Salt Lake Comic Con‏ by Eric Gator-Cone

Hey, friends!

I recently went to my first-ever Comic Con; indeed, it was Salt Lake City, Utah’s first, as well. It was a phenomenal event and the magic of it still rests on my mind; even though, now, it’s been a little over a week ago. Before I begin, however, I need to thank the Salt Lake Comic Con producers and Facebook fans; were it not for them, I’d’ve never been able to attend, at all. You see…the fans, ‘Liked’ a comment I posted, on one of SLCC’s FB statuses, (in-regards to Robert Downey Jr. and Ironman); and, that-resulted, in my winning a 3-Day Pass! It was a stupendous moment, for me, as I’d tried to win, for months; sharing, liking and commenting, on their daily FB statuses!

Eric Cone 2Well, I had the tickets and, yeah, I had the time off from work, to go, but…I was low on funds to cover the travel expenses and such, (it’s quite-a-ways drive to downtown SLC, from my house). So, I tried another-first…(I think), I asked for sponsors. Yes, that’s right…’sponsors’. I called it the, ‘Get the Po’ White Boy to Salt Lake Comic Con’ campaign! LOL! I even managed to grab a few; so…I’d like to thank them, post-haste: Freedom Credit Union (Provo, Utah), the Texaco Dug Out (Spanish Fork, Utah), SSI (Lindon, Utah), Brandy White, Andrew Rader, @mress_1701 aka Renee, (my Germany-based Twitter friend and, a fellow featured-writer, at TrekMate), Brandon Daugherty, Norma Parker and last, but-certainly, not-least, Erica Cone, my beautiful, generous, wonderful daughter. These terrific folks gave me the means to go and, by golly, I had a spectacular time!

My experience began on Wednesday, a day-prior to Comic Con’s official open, Sept. 5th. I drove the 110 mile round trip, to register at the Salt Palace Convention Center for our wristbands and, to get the swag-bag they gave to each of the VIP’s and FB winners. I got $10 in coupons (good towards the purchase of celebrity photo-ops), a very nice SLCC 2013 program, an illustrated SLCC poster, with all of the stars who were scheduled to be in-attendance, (depicting them in their TV roles), an action figure (which, went to the first-thousand, in line) and a logo’d SLCC bag…(that bag was quite handy). It was, in-itself, a great opportunity, affording me the chance to meet some friendly, if-not, excited people. I even ‘found’ Waldo, waiting in line, with us!

Opening day, 9 am… I’d decided, the night before, to take the train out of Provo, (that, being another-first, for me), to avoid the hassles of finding parking, as I knew it would be a madhouse in Salt Lake City; I mean, Hell, it had already, been-moved, and-expanded, because of the overwhelming response to it…this being our inaugural event, and all. Well, I missed the first train (the folks ahead of me didn’t know how to work the ticket kiosk…) but, it worked-out, as I ran into a former employee of mine, whom-I hadn’t seen, in years, while waiting for the next train. Plus, once-aboard UTA’s Frontrunner, I ended-up sitting with a nice group of people, (who were going to spend the day at the LDS Temple, in SLC, also), and it was pleasant sharing the ride together.

So, we arrived…(in 55 minutes); I got off the train, took a TRAX trolley around to the Salt Palace Convention Center stop, walked the couple-of-blocks there and headed inside. There was only a couple-hundred people in the building and I could see that quite-a-few of them were dressed-up, in some magnificent costumes. Right-off, though, I went around asking where I might find the SLCC T-shirts, as the program had suggested that they would sell-out quickly; no one knew anything about them or, where/when they might be available. Disappointment…

Eric Cone 1Unbeknownst to everyone there, (all of us having arrived, early, thinking the doors opened at noon), they had changed the hours and the rooms weren’t going to open until 4 pm. (The VIP’s got to go in at 3.) More disappointment… With nothing to do, people just milled-around; everyone was talking and laughing, having a good time, taking pictures of people in their costumes, making new friends…just being positive. I began my ‘Dayton Made Me Do This’ mission…

About that… I FB’d Dayton Ward (STAR TREK author (among others…), blogger, podcaster, all-around good guy, and asked him to fill in the blanks on the origins of it and here’s what he said:

“It’s really nothing more than a harmless bit of goofing, usually intended as good-natured teasing of my friends at a con when I can’t be there. I’ve done it a few times in the past.

Here’s the deal from San Diego:”

The Fog of Ward San Diego Comic Con 2013…

“Other posts should be filed under this:”

The Fog of Ward Different updates and posts…

Now, I took it upon myself to fulfill this mission, just for kicks. I couldn’t cosplay (although, I did wear a very-cool ‘gangsta’ HULK T-shirt and, Sssh…my Superman underwear), and, in doing this, it kinda set me apart from everybody else. It was my gig and I had a blast doing it. Dayton thought it was pretty-cool, too, (as I’d not reminded him of my plans…) Then, BAM! There I was posting all these pix on my FB page. (I’d mentioned it to him, right-after winning my 3-Day Pass and he’s the one who sent me the ‘sign’ to use.) But, hey…we had to have Dayton Ward at our first con, in some fashion… Right? And, I’ll admit, it was fun surprising him. That said, everyone was simply fantastic, cooperating without hesitation; well…except, one lady, who told me she wasn’t interested. I think, she thought I was selling something… Nonetheless, I wound-up taking over a hundred pictures of cosplaying-cons, holding the ‘Dayton Made Me Do This’ sign; including-one of me. Mission accomplished.

Ok… So, we’re getting close to the rooms opening now, and everybody’s getting anxious to get in them, so they can plunder, pillage and pull out those credit cards; to spend those bucks on geekery-galore. William Shatner was doing his thing in the Grand Ballroom and the VIP’s were lining-up for their sneak peek; so you can guess, that the energy was building. Not-only-that, but the halls were steadily filling with more and more people. By now, there were thousands of people trolling-about, and-it was getting hot, having all of those bodies in close-proximity, energy-levels running-rampant…

You know what sticks with me, though? The amount of dads and moms bringing their kids (many in costumes, together) and, entire families, too. Man! It’s something I’ll never forget. It was very-heartening, even exhilarating, to see ‘The Next Generation’ of comic-lovers; seeing the sheer excitement these kids had and the twinkle in their eyes (in-both, the young and the old), taking-in everything around them. What a blast!

Here’s where I screwed-up. I made the mistake of going outside, to take more pix and talk to folks… When I came back in, there was a line, and-it ran from the main-room doors, all the way outside and into one of those cordoned people-herders, then-down the block! Great. I’d never get inside the rooms, now. So…(sigh), I found a semi-quiet spot on the floor, out of the traffic-area and took the opportunity to charge my phone. (Thank God, there were plenty of outlets around the venue, as I had to recharge my iPHONE, several-times, throughout the day.) I waited, sitting-it-out, but the line just kept going, and-going… Finally, I got up and ventured along the hall. There are lots of doors along the hall and ComCon folks were coming out of them, (as well as attendees…) I saw my opportunity. Somebody came out of one (some distance, from the main doors, mind) and, well…I kinda slipped-in, before the door could shut… Yes! You’re right, I cheated. So, sue me, for ‘cutting-the-line’, would ya… LOL! But…I wasinside, dammit! Nerd Nirvana, as far, as these eyes could see!

It was everything I expected, and-more! Along one side, they had the TV stars set up and the lines for the photo-ops were full. At the back was concessions, gaming-areas, huge displays, including dinosaurs and creatures from ‘Zombie Land’, monsters, and radio stations; you name it. In the center of the room, was everything under the sun; books, comics, games, collectibles, clothes, vendors, authors, artists… If you wanted it, chances are, it was there, y’all! I got to meet Kevin J. Anderson (‘Enemies & Allies’, ‘The Last Son of Krypton’…) and he signed a copy of STAR TREK: TNG ‘The Gorn Crisis’, for me. I met Matt Miner, also, who created the LIBERATOR comic-series, and he signed issues 1 & 2, while-getting my Twitter address and, introducing me to his father, who’d accompanied him to SLC. Kevin and Matt were very gracious and kind, leaving me with phenomenal memories of my first ComCon.

I spent a couple of hours browsing and buying, all the while looking for those elusive Comic Con T-shirts… They were nowhere! Disappointment. I found a very nice ComCon volunteer, named Hollie. She told me she would take me with her to the ‘War Room’ and she would checkout the situation. It seems, the T-shirts were still boxed-up, with no booth set up or, any personnel, for that matter, set to sell them! They wouldn’t begin selling them until Friday! I was crushed. From day-one, it’d been my sole-purpose to get an inaugural SLCC13 shirt! Well…all was not lost. The VIP’s were given a different T-shirt, as part of their swag-bag and, the ComCon producers had said the night before (on FB), that no one would go away unhappy. I told Hollie, that she could make me happy, by giving me a VIP shirt, (which-they were still handing out to the late-comers, a few-feet from where we were). Hollie is my hero; she went over, inquired if she could fulfill my wish and came back over, (having grabbed a VIP shirt out of one of the boxes). She even folded it, presenting it to me on top of her open hands, (like she was presenting me with an American flag at a military funeral…) I won’t lie to you, I gave her a huge hug and, we both, got a little emotional over it. She went above-and-beyond, to make my ComCon experience memorable and, she could see that I was truly grateful for her ‘small’ offering. She even had me escorted back into the main showroom, (as-security was still trying to keep people from ‘cutting-in’, in the still-moving line, 2 hrs. later!) I went in and browsed some more, just taking it all in…

Eric Cone 3As I was leaving, I saw a table laden with plaques; Salt Lake Comic Con 2013 embossed across them, with our city’s unique skyline along the bottom. “How much for these?” I asked the lady behind the table, who was wearing a big friendly smile. “Twenty dollars,” she replied. I had some wadded-up cash in my pocket and, I was sure I didn’t have enough, but I proceeded to pull it out. “Hmmm… Nope. Don’t have enough,” I told her. “How much have ya got?” she asked me. “Seven,” I smiled. (I still had funds on the card, but I didn’t want to go through the hassle.) The lady turned to another gal, who was sitting there, too, (her boss, apparently…) “Whad’dya think?” she inquired of her. The lady looked at me and said, “It’s yours… Just so-long, as I don’t have to lug them out of here,” she said, laughing in genuine good-humor. I was just amazed by their generosity… They even gave me a matching bookmark, as I was turning to leave…

Now, see…that’s the atmosphere that was prevalent here, throughout the entire day. Everyone was amped, full of good cheer and kind spirit; everyone smiled all day long. It’s a day that I’ll never forget. As I headed-out the doors of the Salt Palace, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. The line was stretched for almost 3 blocks; (nearly all the way around the Palace!) Thousands of people were waiting, slowly moving and slogging-along, to get around the building, for their chance to get inside and experience this epic event, too. Hundreds of them were in their costumes and bearing the heat, as well!

When Salt Lake Comic Con was first announced, it was downplayed and, people laughed and joked; “It’ll never amount to anything…” “Nobody’s gonna come…” Boy, were [they] mistaken! Not-only, did we make history, (so-far-as openings, for ComicCons go), but over 100,000 people attended; making this the largest convention in Utah’s history! Hell! We even rivaled San Diego’s con, a couple-months, earlier! And…I was a part of it! I was a part of history! It was amazing! On the last day, Saturday, the fire-marshal’s office said, upwards of 80,000 were in the Salt Palace Convention Center! It’s a staggering thought. Our con generated so much interest, that Stan Lee called-up and asked if he could make a last-minute appearance! (He was here, on Saturday.) William Shatner and Adam West shook things up, as well; they shared the stage in the Grand Ballroom, for the first-time ever! Even, John de Lancie (Q) came here, at the last-minute!

My day was coming to a close. But-hold on, there was still one more surprise, awaiting me at the train station, for my journey home. I found a young man standing there and he was wearing a SLCC lanyard, the word ‘Press’ across the bottom. We struck-up a conversation, as we waited for the train to arrive; both of us were beat, but, still-pumped from the day’s events. Once-aboard, I asked if I could join him for the ride. “Sure,” he said. Really-nice guy. As-it-happened, Jeremiah, (of Bombad Radio) had been able to interview several of the stars, including Lou Ferrigno and Richard Hatch, that morning… So, we’re having a good debate and talking-geek, (me, ‘Defending JJ Abrams, AGAIN’), when he asks me if he can interview me! I was floored! What?! Really? Out comes his recorder and the interview begins. As we’re talking, spiritedly, I might add, some others joined-in our conversation; (they’d attended SLCC, as well). Pretty soon, we’re entertaining the entire car, with our takes on everything from STAR TREK to STAR WARS to DC and MARVEL comics and movies, you name it! It was a spontaneous nerd-a-thon and we were having a grand time. We had to keep apologizing to those unfortunate souls, caught in the midst of our discussion and, we kept having to make sure we didn’t miss getting off the damn train. It was fantastic! What a great way to cap-off, an-already, over-the-top day! The other occupants were very understanding and even joined us on a few occasions, laughing about our enthusiasm. We were all having a good time. Getting off the train, in Provo, we exchanged business cards, social-media addresses and handshakes and, I’m still in-contact with my new-found Salt Lake Comic Con 2013 friends, today… What a truly-exceptional experience! I’m so glad, I was able to attend and share it with you all.

Later, friend(s)…

Author: Marc Stamper

Trek geek extrordinaire and the TrekMate tech wizard. Always liked Trek but when TNG started here in the UK I fell in love and have not looked back since. Podcaster since January 2012

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  1. Did you see the podcast booth or the Seventh Fleet booth where we had the Artemis Bridge Simulator running?

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  2. Thanks Eric! This is a great article and I’m glad to see that you had such a wonderful time! And many thanks for the shout-out, too!

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