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

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

Coming to the Con

As the Pust family worked side-by-side selling comics, a highlight for Rachael Pust was seeing parents and children who had dressed up together.

For three days, couples dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia paraded through the Salt Palace holding hands; parents came as villains, while their children played the roles of superheroes; mothers pushed strollers disguised as spacecrafts; and fathers in capes carried toddlers on their shoulders.

"These families are maybe even starting a new tradition," Rachael Pust said. "I'm all for anything that puts a family together to have something that they enjoy and that's different, inclusive and has something for everyone."

Some of the inaugural weekend's celebrity lineup noticed the difference as well. Actor Richard Hatch, best known for his roles as Apollo and Tom Zarek in both generations of the sci-fi hit "Battlestar Galactica," is a frequent visitor to Utah, where he teaches regular acting courses.

A longtime veteran of Comic Cons across the country, when Hatch agreed to come to Salt Lake's inaugural event, he expected a few hundred people.

Instead, it became what many believe set records as the largest first-year comic book convention as stars such as Stan Lee, William Shatner and Adam West agreed to appear.

"I never thought I would be coming to a mega sci-fi convention like this," Hatch said, applauding organizer Dan Farr for his groundbreaking Comic Con debut. "As a beginning event, this is only going to grow and get bigger and more epic, and I think it's going to be a great, wonderful event for Salt Lake that the whole family will discover is a place they want to go."

Every convention has its own flavor, Hatch said, and Salt Lake is no different.

"It feels like a whole new adventure each time," he said, adding that he would enjoy coming back to see how the convention grows.

Camden Toy, a character actor recognized playing several ghoulish adversaries in shows such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," was stunned at the convention's size and the number of young fans. He credited online streaming for movies and TV series for the rising popularity of comic book and sci-fi culture and conventions.

"'Buffy' and 'Angel' have a whole new following. We have a whole new generation of fans," Toy said. "I am having 15- and 16-year-old fans coming up to me, and obviously they didn't watch it when it was on TV. … We're getting a new resurgence. It's great to see these new, young fans coming up."

Toy was especially excited to greet the welcoming Salt Lake City fans, several hundred of whom showed their appreciation online when Toy was added to the lineup.

"That's unheard of. Even in the bigger conventions, it's rare (when) that many fans will stop and take notice and make a comment," Toy said. "I don't know what (event organizers) are doing, but they're doing something right."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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