It's January. It's cold. There's some snow out there somewhere. The celebrities are in town. Typically, that simply would indicate that it's time for the Sundance Film Festival. But, in 2015, it also means it's time for another Salt Lake Comic Con.
For the second year in a row, we're treated to the "FanXperience," hosted by Salt Lake Comic Con. This year, however, it's taking place at the end of January rather than in the spring.
True to its name, convention organizers plan to make the event more experiential, offering more chances to interact with celebrities, exhibitors and creative folks in attendance. One way they're doing that is by capping ticket sales. Since overcrowding was a major concern at past events, this event will limit attendance to half of what it was before, and give those who attend a fighting chance.
And what is it we'll be seeing at the event this time around?
For a Star Wars nerd like myself, the biggest news comes in the form of an appearance by Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. Not only is she the star of the classic Star Wars movies, but she spent much of 2014 in London, reprising that role for December's Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. Having met Fisher before, I can say with confidence that she's unpredictable. Having her in the building means that anything can (and will) happen.
For Whovians, there will be an assembly of talent from the BBC's Doctor Who that is second to none, led by Matt Smith, who played the titular Doctor from 2010 to 2014. With him will be his long running red-headed companion, Karen Gillan, who played Amy Pond through much of the same stretch of time. And then there's Billie Piper, who played Rose Tyler, companion to the ninth and 10th Doctors. Hopefully nothing goes wrong, because the last time Rose Tyler was in Utah, she and the ninth Doctor found a Dalek. And when the 11th Doctor was here last? Well ... he died. And then he had to solve his own murder. It was weird.
For comic-book fans, there are some incredibly exciting guests, with Superman at the top of the list—not the Man of Steel himself, but one of the guys who played him in a movie: Brandon Routh. He wasn't just Superman, though. He was also Ramona Flowers' evil ex-boyfriend Todd in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and is currently cast as Ray Palmer (The Atom) on Arrow.
Those of us who enjoy cartoons are in luck at this year's FanX. Some of the most talented voice actors in the world will be making appearances. The two I'm most excited about are Jim Cummings and Rob Paulsen. Cummings has provided the voice of characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Darkwing Duck and Hondo Ohnaka (y'know, from The Clone Wars?). Paulsen is the voice of two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as Yakko Warner from the classic Animaniacs, among many others. If you get a chance to see them on panels, do it. They can take any story and make it the most interesting thing you've ever heard. Cummings is the star of my favorite online Thanksgiving stuffing-recipe video, and I once spent an hour in the green room at a convention with Paulsen as he spun a bizarre yarn about the man who killed Jimmy Hoffa—using about eight different voices. Men like these are true entertainers of the highest order.
Don't get too wrapped up in all the celebrity hype and panels,though. Convention organizers have curated what may well prove to be the absolute cream of the crop for artists and writers, both local and national. There will be no shortage of places for you to buy unheard-of books, comics, art and sketches. You may come for the celebrities, but this is where the beating heart of conventions lives: If you miss the interactions with the creative talent on the exhibition floor, you're missing half of the experience.