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By Jacqueline Monahan
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Wizard World Comic Con Debuts in Las Vegas

It all started at the High Roller on Thursday, April 23, when members of the media and other invited guests (contest winners) got to meet and question Lou Ferrigno, David Jason Frank, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Michael Rooker, about their upcoming projects and involvement in Wizard World Comic Con (April 24-26).

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Left to Right - Sean Patrick Flanery, Michael Rooker, Lou Ferrigno, David Jason Frank
Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

The quartet posed for pictures and chatted with guests, praising Las Vegas as the perfect, fun-filled city to host the event.  Lou Ferrigno even rode the High Roller with fans and press, while another pod filled up with giddy contest winners, four Ghost Busters, and two Imperial Storm Troopers, one Tusken Raider, and a tall, dark Darth Vader from the Star Wars franchise.

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Photo credit: John Hardin

There was no shortage of photos and selfies snapped on the 30 minute, 550 foot rise and descent of the world’s tallest observation wheel, although the Ghost Busters team did playfully clash with the two Imperial Storm Troopers while Darth Vader hogged some of the panoramic view of the Las Vegas cityscape with his wide-shouldered silhouette and cape.  No one dared asked him to move, but he was asked to put the death grip on a few of us.

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Photo credit: John Hardin

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Friday featured the ribbon cutting by Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno), with an additional appearance by former Mayor turned Las Vegas Ambassador Oscar Goodman with his showgirls in tow.  The trio were easily the most conventionally dressed at the con, where characters roamed free at every turn.  Think Power Rangers, Groot, Anime Girls, Wonder Woman, Spider Man, and Obi Wan Kenobi, to name just a few. (See Judy Thorburn’s Wizard World Comic Con ribbon-cutting coverage in this issue).

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Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

The vast expanse of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center held scores of booths full of art, super hero and villain collectibles, clothing, tattoo artists caught in the act spreading the ink, celebrity autograph and photo opportunities, artisan leather works, sword and weaponry items, and tiny drones with large price tags ($125).

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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Wizard World Comic Con is an active convention; vendors usually craft their products.  The various offerings of pewter, brass, steel and crystal jewelry is frequently created by the seller.  Graphic posters are offered by artists who are usually engaged in a current project right in front of your eyes.  Tattoos are buzzed into waiting skin for all to observe.  Most do NOT say “Mother” but you may see a fresh scar being applied to a limb joint.

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One large space is devoted to celebrities, where fans can purchase autographs and photo ops, and engage in something called Redemption.  Hey, if I can get into heaven by meeting Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) it’s definitely worth the nightmare.

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Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

In addition to Englund, Ferrigno and Sorbo, the convention offered fans the chance to meet Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) Jason David Frank (Power Rangers, Green) Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints, The Dead Zone) Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead, The Big C) among many others.

Cosplay is king at Wizard World Comic Con, and various Harley Quinns could be seen in the company of superheroes and steampunk dandies.  Villains (Joker) and vegetation (Groot) shared aisle space with Power Rangers, Jedi Knights, Cinderella and Maleficent.  

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Entire families joined in the fun, and mini versions of The Flash, Supergirl, and Spiderman (Venom, too) mingled with their full-sized counterparts. A Saturday night costume contest featured an endless parade of characters from all parts of the galaxy.  (See entire Photo Gallery at the end of this article).

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The popularity of Game of Thrones was apparent in the large amount of corsets, archery equipment, swords, and even miniature replicas of the Iron Throne available for sale and on display.

Action figures hung on walls in tiny armies of iconic Marvel and DC Comics rivalry.  Did you know that The Hulk also comes in a red version? A replica of the 1966 Batmobile beckoned fans to fill the driver’s seat and be photographed. Naked Vegas body painting models showed off their (literally) skin tight “clothing” in paint and glitter.  This company will also paint a model into the background of your next party so that they are invisible until they move; you WILL want to see them, though.

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Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

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She-Ra and Hell-Boy posters vied for attention alongside life-sized cutouts from popular shows such as Arrow, Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes.  Lego offered block-y versions of scores of characters, and Funko’s big-headed POP! Dolls seemed especially prevalent, offering a variety of popular characters in Harry Potter, DC Universe, Marvel and Dr. Who variations, to name just a few.

A main stage featured a kid’s costume contest, a body casting experience (first, they mix up the gooey stuff) storytelling, and a cosplay Q & A, while Buried Alive, a haunted attraction (free to attendees) provided a dark, smoky interior in which to encounter a selection of “things” which have no interest in your comfort and well-being.  The attraction was a hit with the large crowd, with many a superhero t-shirt swallowed into its interior.

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Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

Artist Alley offered row upon row of artists and their completed drawings, prints, and sketches, some table-top, others hung into one giant wall.  Frequently the artist worked on new creations as attendees watched and purchased their former works.  Many, like Impact Comics’ Christopher Moore, also take commissions for custom orders.

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Visitors who downloaded the free CONtv app - “a digital network devoted to the fanspace” - received discounts from over 50 vendors, most between 5% - 20% off of a minimum purchase price.  Wizard World also offered a ComicCon Box subscription (starting at $29.99/month) for packages containing autographs, tickets, collectibles, toys, comics and apparel – kind of a mini comic con arriving by mail right to your door every month.

Gamers had their own space, and politely shared a bank of computer screens for Mortal Kombat X and Super Smash Bros. tournaments for gifts and cash prizes.  Kids got in on the fun on Sunday, and for some fans, this WAS the convention.

For others, the over 85 panels (crammed into 2 ½ days) offered a chance for celebrity Q & A’s, artist lectures, cosplay and sketch tutorials, storytelling, and issue-oriented presentations such as “Civil Rights and Social Justice as Reflected in Comic Books” and “Female Heroes: Then and Now.”

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Your humble correspondent was able to attend two panels during the whirlwind that was Wizard World Comic Con.  The Sci-Fi Speed Dating sessions hosted by Ryan Glitch (great name for a hook-up dude – we met by Glitch) matched up single guys (at $20 each) and girls (free) 18 years of age and older.  They already had the Con in common, after all.  The money raised all goes to charity, whether it is a women’s shelter, animal rescue, or veterans’ aid.  Great care is taken to control any “creep” factor that may occur, with an emphasis on making the women feel comfortable and in control.

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Ryan, dressed as a Jedi Knight, complete with light saber is the MC, timing the meetings in 2-3 minute increments until everyone has had a chance to meet.  Names are not exchanged, only numbers.  Contact information is given out only in the case of BOTH parties agreeing to it.  Yes, there are lots of participants in costumes so that it would not be unusual to see a Wonder Woman speaking to Beetlejuice.

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Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

The Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira) One-on-One panel consisted of 45 minutes of the ageless (maybe she really IS a vampire) television host and actress revealing little-known details of her life.  Growing up in Las Vegas and leaving home at 14, she says she “raised myself like a wild animal.”  She was once a Dunes showgirl and a member of the Groundlings Comedy Theater.  She declares herself “Goth before Goth was invented.”

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Photo credit: Jacqueline Monahan

She desperately wanted to be cast as Ginger on a Gilligan’s Island remake (where the passengers and crew of The Minnow meet the Harlem Globetrotters) but Peterson lost the part because “the producer slept with my boyfriend.”  She says she knew she “made it” when the Elvira pinball machine hit the market and revealed that her bother-in-law is really from Transylvania.  Now there’s some street cred.

The massive Wizard World Comic Con travels the country with conventions in various cities scheduled well into 2016.  If you suddenly see a team of Ghost Busters strolling with Captain America while The Flash races by to catch up with Supergirl and Batman pushing a stroller with a baby Ninja Turtle inside, it just might be visiting your town.  Go cosplay.

 

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