The Fantastic Las Vegas Comic Con shows the strength of the regional geek neighborhood

Strolling into the jam-packed Incredible Las Vegas Comic-Con at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, it was tough to think that just 5 years ago Las Vegas was considered a dangerous market for releasing a comic-book convention, with a nearly decade-long drought of large-scale pop-culture gatherings. Now in its fifth year, ALVCC has actually outlasted its possible rivals and developed itself as a prominent local and regional occasion for geeks of all kinds. Organizers estimated presence for this year’s edition at more than 33,000, the largest number yet. Huge comic-book names like Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld and stars like Burt Ward and Ray Park assisted get people in the door at this year’s ALVCC, but independent creators (much of them local) were at the heart of the occasion.

And convention organizers made certain to spotlight them, too. On Saturday afternoon, local artist Ashleigh Popplewell had an excellent 50 people at her panel, a live illustration presentation in which she went through the actions of creating a piece of Wonder Woman art, via her favored media of Copic markers, colored pencils and paint. At the cubicle for Extremely Awesome Ladies (whose panel immediately followed Popplewell’s), an organization devoted to motivating women’s involvement in geek culture, the group raffled off several reward bundles to benefit local charities and promoted its upcoming management conference for young girls, showing how engagement with popular culture can equate into community activism.

On opposite sides of the convention hall, two regional developers promoted works at the intersection of film and comics, with filmmaker Joe Lujan expanding his Immortal Wars movies into a series of comics, and veteran comics creator Everette Hartsoe promoting a planned movie adaptation of his comics character Razor from director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious). Lujan is a prolific filmmaker, and the just recently premiered The Immortal Wars (set for distribution later this year) is his seventh function and very first to consist of name stars like Eric Roberts and Tom Sizemore. In addition to the buddy comic-book series, he also has a series of prequel videos offered online and a feature-film sequel already set to enter into production (with Roberts returning), all produced by his Vegas-based Carcass Studios.

A film based on Everette Hartsoe’s comic The Curse of Sleeping Charm is available now on Netflix, and he’s dealing with regional company Got Movies on developing more independent functions. Hartsoe, who produced Razor as part of the early ’90s boom in “bad lady” characters, has remained in Vegas for more than a years, but ALVCC was his first convention appearance of any kind in almost Twenty Years, and in addition to his spouse (and fellow creator) Michele Grey-Hartsoe, he praised the convention’s organization and community spirit. The Hartsoes plan to return next year, and from the looks of the crowd, lots of other folks are preparing the same.

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