Utah’s largest convention: Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience returns

Comic Con attendees dressed up in all manner of costumes to come together to attend workshops, take pictures, and see what vendors had to offer.
Attendees of the 2013 Salt Lake Comic Con dressed up to attend workshops, take pictures and see what vendors had to offer. (Courtesy Sarah Hill)

Whovians, Walkers and Potterheads, oh my! These and other dedicated fans will be descending on Salt Lake for Utah’s largest convention: Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience “FanX.”

Dan Farr Productions held its first Salt Lake Comic Con in September of 2013 with a record-breaking attendance of 72,000 people. Until that time the largest attended convention in Utah had 27,000 people. In April of 2014 Comic Con FanX broke its own record with 100,000 attendees, making it the third largest Comic Con in the United States and the largest per capita in North America. The following Salt Lake Comic Con, held September 2014, increased yet again, with 130,000 attendees.

“There are larger cities that aren’t able to pull off events as large as ours was,” Dan Farr, founder of the Salt Lake Comic Con, said.

Farr attributed the success of the Comic Con to strategic planning and the fan base in Utah.

“We took a strategic approach when we had our first event. Having a way to reach out to more people has been one of the key elements,” Farr said. “The fans here in Utah are the most passionate all around.”

Fans attend the Salt Lake Comic Con for a variety of reasons. For Chassie Sorensen, the unique environment appeals to her most.

“You get to be around everybody that likes the same kind of things. They don’t have to pretend to not be nerdy,” Sorensen said. “Nobody is going to judge them for it.”

In the beginning, Dan Farr Productions had to overcome the social stigma that Comic Con is all about comic books and nothing else.

“The biggest challenge for us was to really get the word out that you don’t have to be a comic book collector to come and have a good time,” Farr said.

Similar to Salt Lake Comic Con, FanX features movies, television shows, gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and comic books. However, FanX also includes elements from sports, wrestling, music and live entertainment. While Salt Lake Comic Con normally focuses more on comic books, FanX appeals to a wider audience by including celebrities from popular shows.

“When we do FanX we put more emphasis on the celebrity autographs and photo-ops,” Farr said.

FanX announced celebrity guests Paul Wesley and Phoebe Tonkin from “The Vampire Diaries”; Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Billie Piper from “Doctor Who”; Tom Felton from “Harry Potter”; Steven Yeun from “The Walking Dead”; and Carrie Fisher from “Star Wars.”

Farr said that in the beginning they had to convince celebrities to come to Utah for the Comic Con. Things have changed now due to the overwhelming fan response and success of the convention.

“We kind of had an uphill battle,” Farr said. “Since then the fans have made them (the celebrities) feel so welcome. I have a lot of people contacting me for our show.”

FanX also hosts authors, filmmakers and features such as the Batmobile, the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” and the TARDIS from “Doctor Who.” This year fans can attend the Doctor Who Ultimate Xperience to see cast members in a panel discussion.

“Matt Smith is supposed to be really awesome and super hilarious,” said Comic Con fan Sasha Maart. “So if the other two guests that are announced are there, and are anything like their characters, then it should be pretty epic.”

Another draw for the Salt Lake Comic Con and FanXperience is the Cosplay, where fans dress up and compete for prizes.

“I just love dressing up and seeing everyone else’s costume. The best part is walking around and people watching,” Sorensen said. “Some people go all out, and it’s fantastic.”

FanX runs Jan. 29–31; to see the master guest list, go to the Salt Lake Comic Con website.

Visit universe.byu.edu on Monday, Feb. 2, for video coverage of a BYU professor and avid Comic Con fan’s FanX experience.

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