Friday, September 5, 2014

Con-Man: Salt Lake Comic Con Friday

After yesterday's infuriating experience in Salt Lake City for the con, I can happily report that Friday was much, much better.  Sure, our early entry was about 20 minutes late but honestly the floor wasn't that big and never got uncomfortably crowded.  Their exhibition floor reminded me of Long Beach Comic Con's, only bigger.  The Artist Alley was rocking with lots of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, movie/TV and Groot art while exhibitors sold everything from toys to comics to Star Trek molded chocolate.  Strangely, there were a lot of weapons dealers on the floor.  You know, selling samurai swords, knives, throwing stars and the like?  I wanted to buy a pair of brass knuckles but not sure if I'd have enough time to mail them to myself since the TSA probably wouldn't appreciate them on the plane.  There was a spot for the chitlin's dubbed KidCon plus a surprising abundance of food vendors offering pizza, burgers, Cambodian food, sammiches and the like.  A ring showcased local wrestling as well as LARP'ing, Live Action Role Playing.  On the cosplay front, we noticed tons of women dressed as Loki but honestly not many men.  Also popular was women dressed as Mario and I saw more than a few Ash's from Army of Darkness as well as the most random cosplay fad of the last few years, Jack Frost from Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians.  Swag wise it was a button, sticker and magnet filled day with Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Biehn, Race Bannon, The Rocketeer, Nick Fury and the Ninja Turtles items all joining my household.

I had to refrain from digging through comic boxes and half off graphic novels as we're hopping back on a plane but I am on the hunt for Captain America # 14 from the latest series when he returns from Dimension Z.  One of the first purchases of the day came from Cape and Cowl, a store located in my backyard in Orange County yet the one thing I bought from Seattle's Emerald City Comicon?  A Dutch action figure from Predator from these guys.  They always have a great selection and good prices so I'm happy to hand them some bucks.  The Celebrity signing area was hopping with the likes of James Hong, Ron Perlman, Hulk Hogan and Danny Glover courting fans.  With our $20 off a Photo Op burning a hole in my pocket, I decided we should get a serious family portrait with Lethal Weapon and Predator 2's Mr. Glover.  Unfortunately the Photo Op line was moving at a snail's pace, maybe tomorrow.  Upstairs with a great view of the exhibition floor was a transported arcade complete with Battle Toads, Spy Hunter and the holy grail of multi-player button smashing side scrollers, Captain America and The Avengers!  Like Final Fight, this simple punch'em up was one of my favorites as a kid and we quickly dumped several bucks into the machine.  I forgot how comic related the game was as you can choose between Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Vision while The Red Skull, The Grim Reaper, Whirlwind, The Mandarin, a Sentinel...I mean Giant Robot are among your adversaries.  Avengers regulars like The Wasp, Wonder Man and Namor the Submariner show up to help you out. I'm tempted to go at it again tomorrow with an Alexander Hamilton or Andrew Jackson and see who else turns up.

Panel wise the floor was kind of confusing and we spent a good 10 minutes wandering around looking for the ball room after Security just shrugged when we asked.  We only hit up two, both spotlights on actors, Alan Tudyk and Manu Bennett.  Even though we arrived nearly 30 minutes early, there was already a decent line and SLCC sells VIP tix, giving badge holders first entry and their line seemed plenty long as well.  Fortunately we got some decent seats and there were two large screens in the room for enhanced viewing.  Tudyk is a con regular and employed a panel style I've never seen, he brought question askers up to the stage to sit with him and then the two would each ask the other one question culminating with Tudyk handing them "some shit" from his bag of goodies.  It was mostly random stuff and swag like tee shirts, a harmonica from the lead singer of Blues Traveler, a CD, a pair of Prada sunglasses he never wore after Bridget Moynahan told him they didn't fit his face, etc.  It was a refreshing change of pace and Tudyk was quite the sport and showman, reciting lines from his work in Frozen, Firefly, Transformers 3 and regaling us with the story of how The Cosby Show and Thundercats' Earle Hyman told him to give up acting and go work for his father.  When Tudyk refused, Hyman then become a mentor to help prepare the then 19 year old. 

The room cleared out and we snagged some solid near front seats for Manu Bennett of Spartacus, The Hobbit and Arrow.  Bennett started things off on a surprisingly educational and cultural note by bringing out members of the Ute tribe, Salt Lake City's original settlers.  Bennett too is a regular on the con routine but came off very sincere and appreciative to be on stage.  Audience members lined up on both sides of the stage and Bennett took their questions, addressing and speaking directly to them which was a nice touch.  However, like Kevin Smith, Bennett is prone to answering a question with a story that prefaces another story so not many queries receive reply.  One just wanted a hug which Bennett graciously granted while discussing how he got involved with The Hobbit: another actor spent a year and a half in the role of Azog but Peter Jackson thought the prosthetic make up wasn't up to snuff and with 3 months before the premiere, made the decision to replace the role with a Motion Capture performance a la Andy Serkis' Gollum and Bennett, who had auditioned earlier, got the call.  Many questions were about Arrow and Bennett's portrayal of Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke and the darkness of the role.  Here, Bennett opened up to the crowd and shared that his mother and brother both died in car accidents at a young age and that his little brother literally died in his arms.  No fluffy, softball stuff for this guy, which is why I like him.  When a young woman shared that her mom died when she was 8, Bennett jumped down off the stage and gave her a big hug, telling her she's on her way as she showed her strength and honest heart by opening up in front of a crowd.  Now off the stage, Bennett took a seat in the front row to answer the next question.  Oh yeah, he's super yoked too and was wearing a skin tight shirt to show it. 

Having been at the show for nearly 9 hours, we decided to scram and find some dinner.  Luckily Squatters Craft Beers down the street was the total opposite of yesterday's disappointing cookie cutter Red Rock Brewery.  With a character rich décor and an excellent turkey burger on the menu, we took off in search of a Chase ATM but the app lied to me and we ended up strolling around a beautiful outdoor mall with several fountains.  Across the street was the Mormon Temple which has some gorgeous, castle looking structures in the middle of downtown.  Again, the centuries old architecture blends seamlessly with the modern design and along with the more noticeable foot traffic, Salt Lake City felt a bit more bustling today.

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