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October 24, 2014

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Comic book convention returns after 8-year absence

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Sam Morris

Marcus Hall checks out the armor on a Star Wars storm trooper during the Las Vegas Comic Expo Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.

2012 Las Vegas Comic Expo

Hyper-sexualized alien sculptures by Mark Alfrey are seen on display at the Las Vegas Comic Expo Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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A man who declined to give his name bags up a comic book in his store's booth at the Las Vegas Comic Expo Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.

Sitting inside the comic book art auction room at the Riviera Convention Center, Las Vegas Comic Expo executive director Charles Lee couldn’t stop yawning. He could barely keep his red, sleep-deprived eyes open on Saturday as he talked about the expo. The event's mastermind didn't plan on being this tired, but forces greater than the greatest supervillian conspired against him when, nearly two weeks ago, a record-setting rainstorm flooded the convention’s original site at Alexis Park All-Suite Resort, sending Lee on a quest to save the event.

“I wanted to curl up into a little ball and cry,” Lee said when he found out about the flooding on Sept. 17.

But the flooding also turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“It turned out a lot better than we thought,” Lee said. “We thought the move would hurt us, but it’s actually helped us.”

Inside a Riviera ballroom hundreds of comic book fans chatted and bounced from booth to booth, visiting artists from comic books such as "Hellboy" and "The Amazing Spider-Man." Several Batmans walked around with villains such as Bane and Joker, mingling and posing for pictures, while an Imperial Stormtrooper conversed with a Jurassic Park worker.

Lee spent a year planning and promoting this year’s expo. It had been eight years since the last comic convention in Las Vegas ended with a fizzle. Lee says organizers failed to promote locally and relied on tourists to fill the venue, but they never came. He said it was a ghost town.

Lee vowed to change that. He made this event more family friendly, with a game room to play cards and board games. He locked in famous science fiction celebrities Tricia Helfer ("Battlestar Galactica") and Thomas Jane ("Hung," "The Mist"), and he brought in a slew of comic book artists.

Tom Andress, who has been to conventions across the East coast, said he was a little worried the event would flop when few people showed early on Saturday. By noon, however, a flood of comic-book lovers filled the ballroom. Andress was impressed.

“Las Vegas is a great place for a (comic) convention,” Andress said.

Lee said the Riviera stepped in and condensed a year’s worth of event planning into one week. He said the new location increased the amount of interest from convention-goers and artists.

Lee said with this year’s success, he plans to make the convention an annual event. First, however, he needs to get some sleep.

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