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Shatner, Lee and record-breaking crowds: Inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con ends with a bang

Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 9:55 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — As thousands of people filled the Salt Palace Convention Center’s main stage Saturday waiting to see Marvel's icon, the audience started chanting “Stan Lee.”

“Look at all of you with nothing better to do,” Lee told the crowd as he walked on stage.

Looking at his image on the screen behind him, Lee said, “Wow, do I look great. No wonder you came to see me.” The audience cheered.

When the question-and-answer session was about to begin, Lee quipped, “I have to answer questions? This is going to be work? I thought we were here to have fun.”

The “Comic King” was just one of dozens of special guests who attracted thousands of attendees to Salt Lake City’s first Comic Con.

According Salt Lake Comic Con, the convention broke records for the largest inaugural Comic Con for any city.

With more than 50,000 tickets sold, Comic Con goers filled the Salt Palace halls to the max during the final day of the convention. At one point during the afternoon, fire marshals restricted access to the center to control the booming numbers of attendees; only one person could enter for every attendee that left the convention center.

For Dan Farr, the event’s creator, the turnout was almost unbelievable.

“Talk about a wild ride,” Farr said on Thursday. “This Comic Con has gotten so much bigger than we ever imagined. This is has gone better than my wildest dreams.”

Stars come to Utah

One of the keys to the convention’s success was the diverse lineup of guests. From Power Rangers to Darth Maul to orcs and dwarves, the convention provided a guest for almost any fandom.

For some of the guests, it was not their first visit to Utah.

Before beginning his Q&A Saturday, William Shatner spoke of his previous travels to Utah, usually to ski or hike along the Wasatch Front. But twice his visits to Utah coincided with Star Trek history.

Before landing the role of Captain James T. Kirk, Shatner starred in a Broadway bond play that premiered at the University of Utah.

“I got a call saying, ‘You can’t go to Broadway,’” Shatner said.

Shatner was needed for the pilot of a new series — “Star Trek.”

“It was right here,” Shatner said.

Manu Bennett — known for his roles in “Spartacus,” “Arrow” and as Azog the Pale Orc in “The Hobbit” — first came to Utah as a 19-year-old traveling by bus from Buffalo, N.Y., to Los Angeles. One of the places the bus stopped along the way was Salt Lake City.

“I was wondering what this city was doing out here in the middle of the desert. But it fascinated me,” Bennett said. “So when Dan said 'Salt Lake City,' I had this flashback to being a 19-year-old traveling across the expanse of America, and it just sounded like it was calling me back, really. I sort of ritually signed on and said, ‘Sure, that sounds like a great place to go and do a Comic Con.’”

As guests signed on to Comic Con, more guests followed.

After Bennett signed on, Weta Workshops and William Kircher, who stars as Bifur in “The Hobbit,” also became guests. Weta Workshops is known for its work creating weaponry, figurines and prosthetics for films such as “King Kong,” the Lord of the Rings trilogy and “The Hobbit.” Weta Workshops has never appeared at a U.S. Comic Con outside of San Diego Comic Con — until Salt Lake.

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