I suppose a bar has been set when Stan Lee himself proclaims your Comic Con — or Comic Convention if a certain West Coast city has any say — “The best Comic Con in the world.” It was no small feat as the second annual Salt Lake Comic Con got underway September 4–6.
Chock full of celebrities tickling the delight of all ages, more than 120,000 attendees bombarded downtown Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center to browse booths and see their favorite celeb whether in person during photo ops and signings, or on stage at a panel in one of the Ballrooms. Even in the green room you never know who you’ll run into: this year I got to meet Daniel Logan, a Utah transplant from New Zealand who played young Boba Fett in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Yes, this was the place to be last weekend with more than 90,000 people on Saturday alone, causing the Fire Marshal to once again bar the door.
The panels I attended were more fun and far more structured than last year with panelists now having dealt with the ins and outs of two Comic Cons. There was also the FanXperience back in April which itself drew more than 100,000 attendees. “The Power of Podcasting in Geek Culture” was moderated by local morning radio sensation Kerry Jackson from X96’s Radio from Hell (also founder of Geek Show Podcast).
Also along for the journey were fellow Geek Show members: local comedian Jay Whittaker, Jimmy Martin (host of his own Comcast film review show Big Movie Mouth Off and film critic for Salt Lake’s No. 1 news show KUTV), Trent Hunsaker, Danielle Uber Alles, Tysen Webb, and Robert Easton. Plenty was discussed about producing your own podcast, including changes and evolution of their own formats to what encouraged them to even jump into the world of podcasting.
“John Carpenter: The Master of Horror” dissected the legendary director with Fangoria/Rue Morgue writer Sean Smithson, Kristal Starr, Martin, Radio from Hell’s Bill Allred, and Ben Lane Hodson. Much was made about the highs and lows of Carpenter’s career including favorite films and moments, and whether the director will ever make another movie. The consensus being a big “maybe,” that is if someone can pry him away from his video game obsession.
A “Film Critics Roundtable” was held with fellow Utah based critics, moderated by Kerry Jackson. Included to discuss the misconceptions of having “a really cool job” were Dan Metcalf of the The Davis Clipper, Sean P. Means from the Salt Lake Tribune, Rich Bonaduce, Smithson and Martin, and 24 Salt Lake’s Audrey Rock. While a decision was never made about whether bloggers will take over the review world, they made it clear that “you get what you pay for.”
Among the celebrity panels I attended, the biggest was of course Stan Lee who was very pleased to be back in Salt Lake and adores his fans. I had the opportunity to meet Cary Elwes backstage and shake his hand while I was with Martin preparing to moderate. There, Elwes was presented with a print from his biggest fan, Jimmy’s wife Kat Martin — which attendees were able to purchase at the booth she shared with fellow artist Leigh George Kade on the exhibit floor, and online at Kat Martin Artist.
On stage, Elwes expressed his love for his adoring fans who stuck mostly to the subject of The Princess Bride during his Q&A but also reenacted a scene, discussed his love for Andre the Giant, provided his Fat Albert impression which landed him the role of Westley, and gave hugs and handshakes to questioners. He continuously plugged his book: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride and said his tombstone will undoubtedly consist of his most famous three words: “As you wish.”
Two badass special guests took the stage separately: Ron Perlman and Bruce Campbell. Perlman was deadpan, dry, and hilarious — and took no prisoners with his language. He offered a warning upfront that children may pick up a few new words, met with thunderous laughter. He gave insight to him not being a biker guy even while starring on Son of Anarchy and when asked if there was a chance for Ice Pirates 2, he quickly answered: “F— no.”
On the flip side, Campbell was hilariously tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at the Utah swear slangs with lots of gosh dangs and hecks. With no moderator, Campbell took full control of his panel, to no surprise. Running the show like a game show host, instead of simply taking questions from a line of attendees, he treated us to a little bit of “Stupid Human Tricks.” Saving the best for last as Comic Con’s Director of Business Development Jarrod Phillips took the stage and employed Campbell into asking Phillips’ girlfriend to marry him. When Ash himself is kneeling beside you with a microphone, of course you say yes.
The original genie in a bottle Barbara Eden, took the stage with co-star Bill Daily. The two reminisced about their time on I Dream of Genie, including their favorite scenes. Eden also talked about her stand-in who also doubled for Marilyn Monroe, and her time filming with Elvis where he would sing on set in between takes. Hearing Daily use the phrase “shitfaced” stole the whole show.
Eden made it clear that her only regret was having Jeannie and Nelson marry. She also mentioned that she though Stan Lee was a “rascal” and he sure proved wily during his Q&A. Lee wowed the crowd with insights ranging from wanting to kill Jerry Conway for killing Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man, admitted that he would love to collaborate with Todd McFarlane, and plugged next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron by letting us know that his cameo will be the funniest thing we will ever see.
Two stars from CW’s Arrow were in the spotlight, even if not on stage together: Stephen Amell and John Barrowman tried to bring down the house and largely succeeded. Amell was up first, moderated by Jackson, informing us that he has seen the first four episodes unfinished and realized how important music is. A scene two and a half years in the making will finally payoff this season (its third), and that there will be plenty of crossover with the new Flash show. Episode eight in particular is set to be an “extravaganza” and will be the show’s Justice League moment.
Barrowman treated his hour like a stand-up routine. He admitted that David Tennant is the best kisser he’s worked with and managed to make fun of Utah’s backward liquor laws. He can’t figure out why his hotel can’t bring a glass of wine to his room but can send up a whole bottle. It was a good hour for the LGBT community as he took a chance to share his point of view that there should be unconditional love from birth by parents and that anyone who turns their back on someone’s sexuality are the ones who should go to hell, something everyone should take to heart.
It was another amazing whirlwind three days at 2014’s Salt Lake Comic Con and with record-breaking numbers; I can only imagine how much bigger it can get from here.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1476764026]