59°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Zombies and aliens and wizards, oh my!

It will be a weekend of wizards and warriors and superheroes and supervillains and Wookies, mutants and Gorn.

Maybe even a little kid dressed like Merle Dixon from “The Walking Dead,” too.

In some alternate universe, all of that probably makes for just an ordinary weekend in Las Vegas. However, in this particular universe’s iteration of Las Vegas, all of that means that Wizard World Comic Con Las Vegas 2015 is hitting town for a Friday-through-Sunday run at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road.

“What populates a comic-book convention? Well there’s actors, and there’s dealers and there’s comic-book artists and writers, and there’s cosplay people, toy sales people, people who are selling trading cards and people selling swords. It’s not a flea market,” says Neal Adams, a pioneering comic-book artist who, at 73, remembers when conventions were easily housed in a downscale hotel ballroom.

“It’s really a mall of your popular culture coming into your backyard and allowing you to visit it,” says Adams, who will be at next weekend’s event.

Michael Rooker, an actor with a long resume who’s now best known for his role on “The Walking Dead,” has found he loves meeting fans at conventions. And, yes, he really did meet a child cosplayer dressed as a miniature Merle, complete with an aluminum foil knife prosthetic, he says in a recent phone interview.

“Getting the opportunity, as actors, to come out of their bubble and actually meet the (fans) who watch you loyally every week and loyally over the years, and when, as an actor, you do a lot of different things and to find that people follow your career — your whole career — I’m telling you, it’s pretty amazing,” Rooker says.

Wizard World hours are from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 26. Three-day weekend admission is $75 in advance and $85 on-site, and one-day advance tickets are $35 for Friday, $45 for Saturday and $40 for April 26 (autographs and VIP tickets extra). For more information, visit http://www.wizardworld.com/home-lasvegas.html

Wizard World Inc. CEO and Chairman John Macaluso says next weekend’s event will be the first-ever Wizard World convention in Las Vegas. The company produces more than two dozen Wizard World events across the country each year, he adds, and “we’ve just gotten so many requests for us to do a show in Las Vegas.”

Macaluso expects the Las Vegas convention to draw from both Southern Nevada and cities within a 250- to 300-mile radius. And, like any other fans of pop culture, sci-fi or fantasy, Macaluso says attendees are sure to be very passionate.

Scheduled to appear next weekend will be several cast members of “The Walking Dead,” including David Morrissey, Steven Yeun, Emily Kinney and Rooker. Others scheduled to appear are World Wrestling Entertainment’s Roman Reigns, Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), James Marsters (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Jason David Frank (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”), B.J. Britt (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Kevin Conroy (“Batman: The Animated Series”), Lou Ferrigno (“The Incredible Hulk”) and Sean Patrick Flanery (“The Boondock Saints”).

Comic and graphic novel creators scheduled to appear along with Adams include Salvador Larroca (“Captain America” and “Avengers vs. X-Men”), Clay Mann (“Harley Quinn” and “Hulk”), Arthur Suydam (“Marvel Zombies” and “Army of Darkness”) and Mike Zeck (“Superman” and “JLA”).

Gamers, traders, collectors, autograph seekers and fans of every stripe can indulge their particular passions at the event, and cosplayers — a subgenre of fans specializing in detailed costumes — can strut their stuff at a contest Saturday, while kid cosplayers can compete April 26.

“There’s such a diversity on the floor, and it’s really very exciting,” Macaluso says. “The fans don’t come for one hour. They come for days. We have programming all day long.”

Whether you choose to call it nerd culture or geekism, it’s no longer even a niche subculture in pop culture. Look, Macaluso says, at the ratings for the AMC series “The Walking Dead” — the show’s first season averaged viewership of just more than 5 million, while almost 16 million viewers saw its most recent season finale a few weeks ago — and how well movies such as “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” have done at the box office.

“The whole industry is trending toward genre material,” Macaluso says.

“We have become a culture that in spite of itself and without knowing it, has changed over to a comic-book culture,” Adams says. “We are in fact taking over the world. And it’s a peaceful takeover.”

Conventions have become so much more about movies, TV and other pop culture derived from comics that some fans grumble the writers and artists have been pushed aside. Adams sees the glass as half-full.

“You mustn’t feel bad about the artists, because the artists are there all day, and they’re doing great,” he says. “They’re more like fans. They get it. The actors have handlers, and agents.”

Actors show up to preformed lines to sign autographs and pose for photos, but the comic book guys are sitting at their tables all day, Adams says.

“People can come and talk to them, they can get a drawing done or buy stuff at their table,” he says. “They’re there for the fans.

“I’ll get as many people as an actor will get, but it’s because I’m there all day. That’s the way a comic book convention should be. This other thing? I’d rather those actors keep their asses in their chairs all day.”

Artists have another advantage, says Adams, who also will meet fans and sign and sell his works from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Alternate Reality Comics, 4110 S. Maryland Parkway.

“The actors are all jealous of us because people know who we are and when we go to a convention we’re like gods,” he says. “Everybody treats us great. And then we walk out on the street and nobody recognizes us.”

Adams is revered by older comics fans for his early ’70s work with writer Dennis O’Neil. They reinvented Batman, moving away from the campy 1960s TV show and making the character at once more realistic, yet more visually striking. And their teaming of two minor characters linked only by a color, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, was hailed as one of the earliest attempts to ground superheroes in the real world, confronting social issues of racism and drug addiction.

But Adams and DC Comics had fallen out by the end of the 1970s. The artist says he went on to make much more money in the advertising world, but in recent years has made amends with mainstream comics and started drawing Superman and Batman again.

“Things have changed,” he says. “Rates have gotten better, royalties have gotten better. Seeds that I planted 30 years ago have finally come to fruition.

“The fights that I had with DC and Marvel, I won. And guess what? They profited by it. … Every business makes big mistakes along the way.”

How do Adams and other pioneering artists feel about not owning an iconic character such as Batman, but contributing enduring pieces of the legend that continue to be mined for movies and TV shows?

“They drop a $100,000 check on me,” he says with a laugh. “How do you avoid some artist suing you? Give them a $100,000 check.”

The Batman “Dark Knight” trilogy of movies and the TV series “Arrow” both make use of the villain Ra’s al Ghul created by O’Neil and Adams. “These guys are doing interpretations of stuff that we’ve done, only they’re trying to take it further and put their mark on it,” he says. “And we want you to do that. We don’t want you to just copy our stuff.”

Rooker also will be among next weekend’s celebrity guests. His “Walking Dead” character, Merle Dixon, was introduced in the show’s first season, disappeared after what viewers assumed to be a grisly death, and then returned, to wild fan acclaim, in season 3.

Rooker gleefully describes Merle as “crazy, psychotic … a boisterous loudmouth and, in some people’s terms, racist and sexist.”

That viewers came to love Merle can be chalked up to the talent of Rooker, an articulate, thoughtful guy with a great sense of humor about both himself and “The Walking Dead.”

Since his film debut in 1986’s truly creepy “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” Rooker has forged a career playing anything from cops to crazies in everything from TV shows to video games. His big-screen credits also include playing Yondu Udonta in the box-office hit “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a character Rooker jokingly describes as “Merle Dixon and me, all mixed together.”

How does an actor craft such an eclectic list of credits? Not, he says, by simply accepting any role that comes down the pike.

“I turned down many serial killer-type roles after ‘Henry.’ It’s, like, what do you do? You’ve done Henry, and OK, I could go on and do more of these kind of roles, but I sort of veered away from that and went in other directions. I like to go in other directions.”

Then, even in accepting other, different sorts of roles, “I was very picky in the beginning,” Rooker says. “How many times can a cop be played? How many times can we see this same role being written, because, when it’s written on paper, sometimes those things read exactly alike.

“So I was always searching internally, searching for, just, motivating factors to make all of these characters as different as I can, and being picky, and just kind of trying to do what hasn’t been done before.”

“My take on things tends to be a little off-kilter and skewed,” Rooker adds with a laugh, “and this makes for some really interesting translation.”

Rooker says the challenge and the satisfaction of acting lies in turning a one-dimensional character on the page into a fully realized character on screen or onstage.

“I’m kind of lucky,” he says. “It’s totally choices, and if you have one line, two lines, three lines, four lines, for God’s sake, it doesn’t matter. Those lines, you have to somehow find the beginning, middle and end in one line, and that’s hard to do.”

Take, well, Merle Dixon.

“In the beginning, you see Merle Dixon in one way and, all of a sudden, next he shows you something else,” Rooker says.

Rooker adds he was amazed to witness fans’ favorable reaction to both the show and his character growing and intensifying from season 1 to Merle’s return in season 3.

After Merle’s assumed death in season 1, not only did fans want him back, they wanted him to wreak havoc, Rooker says with a laugh. “They wanted him to get his revenge. And it’s interesting how we didn’t give (fans) complete revenge, yet they still ended up loving the character.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280, and follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter. Read more from Mike Weatherford at bestoflasvegas.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Shock program rids your pool of yellow algae

If your pool water has gone from clear to yellow, you probably have yellow algae. The pool store will have chemicals to treat the water. When used with super-chlorination, products such as Yellow Out will kill yellow algae.