A fan dresses as Darth Vader for Salt Lake Comic Con.
Dan Farr took a chance when he left his company DAZ 3D to make a comic con, but it all paid off .
Last September, Salt Lake Comic Con broke record after record. The inaugural event, which Farr founded, was the largest first time comic con in North America and Utah's largest convention ever.
Now, Salt Lake City's go-to geek fest is going bigger (and nerdier) for Salt Lake Comic Con's spring counterpart, FanXperience, coming to the Salt Palace, April 17–19.
“We're expecting more than 100,000 people,” Farr says. FanX also has more vendors, more panels and more celebrities, along with a kids' pavilion where young fans can work on fantasy and sci-fi crafts.
We chatted with Farr about FanX and what else we should expect:
After that first comic con, you're a bit of a local celebrity. What's it like being such a high-ranking geek?
“It was you guys who made me that. You guys get all the credit, because you put me on the cover of your magazine (Sept/Oct 2013). It's not like I walk down the street and people recognize me. I've had a few people say something if they see me at an event where they know I'll be, but I don't have people stopping me all the time or anything. It is fun to have the recognition for the event. I guess I've been the face of the event in a lot of ways, but the reality is it's borrowed fame from what the event is, because it is such a fun, exciting event.”
What made you decide to do two comic cons per year?
“We felt the market could support that. We felt it was something that people would love. As we looked at how much stuff we have to pack into a single event, there was obviously much more we could do. By doing two a year, it allows us to spread that out a little bit and give people a chance to look forward to it and not have to wait a full year . . . Just to be completely up front about it, I didn't want to wait a year. I was looking forward to doing one sooner. I get my excitement by seeing the fans who come to the event. Whether they dress up or meet their favorite celebrities or check out vendors who have products they like, whatever, I feed off of that energy. I love it.”
Last year, one of the biggest complaints was about crowd control. Is anything being done to make it less claustrophobic?
“Lots is being done. First of all, we have over double the amount of floor space. It is essentially going to make it a lot easier for people to get around. We're also going to widen the aisles, and in that extra floor space, we put in the area where people would be lining up to get into the event or lining up to get their passes and everything. We're putting that in the halls on each side, so what that does is hopefully keep people from having to line up in the streets.”
Who are the celebrities you're most excited to have at your con?
“I have been able to kind of pick and choose celebrities I personally have an interest in. I do a lot of that, but this isn't all Dan Farr's choice of celebrities. I get excited about meeting all of them. I'm big into The Walking Dead. I like those guys, and I've met them all. But there is a whole group of celebrities coming I haven't met before, and that's going to be fun for me. I've met some of the Next Generation cast, but there are some I haven't yet. So I look forward to that.”
Most of the guests are sci-fi/fantasy based, but we also noticed Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees on the list.
“That's part of the fan experience—trying a few things that are a little outside of the comic con genre. One of the managers we work with suggested him and I said, 'You know what? That sounds fun. We'll try something new.' We try to produce a mix of nostalgia and current guests, so what's fun about him is the nostalgia nature of him. It's nice to see there's teenagers who are fans of Mickey Dolenz because their parents play the music. It's fun to see the appeal across the board with people like him.”
What excites me is seeing names like James O'Barr (creator of The Crow) and Neal Adams (Marvel and DC artist). Are there going to be more comic book creators this year?
“I haven't seen a list compared to last year, but we did have several comic book creators who came last year want to come back, and they added Neal Adams as well. My feeling is it's slightly over last year.”
What are the trends you've noticed among the fans this year?
“Well, obviously, The Walking Dead continues to grow. There's a strong contingency of Doctor Who fans here. We're still trying to make sure we can get some more guests from Doctor Who. Also, the Sherlock Holmes series that the BBC puts on—that's been a big one.”
Are you going to cosplay?
“I don't usually dress up. For me, it's fun to watch other people. I'm a people watcher.”
We noticed FanX includes Jidai training. Please explain.
“Well, the trainer for the Jedis, Nick Gillard, is actually going to be there. He's the guy who trained people like Ray Park and others for Star Wars. It will be a once in a lifetime thing for people to do this.”
We came across a story about a psychologist using superheroes for therapy. Your thoughts?
“I haven't heard anything about that, but it sounds fascinating. That's the type of thing you love to hear. Superheroes are metaphors for so many things in life, and you love to see where people are leveraging that. In education, you hear stories of teachers using superheroes. It's something kids relate to, and you're able to educate them much faster with things they can relate to.”
Later this year, FantasyCon is coming as well. What are your thoughts on SLC's other cons?
“There's also the Anime Banzai and a few other events. We've got a great city here with a lot of fan groups, so it's nice to have some of these other events come in and help build the fan base.”
Click here for tickets to Salt Lake Comic Con FanX.