Salt Lake Comic Con: Day 2 & 3

This is for my mother, Norma Parker, who has come home to Utah, for a visit; my nephews, Josh Dilas and Brandon Daugherty, in-tow. It’s great to have them here and I hope they have a terrific stay. Love ya, Mom!

As we (me, my colleagues Jeremiah and Stephanie Stewart, along-with their son, (celebrity-magnet) young Master Bruce) boarded the train to Salt Lake City, Friday (Day 2 of SLCC), I noticed that there were a lot of people in those seats; more-than I had seen on my previous cons’ travels, (FanX, in April, and last year’s inaugural, in Sept). There was a lively-buzz in the air, too, as these folks were excited to be there; dressed in costumes and makeup, or – just donning their favorite comic-hero T-shirts, etc… Well, the geeks were representing. Indeed, the entire Stewart family was wearing their Batman shirts; as was I. Bruce, (now – nearly 6 months old), made his con debut at three weeks old, donning his cowl and cape and sitting in Captain Picard’s chair, on-stage at FanX14’s opening press conference, this past spring. Speaking-of, the weather was absolutely beautiful, throughout. Thank God, because the lines, everyday, were long and wrapped-around the Salt Palace Convention Center, from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.

When we arrived, we stopped at the press desk and lodged a few complaints: the main-one being, press members had been asked to wait in the general admission lines (instead of with the VIP’s), thereby giving the press corps crappy access to panels and events. As Dan Farr proclaimed at the opening ‘press’ conference, we are a big part of what’s brought success to these cons. If we can’t cover them, we’re going to be pissed and write bad articles and reviews; the bad juju will be felt, seen and heard by future participants, which will only be bad for everyone. That said, I found access to the panels and celebrities more-accommodating during the remainder of the con on Friday and Saturday; despite the massive number of people that were swarming into the Salt Palace, as-well-as other venues.

There are several key areas that need to be addressed: 1) The app and website need to be updated in a timely manner. Three/four days before the con is not sufficient time to prepare. Also, there were events that I couldn’t cover, because I didn’t know about them, until opening day; in a panel, no-less, (I’m sure I’m not the only-one, frustrated by this, either). For instance: both episodes of Star Trek Continues were being shown at the Gateway Theater. As I ride the train a long distance, I was unable to attend the screenings, for fear of missing my scheduled departures; a major-bummer, as I write for VisionaryTrek, and that was a key event I could’ve covered. Another, was the showing of the Star Trek: Axanar trailer that was being shown at the same venue; this, too, was a missed opportunity, for me, as I didn’t learn about this screening, until the John Eaves panel, that afternoon, (Friday). Plus, the ‘new’ con program was not helpful, in this regard; last con, the panel rooms, dates and times were listed on a schedule, not this time. We got an overview, but little-else. (Although, looking at it, now, I do see a schedule for screening-times, however – Star Trek Continues is not listed).

Second: there has to be some kind of arrangement for VIP’s; that could be more pre-registration venues and smoother line organization at the Salt Palace. Because of several organizational glitches, on Thursday, the VIP’s slowed things way-down and forced General Admission folks to wait in line for hours to even get into the building. There was some serious anger and frustration from fans and employee-volunteers, and rightly-so, by everyone. Lines for the special merchandising didn’t move for a good hour. This means people miss panels and photo-ops, etc; plus – it leads to needless butthurt on both sides.

Some suggestions that I heard from people, were to send things in the mail and have more venues for people to go register pre-con; also – eliminate the Gold Pass, as this was confusing for volunteers and fans, as to where to place them at events. VIP’s pay a lot of money to have a fun, (in some cases, once-in-a-lifetime) awesome experience and they’re being denied, time-and-time, again. VIP’s should be instructed, beforehand, to go to a different entrance all-together; chaos ensues, because VIP’s and GA aren’t sure where to go, causing stagnation and bottlenecks. The same is true for panels, and-such; mass confusion and flaring-tempers were seen, by me, on several occasions. Maybe, look at having a separate app-section, a section on the website and social-media, exclusively for VIP’s, to give them more info and direction, too.

Look, we’re still a new player, and – yes, there will be snags; but as many people I interviewed stated, these cons are bringing in major dollars, and there have to be more volunteers and a smoother process. I have no doubts, that the folks behind-the-scenes are already addressing these issues, and changes for the as-yet-announced FanXperience15 are being implemented, as I write this.

With all of that said, I can report that this con was a huge success! Stan Lee has now-stated, that this is “The greatest con in the world!” High-praise, indeed, (as Spock would no-doubt say). I’m still waiting to hear how the Skyped Leonard Nimoy panel went; (I was locked out of the Salt Palace, after the fire marshal enforced a capacity crowd shutdown; although, I did regain entry some time later). But, I interviewed dozens of attendees (fans and exhibitors), and they were all having a phenomenal time. There were thousands of cosplayers, both – professional, and – amateur fans, there were thousands of excited kids (many in costumes), there were lots of people meeting-up and having good laughs and making lifetime memories, new friends were being made, and – the panels (the ones I attended, and from comments of people I spoke with) were absolutely incredible. Even the celebrities were in good-spirits, allowing access to anyone that came along. I mean, I got to bump-knuckles with Eric Roberts, shook Matt Frewers’ hand and I got a selfie with Land of the Dead‘s Eugene Clark, without paying for those opportunities. I can report, that that was a prevalent occurrence, by everyone. Kudos to all of the stars who made this such a great event! Well-done!

On Saturday, (I haven’t received the official press release, yet), the Salt Palace was overflowing; I’ve no-doubt, that we have shattered all records, prior to this con! I’ve never seen so many people in one place – ever! I talked to other con attendees, whom – had been to Atlanta, Pheonix, San Diego, Chicago, Denver, and they were all impressed by the sheer-numbers of people and artists, writers and exhibits that Salt Lake Comic Con had, in-abundance. As I said, in my previous report, (despite the glitches I mention here), the layout was much better, allowing more walk space, easier access to events and celebrities, as-well-as getting those comic book artists and writers front-and-center. The ones I talked to (Joe Corroney, Neal Adams, John Eaves, just to name a few) were very pleased with the new positioning of Artists’ Alley, and – by the turnout they were seeing. I know they were busy making new friends, greeting old fans and bringing-in the dough; (I could hear the Ka-Ching of transactions being made everywhere I turned.

I know this much, Dan Farr has stated that as long as the numbers warrant it, he will have two events a year: FanX in the spring and Comic Con in the fall. For me, covering these spectacular events, this year, has been a dream-come-true, as-well-as, a life changing experience. I’ve got new goals going forward: I’m thinking of applying to the official media team and working my way into becoming a panelist. Yes, lofty dreams, to be sure; but….they’re attainable, here, at Salt Lake Comic Con. My feet ache, I’m exhausted and I’m suffering con withdrawal syndrome, but – I cannot wait until FanX! Three days, just isn’t nearly-enough time to do this…

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’

Lt. Eric Cone

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