Final Wrap – Salt Lake Comic Con 2014

Okay, folks; it’s all over. Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 has come to an end after 2 1/2 long days of artists, authors, vendors, panelist, and celebrities.

slcomiccon

*whew*

Let’s all take a step back, have a deep breath, and think about what has been accomplished.

Go ahead: think about it.

12 months. 3 events. Easily over 300,000 people through the door.

Stars including (in no particular order) Stan Lee, William Shatner, Sir Patrick Stewart, Nathan Fillion, John Barrowman, Eliza Dushku, Karen Gillan, Kevin Sorbo, Peter Mayhew, Bruce Campbell…..and countless others came here to Salt Lake City.

Think about that for another minute.

They came to Salt Lake City, Utah.

With the exception of the 2002 Olympics, the only thing SLC was really known for was that stars had to land here to drive to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival. It had (ok, it still kind of does have…) arcane liquor laws, and it’s not especially “culturally diverse.”

No celebrity is going to come here. No one is going to attend a Comic Con in Salt Lake.

Little did anyone know.

By now the origins of the event are well known. Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg looked at one another and said, “Comic Con? Ok.”

And they got the stars to come.

And the fans in the city and state and surrounding areas came in droves, thirsty for the experience that until then had been relegated to the coasts, with their glittering lights and film, stage, and TV presence.

They came.

Sure, there were/are some growing pains. The original event was moved before it even happened because demand was so high. Yes, there were the well-documented problems of access and space and communication.

But the folks running Salt Lake Comic Con learned. They looked at what they did the first time, right and wrong, and put it to work 7 months later, and beat their own numbers from the inaugural event with the Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience.

Were there problems then, too? Of course. Those have also been well-documented (both here and in other media), but Salt Lake’s Comic Con grew.

And now we have survived our third event.

So let’s talk about it, shall we?

I won’t sugar-coat it. There were issues this time, as well. Some of them pretty substantial.

Access to the Salt Palace on Thursday (opening day) was, for a great many people, an unmitigated disaster, while for others it was smooth sailing. Apparently, the demand for access was far greater than they had anticipated, especially since it was both a school day and a work day.

It has been reported that some folks who had only bought a Thursday pass and had been unable to get in were compensated with an additional day. Make no mistake, though, this year’s event was busy all 3 days.

Crowds of people, strollers, vendors, volunteers, and Salt Palace crew filled the venue to capacity. It could be argued that Salt Lake City loves its Comic Con a little too much, and is stretching it’s facilities to their limit. I think that there is another Comic Con that is trying to solve a similar problem with their venue…..

But I digress. Let’s get back to this event and what it means and how it has grown.

During the press event on Thursday morning, Dan and Bryan introduced some of the celebrities that were here. Lou Ferrigno led off,

Lou Ferrigno

with Manu Bennett adding a story of how Dan Farr had convinced him to attend this “small” event he was going to put on in Salt Lake City.

Celebrity after celebrity came out and talked about how Dan had convinced them how great the fans in Salt Lake City were, how he sold them on coming.

And they came.

And while no one said anything about the pending lawsuit filed by San Diego Comic Con directly, it was clear to me, at least, what the celebrities were saying: It’s about the fans.

Guest after guest emerged from the Tardis on stage, including Gigi Edgley, who hosted the Syfy network show “Jim Henson Creature Challenge,” which featured my friend Russ Adams, a special effects artist who is based out of Ogden, Utah.

Gigi Edgley

Once the Con kicked off, attendees were treated to what they had come for. Lots and lots of stuff.

Overhead view

 And lots of opportunities to interact with their favorite celebrities.

Autograph row

With costumes ranging from the classic

Disney princesses

to the timely

Groot and Rocket

to the meticulous

Just cause

Now, that’s not to say it was all rainbows and unicorns after the admission issues Thursday. No. Bryan Brandenburg and his folks stayed up all night Thursday to fix the registration issues. They were intent on getting it fixed. Were they 100% successful? I suppose that depends on where you were in line come Friday.

On the issue of communication, when I tried to go to the Ron Perlman panel on Thursday afternoon, I reached the door to the ballroom ready to go, only to be told by the volunteers stationed outside that his panel had been changed from 6 pm to 7 pm, which was also reflected on the printed schedule posted outside the ballroom. After stating that the Comic Con App said 6, I was told that the App was wrong. So I forewent going in for what I was told was the Aquabats performance, only to learn later that it was actually Ron Perlman’s time slot.

Yeah. So I missed it. Awesome.

On Friday, members of the press got another surprise when they were told prior to Bruce Campbell’s panel that they had to line up with the General Admission folks. What is the point of issuing press credentials only to relegate them to the back of a panel room, unable to generate decent comment? That being said, social engineering is a wonderful thing, and I was able to get the following shots of Bruce the Great and Powerful:

Bruce the Great and Powerful Bruce Inquisitive

Bruce ImpishBruce with audience member

BC Panel audience

The King’s audience.

Bruce owned the room, and also made a surprise appearance at the Saturday night showing of Evil Dead the Musical (brought up from its home on the Las Vegas strip by Producer Sirc Michaels). His 10-ish minute introduction of that show was phenomenal. Evil Dead is still, obviously, a point of pride for him, even after all these years, and he clearly appreciated the fans that showed up to see the show.

Back at the Con, proper: there was stuff for the kids to do and see in the KidCon area, including robots built by 9-12th graders.

Kid Con Robots

There was stuff for kids of all ages, including the Weta workshop and its creations.

Weta

Incredibly talented folks at Weta. Wow.

So, despite some problems, I think that everyone that went to Comic Con generally had a pretty good time. I realize that at times dealing with the crowd may have felt like you were dealing these fellas:

Troll horde seems familiar

And while you may have occasionally felt like this was happening to you,

Con feeling

have faith that the next time, it will be better. Because after all CLICK.

Why do I believe this? It all goes back to the opening press event: it’s all about the fans. And it will continue to be.

Do I have any suggestions for the next event? Sure.

Limit the number of different classes of admissions. VIP, General, Single Day.

Continue the pre-registration to keep opening day manageable. Have dedicated entrances for VIP, General (including single day), and those that are buying tickets that day.

Be clear with your approved press folks (and the staffers) as to what they can and can’t do. If they have VIP hours, fine. Have a press “pit” in the bigger panels to generate that excellent content to spread the joy that is Comic Con.

Do NOT put a wrestling ring in the only passage between the two halves of the Salt Palace. Put it in a corner with the bleachers against the wall, that way those that want to sit or stand and watch aren’t causing traffic congestion.

Reduce ticket prices and eliminate “Comic Con Cash.” A lot of celebs won’t take it. Epic Photo Ops handles the Photo Op vouchers well, so those can continue.

Overall, though, I suppose that we can call Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 a success. It will only get better. The fans want it, the organizers want to give it to them, and we’ve proved that the celebrities want to come and see their fans.

Be patient.

San Diego wasn’t built in a day.

But it may have been undone in only 12 months.

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