Superman steps off the train at the TRAX station, brushing off debris from his padded muscles. Hagrid crosses the intersection, adjusting his layers of heavy winter coats and re-attaching a long curly beard. The Powerpuff Girls quickly run up the sidewalk, selfie stick in hand, documenting their entire journey from the car to the Salt Palace. A few Jedi almost get run over as they try to cross the street to enter the convention.
It’s time for Salt Lake Comic Con 2015.
“It’s like Christmas morning … it’s a celebration of everything we love!” Aaron Lee Yeager said, addressing a conference room full of Zelda fans waiting for his panel, “Why We Love The Legend of Zelda.” Yeager begins to pump the crowd up by throwing out jumbo marshmallows.
I stand out like a U–of–U fan at LaVell Edwards Stadium. As I sit waiting for the panel to begin, someone begins ushering in as many Link lookalikes as can be crammed into the maxed-out conference room. With hundreds more anxiously waiting outside in hopes of eventually finding a seat, the panel begins with a roar erupting across the crowd.
“What is your favorite Zelda edition and why?” a crowd member asks. I’m instantly in over my head as I miss every single reference thrown out in a room full of costumed gamers laughing and applauding at the right cues. Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess are all received with nods of approval. These self-proclaimed “geeks” and “nerds” really are speaking their own language, and I’m dying to be a part of it.
I find myself staring at the two girls on the panel, Dezcreepcore and Erin Fritzsching, who have come in matching nylon onesie suits and full stage makeup. Their platinum blonde and jet-black wigs become my latest style envy and I find myself wondering how I can get my hands on one.
I entered the room not knowing a single Zelda game, yet left feeling a connection as if I had played the game for years. The passion for all things “comic” is infectious.
And so the fun begins.
As you enter the main conference hall, there are Cosplayers oozing out of every crack. There are entire sections dedicated to Star Wars, giant aliens, medieval characters, princesses, villains, nursery rhyme characters, super heroes, video game characters and the list goes on. I stop a few heavily dressed–up fans and ask how long it took to make their costumes.
“Just put this together this morning!”
The variety is amazing. Every age group, from toddler to grandparent, seem to be represented at this year’s Comic Con, which broke a record of being the largest-to-date in Utah with an expected crowd of over 130,000 attendees.
A common theme appears to pulse through the diverse group of fans. They are happy. As I wander through the endless labyrinth of aisles and booths showcasing the latest costumes, movie prop replicas and face paint, I see complete strangers approach others for photo-ops, high-fives and swapping of fun-facts and trivia.
Paul and Jason Gold have been attending Salt Lake Comic Con since it began in 2013.
“I come for the environment, the people, seeing the Cosplay, the celebrities and the booths,” Paul Gold said.
Dressed in full face makeup and green body paint to become “Thrall” from World of Warcraft, the Gold brothers can be frequently seen posing for pictures with fellow fans.
“It’s a chance to come be different, be a screw-off for a weekend,” Jason Gold said.
Ryan Glitch, a fan from upstate New York, see’s a different side of Comic Con. Glitch has been running a Sci-Fi speed-dating booth for the past five years.
“I went to a convention in Atlanta, and they had something similar, and it was terrible,” Glitch said. “I decided I could do it better, and it has just blown up at Cons. We just had our 70th marriage that has checked in with us on Facebook, 19th baby, and 49 couples are currently engaged.”
Speed-dating participants have two minutes to meet with each potential suitor before they are swept off to the next person. Glitch makes it a priority to keep everyone safe, meeting with the girls separately to give them secret signs to do if they feel uncomfortable with a certain match.
Stephanie Wane from Roy, Utah comes to two or three events a year.
“Ryan is hysterical, I mostly come to listen to him,” Wane said. “Most of the guys are too young, but you never know unless you try. Sometimes I think ‘You’re not my type’ until I talk to them and then I’m like, ‘Holy cow! You are my type!'”
Zach Alvord from Riverton, Utah was attending his fourth event.
“I love that there is a mix, a variety of everyone,” Alvord said. “It’s not just being with one group and striking out … You can be really geeky and not be afraid. I love that girls can come and show their true selves. You don’t find girls saying ‘Oh, I hope my hair looks good,’ instead it’s probably ‘I hope my costume looks good.'”
Jonathon Mario has been practicing makeup for ten years, and travels across the nation helping fellow fans transform into their wildest Comic Con dreams.
“Life was too boring,” Mario said. “I always wanted to be a mermaid when I was little, and I was told I couldn’t be. I got a makeup kit and discovered I could create anything. Nightmares, fantasies, making myself a mermaid, I could make them real.”
Dennis and Kathy Jenkins (ages 64 and 57) attend the event to support their daughter.
“I love the celebrities,” Kathy Jenkins said. “I love going to the Kid Con with my grandkids.”
“What isn’t there to love?” Dennis Jenkins said.
With so many different exhibits, this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con was no let down. From breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of comic book characters, (1,784), to celebrity appearances from Captain America and Lord of the Rings actors, Salt Lake Comic Con 2016 will have a lot to live up to.
As I wave my wristband over an iPad to acknowledge my exit from the event, I pass a grown man dressed as an ape in a diaper. “Pretty neat, huh?” he said while readjusting his mask.
I had to agree with apeman. Salt Lake Comic Con 2015 was, indeed, pretty neat.