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Salt Lake’s record-setting convention kicks off its FanXperience (+photo gallery)

SHARE Salt Lake’s record-setting convention kicks off its FanXperience (+photo gallery)
We have so many great heroes in this city, people who help us all. I think we need heroes in life, and it’s nice to have so many superheroes here today at Comic Con. – Co-founders Dan Farr

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Comic Con is back for a second round, much to the delight of tens of thousands of Utah pop culture enthusiasts.

Utah’s second Comic Con convention kicked off Thursday morning with a press conference featuring event co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and a handful of celebrity guests.

“It’s been such an amazing opportunity,” said Farr, who has become the face of the wildly popular convention.

Flanked by members of Utah’s military and fire departments, Farr thanked the civil servants for protecting the state and being heroes to its residents.

“We have so many great heroes in this city, people who help us all," Farr said. "… I think we need heroes in life, and it’s nice to have so many superheroes here today at Comic Con.”

Herbert greeted the small crowd of media members, quipping, “May the force be with you all,” along with a couple other famous Hollywood catchphrases. He then presented Farr and Brandenburg with an official declaration that made April 17, 2014, “Comic Con Heroes Day” in Utah.

“It is good to follow our passions and … to be heroes,” Herbert said. “Today is the day to become a hero.” He encouraged Utahns to be heroes to their families and communities in order to make Utah a “shining beacon of light and hope.”

“Is the sequel going to be better than the original?” Herbert asked. “In this case, the anticipation is that the sequel is going to be much bigger and better.”

Herbert mentioned that the amount of floor space available at the Salt Palace has doubled for this convention, compared to last year’s record-breaking Comic Con event, a first for Utah. Forbes magazine reported that the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con last fall broke national attendance records for a first-time convention, with over 52,000 tickets sold and an estimated 70,000-80,000 attendees.

On Wednesday night, the event's Facebook fan page announced that over 40,000 tickets had already been sold. Farr anticipates that the convention this weekend could draw up to 100,000 fans.

Some of the top-billed celebrity guests at the event include cast members from AMC's "The Walking Dead"; Billy Dee Williams, known for his role as Lando Calrissian from the Star Wars saga; Hollywood heartthrob Karl Urban, who currently portrays Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise; Karen Gillan of the popular BBC program "Doctor Who"; and Nathan Fillion, who stars in ABC's "Castle" but previously rose to pop culture superstardom with his role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in 2002's short-lived space opera, "Firefly."

Fillion comes to FanX by popular demand. Event organizers made a special effort to bring him in when over 1,800 fans voted for him in a poll question asked on the event's Facebook page last month. Fillion will participate in a Q&A session on Saturday morning.

Six longtime cast members of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" TV series reunited Thursday night in a special VIP event called the "Star Trek Ultimate Xperience." The paid event was moderated by "Star Trek" alum William Shatner, who returned to Salt Lake City for his second Comic Con event. The event also included Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby, who each played prominent roles in the sci-fi program that ran from 1987-1994 and won 18 Primetime Emmy awards. Each of the cast members, excluding Shatner, will appear for an additional, free panel discussion throughout the convention.

Not all areas of the convention are intended for young audiences. However, a new feature at the April convention is the addition of the KidCon Pavillion, an area specifically designed for parents with young children. The area will offer activities geared toward young Comic Con attendees all three days, from costume parades to photo opportunities with Power Rangers. Children ages 10 and under receive free admission to the convention.

FanX runs through Saturday. A full schedule of panels and other activities can be found online at saltlakecomiccon.com/master-panel-list-fanx-2014.

A list of celebrity guests, including authors, artists and vendors, can be found online at saltlakecomiccon.com/fanx-master-guest-schedule.

Tickets are available online at saltlakecomiccon.com/salt-lake-comic-con-fanx-tickets.

All other information can be found at saltlakecomiccon.com or by following the event on Facebook and Twitter (@slcomiccon).

Email: achristensen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: atownmania