By Lynn Blamires feature writer for My Local Utah
Few things are exploding as fast as new characters that are being created on the big screen and small screen world of superheroes. While these heroes only existed on the pages of comic books when I was a boy, there were not so many of them as there are today.
Even Kids Like to Be Superheroes
However, with even just a little imagination, one of mom’s dish towels, and our big swing set, I was going to have a Superman experience. Tying the dish towel around my neck, I dashed out the backdoor. Reaching the swing, I hopped on and began pumping for all I was worth. This was going to be great! I kept going higher and higher. My plan was to jump out at the peak of my swing and with cape flying, land in a Superman stance. For one glorious second, I would become a superhero.
Unbeknownst to me, my cape/dish towel had wrapped tightly around one of the chains on the swing. My launch at the pinnacle was made with misplaced confidence. When I reached the end of the entangled “cape”, I was yanked back throwing my body out straight. Landing flat on my back, I had the wind knocked out of me. My cape/dish towel was strangling me.
My dad came running, but by the time he got to me, I was beginning to recover. Realizing that I was not seriously hurt, he asked me if I would do it again so he could get it all on film – ha, ha. The experience was sobering, but it did not daunt my fascination with superheroes.
Fans Can’t Get Enough Superhero Movies
Today, these heroes have taken charge of movie theaters. Audiences can’t seem to get enough – in fact, the entire entertainment industry is being saturated.
What is it that makes people get “in character” as soon as they put on a superhero costume? Is there something in us that is looking for superhuman abilities to solve everyday problems?
Cosplay Is Driving the Success of Comic Conventions
Comic-Con events provide a platform for superhero fans to put on costumes and get in character. It is what is driving the success of these conventions.
It is referred to as “cosplay.” According to Daily Jstor (July 21, 2022), costume play is “for an individual fan … to embody and identify with an adored character whose persona is real for the fan, actor, and/or creator of the cosplay costume.”
World-Con Started It All in 1939
It all started with World-Con in 1939. It was created “to celebrate the worlds built by the imagination of the science fiction writers.” “Back in the day, notable authors frequented science fiction conventions (more commonly known as sci-fi cons). Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov were regular attendees and guests.” (Learn more here.)
Birth of Comic-Con in San Diego
The first Comic Convention was held in San Diego in 1970 and was attended by 170 fans. The San Diego Comic-Con was interrupted by the pandemic, and while the last Con was held in July, the 2015 numbers came in at about 170,000. If the rebound from the pandemic holds true to this event, that number would far exceed those numbers as this phenomenon grows.
It was at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1976 that George Lucas promoted his Star Wars movie before it was released. He gave out posters which are now a sought-after collector’s item.
Birth of FanX
FanX got its start in 2013 and is the largest convention in the state, made even larger by the fact that it is held twice a year. Because of the pandemic, the number of participants is not true to the event. While the attendance numbers are not in for the last Con, the crowds are just getting bigger.
Cosplay is a big reason people are drawn to Comic Conventions. I was a witness to this phenomenon at the fall con held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. People donned costumes and drifted in and out of character as they made rounds on the floor of the convention hall.
Get Into Character at FanX
They were more than willing to have pictures taken. That is when they were most true to their chosen character. I asked the Sanderson Sisters of Hocus Pocus for a picture, the three immediately struck a pose that was straight out of the movies.
FanX is a great place to go for people-watching – not only for those into cosplay costumes but also for the people who were watching other people. It is fun to see reactions to those in character.
The Draw of Vendor Booths
The vendor booths are another big draw for fans. There were booths selling swords, knives, games, and jewelry. There was a booth for tattoos where I watched people getting tattoos from wild to mild.
Many vendors offered a wide variety of art, books of the fantasy genre, crowns, armor, hats, and costumes. Food booths selling fudge, jerky, and honey were also popular.
One booth featured the Ghostbuster Squad in full attire, complete with a version of the “Ectomobile.” At their booth, you could sign up to have the GB Squad make a showing at your party to exorcise any specters that might be present or imagined.
The Game Section Is Popular
A section of the floor was set up for participants to join others in playing sophisticated board games and those that required role-playing. I don’t remember seeing anyone playing checkers.
They Go to See the Movie Stars
Another draw for participants was the movie stars including William Zabka and Jacob Bertrand from Cobra Kai, Camren Bicondova, Cat Woman in Gotham, Eduardo Franco, and Grace Van Dien of Stranger Things. Timothy Omundson from the movie Xena Warrior Queen plus Xochiti Gomex from Dr. Strange.
My experience started with the Frontrunner, which I took to avoid parking problems. As I boarded, I met the character Harly Quin who is associated with The Joker. On the train, I met Ann who portrayed Zelda. She likes to sew and she makes costumes to wear to FanX.
Most everyone I talked to, had bought tickets to attend all three days of the convention. I met some very dedicated fans as the pictures in this article portray (see gallery below).
FanX Keeps Getting Better
FanX keeps getting bigger and better, just ask anyone who attends. The fans have made it one of the top four Comic Conventions in the country.