SALT LAKE CITY — For a convention dedicated to all things fantastical, Friday's clear blue skies and 60-degree weather provided the ideal backdrop for FanX Spring 2019 Salt Lake Comic Convention's opening day.
Organizers expect the two-day spring event to draw between 45,000 and 50,000 people to the Salt Palace Convention Center, a slightly pared-down version of FanX's fall three-day convention. This year's spring FanX represents a return to the smaller convention, after organizers opted not to hold a spring event last year in light of FanX's legal troubles.
"It would have been a tough year to have pulled it off," FanX co-founder Dan Farr told the Deseret News. "We also didn't have a great day that we would have done it. So I think not having the date and having the lawsuit, we just felt like it was safer to not do it."
Farr and co-founder Bryan Brandenburg are still fighting a federal judge's decision requesting they pay nearly $4 million in legal fees to San Diego Comic-Con International, who sued Dan Farr Productions, the company behind FanX, in 2017 for trademark violation over the name "comic con."
In May of last year, FanX was again in the spotlight following a public email and Twitter exchange between Brandenburg and best-selling Utah author Shannon Hale over the convention's sexual harassment policy. This led to FanX creating a Community Council on Harassment and Safety and partnering with the Utah Attorney General's Office, which maintains a 24-hour hotline for convention attendees to report assault, harassment, bullying or abuse at the convention. The hotline number is 1-833-OUR-FANX.
After the spring convention's one-year hiatus, Farr said he and Brandenburg have the opportunity to assess if the market in Utah can handle two FanX events a year. It also gives them a chance to rethink the spring convention's structure.
"We may want to modify the format a little bit," Farr said. "How can we do, like, a superfan event and keep it even maybe a little more limited than where we are now? … I hate that fans have to wait in lines ever — I want to eradicate the need for lines. That's some of the technology we'll be working towards. … We want to keep the show new and exciting, and always want to try new things to innovate on."
Farr described one idea they plan to test to limit lines as something akin to Disneyland's FastPass concept, where parkgoers are issued times to go on rides. But for many FanX attendees, these housekeeping items are a long way from reasons that brought them to the Salt Palace.
"(I come for) the fun, the people that come here, the cosplay, celebrities — lots of things really," Lexus Zobell of Heber City said. "It's very open. It's not very judgmental. It's very welcoming and it's very nice."
Zobell is not alone in her thinking. In addition to the event's attendees, vendors, artists, cosplayers and guest celebrities like TV actress Adelaide Kane also anticipate a positive experience in Salt Lake City.
"I'm looking forward to meeting fans because they're always so lovely," said Kane, a first-time FanX guest who is one of 31 featured celebrities at the spring convention. "And I'm looking forward to, if I get some chill time, going over to the vendors, … but I'm most excited to see what the fans have to say about my characters and who they liked and why they like them."Comment on this story
Kane is joining John Cleese, rocker Alice Cooper, "Star Wars" and "Willow" star Warwick Davis, Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, the stars of "Shazam!," "The Office" and many others. In addition to FanX newbies like Kane, there's also longtime celebrity attendees like voice actor Jess Harnell, who is celebrating his ninth appearance at FanX. He said he'd come even if he wasn't invited.
"The thing about Salt Lake I can say, hands down — print this, put it in bold type by my name — it's my favorite comic con in the world," Harnell told the Deseret News. "… I have made so many genuine connections with the people who come here. …There's this sense of reunion every time I come back here, and I honestly say this, if I could only do one con, this would be it."