Nerds and Beyond traveled to FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention this year — Utah’s largest comic convention — for a weekend of cosplay, fan art, and more. Notable guests among the massive star-studded lineup for this year included Spider-Man himself Tom Holland, Hayden Christensen of Star Wars, John Rhys-Davies from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the star of many cult classics, Christina Ricci.
I have been attending FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention off and on since its start in 2013 with other members of my family. The event became somewhat of a family getaway twice a year as we made a point of trying to go to both the spring and fall events. Every now and then, life would get in the way, and we’d have to skip one. It had been some time since I made it out to Salt Lake City for the full three days of my favorite event of the year.
The event kicked off on Thursday, September 5 for yet another busy, fun-filled weekend. I showed up on Thursday afternoon, feeling like I had come home. The short day consisted mainly of me walking the convention floor with my family and getting a feel for this year’s layout. The great thing about FanX is that many of the fan favorites return every year and are usually in the same spots as previous years.
The aisles throughout the floor seemed easier to move through this time around. I found it less packed as I wandered through the artist and vendor booths, and was able to take my time to admire and browse all of the fantastic items for sale. Food vendors lined the outsides of the space and there was also a food court set up. One of the best things was the added availability of seating near food vendors so that con-goers could sit down, relax, and eat. Every time my family and I stopped for something to eat, we always found a spot to sit, which wasn’t always the case at past events. Also, if attendees wanted to step outside for a little while, food trucks lined the sidewalks right outside of the Salt Palace and many restaurants are within walking distance of the building. No matter what you were in the mood for, FanX had it — burgers, sandwiches, pizza, tacos, or Chinese cuisine — there was a lot to choose from.
As with any large gathering of people, restroom situations tend to be a lot of waiting in line, especially on busy con days. While the Salt Palace does have a lot of restrooms on the main floor, I found that I was better off making the trip to the ones on the second floor of the convention center as they always seemed to be less busy. With countless people working the convention, everything was always well stocked and clean. In fact, I don’t think I ever entered a restroom during the entire three day event where there wasn’t someone in there making sure it was adequately kept.
When you first walk in, you’re greeted by the ever-so-talented artists of Artists Alley. Artist Alley is my favorite part of the whole convention. Perhaps it’s the artist in me, but I am partial. The vendor floor was just after Artist Alley as you work your way through the convention floor. Booths and tables packed with fandom apparel, toys, jewelry, and so much more were available to purchase. The only big difference that I saw in this event compared to past events was that 2D creators were in a different area from Artist Alley called Creator Row. Regardless, if you were attending a convention with the intent of purchasing artwork or goodies, FanX had some of the best work to offer.
Celebrity Row was one of my favorite parts of FanX this year and it was set up so well. That area and the photo op area have been reworked each year as the organizers try to get a feel for what works best for everyone, and I feel that the setup was phenomenal this time around. In the past, these areas have often been cramped and simply just not set up to accommodate a lot of people. I usually tried to stay away from photo ops and Celebrity Row in general as it always felt too crowded in the past. This year though, I was at ease with the space between celebrity booths and more organized lines. I even managed to snag some selfies with Joey Fatone, Sebastian Roche, and Benedict Wong at their tables. If there’s one thing that FanX is really good at, its taking con-goer concerns and criticisms and working on those to make the experiences better.
I don’t usually get the chance sit in on panels when I attend FanX. There’s always so much to do and see, and I’m usually in attendance with my kid who refuses sit through panels, so it was a nice treat to be able to catch some this year.
On Friday, I headed to the Grand Ballroom just as Jason Isaacs was finishing up his panel so that I could catch The Lost Boys panel with Keifer Sutherland and Jason Patric. The two talked about their experiences in working on the cult hit and how lucky they were to have been a part of it. Sutherland shared some funny stories about the experience. It was interesting to listen to the two talk about their long careers in Hollywood and getting more insight on some of the many wonderful projects they have worked on.
Tom Holland was the most anticipated guest this year and I was lucky enough to win a spot for his panel on Saturday via lottery. While the Grand Ballroom could hold 4,500 people, it wasn’t enough seating to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend, which is why FanX offered the panel lottery. Anyone who couldn’t get into the Ballroom could watch the panel in an overflow room on a big screen however. I received my QR code on Friday with instructions on when and where to meet. I arrived about a half an hour before my 9:00 a.m. meeting time and was met with a crazy long line of other fans. Volunteers escorted each group into the building, scanned wristbands and QR codes, and ushered us into the Grand Ballroom. This was my first time sitting in on a big panel, and it was handled beautifully.
The Grand Ballroom filled up quickly with about 5,000 fans and the crowd was entertained with jokes and a dance party while we waited for Holland to show up. When Holland did take the stage, he talked about his dream convention — Golf Con — and how much he loves to play golf. He spent some time discussing what it was like to play Spider-Man and how he deals with fame. Holland had lovely things to say about his Avengers family and what it was like to work with the cast, and how kind and professional they are. He also talked about visiting children’s hospitals while dressed as Spider-Man, stating that, “I saw what an immediate impact it had on those kids, and their parents, too.”
No fan questions were allowed during his panel, which is unusual for FanX, but the moderator asked some great questions. Holland ended his panel waving to the crowd as he said, “I love you 3,000.”
I had planned to try to sit in on the Star Wars panel with Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid, but it had been cancelled at the last minute, so I joined in on a smaller panel; The Road So Far: The Final Ride of Sam and Dean Winchester. It featured some authors, who were also Supernatural fans, who had a lot of thoughts about season 14 and even more thoughts about what could be coming in season 15. It was fun to sit in on a discussion with others from a fandom that I am very passionate about (and no one talked badly about Chuck, so it was great.)
Finally, how can one talk about a comic convention without mentioning the cosplay? By far, one of my favorite things to do is wander the convention floor and admire the cosplay. FanX attendees definitely don’t hold back on their creativity and dedication to the craft.
With an impressive guest list with the likes of Tom Holland, Hayden Christensen, Christina Ricci, and others, FanX just continues to get better and better. They also added a slew of new attractions and events for this years show, making sure that every second of each day left fans with something fun to do. There was Dart tag, an A-10 simulator cockpit, a lip syncing contest, axe throwing, a Zorb track, Fandom Court (where attendees could settle some of the biggest debates in pop culture in front of a jury of fellow con goers), and an escape room. Ink Alliance, an international team of tattoo artists specializing in pop culture body art designs, was set up right in the middle of all of the excitement so that fans could even stop and get their very own fandom tattoo.
Every event leaves me excited to see who FanX will bring in next and what else they can bring in for attendees to experience. I already can’t wait for next years convention. FanX also seems to be leaning toward one event a year, passing up their usual spring event and returning next year with a fall event on September 17-19. You can keep up to date with future guest announcements and ticket information on the FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention website.