Comic Con grows rapidly in Salt Lake City

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Han Solos, Iron Men and Doctors Who gathered in Salt Lake City last April at Comic Con’s record-breaking event, the FanXperience.

The convention broke records in April, when more than 100,000 people attended. That’s only 30,000 fewer than the country’s largest Comic Con in San Diego.

Britnee Barlett, from Las Vegas, attends Comic Con to meet many of pop cultures biggest names, like Boba Fett and other Star Wars characters. (Britnee Barlett)
Britnee Barlett, from Las Vegas, attends Comic Con to meet many of pop culture’s biggest names, like Boba Fett and other Star Wars characters. (Britnee Barlett)

Drawing on the success of the 2013 Comic Con, producers hope to expand for the upcoming September 2014 convention. The question many ask is why Utah attracts so many to Comic Con?

Comic Con was brought to Salt Lake City by partners Dan Farr and Bryan Brandonburg in September of 2013. The first convention broke records, including having the highest attendance of any opening Comic Con in the convention’s history.

“We were expecting maybe 40,000–50,000 people,” said Dan Farr, producer of Salt Lake Comic Con. “We ended up with more than 70,000.”

Clark Callahan, associate professor of communications, believes a lot of the success revolves around the culture in Utah.

“We (Mormons) are a narrative culture,” Callahan said. “We grow up with these stories from Primary, and we’re told to emulate these stories and reform ourselves in the form of these heroes.” Based on that assumption, it’s easy to see why a lot of Mormons are attracted to the heroes in pop culture, Callahan said.

Geekdom, a term that refers to the level that someone enjoys technology, science fiction, etc., is no longer something people are embarrassed about.

“We can thank movies like ‘The Avengers’ for making geek mainstream,” Farr said.

People like Tom Robinson, professor of advertising, have been made loyal fans because of their experiences at Comic Con.

“You can tell these people (stars and celebrities) love their fans,” Robinson said. “They understand what they’ve created, and they really give back to their fans.”

Salt Lake Comic Con’s strategies continue to be successful; officials are currently working with BYU to create a special advertising campaign. Pat Doyle, manager of the BYU Ad Lab, is confident Comic Con’s success and popularity will continue to grow.

“One of the things that Comic Con has done to make it really successful is to make it more family friendly,” Doyle said. “I think Bryan and Dan tapped into that right away and made it a fun and safe outlet for everyone.”

Much of the reason Salt Lake Comic Con is so focused on its fans is due to Farr’s efforts.

“I’ve always been about putting on things and events that stir people’s feelings and emotions,” Farr said. “I love to see people get excited about Comic Con.”

Comic Con employed social media marketing campaigns to touch fans on a personal level, which boosted its popularity.

“Many of the other Comic Cons only reach out to the super fans,” Farr said. “Here in Salt Lake, we reach out to every fan.”

Salt Lake Comic Con holds contests where fans can win free tickets and other prizes.

Additionally, a list on the event’s main page lists possible guests. Fans are encouraged to vote for their favorite actors and celebrities. Tom Hiddleson, who plays Loki from “The Avengers”, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes on BBC’s “Sherlock,” and Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine in “X-men,” are leading this online vote.

“It was like everything I loved in one place,” said recent graduate Brandon Trent. “No matter how un-geeky you may think you are, I can promise you there is something that you will love at Comic Con.”

As for the future of Salt Lake Comic Con, Farr feels confident its success will continue to grow.

“I feel like we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg here in Salt Lake City,” Farr said. “There are a lot more people who’ll come to Comic Con and have a blast.”

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