The current schedule for Wizard World lists 22 events in 22 cities over the next year, part of the company’s strategy as the McDonald’s of comic-book conventions. So I was a little skeptical that last weekend’s inaugural edition of Wizard World Las Vegas would be a positive addition to the local comic-book scene, and not the equivalent of Wal-Mart entering a neighborhood and driving independent stores out of business.
But the event was lively and efficiently run, with plenty of local talent participating as both vendors and speakers. Thanks to its franchise status, Wizard World can’t always land big-name guests, but in Vegas that seemed to mean more chances for independent creators to be in the spotlight. For this edition, at least, Wizard World looks like a force for geek good.
Friday kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring former Mayor Oscar Goodman (flanked by his customary showgirls) along with onetime Hulk Lou Ferrigno and genre favorite Kevin Sorbo, both Wizard World regulars. Foot traffic was a little slow on Friday, especially in the creator-focused artist alley area, but it picked up considerably on Saturday, with attendance looking at least as strong as at other recent local conventions (including the Amazing Las Vegas Comic-Con, which returns June 19-21).
As expected, there was plenty of cosplay, with a range of popular and lesser-known comics and genre characters (including one guy dressed as the Jared Leto version of the Joker just a day after the first image of the character had been revealed). Local artist Deryl Skelton, who had his own table in artist alley and appeared on a Saturday panel, said he was doing robust business in sketches. Veteran comics writer Steven Grant (2 Guns, The Punisher), a longtime local resident, joked that, “I no longer like leaving my house,” but he too was busy at the convention, appearing on multiple panels, after having attended last November’s Wizard World in Reno.
“It’s a big-time feel, but you don’t feel like you’re overwhelmed,” said Julie Priest of local fan group Very Awesome Girls Into Nerdy Activities. Sisters Hilly and Hannah Hindi of popular YouTube series The Hillywood Show had their own well-attended panel on Saturday, and Hannah said Wizard World was their first local show. “Half of our fans don’t know we’re locals,” she added. Thanks to Wizard World, the Hindis and plenty of others had the chance to connect with fellow fans and share the pop culture they love.