Families introduce kids to Comic Con culture while defending against adult themes

Published: Saturday, Sept. 7 2013 4:15 p.m. MDT

From left, Harper Brace, as Darth Vader, Collier Brace, as Yoda, and Heather Brace, as Princess Leia, play Blast-A-Trooper at Comic Con at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con was expected to set records as the largest first-year convention before doors even opened.

But fans surprised guests and organizers even further Saturday as they continued to pour in and ticket sales topped 50,000.

A final count wasn't available Saturday night, but a Salt Lake Comic Con spokesman confirmed the newest comic convention had surpassed 50,000 tickets sold by 10 a.m. About five hours later, organizers declared the event sold out and a fire marshal limited entry into the Salt Palace, which was bursting at the seams.

Fans reported waiting in line for as much as four hours Saturday just to get into the front door to catch the last of the three-day convention.

On Friday, Brant Leavitt and Paul Gardner grinned happily as they looked over the convention floor, a geek's paradise of merchandise, costumery and celebrity.

Their smiles widened as they watched their sons take it all in.

The group sat down for lunch Friday afternoon, each boasting a different sci-fi or superhero T-shirt, and a few child-sized costumes of Thor and the Hulk were laid to the side. The two dads and neighbors from Pleasant Grove brought their boys to the convention to boost their growing interest in a hero culture.

"I've followed comics my whole life, and just being here among all these TV stars that I watched, it's just awesome," Leavitt said. "It's bringing back some great childhood memories, and I wanted my boys to be able to see these guys that I grew up with."

Leavitt's three sons — twin 8-year-olds Aidan and Ezra, and 5-year-old Gabe — watched as costumed conventioneers passed by, leaving their lunches to ask politely for a photo with a man dressed in a homemade Doctor Strange suit.

"I'm seeing lots of people in costumes, and it's really fun. You get to see all these superheroes and new stuff," Ezra said, listing favorites among several Marvel heroes featured in the recent film "The Avengers."

There are life lessons to be learned as father and sons share Comic Con and their superhero hobby.

"Who better to teach you to choose between right and wrong, and to control your powers and control your potential, than Superman?" Leavitt said. "Or to teach you that no matter who you are, you can be super like Batman?"

Big screen, big changes

With a revitalized superhero following meant for more mature audiences comes movies, comics, costumes and storylines with heightened violence and sexuality.

"I was debating even bringing them to this, just because I know that has become more of an issue," Leavitt said, noting he had seen some costumes through the day he considered too revealing for his children's eyes. "But there's always going to be good and bad everywhere, and here, the good certainly outweighs the few little things that may be bad."

It's all part of teaching the boys about right and wrong, Leavitt said.

Other parents argued the Comic Con scene was too mature for children, despite free admission that was offered for children under 10. They voiced concerns about overly revealing costumes and illustrations on the convention floor, some staged alongside other displays that seemed geared toward children.

Leavitt and his wife remain aware of what their children are taking in by pre-screening any movies they want to see. So far, they've been limited mostly to the cartoon incarnations of their favorite characters.

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