Walking into the packed Amazing Las Vegas Comic-Con at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, it was hard to believe that just five years ago Las Vegas was considered a risky market for launching a comic-book convention, with a nearly decade-long drought of large-scale pop-culture gatherings. Now in its fifth year, ALVCC has outlasted its potential competitors and established itself as a prominent local and regional event for geeks of all kinds. Organizers estimated attendance for this year’s edition at more than 33,000, the largest number yet. Big comic-book names like Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld and actors like Burt Ward and Ray Park helped get people in the door at this year’s ALVCC, but independent creators (many of them local) were at the heart of the event.
And convention organizers made sure to spotlight them, too. On Saturday afternoon, local artist Ashleigh Popplewell had a good 50 people at her panel, a live drawing demonstration in which she went through the steps of creating a piece of Wonder Woman art, via her preferred media of Copic markers, colored pencils and paint. At the booth for Very Awesome Girls (whose panel immediately followed Popplewell’s), an organization dedicated to encouraging women’s involvement in geek culture, the group raffled off several prize packages to benefit local charities and promoted its upcoming leadership conference for young girls, showing how engagement with pop culture can translate into community activism.
On opposite sides of the convention hall, two local creators promoted works at the intersection of film and comic books, with filmmaker Joe Lujan expanding his Immortal Wars films into a series of comic books, and veteran comics creator Everette Hartsoe touting a planned film adaptation of his comics character Razor from director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious). Lujan is a prolific filmmaker, and the recently premiered The Immortal Wars (set for distribution later this year) is his seventh feature and first to include name actors like Eric Roberts and Tom Sizemore. In addition to the companion comic-book series, he also has a series of prequel videos available online and a feature-film sequel already set to go into production (with Roberts returning), all produced by his Vegas-based Carcass Studios.
A movie based on Everette Hartsoe’s comic The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is available now on Netflix, and he’s working with local company Got Films on developing more independent features. Hartsoe, who created Razor as part of the early ’90s boom in “bad girl” characters, has been in Vegas for more than a decade, but ALVCC was his first convention appearance of any kind in nearly 20 years, and along with his wife (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, plenty of other folks are planning the same.