Nearly 80,000 people flooded through the doors of the Salt Palace Convention Center last weekend for Salt Lake City’s first-ever Comic Con. Many attractions lured fans, but the star who drew the most hype was comic book legend Stan Lee. Lee, the creator of “X-Men,” “Fantastic Four,” “Spiderman” and countless other comic series, was convinced by Lou Ferrigno (the original Incredible Hulk) to attend the debut of the conference in Salt Lake.
Lee drew countless admirers to his panel and autograph signing, and even entire families came to celebrate the star-studded event.
Following traditional costuming enthusiasm, Dallis and Wendy Lewis came dressed as the Magic Man and Lumpy Space Princess from the popular cartoon “Adventure Time.”
Dallis said he feels there is an untapped culture of comic lovers in Utah.
“There’s obvioulsy a need for it, with how many people bought tickets — people needed it,” he said. As to his primary reason for coming, he quickly said, “I wanted to meet Henry Winkler and Stan Lee!”
Wendy was just as excited as her husband, so it became a family event.
“Naturally, my husband, who is a comic book geek, wanted to come, and I’m interested in a lot of the attractions.”
While Wendy said she enjoyed having her family there, she advised others to consider the crowds.
“For your younger ones . . . get a babysitter. Otherwise, it’s really fun for the kids. They get to dress up and see all their favorite characters.”
Local comic shop Heebeegeebeez was a conference vendor, selling comics and accessories to eager fans. Chandler Bailey manned the booth, and said he was excited about the business and culture the conference had brought to Salt Lake.
“Business is insane,” Bailey said. “I would say that we have the biggest stand at Comic Con. I haven’t had five minutes of downtime in three days. If you don’t live in one of the bigger cities, it’s harder to find comic books. There’s not a lot of local stores. The nerd culture here is gigantic! There were 30,000 pre-sale tickets. People have been talking about this for a long time. If you’re a nerd, you’re going to have more fun here than at Disneyland.”
Jeff Easley was a featured fantasy artist, flown in all the way from Wisconsin.
Although Easley doesn’t work specifically in comics, he was enthused by the number of attendants and general interest.
“I do fantasy-related artwork; I come from the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy life,” Easley said. “I was asked to come out as part of the exhibit for Comic Con. It’s a viable form of entertainment. There’s a great deal of imagination . . . I’ve been interested in fantasy since I was 5 years old.”
Easley encourages people to attend, saying, “Come out and experience it! Considering all of the movies, it’s obviously a very popular genre.”
James Hunter came in full costume as the Batman villain The Riddler. Hunter cited Batman as his favorite hero, and he dressed accordingly.
“This is fun, it’s exciting!” he said. “The Riddler is my favorite character, so it was a good fit. No one comes to Utah for much of anything, so it’s exciting to have this big of a conference. There were 40-50,000 tickets pre-sold, so it’s clear there’s interest. I’m a big fan of comics, movies, video games and art, and this is a great place to find that. It’s for photo opportunities. People should come next year.”
More information about this and next year’s conference is available at www.saltlakecomicon.com.