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Extreme People Watching: the 2013 Salt Lake ComiCon

I am a self-proclaimed geek. I have very little by way of social skills when getting around a bunch of guys who are talking about sports, athleticism, or possibly beer. For the entirety of my high school career, I wanted to learn to play the accordion. I collected comic books and watched Batman: The Animated Series. For all but the accordion, I still do these things, though not as much. I would rather look at the toy section with my kids than help my wife pick out a dress, or even underwear. With my admitting that I’m a geek, there are a few exceptions to the geek rule that I have to also confess to: I don’t like Dr. Who. I don’t like Anime or Japanese culture. I thought Star Wars Episodes I-III sucked rocks. That’s it. After that, I’m a pretty big geek.

So this last week, I was entreated with the geek’s paradise come true. This last week was the annual ComiCon held for the first time in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with ComiCon, it’s like a massive theme park for geeks. Based originally on the concept of comic book lovers everywhere, it slowly evolved until most of the comic book superheroes you can find on the floor were people dressed up as them. And they aren’t part of the show.

ComiCon has become the safe haven for anything geek: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, big-name actors and authors, massive art showings, interviews, stage demonstrations, artists, models (both human and other materials) and booths. Oh my, the booths.

I was actually able to attend Thursday, before many of the main attractions really began to heat up. My story of how I was able to get in? Publicly, it had to do with my stealth and top-secret training that also involved counterfeiting a wrist band that allowed me to get in on the action unquestioned by authorities. The real story, however, was I knew a guy on the inside and for the price of helping him with his project, he was able to get me in.

As I mentioned, the booths were everywhere. I’ve not felt that lost in an enclosed room since the casinos in Las Vegas. And what was worse, I didn’t want to leave. I was able to see things that spoiled my inner child so badly that he threw a tantrum when I had to finally leave. There were exhibits from WETA (They were the guys who did everything for the Lord of the Rings trilogy except for script writing and casting) Legos, a local haunted house, and even a booth where models displayed their swimming suit and cosplay pictures for sale (the line of geeks went out the door for that booth).



The previous series of images were all taken of the non-sentient attractions at ComiCon. The Ghost Buster car was sitting outside the entrance next to the line that wound round the building. The second and third images were from the Hobbit at the WETA exhibit (The orc was at least 7 ft. tall), the Iron Man set was part of a huge selection of Legos built around fifteen to twenty tables all based on a different Lego theme, and the last two were statues you could purchase at one booth, costing $1,200 and $900 respectively. I’m not sure what you would do with the Aniken Skywalker statue. Is it really worth $900 to have something you can scream at in your house over and over again about how it ruined the Star Wars universe forever?

But the real joy of ComiCon was the people watching. People really went all out with the CosPlay. I was simply not fast enough with my camera phone to get everybody, but a few of the instances are below.

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The guy dressed as Jack Sparrow really got into the roll, portraying him exactly like Jonny Depp. Jack is standing next to a girl dressed like “Duff Man” from The Simpsons. She was one of the models I was talking about. Iron Man was fully functional, with light-up chest and hand blasters. Superman and Poison Ivy were a husband/wife team who came together, Dead Pool and Wonder Woman didn’t even know each other, but posed for the crowds nonetheless. Altier from the Assassin’s Creed games at the end of this picture group was just happy to be there.

One of the things about ComiCon is that it is a beacon for a sub-culture. Most of the costumes you see in these images were home made. At any given point, any two completely different strangers would walk up to each other and start talking like they had known each other for years. I’m pretty sure I had a conversation with the wife of Richard Paul Evans for ten minutes without even realizing it. And any conversation was open to multiple joiners and conversation drop-outs. Judging wasn’t completely out the window (we were all comrades-in-interest, not totally inhuman) but people were generally more accepting of each other’s interests there than anywhere else I’ve ever been in my life. I saw one gal dressed up like the main character in the video game Portal, which, I might add, you never really see the protagonist, except if you look just right. She even had the home made jump-boots attached to her feet, which were only obscurely referenced to outside of the game. Most of the people you saw in costume had spent months or years on them, and often included their kids in the mix.

Even so, what I saw that night was probably my equivalent of It’s a Wonderful Life where I saw my life style had I not gotten married. Or if I had married another geek. But more probably the first. I was lucky to get who I got to be honest with you. It was fun for a night, but without the wife and kids, it just wasn’t the same. It was also nice to see so much trust and comradere. I was entrusted to take pictures of people with more money in tech gear than I ever had visiting foreign destinations. But I think the ComiCon is another life that lives down a different time-stream for me. At least until my boys are old enough to go with me.

And you never know, if I go back down my geek-path far enough, I might end up like this guy.


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Benjamin varnell

Wednesday 2nd of October 2013

I am Iron man!

Ari T.

Tuesday 17th of September 2013

I had no idea Utah had its own ComicCon. I've known about the California one for years, being a semi-geek myself, but I'm glad you had the chance to go. I'm always impressed with the costumes that attendees wear. And all the friendly camaraderie amongst the geek culture superfans is pretty cool!

brett beyer

Saturday 14th of September 2013

For the sake of argument, my wife had me watch "Blink" from season 2 of Dr. Who, and I did enjoy it a lot. It was equal parts intriguing and scary.

For the record, I'm more of a "Supernatural" fan.


Tuesday 10th of September 2013

People watching is what I love to do best at SDCC here so I'm sure it'd be just as good elsewhere! Looks like you had a great time.


Monday 9th of September 2013

How fun! I've never heard of this before. I'd love to sit on a bench and just people-watch all day.

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