Monday, September 14, 2009

The Con

Hey there LowBrow readers! I’m back from the land of moving and taking on two jobs to report in. About three months back I moved from scenic State College, Pennsylvania to the hustle and bustle of the Steel City... Pittsburgh! Having secured two jobs and little free time I finally made my way out of my cave this weekend to hit up The Pittsburgh Comicon.

The wonderful irony of the convention is that it's not in Pittsburgh proper but in the outlying area of Monroeville. For those of you not in the know, Monroeville is where the original cult (and personal) favorite zombie movie "Dawn of the Dead" was filmed. In fact, the mall featured in the movie is right next door to the convention center where the con was held this year.

This would be my second time attending the con, my first having been some six years ago when Neil Gaiman was supposed to be guest of honor. He cancelled due to scheduling conflicts but I still had a good time with my friend Vic as we discovered the aforementioned “Dawn of the Dead” was celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. Part of the celebration was an after hours tour of the mall with cast and crew of the movie, for a nominal fee of $25 (if I’m remembering right). Vic and I were fortunate enough to have our tour group led by Ken Foree, one of the stars of the movie and the guy with one of the most memorable lines.

In any case, this year I was excited to see that the guest of honor was the man himself, Stan Lee! The kicker on this one though was the $40 tickets they were selling to get his autograph, which were sold out when I showed up Saturday morning. I wasn’t really disappointed though. I’m not one for autographs preferring the experience of meeting the individual and getting to at least have an exchange with them. At the very least, I hoped to get a picture of Mr. Lee, which I did manage to do, but I’ll save that for last.

The con this time around wasn’t just an opportunity for me to mil about with other fans looking at back issues and merchandise, but was a chance for me to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen for some time. I arrived about thirty minutes after the doors opened and began wandering around a bit, looking for that one item I wanted to take home with me as well as checking out the, shall we say, colorful cast of characters that attend these events. During my first lap around the dealers’ area, I ran into a friend of mine I used to work with up in State College. We played a bit of catch up and was happy to geek out with him again. After that, my friend Vic showed up along with a few of our other friends.

There was more checking out of the wares the dealers had for sale, our friends coming here to actually buy comics, there being a lack of a quality comic book store in their home town. Vic and I broke off and decided to do what we do best, find the odd wonders of the show. Among them, the Mystique that really needed to morph into a face that looked less like a man’s, Fat Vader leading around a chubby slave Leia by a chain, and the awesome albino we wanted to make our new friend.

The coup de grâce being the few moments we spent hanging out next to the concession stand as one of our party was getting a drink. We were talking between ourselves and half conversating with a gentleman engrossed in his blackberry. He had a tag on his shirt meaning he was either with the con in some way, shape, or form. That is when one of the Iron Sirens (see the Comicon website) walked past wearing what could kindly be called a costume but was more a couple of bits of fabric to cover her naughty bits up. Gazing upon her sculpted form (you see, Iron Sirens are all body builders) we came upon a surprise that made us all stop. Just above her belly button was what could be said to have been a protrusion of some sort, best described by Vic as it being “like a chest burster had attempted to do it’s thing and just sort of gave up.” The gentleman beside us looked up from his Blackberry to chime in before we moved on, “Yeah, it’s like she lifted something a bit too heavy.” What we didn’t know at the time though was that we were sort of paling it up a bit with Greg Horn. You see, those are the moments I love at cons, the times when you get to actually meet the people. When they’re not talking about the industry and when you’re not asking them to draw you a picture. Next year, if Mr. Horn is at the con again, I’m buying him a $5 Budweiser.

While The Pittsburgh Comicon might not be up there as one of the big cons like Wizard World or Comic-Con International, it’s enjoyable as an event for bringing people together. It doesn’t seem to have caught itself up in the hype of Hollywood or has bogged itself down with too much stuff that isn’t comic books. What I found there this year was comic book dealers, artists, and fans. I also found an atmosphere where I could reconnect with old friends and not feel like I was constantly being sold on a lifestyle. Mind you, I’ve never been to any of the big cons but that’s just something I’ll have to remedy in the future.

Oh, before I forget, my brush with Stan Lee. You see, as I said the tickets to get his autograph were sold out. In an attempt to at least get a picture of the man, I went to where they had him set up and, with my zoom up to maximum, got this gem!


If you get a big name in like Stan Lee and market your convention around him, as you should, at least make him somewhat accessible to the people who either couldn’t afford the $40 for a ticket to get an autograph or just couldn’t get one because they were sold out. By somewhat accessible I mean have him in a place where a person could get a clear picture of him without the need of a special camera.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to next year’s con. Margot Kidder is going to be there!

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