Salt Lake Comic Con smashes records
Obliterating even the wildest of expectations, Salt Lake City's inaugural Comic Con broke nearly every record available for a first time contention host, drawing more than 70,000 people to the Salt Palace on Saturday alone. While number of that size garner praise of their own, Utah inaugural con has also been given praise for its stellar roster and rabid fan base.
"Meeting Stan Lee and getting his autograph was the coolest thing ever," said Castle Dale resident Ty Thomas, 24, who was considering driving across the nation before he learned that Utah would have their own convention. "Even though we were rushed through his line, just to see him was more than I can describe. I was hyperventilating in the line. I was about to pass out."
Thomas and his friend Lisa Worthen from Price attended the Sept. 5-7 con with her children taking full advantage of the event's panel discussions, Cosplay action, celebrity interaction and millions and millions of dollars worth of merchandise.
"I had found out about the con on Facebook as soon as they launched the page and Lisa bought us VIP tickets that same day," explained Thomas. "It was the longest wait of my life counting down the days to September."
The countdown was well worth it, as vendors, artists, Broadway performers, paranormal investigators, celebrities and comic legends descended upon the Salt Palace.
After watching organizers in Denver struggle mightily when tickets over-sold, Dan Farr and his team took every possible precaution to make sure that those who wanted in, got in.
Farr launched the event with a massive social media campaign which delivered in spades. As ticket sales grew to unthought of levels, Farr first changed his location, renting out the entire Salt Palce. He then began to draw on and invite iconic names to the Utah show including Stan Lee, William Shatner, Burt Ward, Adam West, and Henry Winkler.
While Shatner, Ward, West and Winkler are all baby boom legends, many of those featured at Salt Lake Comic Con 2013 and in the prime of their television and movie careers.
Ray Park from Glasgrow, Scotland became an instant legend when he took the role of Sith Lord Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace, giving fanatical Star Wars audiences their first taste of Sith menace since Vader got all paternal.
Even though his voice was dubbed in the film, Park's signature movements gave life to a new villain in perhaps the greatest science fiction story of all time.
Park and other current television and film stars in atattendance included Superman Dean Cain, William Kircher, one of the 13 dwarves staring in the current incarnation of The Hobbit, David Yost, aka the Blue Power Ranger, David Prowse, the actor who actually filled Darth Vader's massive boots, Charmed star Brian Krause, The Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferigno and Hercules, Kevin Sorbo. Not to mention the lovely Sofia Milos who in addition to playing Detective Yelina Salas on CSI, excelled in the role of native Italian mob boss Annalisa Zucca on HBO's The Sopranos.
For Castle Country natives Thomas and Worthen the three days in September were like a little slice of heaven.
"I love all the panels but I would have to say that meeting Stan Lee was the best part of the experience for me," said Worthen. "My youngest son is named Parker after Spiderman, my middle son's middle name is Logan for the Wolverine, so to meet the man who created all those characters was sureal. My kids have grown up with comics from their mom."
Cosplay, short for "costume play" in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from a work of fiction, has become synonymous with Comic Con launching participants into the worlds they read about. At the Salt Lake Con, Cosplayers had the option to speed date after a hard day fighting crime or whatever.
Thomas spent the con's first day dressed as Finn the main protagonist from Adventure Time.
Adventure Time is a magical cartoon based on a Nicktoons short which hit the net and went viral. The current series is heavily inspired by fantasy role playing and magic much like Dungeons and Dragons.
"While he was dressed up, Ty ran into the creator of Adventure Time, Pendelton Ward who stopped and drew a likeness of Finn on his hat, said Worthen. "Something like that could only happen at Comic Con."
Comic Con as it is known today started in San Diego in the 1970s. It originally focused on comic books, science fiction, tv and movies. Today's massive conventions include a large slice of pop culture including a great deal of horror, animation, collectibles and collectible card games, video games, and fantasy novels.
"Why are there ladies here putting on gel nails," asked one patron. "What the heck does that have to do with comic books?"
In Salt Lake, Comic Con is even more of a merchandising hybrid than most. Dan Farr Production joined the ongoing GEEX Convention with Comic Con in order to produce a show large enough to draw the talent he wanted to bring to this area.
In a word, the result was massive.
"The talent just snowballed," said Farr prior to the event. "We kept selling more tickets and then we started seeing major stars sign on. Once that happens, it just gets down to the logistics making sure the celebrity's schedule will allow them to be in town for those dates.
For Worthen and Thomas, anything less than an annual Utah con would be a major disappointment.
"Being around that kind of energy is amazing," said Worthen. "Once you've experienced something like that you want it to continue."
While there is no official word on Salt Lake City Comic Con 2014, a 70,000 person convention tends to elicit interest from business and hospitality.
Log on to www.sunad.com for more photos from the Salt Lake City Comic Con 2013.