Review: 2016 Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con Succeeds by Focusing on Comics
The 2016 Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con (ALVCC) returned June 17-19, bigger and better than ever. Year after year, ALVCC has demonstrated continued growth, and this year they upgraded their venue to accommodate this growth, leaving behind past appearances at the South Point Hotel and Casino to embrace their larger home at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
On the exhibit floor, local comic shop powerhouse Maximum Comics dominated a large chunk of real estate near the entrance, but the floor itself was a robust mix of comic creators, comic publishers, comic and game shops, toy sellers, cosplayers, and fandom groups. In a great sign for the health of the convention, this year’s Artists’ Alley was large enough to frame the exhibit floor on two sides, providing a terrific forum for creators to show off their original and commissioned works. In addition, a cozy video games area took up one corner of the floor, while the main events stage took up another corner. But while the main events stage was adequately separated from the main floor by black curtains, it was noticeably smaller than in past events.
What one wouldn’t find at the 2016 ALVCC was a dedicated celebrity section – that convention area where fans might line up to pay for photos and signatures from stars of film and television. Last year, ALVCC’s biggest featured celebrity was John Barrowman of Arrow and Torchwood fame, and his warmth, charisma, and willingness to engage with fans was a terrific asset to the 2015 ALVCC. This year’s convention held no celebrities of that caliber, but despite that lack at the 2016 ALVCC, they still put forth a strong convention by focusing on their core interests – comic books and creators.
And this is where the 2016 ALVCC truly shined, in that in many ways it reflected a return to the roots of the comic convention by encouraging comic book fans to explore and discover and meet with creators both new and familiar. Even the big name guests at the 2016 con reflected a comics-first approach, as Chris Claremont, Kevin Eastman, Steve McNiven, Mat Nastos, and Scott Lobdell may be known in the comics and comics-related geekosphere, but much less so beyond that audience. While this approach may not hold tremendous appeal with casual fans, it is a boon to both creators and fans of comics in general. One could wander the exhibit floor and Artists’ Alley and discover a terrific indy gem like Fanboy Comics’ Penguins vs Possums, or peruse local Las Vegas comic Scrimshaw, or chat with rising stars of geek parody music, the Library Bards, because despite the large attendance, the 2016 ALVCC presented a cozy and relaxed atmosphere that encouraged actual conversation between fans and creators, rather than treat the affair as a more mercenary retail exchange between sellers and buyers.
The 2016 ALVCC extended this fan-first philosophy to their programming, with much of their panels exploring the “how-to” of fandom. Panels offered lessons on costume and prop design, cosplay, art, comic book creation, and independent publishing. On the exhibit floor, featured booth GarageFX offered tips and assistance to cosplayers of all experience levels, encouraging fans to turn their costuming ideas into cosplay reality.
Cosplay itself was spotlighted on each night of the convention, with a cosplay parade on Friday night, a cosplay contest on Saturday night, and a children’s cosplay contest on Sunday afternoon. Musical act, the Library Bards, performed their brand of geeky pop-parody songs on multiple nights – both before and during the cosplay contests – and their continued presence at Amazing Comic Cons is a welcome staple of the proceedings.
Overall, Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con put on another strong show, and did so not with a broad panel of celebrities with only a tenuous connection to the convention, but with a diverse array of writers, artists, creators, and publishers, interacting with comic book fans to offer a glimpse into their lives and their work, and helping aspiring creators elevate their own work. The 2016 ALVCC was first and foremost a comic book convention, and it is because of this that they continue to grow and more firmly establish themselves as the preeminent comic book convention in Las Vegas.