By Jacqueline Monahan
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The Riviera Hotel and Casino was once again the costume-filled location for the Second Annual Las Vegas Comic Expo, and its large exhibit hall was filled with graphic novels, artwork, superheroes, and luminaries of the genre.

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With over 130 artists and 74 venues represented, collectibles (paper, plastic, metal, and wood) extended over vast acres, dissected by rows of the faithful, marveling at Marvel and drooling over DC, crowing over Cosmic Comics and aligning themselves with those from Alternate Reality.  There wasn’t a color that couldn’t be found, an image that couldn’t be drawn or an iconic entity that couldn’t be bought, in miniature form, – for a price.

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Business as usual for a comic book store, except that many of the attendees dressed as characters out of their pages.  In one aisle Wonder Woman and Wolverine drew cameras and cell phones their way, while Nite Owl and Rorschach roamed solo, coming together in assorted, randomly mixed groups of legends to further their immortality in never-ending photo ops.

Charity auctions (two silent, one live) featuring original artwork, sketches, and collectibles donated a part of their proceeds to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, in Boulder City.

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Cosplay panels (there were five, one was just for kids) ensured that there was NEVER a costume-free atmosphere at the expo.  What pair of pants or dress could ever take the place of a cape, helmet or wings?  How can a purse compete with a scythe or sword?  Cosplay brings comics to life, allowing characters to leap off of the page and right in front of you in line for the bathroom.  Batman absolutely cannot be effective with a full bladder, you know.

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Guests included Sylvester McCoy, (Dr. Who, The Hobbit) Neal Adams (DC and Marvel legend), Kristen Bauer (True Blood), Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Revolution).

Yes, there WAS a Zombie panel, ad this year it was populated by the cast of Sirc Michaels’ Evil Dead The Musical, who excitedly and bloodily discussed the evolution of zombies and their role in pop culture.  Michaels later moderated an Actor’s Insight panel featuring a woman who, as a child, spewed pea soup and mimicked an owl.  The devil made her do it, or at least Pazuzu, one of his minions.

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Of course I’m talking about iconic actress Linda Blair (The Exorcist).  The svelte and very fit Blair was on hand to speak humorously about her career, and passionately about animal welfare and world nutrition.  Wearing a brown The Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation tank top that showed off her toned biceps beautifully, Blair shared her love of pitbulls, horses, and all creatures great and small. 

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A vegetarian, Blair is a compelling speaker, advocating whole foods for all species and responsible pet care, respect, rights, and rescue for all animals.  The actor/activist once wanted to be a veterinarian and did modeling in New York before being discovered by casting director Juliet Taylor and landing the head-spinning, life-changing role she is most known for – although she will tell you that these days she’d rather be recognized for her animal work.

Blair understands the interest in the William Friedkin film that propelled here to international stardom and controversy, obliging the audience with tidbits of trivia. She thought that she was expected to perform all of her own stunts in The Exorcist, including levitation.

“Wow, they must think I’m really good!” exclaimed the then 12-year-old before production began.  After the film was released she would later ask her mother, “Why are they lying about me?” in response to the controversy surrounding her often disturbing portrayal of demonic possession that had her, among other things, spouting ultra-vulgar rants, wreaking telekinetic mayhem, and assaulting herself with a crucifix.

Other unusual facts from her life:  She almost died at 19 from a stress-related ulcerated intestine, and she’s best friends with Murray Langston, better known in his 70’s heyday as The Unknown Comic, his brown-bag encased head, big lapels and one-liners filling stages and televisions screens.  She loves all animals, but her favorite breed is the pit bull, which she fiercely defends as a canine victim of man’s greed.  Don’t ever take her out for fast food, which she’ll tell you has led to most of this country’s (and the world’s) nutritional woes.

In short, Blair is a force of nature, a warrior-advocate for the voiceless creatures of earth, and eager to show that she’s been hanging with the right spirits for a long time now.

And then Lou Ferrigno strode into the room, swinging his famous biceps along with him and looking more youthful and formidable than his 61 years.  In black jeans and t-shirt, the television Hulk exuded a confidence that he confessed escaped him in his early years.

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Excited to be at a comic convention, the Brooklyn-born Ferrigno recounted an introverted childhood of limited means, working out with two filled cement pails and being ridiculed as a weakling.  He loved Superman so much that he thought he could put on the costume and fly.  Two broken legs later, he resumed working out on a more earthly level, becoming a super man through weight training.

At his peak he weighed 375 pounds with just 2% body fat, won a Mr. America and two consecutive Mr. Universe titles, and played Bill Bixby’s alter ego in television’s The Incredible Hulk (1977-1981).  His fans at the time thought he could “throw cars off of cliffs.” In his opinion, the second Hulk movie was the best, with Edward Norton’s portrayal of Bruce Banner closely approximating Bill Bixby’s.

The late Dom Deluise was a cherished friend, and he once put actor Jason Segal in a choke hold that almost caused him to pass out, for the bromance film I LoveYou, Man.  His favorite actor from his years on the sitcom The King of Queens?  Jerry Stiller.  The person he wishes were a man?  Lisa Lampanelli, his nemesis from Celebrity Apprentice.  You can probably guess why.

What’s he doing these days?  He’s a deputy sheriff in L.A., handing out speeding tickets to sometimes star-struck scofflaws.  Do they want his autograph? “No,” he says with a grin, “but I want theirs.”

He still trains five times a week, incorporating 45 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of cardio – and it shows.  And Hollywood is still calling. Look for him in the upcoming films Scorpion King and The Liberator.

His Hulk days are behind him and he’ll probably never be green again, but it’s still a good idea not to get this guy angry.  These days, it’s not just Lou Ferrigno, it’s the law.

GALLERY

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Fright Dome 2013 at Circus Circus: Putting Shock in October Once Again

 It’s baaaack! The place where terrifying clowns pursue innocent visitors with sharp teeth and chain saws; the place where blood body parts decorate walls and floors like macabre artwork; the place where freaks pound nails into facial orifices and juggle swords.

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Fright Dome, the dark side of Adventure Dome during October got its fog machine and strobe lights out of storage and onto the main arena, featuring five new houses of horror (six, if you got a Fast Pass) new stage shows, and a whole crew of ghouls to harass those who wouldn’t have it any other way.

In its 11th year, Fright Dome is the brainchild of entrepreneur Jason Egan, who started his horrific venture at the 250,000 square foot Adventuredome when he was just 23. The screams and splatter haven’t stopped since, but plenty of hearts have – for that split second when you’re faced with creatures who all want a piece of you. Literally.

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Not Igor, Eye-Gore

Hotel Argento is the main attraction this year and its distinction is that you have to enter and proceed ALONE through its maze of terror. No holding hands with a pal, no group cluster to protect you. It’s one at a time into what Egan says are waiting traps in twisting corridors, encountering half-dead victims and those that didn’t get away. Based on the film The Collector, Hotel Argento can only be accessed by those with a VIP Fast Pass (you can skip the lines, but not your fate).

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KSNV's Mike Monahan and a Little Lady

The other five new haunted houses are included with regular admission, as well as 25 rides and attractions (Inverter, Chaos, Canyon Blaster, etc.) live shows that range from the bizarre to the ghoulish, and Go-Go Ghouls in pasty white faces who can dance like the undead.

 The Private Tour allows groups to bypass the regular lines, even the Fast Pass admission lines and is given by the ghostly Fright Dome team so guests never have to worry about standing in line or getting lost in the mayhem. Groups of 4 to 8 people can be accommodated – but it’ll cost ya. Hey, someone’s gotta keep these ghouls in fresh corpses.

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Legendary horror king Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) was on hand for pictures and autographs, and the most amazing balloon artist, Jeremy Johnston, amazed the crowd with his intricate creations, like Despicable Me minions, snow globes, wearable monster helmets, chain saws and machine guns. There’s something terrifyingly funny about weapons made of air in a venue full of serial killer clowns.

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Horror King Sid Haig Autograph Signing

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Balloon Artist Jeremy Johnston Makes a Minion

The roving, sinister creatures know just how to stalk and glare and confront. And follow. A look over the shoulder might reveal one of their faces next to yours. Smiles reveal sharp teeth; hair is of varying colors, none of them found in nature. The dark only accentuates the creepy atmosphere, but a laser show occasionally lights up the evil ones in neon ferocity, while the fog can disguise an approaching terror until it is upon you.

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Even monsters have hearts, when they’re not stopping yours, and this year the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NVSPCA) has been chosen to be Fright Dome's charity partner. Every Sunday a portion of the proceeds from tickets will be donated to the organization.   

 

One of the nation's top-ranked haunted attractions, Fright Dome continues to reel in the unsuspecting and the brave, only to startle both with their own ability to scream. It’s a Las Vegas institution and this year more than ever, it wants to get you alone. There’s always room for one more.

GALLERY

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 Rocky Horror Stage Show

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Monster Balloon Swallows Human Head

 

 

 

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Balloon Helmet

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She swallowed the whole thing!