June 5, 2014

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Dan Farr: Comic Con Crusader

By Devin Felix

June 5, 2014

Dan Farr long suspected that Utah would be a great place for a comic con. He grew up in Salt Lake and knew that people here take their science fiction and fantasy very seriously. But even he couldn’t foresee the powder keg of fandom he was about to ignite when he formed Dan Farr Productions and began assembling the state’s first comic con. “I just thought, let’s give it a shot,” he says. “When we started, we anticipated 8,000 to 15,000 people, and if we were really optimistic we’d have 20,000 people show up.”

By the time the Salt Palace doors closed on Sept. 7, roughly 75,000 people had attended, a fire marshal’s order had temporarily forced organizers to stop letting more people into the building, and the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con had shattered the record for the largest first-year convention of its kind.

Comic con fans had barely hung up their masks and caught their breath before Farr announced that he’d be putting on the Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience—another convention just a few months in the future that would use double the floor space and feature an impressive lineup of celebrity guests.

It was a bold move, and a risky one. Many cities several times larger than Salt Lake don’t have more than one comic con in a year, and many people were skeptical that there would be enough interest in a second convention. But Dan Farr isn’t one to play it safe or let skepticism stand in his way. So why did he decide to put on another comic con event just seven months after the first one? “I could come up with a long, sophisticated market research business reason, but I’d be bluffing. The reality is it sounded fun and we didn’t want to wait a year.”

Farr’s confidence was shown to be well founded in April, when FanX brought in more than 100,000 attendees, as well as more than 500 vendors and artists, becoming the third-largest comic con in the country and breaking the record Salt Lake Comic Con set in September as the largest convention in state history.

Farr’s desire to stage a comic con grew out of his admiration for the passion of comic con attendees. In 2000, he co-founded Daz 3D, a company that creates 3D modeling software used for animation and illustration. Promoting the company took him to comic cons around the country, and every time he was taken aback by the energy, creativity and passion of those who attended. Among them were thousands of amateur and professional artists, illustrators and designers, as well a devoted group of cosplayers (people who design and wear costumes emulating characters from cultural works).

“I got sucked into the energy and excitement of comic cons,” he says. “This was really fun. These were often shows of under 15,000 people, but it still felt big to me and exciting.” When he left Daz 3D about two years ago, he knew immediately what his next project would be.

Farr has embraced his role as a public face of Salt Lake Comic Con, but he is quick to say that he may have organized Salt Lake Comic Con, but its successes are due to the fervor of the fans. “This event isn’t successful because I made it successful. It’s the community that got behind this and lifted it and made it an amazing event.”

The next Salt Lake Comic Con is scheduled for this September.

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