SALT LAKE CITY — Dick Van Dyke isn’t exactly the first person that comes to mind as an ideal guest for a comics convention.
He’s beloved by members of all generations, known for his comedy in “Mary Poppins,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Night at the Museum,” but it’s hard to deny that he seems a little out of place next to nerd icons like “Doctor Who” alumnus John Barrowman and “Firefly” star Jewel Staite.
But according to Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr, he’s a perfect choice for the Utah convention.
“He kind of embodies everything that’s wholesome, in a way,” Farr said. “His characters really reflect loving and caring people, and I think that resonates really strongly with people in Utah.”
Farr has had an ongoing relationship with Van Dyke for about 20 years. He first met the actor at an entertainment trade show, where the two got into a discussion about 3-D computer graphics and “Halloween stuff.” The pair later collaborated on a book called “Mr. Finnegan’s Giving Chest,” which starred Van Dyke as the main character.
Farr has been hoping to get the actor as a guest since the convention’s start in 2013.
“When we did our convention the first time, it was kind of a question of whether he was the right kind of genre of guest we wanted to get at our convention. We didn’t at first approach him,” Farr said.
Ongoing polls of Comic Con attendees, though, ranked Van Dyke as highly as a potential guest as names like Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, which Farr took as validation that the “Mary Poppins” star was right for the event.
And, Farr added, the actor has Comic Con “street cred” for his role in the 1990 film adaptation of comic strip detective “Dick Tracy.”
Farr said that of all the guests he’s excited to have attend the convention, Van Dyke is near the very top of the list.
“He holds a special place in people’s hearts,” Farr said. “He came (to Utah) right before he published a book and he stayed in Deer Valley. We went and picked him up one day and took him into Brighton … to see the beautiful scenery. We get out of the car and start walking around and there’s this lady who’s probably in her 70s and she sees Dick Van Dyke and comes over and starts crying. She was so touched to see him and so excited.”
That type of fan reaction, Farr said, is what he loves most about holding Salt Lake’s comic conventions.
“That’s one of my favorite things to see at the conventions,” Farr said. “To see people have reactions like that when they meet a celebrity or someone they’ve looked up to for many years. It’s that kind of fan energy. For me, seeing that is magical.”
Van Dyke will join Barrowman, Staite and other guests including Val Kilmer, Christopher Lloyd, Catherine Tate and Michael Rosenbaum at the Salt Lake Comic Con this September. Tickets can be purchased online at register.growtix.com/e/Salt_Lake_Comic_Con2017 for $20 to $250.