SALT LAKE CITY—It’s human nature, and Utah nature, that makes Salt Lake Comic Con so popular.
At least that’s the theory of several Davis County residents who were on hand for this year’s con, which once again broke the records it set last year. More than 120,000 people from Utah and surrounding states crowded the Salt Palace for the three days of the event, and various celebrities seemed in awe of the response from the crowds.
“There are a lot of nerds in Utah,” said Woods Cross resident Ashley Wilson. “This brings everyone together.”
Craig Hawks, a Kaysville resident who co-hosts Legendarium, a fantasy and sci-fi podcast, disagrees. Instead of having more nerds or geeks than anything else, he feels that Utah just allows them to be more open.
“What the Salt Lake Comic Con does better than most is get people out of their houses and shows them that there’s a community right on their doorsteps,” he said. “Some people come in from out of state, but we also get tens of thousands of locals to come out. It’s not the same in San Diego, because it’s so international. You don’t get the sense that San Diego is a nerdy community.”
Others say that seeing that community encourages even those who might be reluctant to let their geek flags fly.
“It’s a critical mass of what is otherwise a hidden subculture,” said Sunset resident Nathan Shumate, a local author whose daughter made cosmic cubes to sell at the event. “People have these little passions and hobbies that no one in their neighborhoods share. Here, no one thinks you're weird if you dress up like Aqua Man.”
That lack of judgment leaves them comfortable with celebrating interests that they might not otherwise be willing to focus on so completely.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to explore a part of their lives that gets stuffed on a shelf for most of the year,” said Kaysville resident Curtis Kidd.
For others who aren’t quite ready to explore that part of themselves yet, conventions like this give them an example to shoot for.
“I’ve always wanted to cosplay, and it’s nice to meet people with the confidence to go out and do it,” said Clearfield resident Mark Wise.
That kind of crowd is also excellent for local authors and artists, who tap into the collected culture to give what can be an invaluable burst to their own careers.
“My daughter, who was 9 years old at the time, came here just to see Shannon Hale,” said Kenn Johnson, a Bountiful resident who is also involved with the Legendarium podcast. “Local authors and artists come here, make a fan base, and all of a sudden they’re a big name.”
The phenomenon, though, isn’t necessarily unique. According to Farmington resident Sreeja Nair, the sense of community that has made Salt Lake Comic Con such a success is available to any even that knows how to tap into it.
“I think something like this is going to be popular anywhere,” she said. “I can’t imagine a place where people aren’t passionate about at least some of this.”