Hello friends. Gary here, delivering my in-person account of the greatest event-filled weekend in the Salt Lake Valley. But first, a worthwhile thought:
Is this the year that Salt Lake City’s Comic Con finally comes to terms with the inevitable truth? Strangely out-of-place celebrity guests, a slew of absent artists and booth regulars, and virtually no new features are each breadcrumbs on a trail that leads not home, but perhaps to the ledge of a very tall cliff.
It’s not to say that fun isn’t to be found at the event, or that one’s hard-earned savings couldn’t be well spent on the convention and numerous nerd-ish offerings waiting inside, because for most who attend the value and excitement is surely still there, the pulse of pop-culture beating strongly with a mighty, calling rhythm … GEEK-GEEK, GEEK-GEEK, GEEK-GEEK.
But the inevitable truth, hinted at before, tells a different story. With the obvious exception of newcomers having the time of their lives, what of those who’ve made the trek to each Salt Lake convention of the ilk that Salt Lake Comic Con offers? FanXperience. FantasyCon. Gaming Con. Rice Pudding Con. How many are repeat customers: most? I would be genuinely surprised if many who are familiar with these conventions aren’t, in the very least, a bit hungry for something new.
Perhaps it’s not even the omitted movie trailer premiere, or fresh-from-the-set costumes behind glass that are called for; maybe attendees are not so hung up on captivating, creative panels that offer more than obvious insights into fandom; I suppose some are even fine with what they get and may never want Salt Lake Comic Con to change. That’s okay. But there are rumblings out there among the devoted, who are at risk of spending their dollars and bi-annual weekends elsewhere, and those rumblings shouldn’t be ignored.
For co-founders Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr, I suggest first closely examining the celebrity guests. Does Rob Schneider belong at Comic Con? (No.) Does John Cusack? (No.) Should Jess Harnell be the ambassador for all comic(ish) conventions in SLC? (Probably not.) Let me start by saying I have no problem with any of these actors, and enjoyed my brief meeting with one of my favorite 80’s and 90’s actors John Cusack (though his sister Joan was far more fun to speak with). Schneider will always hold a place in my heart as one who very astutely points out that others are making copies. Jess Harnell is a supremely talented individual who has more than once been a thrill to speak with. But of these three, two are fish out of water and one is a super-senior, if I may be so bold. What about the phrase “Comic Con” inspires people to think about movies that have little or nothing to do with anything related?
If Salt Lake Comic Con is to capitalize on their standing in the geek-culture convention world, far more than “names you’ve all heard before!” will need to be added to their arsenal. One gigantic differentiating factor between Comic Con in San Diego and Salt Lake is the actual caliber of guests: Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan (Marvel’s “Black Panther”), Charlize Theron (“Prometheus”, “Atomic Blonde”), Kyle MacLachlan (“Twin Peaks”), and so many more are all standard fare at the daddy of the comic conventions. Salt Lake, while having proudly hosted a handful of truly A-List celebrities, is prone to inviting voice-talent, animation artists, TV remember-hims, and one or two names with just enough draw to get people interested in attending, who otherwise may opt out. The comparison is staggeringly in favor of San Diego. There are obvious reasons for this being the case, but I digress.
And another negative notch on the prison wall would have to go to the lack of exclusive or premiere content offered at local our Comic Con/FanX events. I know we don’t play well with the head honchos at Fox, Paramont, Universal, Sony, etc., because we’re Salt Lake City, Utah, not Salt Lake City, California. But we’re not Peoria either. With the resources available in a fairly decent and affluent mid-size market, and a clear example of how many people are willing to attend the event even without the perks of San Diegos out there, just imagine how much bigger and better it could get.
Because of the family-friendly, fairly appreciative demographic, people tend to easily find themselves entertained and wowed, which works to the advantage of those putting on the con, but not for those looking from the outside. It’s time to show everyone in SLC what settling is and what achieving can be. This is not a slight on the cons put on by Brandenburg and Farr — far from it; pun intended, because I always intend my puns. This is a hearty thank you for what’s been offered and a plea to take it to the next logical level. Compete for real or stop comparing our event to theirs.
Gary had a good time. It was fun spending a few days with my family, with friends, checking out the artists (like Nooligan, who was amazing) and meeting new friends in the biz (Matt Jacobson from USA Today/The Spectrum). I watched as my baby inserted her hand into various things with pure curiosity as the motivator — a person’s beer, a slice of pizza from The Pie, the hair of an unsuspecting Ursula cosplayer, Joan Cusack’s mouth. I hung my head in disappointment at the inability to get Michael Biehn to reenact any of the lines of his iconic characters, and I laughed for about an hour as a massive horde of Spartan-like soldiers ended their visit on the second day with a group-strong, tremendous roar, only to then one-by-one go through the slow and clumsy task of checking out of the building, wrist to scanner, completely undoing any of the flare that had only moments before captivated the entire hall.
The joys of Salt Lake Comic Con are not to be dismissed nor squandered. I am grateful for the chance to attend, to be there as one who reports on the goings on and as one who isn’t so far off from the guy next to me in the home-made Han Solo costume. It’s not only okay to be a nerd, it’s wonderful. And what better place to showcase that than Salt Lake Comic Con? San Diego. That’s where. So let’s offer our support to the local powers that be and give that beach-town event something to appreciate.