The clouds parted, the sun came out and the geek gods declared: “Let there be FanX!” And, so began my first day back at Salt Lake Comic Con. That said, there was a bit of a nip in the air Thursday, as we took the Frontrunner up to SLC–I was glad of my coat.
Upon arriving, the line outside was scraggly, and for press registration, non-existant; my colleague and friend, Jeremiah Stewart and I, walked right up to the check-in desk.
Once we received our RFID wristbands and programs, and tapped-in, we began to do some recon of the layout. I spotted the Founder/Producer of SLCC, Dan Farr, chatting with a group of folks in the hall; catching my eye, he gave me a smile and a wave, continuing his conversation; his message, however, was clear: “Welcome. Good to see you.” For a smallfry, freelance writer–who’s in way over his head, that small gesture was HUGE; I felt like I was home. It set the tone for the rest of the con. But, then…that’s how these guys make all of us feel, when we’re here–especially FanXperience! Because, they’re geeks, too!! You’ve seen their posts; they love this stuff!
The opening press conference was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Salt Palace Convention Center, kicking-off this more-intimate, fan-focused con (ticket sales are capped at 50,000 per day; giving it a more even-ratio of fans to guests). Returning SLCC fan fave Rob Prior began working on the clown (above) and we got going. Despite the very subdued air of this usually loud, adrenaline-amping, ‘ARE YOU READY FOR COMIC CON?!’ pep rally–I wasn’t the only one who expressed this view–this con was the best one, so far.
That huge ballroom seemed cavernously-empty, though (as compared to previous events), with only the press and guest celebrities inattendence; and I didn’t see as many cosplayers, either, as we’ve seen in the past. In fact, Bryan Brandenburg was finding it difficult to get any excitement out of the press corps. “Is that really all you’ve got?” he asked, after a couple of lackluster cheers.
If there was a pall at the press conference, it might’ve had a bit to do with the passing of Roxanne Hasegawa from breast cancer, earlier this year. Indeed, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg (the rockstars behind SLCC) dedicated [this] FanX to Rox: “She was one of us – a real geek and lover of pop-culture. Her endless love and enthusiasm for Salt Lake Comic Con cannot be replaced.” The former ‘Good Things Utah’ producer was represented by her family at the event and two of her personal charities of choice were accepting donations throughout the con, in her honor: Make-A-Wish Foundation of Utah and Firemen and Friends for Kids.
The mood lifted considerably when the original ‘moonwalker,’ Dr. Buzz Aldrin took the stage; where he was presented with a beautiful portrait made out of LEGOS. This was a real treat, for me; and as I came ip in front of the stage to take his picture, he looked right down at me and gave me a big smile. I mouthed a ‘Thank you’ and waved; which he returned. Holy brain spasm! Talk about your ‘Bucket List’ add-on! Ultimate FanXperience Level: Unlocked! That was an honest-to-goodness fanboy moment, for this Florida country boy who’d been able to watch Space Shuttles launch from a tree in his frontyard. Soon-to-follow Buzz, were Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Mitch Pileggi, William B Davis, Erica Carroll, Ms. US Ambassador, and more. We got our chance to meet-and-greet the guests, then Jer and I were off.
Now, this is when I get excited! Not because of the celebrities–although, if I happen to come across one, I’ll say hello and shake hands–but, I’m here for Artist Alley and the dealer tables; I’m here to see authors and creators; I want to talk to people and guage their reactions to what they’re seeing, what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about the con(s); being in retail/customer service most of my working-life, I’m naturally curious about whether the artists, writers, vendors are making a profit and if their traffic-numbers are good or poor, are the fans treating them fairly and respectfully; and vise-versa – are the fans being treated fairly, are they experiencing difficulties or having issues with staff. The most-recurring complaints I heard during this 3-day-run were 1) the wifi service was really lousy–I agree; as I experienced the difficulties, myself, 2) the positioning of KIDCON was causing congestion and feelings of claustrophobia around the photo op queue and sales areas and 3) confusion about lines in Celebrity Row and Celebrity Photo Ops.
The past issues with lines and wait times have eased-up considerably with early registration, writsbands, more entrances into the venue, and the continuance of recruiting nearly a thousand volunteers, to keep things running smoothly. During my time there, I heard of no major occurrances or incidents taking place. The FanX apps are continuing to see upgrades after each event, as well; it’s so much easier to find things on it–unless, there’s no wifi or signal… Other than that, everything seems to streamlined and geared towards a more-efficient traversing of the venue.
FanX16 had some really cool things to offer, to just about everyone: The Walking Dead Experience, SLCC Bash, Dead 7, Doctor Who Ultimate FanXperience, Twisted Toonz, Cosplayers and Contests, Gaming; not-to-mention the SOLD OUT screening of Batman v Superman. I have it on good authority that Dean ‘Superman’ Cain was there, and he wowed the Fans! I know a certain ‘Catwoman’ who was particularly smitten by the Super-Stud, when he gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek! If you wanted authors, there were 28 of them doing official signings (there 56 different signings scheduled, as well as a few who were working their booths, such as NYTBS Kevin J. Anderson, Robecca Moesta, Larry Correia.
As far as Artist Alley goes, some fans (myself included) found the layout a bit confusing; saying, it makes it especially difficult to find booth numbers, and in some cases colors of the booths, if booths are covered with cloths and merchandise that is brought in by the creators, themselves. Fans would like to see some kind of directions/markers at eye-level, or above; so as not to be constantly looking down at the floor; large name placards/signs would help, too.
On a brighter note, numerous guests in the Alley expressed great satisfaction with the con overall. FanX16 program cover artist Adriana Melo (who was attending for the first time) was very pleased with her Xperience here. “It’s so beautiful,” she told me. “Everyone has been so friendly.” On Saturday, she seemed quite satisfied with the amount of traffic and sales she’d received during the course of the con; (I, was quite pleased to be the owner of one of her exceptional Star Wars personalized-prints). Like everyone else, though, lack of adequate bandwidth was her Achilles heel.
(On a side note: there were issues with wifi throughout the con; from the beginning, to the conclusion. Adriana and I were faced with an issue of trust, before the floor even opened. I had no cash, her credit card app wasn’t loading and–in running our mouths–she’d already signed my print, to me. Taking the high ground–like a BOSS!–Adriana allowed me to take it home; me – vowing upon my name, and my reputation as a spokesperson of integrity for the con, that I would return the next day. I did; and, I think a friendship was born… Adriana is a class act.)
SLCC and FanX favorite Bill Galvan (whom-was gracious enough to give me an interview for Bombad Radio) expressed his love for these cons, as well; being a local artist, Bill knows a lot of the local fans and he likes meeting new ones. Indeed, finally getting to meet one-another,at this con; having prior dealings only on social-media channels. But, all of the guests and vendors were as accommodating with their time; plus – I experienced exceptional customer-service at the MTC Toys booth; returning a defective shirt and winding up with something better, in exchange!
I know… You want to hear about the stars – amirite? Well, they were here, alright! In addition to the aforementioned celebrities at the pc, FanX brought in Levar Burton, Gillian Anderson, Kate Beckinsale, Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Summer Glau, George Takei, Jeremy Renner (a real standup guy, by the way), Michael Traynor, and a slew more! I was fortunate enough to meet Gary Lockwood–a childhood staple on some of my favorite television shows in the 70’s & 80’s; his table was empty when I happened-up on him; so I stopped and shook ‘Lt. Gary Mitchell”s hand. I was glad to make his acquaintance.
Panels… Unfortunately, my time was limited and I only attended a couple; but they were entertaining, the panelists were funny and the audiences were engaged in the discussions–some terrific questions, too. The program boasted 350 panelists, contributing to 230 hours of scheduled programs throughout. I believe it.
Young or old; short or tall; whether you be brown, purple, blue, teal, red, silver or multi tone; feathered, furred, scaled or covered with tinfoil; or just posing as a Salt Lake Comic Con ‘Superfan,’ there was something fun for everyone in the galaxy. Just watchimg cosplayers for 3 days would have been incredible, to me; there were some epics!
As I said today on my Facebook page: the love and commitment that Dan Farr, Bryan Brandenburg and the entire Salt Lake Comic Con team have for bringing the ‘Greatest Comic Con in the World’–not once, but TWICE a year–to SLC is second to none. They’re not just talking-the-talk; they’re walking-the-walk. When they say, “WE WILL ROCK YOU!” – they damn-well mean it!
They plan to kickoff Salt Lake Comic Con 2015, September 1-3. As always, the environment is superfriendly for kids–did I mention KIDCON?! When it all comes down to it, that’s who comic cons are for: the inner kid iside all of us. I agree with Bill Galvan, that interest in comic books has never been higher [because of movies like the Avengers and Batman v Superman; and superhero TV shows like GOTHAM, DareDevil, Supergirl and Flash] and if we can just boost the signal, we’ll keep our characters going for the next generation, and beyond. Now…where’s that set of transdimensional, subspace-fluxing rabbit ears I had..?
Lt. Eric Cone