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SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake City Comic Con FanX kicked off on March 17, 2017 and BYU-Idaho student, Jacky Dominguez, stood among the first in line to experience it first-hand.

The weather is tranquil and the sun shined bright as a group of Latinas whispers to each other in a close huddle. A light breeze blows through their hair, swirling the dark strands into their faces, as they stand outside waiting to be let in through the main doors of the entrance to the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.  This small group, consisting of five female students from BYU-Idaho, journeyed four hours to get here.  None of the young women seem particularly interested, except for one: BYU-Idaho freshman, Jacky Dominguez.

“I’m so excited,” she beams, as a woman in a purple Salt Lake City Comic Con volunteer shirt approaches the door to let people in.

Jacky Dominguez isn’t your average comic-con-goer.  At 4’10 she isn’t very imposing, and with her impressive make-up and hair, she looks more like a tiny model than someone you would find at comic con.  Her friend, Selene, who is attending comic con to show her support, watches her with a smile on her face.  Jacky is bouncing, her nose inches from the door.

“When I first met Jacky, I felt like she… looks like the feminine part but she’s also… once you start talking to her you can see like all the parts of her… that are more.  Like regarding comic books, she likes to play video games a lot with her older sister, and she um, I don’t know she likes to do alternative things,” Selene says with a laugh, adding emphasis to alternative things.

Jacky and her friends share a laugh at Selene’s comment as they walk through the doors and finally enter the convention center.

“They’re super surprised and shocked because they think I am a super girly person, because I’m always like dressing up, and doing my make up, and doing my hair, they think I can’t be in to comic books, and stuff like that…there’s no specific type of person that has to go to comic con, you can be girly and still go to comic con,” she says.

Once past the bag check, registration counter, and the wristband scanners, the girls pause at the entrance of the Vendor Hall, eyes wide, mouths dropped, as they admire the dozens upon dozens of booths and small selling stalls that pack the large hall.  Jacky’s expression changes and soften for a split second.  She lingers a step behind the others. Her mind departs to some far place, but then, just like that she’s back to her smiling and bubbly self.

The small group of travelers doesn’t stand out as much as its constituents had expected.  The convention center is packed with people of all shapes and sizes.  According to the Comic Con Twitter, ticket sales hit 50,000 within the first hour of the event.  Massive crowds aren’t the only thing that help them blend in, every person is literally unique, no two Comic Con FanX guests are the same.

As Jacky makes her way through the convention center halls, she stops nearly every five seconds so she and her friends can take pictures with the cosplayers and their intricate wardrobes.  The group stops an older woman and her husband, whose costumes are especially detailed, the woman’s costume features ivory silk and gold detailing. Her husband wields a real sword, while hers is custom made from Styrofoam.

“I like your costume,” someone says.

“It’s not a costume,” the woman replies.

This woman – who asked to be called by her character’s name, Elspeth – like so many other comic con guests came to the comic con with a specific goal in mind. “Elspeth” hopes that her cosplay is good enough to win the contest.

“So, this took me about 150 hours to make… I’m from a game called Magic The Gathering…this is my first time in the contest, I had made a couple others but I hadn’t felt comfortable competing yet,” Elspeth says, and asks Jacky and her friends to be cautious not to touch her costume as they gather to take a picture.

Others attend the comic con with a different goal in mind.  seven-year-old, Ben, whose name has been changed at the request of his parents, was just excited to meet his favorite super hero.

“Deadpool…he’s really funny,” Ben says,

as he explains to us who he wants to see most, but the most important thing is,

“…to have fun with my cousin,” he adds.

Jacky is at comic con for a special reason too.

“My dad would have done anything to be able to experience this,” Jacky says, “so now if I have the chance to go to a comic con, then I go.”

“I bet my dad would have loved this.” She says, as she examines a T-Shirt with the X-Men logo on it.

She does this frequently as she explores the different collectibles at each vendor stall and booth.  As much as she loves comics, anime, sci-fi, and fantasy, there’s a greater motivation behind her decision to attend comic con; to honor the life of the person who inspired it all, her father.

“The first time I went to comic con was with my dad.” “My dad was a big fan of comic books and stuff…” she says, her voice trailing off as her mind travels to that faraway place again.

Her mind wanders often, as it goes to the distant memories and familiar images, where no one else can go, not even her close friends, who came here to show support, which is all they can do at bittersweet times like this.  She takes a second to remember, and then she continues.

Jacky’s father didn’t just teach her about heroes through comic books, he also taught her about heroes by being an example of one, himself.  His name was James R. Dominguez, and he was a Border Patrol Agent.  On the morning of July 19th, 2012, he was killed in the line of duty while helping people involved in a motor vehicle accident.  Unlike the heroes in the pages of a comic book, this hero was real to Jacky.  He taught her about honor, sacrifice, and kindness like no 2-D character could have, so now she honors him by attending the events they both loved.

“Do you think I can find a pin like the one he got me,” she asks, “I didn’t appreciate it before.”

“We can look,” Selene replies.

Jacky had hoped to get an autograph from Stan Lee dedicated to her father, but unfortunately Stan Lee’s health prevented him from attending the event in person.  So, she settles for watching Stan Lee’s skype panel, and continues her search for the special tribute item for her dad.

The day winds down and a man on the convention center intercom calls out the time and reminds guests that the Vendor Hall is now closed, signaling the end to Salt Lake City Comic Con and FanX.  The massive crowds of costumed fans make their way towards the exits.  Jacky walks silently, contemplating beside her friends

“Are you ok,” Selene asks.

“Yes,” Jacky replies, “I found what I was looking for”.

With a silent smile, Jacky skips ahead with her friends following close behind her, mentally preparing for the journey back to Rexburg.  Jacky’s big heart and quirky personality set her apart from most BYUI students, but here at Comic Con with her love for both real heroes and fictional ones, her unique hobbies and open-mind fit right in.