Captain Kirk, Chewbacca, Batman: Salt Lake Comic Con creates geek heaven as stars and fans gather

Published: Friday, Aug. 30 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

A "Hobbit"-themed display at a Comic Con convention.

N. Eric Heath

As a child, Manu Bennett idolized the aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, or Fingerbone Bill from the Australian film “Storm Boy.”

Bennett’s father took him to a hotel where Gulpilil was supposedly staying. After hours of waiting in the lobby, Bennett and his father left without seeing the actor, but that did not dampen the boy's excitement.

“We waited for several hours and this actor never came down stairs, but it was the buzz that I felt being in the building where he was around," Bennett recalled with a smile. "He was near."

Today, Bennett, who plays Azog the Defiler in “The Hobbit” and Slade Wilson in the CW’s “The Arrow,” is on the other side, signing autographs for fans at conventions across the world.

“I remember that now when I’m at a desk or a Comic Con,” he said. “It’s their moment to meet an actor. I understand it.”

Bennett is just one of the celebrities, artists and vendors who will be attending Salt Lake City’s inaugural Comic Con from Sept. 5–7 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

A first for Salt Lake

The largest of these fan conventions, Comic Con International, is held in San Diego every summer. More than 100,000 people flood the San Diego Convention Center to visit vendor booths, take photos with celebrities and attend panels about their favorite shows, movies, books or comics.

While cities across the country and world have held their own conventions, Comic Con has never made it to Salt Lake City — until now.

Dan Farr, the creator of Salt Lake Comic Con, attended Comic Cons across the country when working for Daz3D, an imaging software used by many comic book artists.

At each event, Farr said he was blown away by the excitement coming from vendors and attendees alike.

“It’s like you could cut it with a knife,” he said. “It hits you double barrel with everything you grew up being a fan of as a kid. And being able to see some of the actors or actresses that you saw in movies as a kid, even as a younger adult, it was just so powerful to interact with them.”

He began to wonder why Salt Lake didn’t have an event. After leaving Daz3D last year, Farr decided to make Salt Lake Comic Con a reality.

Farr admitted that as an entrepreneur he always thinks things are going to be so much bigger than what reality would suggest. But, he said Salt Lake Comic Con has become bigger than he ever imagined it could be.

The convention was originally planned for the South Towne Expo in Sandy. Ticket sales soon required the event be moved to the larger Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake. Farr expects 25,000 to 35,000 attendees, more than 200 vendors and nearly 100 panels.

“I just can’t tell you how excited I am,” Farr said. “ … Sometimes there’s a lot to do but it to me it never feels like work.”

Hollywood comes to town

With a lineup of celebrity guests, artists and authors coming to Salt Lake, Farr said the event has something for almost any fan.

Batman fans can line up to see Adam West and Burt Ward, the original Batman and Robin. Star Wars fans can meet Darth Maul (Ray Park), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Darth Vader (David Prowse). If Star Trek is more of an attendee’s fancy, William Shatner will be signing autographs.

Even the Fonz (Henry Winker) will make an appearance.

The convention will also host several renowned comic book artists, including Greg Horn, lead artist for “Marvel: War of Heroes.”

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