Geek life

The inaugural Wizard World Reno Comic Con brought out fans of all descriptions—and species

Photos/Anna Hart

Column note

In a space filled with wand-waving, sword-wielding, cape-flinging villains, warlocks, heroes and anime princesses, the inaugural Wizard World Reno Comic Con was an exhibition of some of the most recognizable icons in pop culture.

From steampunk jewelry, to fantasy and horror books, to superhero emblems, it seemed every cultural niche was represented.

Many of the small vendors brought booths packed with buttons, T-shirts, toys, and of course, comic books. Most ventured from out of town, traveling from convention to convention selling their custom-made goods, comic collectibles, or simply obscure paraphernalia, like T-shirts for grammar aficionados.

Outside of perusing all of the odds and ends for sale, the three-day event was packed with activities, ranging from sitting in on celebrity panels, to participating in a costume contest, to playing one of the board games in a game library set up in the middle of the room.

A few of the events held were in conjunction with popular reality television shows. Convention-goers had the chance to be tattooed by the cast of A&E’s Epic Ink or participate in sci-fi speed dating, a trend chronicled in TLC’s Geek Love.

Even in the midst of all of this, there was still a local presence.

One Northern Nevada influence came from a performance by the Tomo Club, one of the smaller groups formed from the Reno Video Game Symphony.

Another came from R.S. Archey, a Reno author who brought his two self-published books, The Seven Spires and Crucible, to his booth. With elements of Arthurian legend, fairy tales, and even vampires in his works, Archey received a warm reception.

“A lot of people came over just because I’m a local author,” said Archey. “But many are interested in the fantasy genre and others, when they hear the word ’vampire,’ their eyes light up. Here, I feel like I’m with my people, like I’m right at home.”

Cosplayers were everywhere. Cosplayers are those who spend hundreds of dollars—or the equivalent in blood, sweat, and tears—forming themselves into the likeness of their favorite fictional characters.

Some, like Lady Snow Bird, dressed as anime character Princess Euphemia, commissioned someone else to make her costume. But many made their own.

Keith, an engineer in the Army, spent more than a year and more than $2,000 making a Ghostbusters cosplay. Armed with resin, fiberglass and blueprints found online, Keith made his own replica of the suit and proton pack.

Keeleigh West, in her first endeavor to craft a cosplay outfit, created a pair of mechanical wings out of PVC pipe, wire mesh and feathers. Functioning with a hidden lever system, West’s homemade wings raise and lower to complete her outfit as the character Castiel from the show Supernatural.

Cosplay at the convention granted adults the chance to dress up in costume and have it be socially accepted. Ranging from Frankenweenie in a stroller to two vibrantly-youthful grandmothers dressed as Catwoman and Spiderman, costumes saw no age limit, gender, or even species.

The convention’s greatest strength was the emphasis on socializing and interaction. Regardless of whether it was a celebrity, vendor or a simple attendee, the swarming, pulsating atmosphere compelled guests to get off cell phones and talk to each other. It’s one reason why so many families chose to attend together.

Former comic book store owners and seasoned fans Rick and Laurie Reyom waited in line with their son, Tony Puls, for their chance to meet Bruce Campbell. Graphic novels, cosplay and fantasy have been shared interests for their family and have allowed a bond to remain, even as Puls grew into adulthood. The Comic Con here in Reno allowed them a chance to explore and appreciate their interests together.

Parents of younger children saw the convention as an opportunity to instill the same flame and interests of the superheroes of their youth. Some families donned the outfits of their favorite characters, like Michael, dressed as DC Comic’s Black Adam, who took his son Jack dressed as Marvel’s Captain America, while others were costumed as a pair, like the battle-ready, father-daughter duo of Eugene Shim, dressed in full riot gear, and Olivia, armed with a toy dagger.

“I think it’s fun to see the kids with their families,” said Michael Shane, a cosplayer dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi. “Seeing people being able to be young at heart is important, but seeing parents bring their children into the world of this stuff is even better.”

But of course, the celebrity guests were a magnetic draw for many of the attendees. There were appearances by television legends like William Shatner, known for his role as James T. Kirk of the original Star Trek cast, and Lou Ferrigno, who played Hulk in the 1970s television show, The Incredible Hulk. Norman Reedus and John Bernthal from The Walking Dead and Eliza Dushku, most known from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, were also present.

Bruce Campbell, one of the most popular guests, gained notoriety, not from mainstream media, but from B movie cult classics, like The Evil Dead trilogy.

Campbell’s memoir, If Chins Could Kill, hints at the mythic proportions of the pedestal on which his devotees have placed him, and the man known for his part-man, part-chainsaw heroics as Ash in The Evil Dead films did not disappoint.

“He signed my chainsaw!” 14-year-old Robert exclaimed, acknowledging the plastic tool affixed to his arm with duct tape.

In the age of technology where printed word seems to be consistently beaten out by the more immediately visceral movies and television programs, comic books still find a place among fans. Facilitating a place for comic book creators and illustrators to meet with their audience continues to spark interest in their work.

“For me, [the convention makes it all] a lot more personal. … I’ve only been reading and collecting comic book-related things for about a year, but it makes me want to continue [to do those things],” said Clint Veil, who has now amassed a wide array of DC comic books and collectibles.

For many, picking a favorite part of the event was like picking a favorite child. But, as in families, choices were made.

“The small vendors and little-known artists are the best,” said Kathryn, an attendee sporting elf ears and a Superman shirt.

“I like the character dressed as Lady Death. But then, I just like all the sexy characters,” said Rick Royem, over his wife’s snickering.

“I like the churros,” said a 7-year-old Harry Potter.

Especially considering this was the first year in town, the Wizard World Reno Comic Con received a great response, with several comic-convention regulars praising the venue, the program and atmosphere.

While there was some gossip that Wizard World might host a convention in Las Vegas instead of Reno next year, the recently released schedule on the company’s website shows both cities on the docket, with a reappearance in Reno scheduled for November 2015.