Before I begin, I’m dedicating this first article to Pola Sanchez-Baker: “The writer is working, my friend.”
Well, another comic con has come and gone, blowing the minds of Fans, participants and, suits-alike. Now, that I’ve had a couple of days to reboot, regroup and recover (today, being a bonus day off, as I wasn’t on the schedule… Woohoo!), it’s time I get to work: I mean, I do need to pay my way, eh..? First-off, there are a few people I need to thank: Kenny Caldwell (SLCC’s PR Associate), for giving me press corps credentials; you gave me access to my dreams, and I won’t soon forget it. Next, I want to give a heartfelt “Thank you” to Aimee Sermon-Marchant, (my boss at SSI), who granted me this vacation time, so I could go out and play with my fellow-nerds. And, finally…Jeremiah Stewart, (whom – I met on the train at last year’s comic con), for his friendship, and for pointing me to the right people. I’m forever indebted to ya, bro: “Thank you.”
Guys, we broke records in the Beehive State, again, thereby cementing our place among the ranks of the ‘best-of-the-best.’ The 100,000-plus attendees, the cast of Star Trek: TNG, William Shatner, Karl Urban, Billy Dee Williams, the addition of Kid Con, and the last-minute arrival of Sir Patrick Stewart, were just some of the reasons the Salt Palace Convention Center was filled to capacity. The numbers came out today, in a press release I received, that said, besides exceeding anticipated attendance levels, we have become the 3rd-largest comic con in the United States and the largest in North America per-capita; plus-the Salt Lake Comic Con Facebook page reached 2.5 million people in one week. That’s staggering! It’s no wonder, then – that Governor Gary Herbert declared April 17th ‘Salt Lake Comic Con Hero’s Day’ at the opening-day press conference, (which, I had the distinct honor of attending).
When I asked Dan Farr (SLCC’s producer), why he started this epic, ever-growing event, he said: “I started this comic con because I knew there was a market and I thought we could show this regions interest.” Although, he’s not a ‘loyal’ Star Trek fan, himself, Dan did say he likes the shows; (Star Trek was the centerpiece of this comic con). He went on to say, “I enjoy meeting the fans, and I wanted people to have a place to go and meet, and have a good time.” And, meet, we did. Outside the Salt Palace, aboard TRAX and Frontrunner, though, I saw the curious looks of the older generation staring at the thousands of cosplayers, like muggles, in Harry Potter, seeing witches and wizards coming out of Diagon Alley. You must understand, the world headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the equivalent of the Vatican), sits kitty-corner from the Salt Palace; so, it was not surprising to see a few turned-up noses and imperious brow-raising, but, I found the looks of disdain rather amusing, nonetheless.
My first day (which, was beautiful, by the way), started like last Sept.: I boarded the train and made the hour journey to Salt Lake City. I met-up with fellow-journalist and podcaster Jeremiah Stewart and his wife Stephanie, who brought their four-week-old son, young Master Bruce; (he attended his first comic con as Batman, had his first photo-op in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise D (at the press conference, no-less) and Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett) didn’t want to give him back to his parents… We arrived early, grabbed our press passes (lifesavers), then, it was just a short wait for the press conference in the main ballroom.
Some of the stars in attendance were Barbie Blank and Maryse Ouellet (WWE Divas), Daniel Logan, Jeremy Bulloch (the original Boba Fett in Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI), David Jason Frank (Tommy Oliver/Green Power Ranger), Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees) and Charles Fleischer (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). We learned today, that the cast of TNG and William ‘James T. Kirk’ Shatner took to the stage (where the Enterprise D Bridge was set up) after the press conference closed.
Funny story… While everyone was interviewing the stars (for which I had zero interest, as I was talking with Dan Farr and meeting the governor), I slipped-up on the stage and I asked one of the professional photographers if he would get a couple of shots of me in ‘the chair’… Hey, why not? Everyone-else was busy schmoozing the Gov. So, I sit down and get my pix, then – I look over to the stage stairs, and there’s Gov. Herbert, and his entourage, waiting for me to move my ass out of the way, so they could have their photo-op. Herbert is a Republican, I’m a Democrat – soooo….I wasn’t too upset that the state’s supreme commander had to wait, for little-ol’ me. Hahaha! Now, don’t be sending me ugly comments about the political ties; it’s a joke. Governor Herbert is a nice guy and he opened the ceremonies with class; besides, he’s a geek! He did the Picard gesture when he took his photo in the captain’s chair: “Engage,” indeed! It was a great moment, I loved it, and it was part of my FanXperience.
The conference broke and it was our chance to hit the floor. Big, big difference, this year. First, the ticket-purchasing/registration area was relocated, freeing-up the main hall and giving people more room to mill about; then, the floor space was doubled and they brought in Kid Con. Kid Con was a new attraction and it had everything from mascots to face-painting, to music shows and magic, anime, celebrity photo-ops, science and fantasy sections; they even had an R2-D2 Builders Club. Also, in that area, they had the Adam West impersonator doing Batman and a replica of the ’66 Batmobile, there was the Back to the Future DeLorean, the T.A.R.D.I.S (VWORP VWORP), plus-the Seventh Fleet’s life-sized Starfleet shuttlecraft, and a whole-slew of other stuff. It was a terrific place to bring those cosplaying kiddies; which, to me, is what makes the cons so magical. Seeing the looks in their eyes, as they meet their comic book hero’s is priceless.
Another-shift, this round, was the placement of Artist’s Alley, which had more-than a few of these guys and gals (I won’t name any names…) plenty-pissed. If the floor-planners will accept some advice, you need to move these talented artists and authors closer to the front; I mean, it is a comic con, after-all… Right? Well – I will name one: Neal Adams, who I had the pleasure of chatting with on my stroll Saturday morning, said “Whoever planned this, was stupid.” Example: Joe Corroney had a four-foot table; it was laden with his wares, forcing this phenomenal comic-book artist to do artwork on his lap!! This is totally unacceptable, guys. I had planned to have Joe do a little sketch in my leather-bound Star Wars Trilogy book, but when I saw the tight area he was in, I didn’t even bother to ask. It was great meeting Joe, and he recognized me right-off-the-bat from my profile picture; (maybe, it was my trademark hat?); and, it was just another fantastic moment in my FanXperience. I’m now the owner of a (I’m told) rare R2-D2 print and 10 IDW Star Trek Joe Corroney comics, for which he was good-enough to sign, for me. (If you’re reading this, “Thanks, Joe. We appreciate ya comin’ to Salt Lake, bro. We’ll be doin’ it, again, Sept. 4-6.”)
So, other-than having a disappointing meeting with a fave author (which, was more-than reconciled, later), I had a great first day at the con. However, I left a bit early, as I had carried a shoulder bag full of books, comics, computer, etc. and by the time I left, it felt like I was lugging around a boulder, with a strap. I was ready to get home and soak in a tub… LOL! My first day on the press corps was everything I imagined, and – more. I was truly honored to be a part of this record-breaking event. It was good to meet-up with old friends and cosplayers, as well as, meeting new friends: Dan Farr and Kenny Caldwell, for instance. Picking up that ‘Press’ lanyard was a thrilling moment, for me, too. Wow! This comic con really-was, ‘the stuff of dreams’…
I’m going to break this thing down, now, but – I’ll be bringing you more in the next-few days, as I have plenty to tell. Day 2 was even-better… What a blast, guys!
Til-then, I’ll see ya ‘out there’…
Lt. Eric Cone