Like Disney’s Big Hero 6, Salt Lake Comic Con is bursting at the seams! Organizers were scrambling to find more scotch tape to seal the leaks on the first day of the second annual convention, as enthusiasm overflowed the registration lines. Fans who missed out on the excitement while waiting in line for hours have been offered recompense. Intake was more efficient on Friday, but fire marshals had to bar the doors a few times on Saturday as the ranks swelled upwards of 90,000 fans! More of the Salt Palace was utilized this year, but Salt Lake Comic Con broke the attendance record once again, with more than 120,000 attending between Thursday the 4th and Saturday the 6th.
Comic Con experienced some growing pains in its second year, but it also made some improvements to the layout. Artists’ Alley was moved to the front of the Expo Hall, immediately inside the main entrance. The booths were color-coded this year, although the aisles were not all completely color-coordinated. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was better than the shunted to the side and scrambled set up from FanX, according to AZ Powergirl at booth Green 14. The Celebrity Signing area was moved around the corner to be closer to the Photo Ops area, which brought the Kid Con area forward. The orientation of the ballrooms was also changed from east-facing to north- and south-facing.
The Celebrity Kick Off Press Conference was held in the South Ballroom on Thursday morning. Lou Ferrigno welcomed us to Comic Con, then more guests emerged from a TARDIS onto the stage. As they were introduced one at a time, the ambidextrous artist Rob Prior completed a painting of the Joker in under fifteen minutes. The painting was given to one of the Wish Kids on the stage, and Manu Bennett pledged his first thousand dollars in earnings to another Wish Kid’s family before challenging the other celebrities to do likewise. At the conclusion of the press conference the Wish Kids got their own parade while the celebrities were made available for interviews.
When asked if he had a rebuttal to Jed Brophy’s aggrandized impersonation of an elf strutting the stage at Fantasy Con, Craig Parker (Haldir in The Lord of the Rings) responded that he had shown Brophy “the way of the elves” the weekend before coming to Salt Lake. Parker talked about having replica action figures, and said he knew he had made it as an actor when Lego issued a figure of Haldir! Parker was irrepressible in his spotlight panel that evening, sitting on the table to answer questions. At one point he held the microphone between his upraised knees so he could gesture with his hands while speaking. He mused about the blonde Russian girls who were offered Coke and Levis in exchange for the hair that went into making wigs for the elves (which beats the yak-hair wigs and beards the dwarfs wear!).
Cary Elwes made the day of a lot of fans in his panel that afternoon. When a woman pronounced him her first Hollywood crush, he gave her a hug. Asked about his favorite sound he answered with his daughter’s laugh, and was declared both a sweetheart and a cutie pie. The real highlight of the Q&A came when a wheelchair-bound fan asked Elwes to perform the scene from The Princess Bride where the Man in Black (Westley) enters a battle of wits with Vizzini. Elwes needed help remembering his lines, but the fan had the Sicilian down pat! Elwes said that he loves this town, and hopes to be invited back for more episodes of Granite Flats. He was a hit, and took ample opportunities to promote his upcoming book, As You Wish. He may have missed his best opportunity, however, which would have been the press conference with all the Wish Kids present.
Sam Witwer rounded out the first day’s panels for me. Witwer played “Crashdown” on Battlestar Galactica and provided the voices of Starkiller in the Force Unleashed video game and Darth Maul in the Clone Wars animated series. Witwer knows his Star Wars chronology, and gave us his blueprint for introducing someone to the Star Wars trilogies out of numerical order, which preserves the overwhelming surprise of seeing it for the first time. Following his plan gives the original trilogy its full impact, while also making the prequels more enjoyable. That is a true Jedi mind trick, courtesy of a Sith apprentice!