Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Comic Con in My Own Backyard - FINALLY!

I've had a day to recover and recuperate and now it's time to give my full-on report of Salt Lake Comic Con 2013!  I had the opportunity to share my experience throughout the con via Traveling the Vortex, who were gracious enough to allow me room on the podcast feed to share some updates and if I haven't thanked them enough for that, let me thank them just one more time.  It was so much fun and I enjoyed it very much (and I hope the other Vortex listeners got something out of it too).  Here are the links to those updates:

Day 0 - Preview
Day 1 - Vendors Hall
Day 2 - Line Dancing
Day 3 - A SHATNER-day Morning

And here is a link to all the pictures I took at Comic Con. I wanted to post them all here, but that's a LOT of pictures for one blog post.  Thank goodness for Picasa Albums!)

If you've listen to all of that and you STILL want more (or you just want to read about it), buckle in because here we go!
Vader encouraging people to sign up for a library card. As all good villains do.
Thursday, I was actually at the con for work (how many people - who aren't celebrity guests - can say they were paid to go to Comic Con?)  Salt Lake County Library and Salt Lake City Public Library shared a vendor booth in the Exhibit Hall and I got to take a shift for the entirety of that day's convention activities.  Thing is, the booth we had wasn't big enough to have four people there all the time, so we took turns wandering around the Exhibit Hall (which I mistakenly called the Vendors Hall in my podcast update - sorry about that).  Thursday was very not-busy, so I pretty much got to see everything I wanted.  I'd only planned on scoping out the area and planning my strategy for getting autographs and making purchases. But there were so few lines, that I decided it would be better to get the autographs I wanted now, rather than risk having to wait in monstrously long lines later (this proved to be one of my best ideas in the history of ever).

Blue was the theme of Thursday, apparently.
I met David Yost, who played Billy in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (the Blue Ranger has been a personal favorite of mine since age 8) and that was a real treat for me to start out with.  David was so kind and very gracious, even though I was a bit flustered about meeting him (I will say that I was not as flustered as when I met Frazer Hines at Gallifery last year).  Then I went down the Autograph Alley a little further down and there was Simon Fisher-Becker, who was Dorium Maldovar in Series 5 and 6 of Doctor Who and someone I would have made a point to meet on principle, even without the encouragement from the Vortex Boys (Shaun had met Simon at Gallifrey One the year before last and Simon also came on the podcast for an interview soon after).  Simon was very personable and very gracious and remembered meeting Shaun and Mel at Gally.  He was very kind to provide me with a bumper for the podcast and I would have stayed to talk to him longer, but there were a few others who had come up behind me in line and Simon's handler/assistant/saleslady was anxious for the line to move (this lady was a pro - she nearly had me convinced to buy a $50 poster for Simon to sign, but I was on a budget for this con).

My Vendor Badge - that I had to give back at the end of Thursday *sad face*
That was Day 1, pretty much.  I talked a lot about it in the podcast and I don't want to repeat myself too much here because there were some stories from the second day that I forgot to tell.  So, I'm just going to launch into that now.

Manu Bennett in the Hobbit panel
William Kircher sneaking in the side door.
Day 2 (Friday) was very different.  For one thing, I was there as a regular con-goer, not as a vendor.  And it was even more busy the second day, which I decided was going to be my panel day.  I got in to the Unofficial Sneak Peek of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was run by the guys from, which is a JRR Tolkien fansite.  They were there along with Weta Workshop, who are the geniuses behind the props and models and prosthetics in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.  It's very difficult for me to pinpoint exactly who or what I was the most excited about having at Salt Lake Comic Con, but Weta Workshop was certainly on the list of Things To See.  I'd seen the Weta display the day before, and I took lots of pictures which would tell the story a million times better than I ever could and this panel was fantastic as well.  The guys from TORn (as they've shortened their site name to) had a whole presentation ready to go, but then Manu Bennett (who played Azog the White Orc in An Unexpected Journey) crashed the party and they let him have the floor for a while.  He talked about doing motion capture work and his initial thoughts about the concept design of Azog.  Then, William Kircher (Bifur the dwarf and Tom the troll) came in and talked for another twenty minutes and that was tons of fun to hear him talk about his experiences.

They sees us, Preciousssss!
By the time Manu and William had to leave, there wasn't a whole lot of time for the TORn guys to do their thing, but they got the important stuff in there.  One thing that I find interesting (and as a bit of a PSA) is that the studios aren't terribly thrilled about doing the Extended Edition DVD/Blu-Rays for The Hobbit.  This surprised me because I thought the Extended Editions were a hit for Lord of the Rings (but maybe that's because I'm a Tolkien nut and I get a kick out of that stuff).  They said that the Extended Edition for An Unexpected Journey will have over 15 hours of extras.  But if it doesn't sell well, the Extended Editions for the next two movies will only have about 2 hours of extras (which, I call that a standard DVD release, not an Extended Edition).  So, if you're a fan of the Extended Editions, here's your call to buy the EE for An Unexpected Journey and to make it a success! (if you're not a fan, well... buy it anyway and give it as a gift to someone you think might enjoy it).

Ray Park with some guy from X96 (forgot his name - sorry! But he was a great interviewer)
The next panel I went to was one I was not intending to see.  I wanted to see the Power Rangers panel at 3:00, which was going to be in the Main Stage ballroom.  I went to see if there was a line for that, but the doors were wide open and there were empty seats in the back for the Ray Park interview (Ray Park played Darth Maul, as well as other characters).  I figured that would be worth seeing while I waited for Power Rangers (better than sitting out in the hall, I guess).  Turned out Ray Park was one of the highlights of my day!  I think I enjoyed it precisely because I wasn't expecting to, but he is someone that I wish I had made time to go meet.  He was a fantastic interview - just listening to all his experiences from how he got into martial arts and physical acting to playing villains like Darth Maul and Toad from X-Men.  And he was so funny!  He said that at one point while shooting The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was supposed to die by Obi-Wan slicing his head off, but they decided to change it because there was a chance that Darth Maul could come back in the next movie and they didn't want to have to explain how he got his head back.  Then Ray goes, "Everyone else has fake body parts - why couldn't Maul have a fake head?"  It was probably funnier when he said it.  If you're ever at a con and Ray Park is on the guest list speak, I highly recommend making time for any panel or interview he's in.

The only picture I got from the Power Rangers panel - told you I was enraptured by these three!
(the interviewer here didn't have a whole lot to do)
I already talked about my little run-in with miscommunication and misdirection between the Ray Park interview and the Power Rangers panel and I don't want to get into all the negativity with that (I've already left a comment on the Salt Lake Comic Con website and it doesn't need to go any further than that - if you really want to hear about it, it's on the Day 2 update on the podcast).  We were all seated and ready to go for the next panel and when the Power Rangers theme song came over the speakers, we all went nuts!  The audience looked like it was mostly made up of people like me who watched the show when we were little nippers and it was pure nostalgia to have these guys here.  The panel was made up of Cerina Vincent (who was the Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy) and, of course, Walter Jones and David Yost (the Black Ranger and the Blue Ranger, respectively, in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - or, as I called it in my updates, The Original Power Rangers).  And I was glued to everything these three said.  The one thing I regret now is that I didn't take notes or tweet the memorable moments, like I had for The Hobbit or Ray Park panels.  I'm blaming my inner nine-year-old for that one, but I was just so excited to see these guys on stage and I couldn't bring myself to have my face in a notebook or on my iPhone for this. There were a few specifics I do remember.  One started with a question from someone in the audience asking Walter and David how it was acting against a blank wall where post-production would put Zordon's floating head in later.  David said something to the effect of "You hit your mark, say your lines, and you get paid" (he said it much better than that)  Then Walter went on this thing (in his joking, cheerful manner) how it was kind of tough to imagine how they were going to realize this giant floating head giving them instructions and he had to tilt his head and squint at the piece of paper tacked on the wall for them to look at and it was kind of a funny bit.  Then David, who had been the straight man to Walter's comedic persona through this entire panel, completely deadpanned "Well, it would be much easier for a better actor."  And the room roared with laughter because Walter had been completely had by that and it came out of nowhere.  It was like these two had a routine down pat, after doing so many conventions through the years.  Cerina had some good moments too, but I'm not as familiar with her, though now I want to go find some of her episodes because her character sounds pretty interesting (she's sounds a lot like Leela, though less of a warrior and more of a [quote] "hippie, nature chick" from another planet).

SHATNER! (my iPhone kept auto-correcting his name like that, which was hilarious)
That was pretty much Day 2.  Day 3 was my quest to meet William Shatner and get his autograph for my friend Brittany, who'd asked me and I was more than happy to do that for her (and my dad said that I ought to, with him having been a fan since he was a little kid).  I spent about 3 hours in lines waiting for a 20-second encounter, but it was so worth it!  I basically tweeted and took pictures of cosplayers during this time (and I talked to a lot of really nice people while we waited in line.  I mean, what else are you going to do?)

A Wreck-It Ralph family - this taken was on the fly as the line was moving into the Salt Palace
Full shot of the homemade Dalek - Instagram kept cropping out parts of it
With this being Saturday and the final day of the con, I think this day came the closest to re-creating the San Diego Comic Con experience for Salt Lake City - tons of lines, tons of people, the completely inability to move anywhere on the convention floor.  When all was said and done, I think at final tally, it turned out that there were 70,000-80,000 people just on Saturday.  I know when I left at 2:00 pm, the line was wrapping around the block (which, the Salt Palace sits on a larger-than-average city block with Abravanel Hall) and was well on its way to the Gateway Mall (I didn't stick around to see if it got down that direction).  Apparently, they even ran out of badges at registration and they finally had to turn people away because the building was at capacity.  There were some complaints about it, but I think the con organizers really didn't expect this big of a turnout (this being a first-year convention and Utah's geek culture not really being at the forefront - that's a whole different discussion that I could spearhead later).

The funniest thing I heard when I got home was from my roommate, who was telling me that a group of people from my church were thinking about going down to Comic Con yesterday because they heard there was Sci-Fi Speed Dating and they wanted to check it out.  I laughed out loud because (A) These kids had NO idea what they were getting into by going to Comic Con in the first place and (B) By that time, there was ZERO chance of them getting in the convention anyway.  My roommate and I got a good laugh out of that one.

Thor and Loki and a bunch of demigods from Camp Half-Blood
Even with the hiccups and glitches, I think Salt Lake Comic Con was a huge success.  When I very first heard about it, I was hoping that there would be a good enough turnout to make this an annual thing.  But now, I think this could be a premiere convention in the country.  There are so many cons back east - DragonCon, New York Comic Con, C2E2, WorldCon (yes, I consider Texas to be back east.  If you're east of the Rocky Mountains, that's back east) and not a whole lot out here in the Intermountain West.  We're sort of the big empty hole right before you get to California that everyone ignores.  So many people I talked to that were from other states said that they would love to go to San Diego Comic Con, but it's so expensive and always so full - but they could certainly manage a trip to Salt Lake City.  And lots of them did.

Hope this TARDIS really is bigger on the inside!
For me, it's just nice to finally be acknowledged in my own backyard.  I like sports and I don't mind the outdoorsy people (but the froofy scrapbookers and bridal shows, I can ignore) - but I can't really say how much it means to me to have a sci-fi/geek convention in town.  Not only have this convention, but have it be a huge success and shatter all kinds of records.  I honestly don't know what'll happen when this con outgrows the Salt Palace because I think that's the largest convention center in the state (luckily, they still have the other half of the building that they could very well use next year - and they could expand into Abravanel Hall if they needed to - there was another conference going on there while Comic Con was running).

Can I be "Carriage Man" you guys?
I think the success of this convention could be summed up in one last story that I kept forgetting to tell, but it's such a good one.  When I left the convention Friday night, I saw a group of cosplayers being stopped by a guy who was driving one of those horse-and-carriage tours that go around downtown Salt Lake.  The guy had his camera out and was asking them if he could take a picture of them.  He was asking how the convention was going and thanked them for the picture.  And I thought that was a great moment of the convention mixing with the rest of the city.

So, until next year peeps!

Deadpool, out!


  1. Great recap! I'm listening to your side-trips right now. It sounds like with the except of some snaffus you had a good time. That's cool Simon Fisher-Becker remembered the TTV crew and did that bumper for you. I'm still jealous you met David Yost, Billy was my Ranger. I think my 9-year old self would get along well with your 9-year old self.

    1. Our 9-year-old selves should be friends! (as well as our adult selves - ha ha) I'm glad you enjoyed the side trips and my recap.

    2. Sweet! I'll meet you at Ernie's Juice Bar after class. I just hope Bulk and Skull don't try and hit on me again....