Click photo to enlarge
South Summit assistant football coach Daniel Eckert, dressed in his Flash T-shirt, shows off some of his comic books. Eckert and his twin brother Denny have collected more than 3,000 comics since the mid 1960s. (Christopher Reeves/Park Record)
When the legion of super heroes, super villains, fans, gamers, comic-book lovers, writers, artists and celebrities will convene on the Salt Palace Convention Hall for the first-ever Salt Lake Comic Con this week, South Summit High assistant football coach Daniel Eckert will be there.

Eckert, 54, who lives a semi-quiet life in Kamas as a retired school teacher, is a comic-book fan.

He and his twin brother Denny, together, own at least 3,000 comic books.

"We have a huge collection that includes many rare comics including the first Dr. Strange book that ever came out in the 1960s," Eckert told The Park Record. "We have a lot of vintage Batman and other old DC issues from the 1950s."

Some of these treasures, which are stored in a basement in West Valley, were bought in the 1960s, when the Eckert brothers were in elementary school.

"Comic books were one of my first forms of reading," Eckert said. "My mother allowed my brother and I to buy comic books whenever we wanted one.

"Back then they were cheap — 10 or 15 cents each," he said. "We would go to the drugstore and grocery stores and they had a rack of comic books and we'd buy the latest of our favorite."

Eckert grew up a fan of DC comics, which feature superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Flash and Justice League of America.

"I didn't get into Marvel until I was in my late teens," Eckert said.


Advertisement

"Back then there was a rivalry between DC and Marvel readers, and there wasn't any crossover, but then we found out that both companies were pretty good."

Of the Marvel characters that include Spiderman, the Avengers and Moon Knight, Eckert prefers Captain America.

"I like him because he relates to the common man," Eckert said. "He doesn't really have super powers, and can still be killed by a bullet, but he has enhanced abilities."

Still, there is no hero that can beat Batman, and that's why Eckert is going to the Salt Lake Comic Con.

The stars of the campy 1966 "Batman" TV series — Adam West and Burt Ward are two of the scheduled guests that include William Shatner from "Star Trek," Dirk Benedict from the original "Battlestar Galactica," Ray Park from "Star Wars Episode I," Kevin Murphy from "Mystery Science Theater 3000," Dean Cain from "Lois and Clark," and Weta Workshop, an effects and props company known for its work with the "Lord of the Rings" film franchise.

"I used to watch Batman religiously, and it drives my wife crazy because I'll still watch it if it comes on an obscure channel," Eckert said with a laugh. "I've seen all the original episodes about 15 times each and just love them. They bring me back to when I was an impressionable seven-year-old kid again."

Eckert is also looking forward to seeing Shatner.

"I'm also a big 'Star Trek' fan and Captain James T. Kirk, was the coolest guy on TV back then," Eckert said. " He could do no wrong and got all the girls."

This will be the first Comic Con for Eckert.

"We talked about going to California and different places in the past, but it's never been convenient," he said. "My son Reggie called me up a few months ago and told me there was one coming here.

"He said, 'Can we go, Dad? Can we go?'" Eckert laughed. "This is my 32-year-old son."

Eckert will attend the event on Saturday with his brother, his son and grandson Mark.

"Comic cons give credence and validation to pseudo-geeks like me," Eckert said. "I never considered myself a geek or a nerd. I played football in high school and was a head coach for Granger in West Valley and I'm the assistant coach as South Summit, so I don't fit the stereotype of the typical geek. But I still like the culture and it's fun."

Dan Farr, the CEO of Dan Farr Productions, which is producing the Salt Lake Comic Con, said the event has already sold more than 25,000 tickets.

"This will be the biggest first-year comic con that has been started around the country," Farr said to The Park Record. "That's a huge accomplishment because we're not San Diego, New York or Chicago or Los Angeles."

One of the reasons the Salt Lake event has sold those numbers is because of similar events that have taken place in the past.

"One is the GEEX expo that was produced by Media One, which was more focused on gaming and electronics," Farr said. "The other is the Anime Banzai that is held in Ogden, which is very focused on Japanese anime.

"So you could see the demand of having a comic con growing over the past several years," he said. "People wanted to have an event like this, but all the components weren't together until now."

building on those two events' draw, Farr was able to recruit some stars to help influence others into coming to Utah.

"I had worked with different celebrities and agents through discussions about hosting a Salt Lake Comic Con for about a year and a half and I got them on board to take a risk with me," Farr said.

Farr was able to draw TV stars Richard Hatch from the original "Battlestar Galactica," Kevin Sorbo from "Hercules" and Lou Ferrigno from "The Inredible Huk."

"I had contacted them personally and had them on queue to support the idea," he said. "I let them know the Salt Lake market had great potential."

Farr was fortunate because a lot of people in the industry are apprehensive about participating in a new convention.

"They love the potential because a new show taps into a new market, but they all have been to shows where there have been really low attendances," Farr said. "A lot of times, the guests will say they will wait for the second year before they decide to come, but Utah was different. There must be something in the water."

The Salt Lake Comic Con will be at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City from Thursday, Sept. 5, through Saturday, Sept. 7. For more information, visit saltlakecomiccon.com.