Salt Lake Comic Con begins third annual event as one of the top conventions in … – Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Between their businesses and hobbies, Kat and Jimmy Martin’s interests have taken them from one geeky convention floor to the next.

He’s a film critic regularly sharing his reviews on Utah radio, TV and podcasts. She’s an artist who has recently made a name for herself painting nerdy pop culture characters into otherwise pedestrian landscape scenes.

The amount they travel between pop culture and comic conventions has intensified over the past few years, but no matter how many events they visit, the highlight of their schedule is always coming home to Salt Lake Comic Con.

“If I had to choose between Christmas and comic con, I would choose comic con,” said Kat Martin, who is hurrying to finish the new set of paintings she will unveil when Utah’s favorite geek convention reconvenes next week.

The third installment of Salt Lake Comic Con will once again open the doors on a three-day geek nirvana starting Thursday at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

“What they’ve done in just three years is nothing short of extraordinary,” Jimmy Martin said. “The people that show up to these things and the energy that’s in that building, the cosplaying and the costumes people dress up as, is nothing like any other I’ve seen.”

The brainchild of Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, event organizers and entrepreneurs, Salt Lake Comic Con has been surpassing expectations since its inception three years ago. The inaugural convention staged in only a corner of the Salt Palace was butting up against the building’s fire codes with more than 70,000 guests, especially after organizers added last-minute guests like Marvel creator Stan Lee.

It only grew from there, expanding to eventually fill the downtown convention center while comfortably accommodating 120,000 fans at the 2014 comic con event, with Lee returning and declaring the convention “the greatest comic con in the world.”

Organizers attribute their huge attendance numbers in part to their strategy of making the event a place where all levels of geeks can celebrate a vast array of interests, including mega Marvel movies, beloved DC Comics characters, TV shows such as “Arrow” and “The Walking Dead,” or nerdy cult favorites like “Firefly.”

“Some don’t know they’re comic book fans, but they’re watching TV and movies that are based on comic book characters,” Brandenburg said. “That’s the bridge we decided to create to take it from a niche comic book convention to a mass-market pop culture event.”

The fledgling convention has risen to be counted alongside the top pop culture events in the country, including events such as the well-established San Diego Comic-Con International and a growing New York Comic Con, which currently claims to be the largest event of its kind in the country.

Organizers are developing strategies to keep traffic moving in the popular hall, expedite entrance into the convention, provide a range of ticket options for different budgets and admit as many people as possible to see their star-studded panels.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake Comic Con’s success has run afoul of the San Diego event, which issued a cease and desist letter citing alleged trademark violations over use of the term “comic con” just prior to Salt Lake’s 2014 event. The two are now engaged in an ongoing lawsuit.

While Salt Lake Comic Con comes within range of attendance at the top conventions, it’s still working to match the more mature cons when it comes to special events and premieres.