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Salt Lake Comic Con sends FanX to the Far East, brings zombies to Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Comic Con dropped two announcements on its faithful fans Monday.

The Utah-based pop culture convention will stage events in the Philippines, China and Thailand in partnership with merchandiser POP Life later this year. But first, it is bringing a terrifying first-person zombie encounter based on AMC's hit "The Walking Dead" to next week's FanX event.

Salt Lake Comic Con on Monday announced its partnership with POP Life Entertainment, the company behind the wide-eyed Funko Pop! vinyl figurines depicting pop culture characters from television, movies, books, bands and video games. POP Life, with convention-exclusive collectibles and life-size figurines that just beg for a selfie, has been a fan favorite at past comic con events.

Together, Salt Lake Comic Con will join in planning international FanXperience events while POP Life develops and manufactures merchandise for them. Salt Lake Comic Con secures exclusive merchandise rights in the United States on most POP Life merchandise as part of the deal, according to a press release.

Salt Lake Comic Con co-founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg say the deal turns their FanXperience convention into a global event.

"FanXperience has been a huge hit with fans as it provides a broader range of opportunities and options. We're excited that it will now be a global event, taking place not only in the United States but throughout Asia," Farr said.

According to Salt Lake Comic Con founders, this is the first known partnership of its kind, linking a live pop culture event directly to marketing, manufacturing and merchandising under a comic con organizer.

"This deal maximizes the synergies inherent in each company's unique skill sets and assets," MD Young, POP Life co-founder, said in a statement Monday. "We are thrilled to be partnering two incredible brands together in an exciting new way."

Brandenburg called the series of FanXperience events — June 10-12 in the Philippines, Sept. 1-3 at Salt Lake Comic Con, Sept. 14-17 in China, and Dec. 9-11 in Thailand — a "complement and alternative to comic cons around the world."

"With POP Life's massive reach into geek and popular culture, and their ability to manufacturer collectible toys from the best brands in the world, they are a perfect partner both in the United States and in Asia," Brandenburg said.

POP Life will also be a prominent figure in Salt Lake Comic Con events, including its Utah FanX event, kicking off March 24-26 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Salt Lake Comic Con also announced the latest addition Monday to next week's FanX event — a whole lot of zombies.

The simulated zombie apocalypse lets paying fans work their way through a small town caught in the collapse, either as human survivors or the flesh-hungry hordes pursuing them. The experience comes from the minds of “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, director Michael Counts, and Walker Stalker, an all-zombie fan convention.

"‘The Walking Dead Experience’ is an immersive theatrical attraction featuring state of the art special effects, professional performers and elaborate sets," said Walker Stalker President James Frazier. "We're excited to have Salt Lake Comic Con as our first comic con partner for the experience in 2016."

A trip through “The Walking Dead Experience” costs anywhere from $40 to $140 and ranges from 30 to 90 minutes, with packages offering professional zombie makeup. Tickets for the experience go on sale Tuesday.

The FanX celebrity lineup includes stars from "The Walking Dead" — and Michael Traynor — SyFy series "Z Nation," and the station's upcoming zombie flick "Dead 7," a postapocalyptic Western written and produced by FanX guest and Backstreet Boys hearthrob Nick Carter.

Carter won't be the only former boy band icon appearing in "Dead 7" and FanX. Also coming to Salt Lake City are AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys and Joey Fatone from NSYNC.

Other FanX guests include astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Kate Beckinsale, known for her nerd roles in "Underworld" and "Van Helsing"; Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and William Davis, "The X-Files"; George Takei and LeVar Burton, "Star Trek"; Matt Smith, Alex Kingston and Peter Davison, "Doctor Who"; and Peter Facinelli, "Twilight."


Twitter: McKenzieRomero