My Review of Salt Lake Comic Con

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(L-R) Liz Cole, Jake Dietz, and Kevin Grew of The Geeky Mormon

Well, another edition of Salt Lake Comic Con has come to a close, and it’s six months until the next major event, FanX, so all we have now is discussing this major event and reliving it again and again until Easter weekend. One of the hashtags that the folks at Comic Con were encouraging people to use was #EPIC. I can’t think of a better way to describe Salt Lakes third comic convention. It seemed like epic was everywhere, from the guests, to the panels and even the new features. Even our coverage from The Geeky Mormon was epic, as we had all of our major contributors there (Erica is not pictured above, but trust me, she was there). I am sure Kevin and Liz will be offering up some posts about their experiences in the near future, but like all of us, they are probably still recovering. Especially Kevin, who ran his own booth there all weekend. If you didn’t stop by the Ryel Comics booth, then shame on you. It was great. A must do at future events. I had previously only interacted with Kevin and Liz online, so it was great to meet them in person, and see firsthand that we have some very quality people contributing to the site.

Alright, enough of that. Let’s get down to business. The Con. How was it? How did it compare to previous years? What could have been better? Well, I was there all three days, and had the good fortune this time around to be there as a VIP, so I got to see some of those VIP perks firsthand. Was it worth it? I’ll let you know. The way I see it, the convention is broken down into 5 categories, which I have named: Registration and entry, Vendor floor, Celebrity line up and panels, non-celebrity panels, and organization. I will go through each category and rate each, providing us with an overall rating. Sound good? Alright, let’s go.

Registration and Entry

Last year was a debacle when it came to registration and entry on the first day. I mean, it was bad. One of the best things about Salt Lake Comic Con is that they are always listening to fan feedback and trying to improve. During this years FanX, they introduced us to RFID wristbands that we got before the show, and just needed to activate. There were a few snags, including many of the wristbands coming with the little knobby part broken, so they needed to be replaced. This time around, it was similar, in that we received our wristbands before the show and could activate them online. They seemed to pack them with extra care, wrapping the little knobby part in extra bubble wrap to protect it. Some people were concerned as the con drew closer and they still hadn’t received their bands, but overall, I think most people did. These RFID chips make entering the con a breeze. As a VIP, I was looking forward to being on the vendor floor before everyone else. In the description of each level, it said VIPs got early entry, and Gold passes also got early entry, immediately after the VIPs. This isn’t exactly how it worked once I go to the show on Thursday. They had two lines. One was just multiples and the other was gold and VIP combined. This meant Gold and VIP got in at the same time. Not a big deal, since we were all in 3 minutes early, but it just wasn’t as advertised. That’s just nitpicking, and it really doesn’t bother me that Gold and VIP got in at the same time, they just need to add that to the description, so it says Gold gets in at the same time as VIP.

My only other, small, beef would be that they made mention of ordering your free kids’ wristbands by a certain date, to ensure they were mailed to you. I did that, and when my last package came, there were no kids’ wristbands. To make up for this, the mentioned that they would have these wristbands at every entrance. This wasn’t the case. When we came back on Thursday afternoon with our kids, we asked about the wristbands and the volunteer said they didn’t have any, and just that they changed that at the last-minute, and then sent us to the wrong place to get them. It all worked out in the end and we got the wristbands, so it was fine. It would be nice to have these in advance so we could write our phone number on them before hand and have them on the kids when we got there, instead of spending time at the convention looking for them and then getting them on the kids. Small beef, I know, but still important.

Overall, for registration on entry, I give SLCC15 4 out of 5 stars.

Vendor Floor

One of the big attractions for any convention is the vendor floor. This time, it seemed like there was a pretty good line up of vendors and a pretty good layout on the floor. On Saturday, there were definitely a few bottleneck spots, but there were over 100,000 people, so it’s understandable. What I really liked, though, was that they had some pretty great vendors there for the first time. The Funko Pop Life tour was there, which only had 2 other stops in the US: SDCC and NYCC. I was really excited about this, since I love Funko Pop. They had a great selection of Funko Pops, some that were hard to find in the “wild,” and they were reasonably priced. I personally bought 2: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Harry Potter in his Quidditch robes. They were $10 each, which is a fine price. The exclusive Funko figures they had for SLCC were $80, so I passed on those this time around.

One thing I really liked about the floor this time around was that KidCon was in a completely separate area- room 155- so it did not take up a bunch of space or interfere with the vendor floor. I also want to say kudos to Xfinity. One of the big complaints about previous cons was that Xfinity was there, trying to sell cable subscriptions. It just didn’t fit. This time around, Xfinity was there again, but they brought the Iron Throne and offered a free photo op. There was a line at their booth all day, every day. I personally don’t watch Game of Thrones, so it didn’t interest me, but I may have been the only one at the con that felt that way, so it was a huge success.

The one qualm I had with the vendor floor was the way they had the Artist Alley organized. Maybe they have done it this way each con and I never noticed, but this time I was looking for a specific booth: green 4. With the regular vendors, they have huge banners hanging up above each aisle, saying what number that aisle is. There is nothing like that for the artists. Instead, it goes by the color of their table-cloth. On the green aisle, for example, each of the tables had a green table-cloth. That was harder to see. Once I figured it out, it was alright, but couldn’t we have giant banners above each aisle that said “Green” or “White” or whatever?

The vendor floor, as a whole, gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars

Celebrity Lineup and Panels

Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell: those four alone made this lineup epic. In addition they had the Phelps twins from Harry Potter, Jenna Coleman from Doctor Who, the talent from MST3K, plenty of voice actors and my personal favorite, Sean Astin. It was really great, and really had someone for everyone. With my VIP pass, I tried to experience as many of the celebrity panels in the Grand Ballroom as I could. I definitely got my fill. The best panel of the weekend was Sean Astin. I was star struck just sitting in the audience. I would have embarrassed myself if I had actually met him. I could have sat in his panel for hours. I was disappointed when it was over.

The Chris Evans panel was, obviously, incredible. it would have been nice if it had started on time, instead of 30 minutes late, especially since he was scheduled for a photo op, so he had to leave at 11, leaving just Anthony Mackie. That being said, Anthony Mackie was hilarious. He was really a highlight of the whole weekend. The really amazing thing was the amount of Photo ops they got Chris Evans involved in. He doesn’t usually do that at conventions, and from what I have read online, he was really great with everybody, plus he tweeted out how much he loved our con and getting more up close with the fans, more personal.

Just because we got the Captain America Panel that SDCC did not get, I am giving this area a 5 out of 5.

Non-Celebrity Panels

A lot of people spend most or all of their days in the grand ballroom. They miss out on a bunch of really fun and interesting panels going on throughout the con. This year was pretty special for me, as I got to participate in my first panel for Salt Lake Comic Con. I am grateful to Blake Casselman and Ryan Call for making that happen. It was pretty cool to sit on the other side of the podium, and I was pretty nervous. Once I was up there, though, it wasn’t so bad. I had a lot of fun.

The panels in general are always great. The two gentlemen I mentioned above work tirelessly to put together a stellar list of topics for their panels. Almost any fandom is represented in some form or another, and the major ones get multiple panels talking about multiple facets of a particular fandom. There were multiple Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC and Disney panels. Each one is a lot of fun. If you like podcasts, you would love panels. They are like live podcasts. Just look in the list, find a topic that interests you, and then go to it.

One thing that was not as much fun, or one thing I have learned, is that a moderator can make or break a panel. A good moderator is there, prepared with questions, but they ask the questions and then get out of the way and let the panelists answer. A bad moderator makes the panel all about them and they don’t let the panelists talk that much. I saw both at Comic Con. I am not going to hold that against the overall score for the panels. As always this was a highlight for me, so I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Organization

This is an area of the con that gets better each time. I have to always remind myself that this is only the third Salt Lake Comic Con, and only their 5th show overall. Plus, it got huge very quickly, so there have been some growing pains. Some highlights for organization this year include the RFID wristbands, the multiple entrances, the ZipQ (the greatest VIP perk ever) and moving the Autographs and photo ops to the back of the vendor hall, where the lines there don’t interfere with the vendors.

The major thing that needs improvement is that there sometimes seems to be major communication block between upper management and the volunteers. The important thing to remember is that they are volunteers. Most of the representatives you will meet from Salt Lake Comic Con are not getting paid for this and they have other day jobs. They really do a great job, and I met some of the nicest volunteers. The issue is that sometimes things are advertised and communicated out to the con goers, and then the volunteers don’t know anything about it, or have been told something different. The kids’ wristbands are a good example of that. One thing was communicated to the con goers, but the experience was completely different. This is something that has improved with each con, but it is still a small issue. Each event, they spend more time and make more effort to improve their volunteers, and they have quite a few that have come back for each convention, so they are getting more experienced. This will continue to get better.

Overall rating for organization is 4 stars out of 5.

Bonus: The VIP

I have always just gone with a multiples, but this year we decided I could try VIP. We saved for it, and made it happen. Overall, I liked the VIP experience. If you are into the celebrities then this pass is worth it. Especially with ZipQ which works like a Fast Pass for the big panels. This is brand new, so there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out, but this perk alone makes the VIP worth it. I didn’t have to line up early for any panel in the ballroom. I just showed up 5 till and knew I had a seat. It was awesome. In addition, it is nice for photo ops to have a separate line and autographs, too, I suppose. In any case, if meeting the celebrities is something you are into, then the VIP is for you and is worth it. I don’t know if I will do it again, but I don’t regret doing it this time.

There you have it. A little wordy, but hopefully worth it and thanks for sticking with me as I wrote it. Overall, SLCC15 gets a 4.5 from me. I am still really feeling great about it. It was a lot of fun and well worth it. I can’t wait to see how FanX 16 turns out, but like everyone else, I will have to.

What did you think of Salt Lake Comic Con? Did it live up to your expectations? Let us know in the comments below, or by commenting on our Facebook page or send me feedback directly at thegeekymormon@yahoo.com.

Jake Dietz
Jake Dietz is a humble bank employee by day, and super dad to 5 little monsters by night. He enjoys all things geeky. That's why he started this blog. He considers himself a member of many fandoms, and dreams of the day when all geeks, everywhere, can find a way to live together in harmony.

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