With Lee gone, the first major celebrity to be greeted by loud cheers in the Salt Palace's Grand Ballroom was comedy rock star "Weird Al" Yankovic, who happily talked about his career parodying pop hits and writing his own music.
Yankovic joked that his parents gave him an accordion because "they wanted me to be really popular in high school," he said. Years later, his daughter, at age 12, asked him to teach her the accordion. "She kind of got bored, and went on to other things," he said.
Yankovic said he tries to let ideas for song parodies percolate for awhile, although Michael Jackson once inspired him instantly. "When I saw the 'Bad' video for the first time, I knew before it was over I was going to do 'Fat,'" he said.
He said his least favorite parody was "Girls Just Want to Do Lunch," a Cyndi Lauper spoof he did at the command of his record label. "I did that song under duress, which you might be able to hear in the tone of my voice," he said.
There are some songs Yankovic won't touch. "You wouldn't want to do, say, a 'Tears in Heaven' parody," he said, referring to Eric Clapton's lament for his dead child. Otherwise, though, "anything at the top of the charts is always a potential target," he said.
FanX kicked off with a morning ceremony with a gaggle of celebrities, and promises from its founders that the two-day convention may be shorter than past years' events but will still be fun.
Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg said that even though FanX was cut to two days, "it didn't stop us from lining up 31 celebrity guests."
Brandenburg's fellow co-founder, Dan Farr, said Salt Lake City is "quickly developing a reputation for having the best fans on the planet. Our fans treat our guests better than anywhere else."
Brandenburg said the event has sold nearly 50,000 tickets for the weekend. FanX is designed to be a more intimate fan experience than the larger Salt Lake Comic Con, which brings some 120,000 fans to the Salt Palace every September.
For the celebrities at Friday morning's kick-off, events like FanX are a chance to connect with the people who enjoy their work.
Adrienne Wilkinson, an actor who appeared in "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," said that actors in the theater "get that live fan experience, that immediate feedback. If you are someone who does film and television, it's sort of done in a vacuum. It's weeks, months, sometimes even years before the audience sees it. Coming to a fan event is one of the only times you get the feedback of what they liked, what they didn't, how it affected them."
Comic book writer Marv Wolfman, who co-created "The New Teen Titans" and "Blade," enjoys fan events because, "I get to meet the readers, the people who have been employing me in many ways," he said. "Writers tend to work alone, in a single room, hunched over a computer."
The feedback sometimes shows up in the work, Wolfman said. On one comic book Wolfman was writing, he said, "I noticed a couple of the fans were confused by something in the first issue.… I was able to go back to the second issue, just before it was published, to add a line of copy that helped explain it a little bit better."