Dan Farr has some powerful backers for SLC's first Comic Con. (Characters from left to right: Batman, Spider-woman, Farr as Clark Kent, imperial stormtrooper, Kenzi from Lost Girl, ghostbuster.) Photo by Adam Finkle.

Imperial stormtrooper Michael Carrasco, who moonlights as a downtown Salt Lake City property manager, remembers the first time he met Darth Vader. “I was just a kid and there he was—Darth Vader,” he recalls with a certain faraway look in his eyes. “It was like Christmas or the Second Coming!”

Carrasco, of course, is talking about meeting a guy in a Darth Vader costume, but the emotional impact was the same as an audience with the Star Wars Dark Lord himself. Carrasco was hooked on cosplay, short for costume play—a form of performance art in which fans of comic books, superheroes, anime and children’s fantasy masquerade as pop culture’s heroes, villains and sex bombs.

Kolten Cooke, a committed Ghostbuster (he meticulously hand-fabricated his costume and paranormal-fighting equipment), is shocked to be asked why he chose that particular costume. “I wouldn’t cosplay anything else.”

Cosplay is just part of the allure of the so-called comic conventions held globally that are attended by hordes of fans. So, it comes as no surprise that Carrasco and Cooke are beside themselves that Salt Lake City will host its first ever Salt Lake Comic Con this fall.

“This is huge,” says Corrasco. “It’s been a long time coming to Salt Lake City.”

Note: If you aren’t feeling heart palpitations or sweaty palms about now, it’s safe to say you are not a geek—not that the sheer flamboyance of Comic Con won’t appeal to you too.

Dan Farr, who successfully founded and retired from a 3-D animation company, is finding himself somewhat of a superhero for having the audacity to produce Salt Lake Comic Con. But to hear Farr tell it, even a zombie could see the business potential.

“Person for person, Utah is more media friendly than the next city,” Farr says. “People here love superheroes.” Farr figures that, per capita, Utahns are more into this form of pop culture because so many people don’t drink or smoke and avoid bars. “They have to find other ways to spend their entertainment dollars.”

The pop culture passion that fuels Comic Con brings together the state’s Mormons and non-Mormons. “Geekdom bridges the gap,” he says. “It’s fun to see a whole group of people—some dressed like walking dead, some like game characters or superheroes, in one place. At Comic Con, heroes and villains, we can all get along.”

Mimi Cruz, owner of Night Flight Comics, agrees. “It bridges that divide—it doesn’t deal with politics and it doesn’t deal with religion. It’s about good stories, good art and exciting adventures.”

Or ask Batman (aka James Carlson of South Jordan) “When Adam West and Burt Ward walk through the door at Comic Con, it’ll change Salt Lake culture forever.”

Salt Lake Comic Con will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Sept. 5–7. Special guests include William Shatner (Star Trek), Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman), Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), Tia Carrere (Wayne's World), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Claire Coffee (Grimm) and many others. Click here for more info.

Next>>>Playwright Eric Samuelsen probes the dark places.

Back>>>Read other stories in our October 2013 issue.