None of us were really sure what to expect. We knew the geek culture in Utah was strong. We just didn’t know it reached superheroic heights of strong.
When we first heard Salt Lake would be hosting a Comic Con, most of us locals winked at each other, like isn’t that cute? Oh, but then we heard William Shatner was coming. Say what?! The William Shatner? Hmmm, maybe this thing could be pretty decent after all. It seems like Shatner got the ball rolling, because things only got bigger from there.
But at this point in the game, I was still not sure what my September looked like, so I hesitated on buying tickets. The plan was to hold the Con at the Sandy Expo Center, where the GEEX expo (what Comic Con had sort of been before) had been held for some time. The event sold out, so I thought, well, maybe next year.
And then they moved. Feeling like Sandy Expo was far too small, they switched to the Salt Palace, located right in the heart of downtown Salt Lake. Besides, that means more tickets to be sold and more geekery to be had. By this point we had Shatner, Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), and Adam West. Not a bad line-up for a first year Con.
THE SHIFT GOT THE BALL ROLLING
This thing was ALL OVER Facebook if you were a local. And speaking from a graphic designer point of view, this thing was well put together. I really liked the logo and I especially loved the geeky promotions they put together. And it seemed every week someone new was coming to the Con. At first it seemed dominated by more local celebs, like Brandon Mull, Lisa Mangum, the Ghost Hunters of Utah, the Utah Jazz Bear. Then some very cool artists started flooding the feed.
At some point Adrian Paul (Highlander) joined the game, which I was very excited for. Then August brought Nicholas Brendon (Xander on Buffy), then David Yost (the blue Power Ranger Billy), Walter Jones (the black Power Ranger Zack), Henry Winkler—wait, this is starting to get serious isn’t it? Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo on MST3K), Glenn Morshower (Agent Aaron Pierce on 24), Noah Hathaway (Atreyu on Neverending Story), and Dean Cain. Wait, hold on a sec. Superman is coming too? How could this event possibly get any better?
Sure, it’s not the glamor and glitz of San Diego’s Con, but it’s our first Con. We were all patting each other on the back, feeling pretty awesome about our little city’s Con. I, of course, had tickets by this point. My geek friends and I were looking forward to a good Con. Certainly this had to be a great opener to great future Cons.
And then they dropped one more bombshell on us. A really, really big bombshell.
They announced on September 4th that on Saturday, September 7th, one night only… Ladies and Gentlemen, the Godfather of comics, a man we all know and love (well, if you’re a geek).
The one, the only, STAN LEE!
There. Were. No. Words. William Shatner and Adam West on stage together. Dean Cain. Power Rangers. And now you’re telling me to top it all off Stan Lee is coming?! Geekery overload.
By Thursday evening, our little Con had gone from cool to legit with 40,000 tickets sold. That made us the biggest Con opening in the nation! (Next largest was NY’s at 33,000.) But it didn’t end there. By Saturday morning, the ticket count was at over 50,000 sold. At some point in the afternoon they declared the event sold-out and the fire marshal called for a limit on entry. We learned we were now trapped inside—at least if we left there was no getting back in. So in we stayed.
Having attended the San Diego Comic Con three times myself, I was quite impressed with our little Con. The exhibition floor was packed. Our most impressive booth was probably the Weta Workshop with lots of Hobbit memorabilia and large statues. Mostly we found artist galleries and geek stuff stores. But Evil Dead the Musical had a booth, and we had a few local movies premiere, one directed by a friend of mine titled Orc Wars. It’s a fun little film and definitely added to the Con experience. 🙂 There was also a fabulous Lego exhibit. More details tomorrow.
This morning we got even more pleasant news. The Fire Marshall informed the Con that 70-80,000 people attended Saturday (no wonder if felt so jam-packed). Give us a few years and we may rival even San Diego (at least with numbers). Stan Lee said he enjoyed his visit so much he hoped we’d invite him back (as if we’d say no to that). Most of our big name attenders sang praises of Salt Lake City and our Con. I’m fairly certain next year’s will be even crazier!
The costumes were fantastic. The panels were great. The exhibition hall was a lot of fun and we had plenty of geekery to go around. Tomorrow I’ll fill you in more on my personal experience, but I just wanted to give you all an idea of how our first year went and to expect Salt Lake’s Con to appear on the horizon in a big way in the years to come.
Lastly I’ll leave you with what the Salt Lake Comic Con people posted on the Facebook page this morning. I think it sums up the event pretty well. Great first year!
According to fire marshalls and Salt Palace Convention personnel we had 70-80,000 people attend Saturday which makes 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con the largest 1st year Comic Con in the nation.
The Governor’s office tells us we had the largest convention of any kind in the State of Utah.
You were a part of history. Next year Salt Lake Comic Con will rival San Diego, thanks to you.
There were some glitches, without a doubt. We will make sure that next year, things will be better in every way.
When Stan Lee tells you at the last minute he’s willing to come to Salt Lake City for your first Comic Con, do you say, “Sorry Stan, we don’t have enough time to plan for your participation.”
When Adam West and William Shatner tell you in the last week that they will agree for the first time in history to be on stage together, do you say, “Sorry Gods of Geeks, we don’t have enough time to plan for this.”
We did the best we could. And we hope that you, our fans, sponsors, vendors, volunteers, guests will look at the best that we did, rather than the worst. You’ll find whatever you’re looking for.
Thanks again for making this a super fun, record breaking event.
Have you ever attended a Comic Con or geek convention of any kind? What do you go for, celebs, costumes, both, or something else? Do you like to cosplay or would you just go in a geek-themed T-shirt? What do you think makes or breaks a Con? Were you impressed we got Stan Lee out here?