warm and inviting atmosphere where fans could interact, talk, trade, and enjoy each other’s company in a more tight-knit environment. While only one main room, the auditorium and surrounding halls were utilized, they were jam packed with authors, artists, and vendors.


Head honcho Brian Pulido was joined by Coffin heavyweights such as writer Mike MacLean and bevy of artists including Diego Bernard (who ventured all the way from Brazil), Joel Gomez, Anthony Spay, David Mendoza, Knightmare Lynch, Marissa Pope, David Harrigan, Mike DeBaffo, Sun Khamunaki, Mike Krome, Monte Moore, Ryan Kincaid, as well as sculptor Jason Fowers and jeweler Shannon Galameau and other local small businesses like Superstition Candle Company and Collector’s Choice Comics.


The always stunning Sapphire Nova was on hand to do photo ops in a variety of Coffin cosplay classics (Lady Death being a perennial favorite) but also longtime great Hellwitch and newer characters like Lady Satanus and Chaotic. Sapphire has always been friendly and funny and is very down to Earth.


A sneak peek that was a pleasure to see was the forthcoming Lady Death video game “Lady Death: Demonicron” from Art of Play and Coffin Comics for PS5, Switch and digital. Only concept art was currently available, but the premise looks promising and even though licensed titles have a spotty track record, hopefully with a healthy crowdfunding campaign this will materialize it into a future hidden gem.


Saturday night saw artist David Harrigan pulling double duty as his band, The Invertebrates take the stage to perform an hour long set of covers and a sole original dedicated to the fest with the crowd chanting the chorus of “Sworn!” in vigorous response. Staples from Black Sabbath, Alice In Chains, Metallica, Alice Cooper and more made appearances but there was at least one surprise pick from the Huey Lewis and The News catalogue to close out the show. These were friends just having fun, sharing vocal leads and sometimes swapping instruments that would make what otherwise would have been a standard bar band into a cohesive and creative outfit than first look and listen would indicate.


The highlight of the con was undoubtedly the Coffin Comics HQ tour with commissioned tour buses arriving every few hours to comfortably cart large groups a short distance away to experience the new epicenter of the CC Universe.  Attendees were graciously given a full to wander and enjoy the gorgeous art adorning every inch of the walls, perfectly complimenting the stunning ornate furniture and Victorian flourishes throughout the bespoke building. Fans got to integrate themselves into the green screen from the podcast/livestream room, spend some challenge coins at the gift shop which was overflowing with classic and new releases and related memorabilia and even see the behind-the-scenes world of shipping hundreds to thousands of titles from the massive in-house distribution center. Guests were last greeted by the bar staffed with complimentary drinks in the lush, relaxing parlor. Brian’s lovely wife and partner Francesca is always so incredibly kind and gracious and really embraced the opportunity to answer questions and provide behind the scenes insight with the humor and grace she is well known for, a perfect host.



That said, the most moving moment was the “Valhalla” segment where Brian and fans were welcome to share stories about those that have left the mortal coil of the community but whose memories remain. Lots of funny, sweet, and sometimes sad stories and it was the most unique and touching element I experienced at Sworn Fest and I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. A complimenting opportunity was extended to all attendees to sign the Sworn Fest banner which was such a simple but special gesture.


Due to previous obligations, I was only able to attend part of Saturday night and Sunday morning, so I know I missed out on panels, trades and incentives but felt I still got a good feel for the event. For future events, I feel if it was expanded with more guests, vendors, and events there is a chance it could get diluted but with Coffin Comics curation, I believe the growth would be natural, strong and necessary. Some casual fans might also be disappointed that there are no single day passes were offered and I think at least one day, such as Saturday being offered at a reduced rate would be helpful. I know this is a gathering of diehards but many would prefer the chance to check it out and maybe save their extra spending money for the attending artists and vendors.


The tagline on all promotional materials for Sworn Fest is “comics, collecting and camaraderie” and it’s a fitting motto; if you love horror, comics, friends and of course, those beautiful bad girls, Sworn Fest says: there’s always room for one more…