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Among the plethora of phenomenal artists at Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 was one of my personal favorites, Larry Elmore. Larry has done several key pieces over the years, such as the covers for the Dragonlance novels, much of the cover artwork for EverQuest, and so many additional pieces of fantasy art that they are impossible to mention or number. He is also quite a friendly gentleman.
My family and I cornered Larry at the booth he shared with Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, and Laura Hickman. My wife and I had been huge fans of Larry for years (too many to count). We had shown our 13 year old some of his work, specifically the Dragonlance art, and she was very interested. While my wife and I looked through the prints that Larry had brought with him, my daughter proceeded to interrogate him about his work.
Larry was happy to talk to my daughter. They discussed his work at length. My wife and I continued looking through his prints and saw one of his book. I remembered that Larry had put together a Kickstarter campaign for one of his books earlier in the year. Specifically, SnarfQuest was funded in January.
If you enjoy fantasy art, you have probably seen the work of Larry Elmore. Many of his prints will have his name on them, but a lot of his commissioned art does not. Check on the credits page of your favorite works of fantasy fiction, he will be listed if he is the artist. Also, check out his website at www.larryelmore.com and look through some of his beautiful artwork.
Here is my 13 year old’s summary of her conversation with Larry:
“One of the few people we were able to interview at Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 was Larry Elmore. Larry Elmore is known for doing a lot of art work for Dungeons and Dragons and the cover art for DragonLance. He also did the basic art work for Everquest, and then the Everquest group made his art work computerized for the game. He has several books that contain his art work like, Reflections of Myth, Masters of Dragonlance Art, and The Complete Elmore.
Do you prefer drawing dragons or humans?
I do not really do a lot of dragons, so I do not really have the chance of drawing dragons.
Do you prefer an item to draw?
No, not really.
Did you like doing the art work for Dragonlance?
I actually made a few rough drafts for Tracy (Hickman), to help them sell to the board. So I was on there from the start.
(End of Questions)
If you want to find more about Larry go to his website at, (linked above)”
I have been a big fan of Margaret Weis since I first read “Dragons of Autumn Twilight”. I cannot remember clearly if I picked up the book when it was first printed in November of 1984 (before I turned 11), but I do know I read it within the first few years of its release. Continue reading Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 – Margaret Weis→
Salt Lake Comic Con presented a wide variety of unique merchants and products. Some vendors traveled from across the globe, others were local. These local vendors showed off a lot of the diversity and creativity to be found along the Wasatch Front.
After meetings, chatting, taking pictures, and shaking hands with celebrities for three days, we built up quite an appetite. Two gals, in particular, contributed to the geek culture with food. They baked, poured, molded, and displayed some of the funnest, and most delicious, products available for the chic geek. The Truffle Cottage showed off some of the most unique chocolates I have ever seen. The Mad Hatter Cake Studio had a few of the best geek cakes in the business.
I contacted both of these wonderful ladies after Comic Con and heard back about their experiences at Comic Con. Both of them enjoyed the convention and the added exposure. Both of them work from their homes. And they are both excited about next year as well. Without further adieu, let me introduce them…
The Truffle Cottage
Coming to you from Pleasant Grove, Utah (about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City) is The Truffle Cottage. If you missed their booth, or missed Comic Con for that matter, you need to check them out. Jennie loves creating her own flavors, hand rolling chocolates, or molding truffles.
For the Comic Con people, she created several unique products. They sold out quickly on the days I checked in with the crew, but I did get a chance to actually see some of them and pictures exist on the Truffle Cottage website (listed below). As an example, try Companion Cube truffles (Portal 2), Millenium Falcon truffles (Star Wars), Punisher and Spider Man truffles (Marvel), and Tardis truffles (Dr. Who).
Jennie doesn’t stop there, however, she was booked for a few other conventions in the weeks following Comic Con and has created some very interesting objects for Halloween, as well as Easter, Christmas, and any other special occasions.
I have a friend back in Ohio that I still need to buy a few Companion Cubes for a great geek gift.
While we were walking around the area we stumbled across a few R2-D2 units. One of which was edible. The Mad Hatter Cake Studio produces some great looking cakes. Among them R2-D2, the Tardis, and an Xbox 360 complete with controller (games not included nor recommended).
Jenae works out of her home, but she delivers “all over Utah”, as she says. She creates a variety of products, beyond her sculpted cakes. These include wedding cakes and cupcakes among others.
If you are looking for a memorable event, this might be the ticket. I have a birthday coming up and I am not sure which cake to get, but I am starting to get some fun ideas.
Whether you are a chocolate lover or a cake lover, or especially a chocolate cake lover, there are plenty of delicious gifts for geeks and nerds. Support your geek culture and your nerd friends. Whether they are local or across the country, they will love gifts from Mad Hatter Cake Studio or The Truffle Cottage.
At Salt Lake Comic Con, I got the opportunity to chat with this incredible couple who have been involved in gaming, writing, and game design for over 30 years. I was able to learn some interesting information about them, what motivated them early in this field (including why they accepted the job at TSR and moved to Wisconsin), and where they are heading now. What an incredible couple!
“Unemployed in Greenland” – direct quote, Tracy said it.
Aside from the initial greeting as being one of their biggest fans, which I am sure they hear thousands of times a year. I proudly presented my original Ravenloft module (1983, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons). As they tracked down their pens to sign my prized possession (and a lovely picture of the two of them) I begin interrogating them about how they got involved in the business.
First, despite what you may suspect, it was Laura who started the addiction to gaming. She was several hours late picking up Tracy when she got side tracked with a gaming group. She then introduced Tracy to gaming and the passion began. This was during the rough times where gaming had first started and was receiving a lot of negative press. I started gaming in this era (though I was 8 or 9 then) and can still remember some of the accusations and insults thrown at gamers. This was during the early 1980s.
When Tracy and Laura first got started professionally in gaming, they were living in Logan, Utah. If you are not familiar with it, don’t feel bad. It is the home of Utah State University and is on the far north side of the state, about 70 miles almost due north of Salt Lake City. Tracy had been working as a movie theater manager for a time until he became, and I quote, “unemployed in Greenland.”
The Hickman family was struggling. They had been unemployed for several months and had children to feed, cloth, and take care of (they married in 1977). Tracy and Laura sent a few module submissions (Pharoah and Rahasia) to TSR (makers of Dungeons and Dragons) in hopes of making money to buy shoes for their children. TSR offered them a job in Wisconsin.
Tracy’s dad, who was living in Flagstaff at the time, begged them not to go. He offered them a place to stay and a job in Flagstaff. Tracy and Laura however decided to take the plunge and headed to Wisconsin.
Between Then and Now
Tracy and Laura worked on several projects since that time. Tracy is well known for his work on the Dragonlance setting (novels and modules). He worked extensively with Margaret Weis on that series as well as several others (Darksword, etc).
He and Laura also worked on novels together. One of the most recent trilogies is “The Annals of Drakis” (published between 2010 and 2012). They have also been evolving their story telling and marketing to the digital age, including the “Dragon’s Bard” where material was downloaded via subscription and a final physical book was received when the subscription was over.
2013 and Beyond
In March of 2013, Tracy Hickman joined Richard Garriott’s (Lord British) team for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsake Virtues. This project, as of September 8, 2013, has raised over $2.4 Million with over 24,000 backers to date. The PC game will be playable solo or multiplayer and is expected to have initial content available in October of 2014 (www.shroudoftheavatar.com).
Tracy and Laura have been busy on their own projects. Thursday night, September 5th, they launched a Kickstarter for their newest game. Sojourner Tales is “The storytelling board game that turns your e-reading device into a portal to Imagination and Adventure!” (quoted from the Kickstarter page, listed below). Tracy took a few minutes and used his Kindle to show my daughters (ages 12 and 8) how to play. The game is fascinating with dice, cards, and events changed by the Kindle. It specifically mentions that a print version of the adventures will be available, but the e-book version makes the game faster and easier. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trhickman/tracy-and-laura-hickmans-sojourner-tales-board-gam?ref=live)
I very much enjoyed spending time with these two wonderful people. I also cannot wait to see them virtually at Aethercon where they will be answering questions and running the game as a demo. (www.aethercon.com)
Today was filled with a lot of people, and I mean a LOT of people. The Comic Con FaceBook page lists Comic Con as Sold Out. Various sources list that Friday broke 50,000 tickets sold and attendance. Based upon reported economic impact from other conventions (specifically the 130,000 attendees at San Diego Comic Con who spent $180 million and the 46,000 people at Dragon Con in Atlanta who spent $40 million, both listed on KSL.com) the average person attending Salt Lake Comic Con will spend about $900 to $1000.
What that means: Take 50,000 people (low estimate) and have them spend $1000 each (high estimate, but easy math). That means $50 Million dollars were spent, much of that is in the local market. There were vendors from around the world (Weta Workshop from New Zealand, for example) but a lot of them were local and really got a chance to shine.
We talked to artists, authors, game stores, costume shops, chocolate makers, cake decorators, a 3d printer supplier, a pinball machine specialist, jewelers, and guys who dress up as dinosaurs. Each of them put their faith in Salt Lake Comic Con and were here showing off everything they could do. And, over the next several weeks, we will be show casing some of our favorites. Every one of these shops is within driving distance of Salt Lake City.
This project will take some time. We want to get hold of people involved at the business and ask them about what they do. I can talk about each of them, and I have a stack of business cards on my desk, but we want the businesses to put in their own words what they do, how they do it, and how they benefited from Comic Con.
In the mean time, it is time to say Thank You! Thank You for reading this blog. Thank You to Dan Farr for bringing Comic Con to Utah and letting me get involved. Finally, Thank You to my family for putting up with me during this crazy week.
We will update this post when numbers become available. I would imagine attendance numbers will be available within a few days. The financial numbers will likely take much longer, but we will try to keep everyone updated.
Update: The information we have been able to find for first year Salt Lake Comic Con shows an attendance of 70-80,000 people. To put that in perspective, the first year New York Comic Con had 33,000. Way to go Dan Farr, Salt Lake Comic Con crew, and special thanks to all the guests, attendees, and vendors for making the show awesome!
The second day of Comic Con was spent in the exhibit hall. What started out as a “let’s take a peek before the panels get going” turned into a “oh wow, can you believe this!”
To be fair, the exhibit hall was massive. The number of vendors, artists, authors, celebrities, and cosplayers was crazy. I met with several of them, interviewed many of them (my 12 year old and 8 year old helped), and took photos of a crazy amount of them. I will be showcasing each of these as time goes by, but here are some highlights:
As you can expect at a Comic Con, there were lots of artists. We talked to several that my daughters found intriguing and interviewed them and learned more about them. These interviews will follow later (as I have time), but I wanted to talk just a bit about each of them.
Heather had an interesting story. She only recently pursued her dream of artwork (about a year ago) after working in the corporate field for a while. She does a lot of Star Wars themed artwork, Ghost Busters, and dogs. She spends her little spare time playing with her dogs (imagine that). She is a local to Salt Lake City. Her history and many of her works can be seen on her website: www.heatherackleyart.com
Shelby was an interesting fellow who did a lot of work on various comic book characters (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DC, Marvel, GI Joe, Thundercats). He prefers to do a basic drawing then color it on computer. He spends what little spare time he has playing games such as the various Lego games (Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars). His artwork can be seen at his website: www.americandischord.com
JP Roth creates graphic novels. We didn’t get a chance to really interrogate her, but her artwork was absolutely beautiful. Many of her graphic novels are not for young audiences, but she has a very interesting twist that just sets them apart. For example, her Ancient Dreams series has a lot of roots in Greek Mythology, but these are not Homer’s tales.
To quote her website: “An epic love story set amidst the rich mythology of the ancient Greek gods, JP Roth’s graphic novel is a tantalizing fusion that boasts luxuriant visuals and deeply drawn characters—captivating mystery and unrelenting tension.”
Being an author myself, I always love to meet more successful authors. My daughters are vacuums of literature. They simply cannot sate their love of good books. That said, we got a chance to talk briefly to several authors.
Tracy and Laura Hickman
Most people in fantasy literature have heard of Tracy Hickman. He and his wife Laura have been involved in the fantasy world for over 30 years. I brought my copy of Ravenloft (original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, copyright 1983) with me when I met with them. We talked for nearly 20 minutes about gaming, literature, game design, adventure writing (my own stint into writing), and life in general. They have a new Kickstarter project that launched yesterday: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trhickman/tracy-and-laura-hickmans-sojourner-tales-board-gam?ref=live
Tracy took time to explain the basic game play to my two daughters (12 and 8) and used his Kindle to handle the story and the events that happened as the game progressed. In less than a day, this project has gathered over $11,000 of the $26,000 goal. This is an interesting opportunity, check it out.
Jenni writes several different series of books for teenagers. One is called the Jane Austin Diaries. They are modernized versions of the Jane Austin books, like Pride and Prejudice. There will be nine books in this series.
Another series are the Jenni James Fairy Tale Collection. With a total of twenty-five series in this series, they are twists on old fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, etc. She mentioned when we talked to her that her favorite story was that of Cinderella.
The Teen Author Boot Camp is a project to help teenagers who want to learn to write. We spent a lot of time talking with several of the local authors involved in this project and really had some fun talking with them and getting to know them. The three authors we spent time talking to:
Cindy C. Bennett
Cindy started writing stories for her own daughters. When her daughters suggested that she should publish her own stories, she did. Her stories are geared for young adults (some readers are as young as 10). Her website is: www.cindycbennett.com
Jo Schaffer and Lois Brown
These two great gals were hanging out in the booth for the Teen Author Boot Camp. Jo, dressed as Xena (complete with chakram), and Lois both talked with my daughters about writing. My oldest is a full year away from being able to participate in the Boot Camp, but that didn’t stop these two wonderful ladies from taking the time to play games with them, challenge their minds, and really have some fun. The program they are promoting includes an incredible amount of local authors and deserves more than I can possibly mention here. Check them out: http://teenauthorbootcamp.com/
Last, but definitely not least, we had a blast with several of the cosplayers that attended Comic Con. Among them were three of the best:
When we first stumbled across Leanna, we weren’t 100% sure she was who we thought she was. She was cordial, nice, and setting up her cards, flyers, etc. When we came back, she was in full costume and there was no doubt about it. Leeanna was dressed as the most memorable Mario you could imagine. Seriously. Check out the pic (far right). Side note: she is also involved in the Peter Mayhew kickstarter we talked about yesterday. Her website is http://www.leeannavamp.com/
Nicole was with Leeanna when we took the picture (Poison Ivy, far left). We didn’t have time to talk to her, but she looked like she was having a blast. I can only point to her facebook page for confirmation here: https://www.facebook.com/NicoleMarieJeanPage
The unknown cosplayer… (Update: Constantine in Tokyo)
Along with the other two beautiful ladies there was an unnamed cosplayer. I will have to interrogate Leeanna and Nicole to try to give credit where credit is due. I hope to have this updated by tomorrow. Update: We have tracked down the mysterious Magpie. She is Constantine In Tokyo! Here is her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ConstantineCosplay
We stumbled across a lot of other cool costumed fans. And I will be talking about them over the next few days. However, one group took things to a whole new level. Much bigger and bolder than most. If you spent any time in the exhibit hall, you probably ran across a pair of dinosaurs (one Velociraptor and one T-Rex) running amok in the crowd. These guys know how to rumble. Check them out at www.dinoevent.com!
We will be back tomorrow after the final day of Salt Lake Comic Con with more thoughts, impressions and pictures!
Left to right: Black Power Ranger (Walter Jones), Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno), and organizer Dan Farr
Camera / Type
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
Date / Time
In rides Dan Farr on a motorcycle, driven by none other than the local celebrity Jazz Bear (Bear rides a motorcycle everywhere). He hops off to thunderous applause and addresses the press. His first words, “My parents would kill me if they saw me on a motorcycle.”
Joking aside though, Dan proceeds to share his appreciation with several of the gathered celebrities and press. Among them were Lou Ferrigno, Richard Hatch, and Peter Mayhew. Mr. Farr shares a story about a man named Stan.
Stan Lee was invited quite some time ago to come to Salt Lake Comic Con. The legendary comic creator deliberated for a long time on this choice. Finally, (as in yesterday, Sept. 4) he agreed to visit on Saturday (Sept. 7). But Dan also explained some of the reasons behind his final agreement. Lou, who considered Stan to be one of his idols growing up (long before putting on the green makeup) personally flew out to talk to Stan. Stan’s agent was calling him. And finally, Salt Lake Comic Con pre-sales hit 30,000 tickets as of Wednesday morning (the day before the Con). New York Comic Con currently holds the record at 33,000 attendees. That record will not last the weekend.
After Dan’s opening remarks, the press was free to interrogate the gathered group of celebrities, roughly a dozen. I was unable to corner Lou, but I did talk to Peter and Dan. Although I interviewed Dan second, I want to share my quick interview with him first.
I asked Dan two questions, and my 12 year old daughter chirped in a third:
Question: How much time did you spend working on this project to make it happen?
Answer: I thought about doing this for several years. After leaving my old company, I spent just over a year working on this.
Question: From the popularity, I can assume this will be an ongoing event?
Answer (paraphrased): Oh yes, this will be happening for a long time. (Dan was grinning from ear to ear at this point. He was very excited to see the energy hit his native city of Salt Lake).
Question, from my twelve year old: What was involved in putting this on?
Answer: A lot of visiting other Comic Cons, doing research but having a lot of fun doing it.
(I asked if networking was also a big part and he agreed).
Dan was quite a nice guy and even posed for pictures with my two daughters.
Now, on to Peter Mayhew. Peter was seated in his big wheel chair with his cane nearby. It was great meeting Peter and shaking his hand. As you can assume from someone who is 7’3” tall, he has very big hands. Peter’s story brought a tear to my eye. I knew from reading an article online that he was undergoing knee surgery to regain the ability to walk. I didn’t know, until I spoke with W. Ryan Ziegler how serious the surgery or recovery time were. Salt Lake Comic Con is the last convention before he undergoes the multiple surgeries required to replace his knees. His surgery is Monday, September 9th.
I asked Peter two questions, which he answered smiling (great guy, by the way):
Question: How did you decide to go into acting?
Answer: I was just the right person in the right place at the right time.
Question: As you were growing up, who was your hero?
Answer: Alec Guinness
This struck me as an incredible story. His hero, growing up, was Sir Alec Guinness, who was, of course, Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars Trilogy. How would you like to be the right person in the right place at the right time and star in a movie series next to your idol?
But the true story behind Peter is his strength in dealing with his knees and legs. Peter has had a cane with him for years, and it has degenerated enough that he spends most of his time in a wheelchair now. I asked Ryan for information on the Kickstarter program to help fund and educate others about Peter’s struggles and surgery. He was happy to share this site with me:
Salt Lake Comic Con – T-3 And Counting (Fantasy Edition)
Hail Fellow Fans of Fantasy!
This month is a rare encounter. The first Comic Con to be held in Salt Lake City is just around the corner. And it is looking to be the single largest Comic Con first year ever. Here are some numbers:
# of Attendees at the inaugural New York Comic Con: 33,000 (2006)
Tickets Sold prior to September 1st: 25000
Expected Attendance for Salt Lake Comic Con (2013): 40,000
Number of Guests: over 200
Intriguing you say? Well, how about this. Not only will this Comic Con feature the actors, artists, and special effects for fantasy and sci-fi movies, but it will also feature several professional cosplayers (think people who get paid to do Halloween constantly), a myriad of fantasy authors and game designers.
Fantasy Authors (just a few of a very very long list):
Jessica Day George (My 12 year old daughter’s personal favorite author)
Tracy Hickman (One of my favorites)
Sci-Fi Authors (again, just a few)
Kevin J. Anderson
Nicole Marie Jean
Jazz Bear (NBA Mascot and a serious riot to watch)
The list is extensive, to be sure. Add to that list the actors and comic book creators and you have an Olympus for Gamers, a Valhalla for Geeks, or a Mecca for Comic aficionados. Not to mention the attraction for everyone to dress up as their favorite sci-fi, fantasy, comic book, or anything else character and mingle.
One thing is for sure, the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con is sure to bring a lot of geeks, gamers, guys, gals, and guests to Salt Lake City for a lot of fun!
Stay tuned as we update daily throughout the Con, as long as I can remain caffeinated.