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Pittsburgh Comicon 2009: New Digs

Written by Zenguru on Sunday, September 13 2009 and posted in Columns

Another Pitt Con has come and gone.  I have memories of misadventures and boobs.

I always love going to the Pittsburgh Comicon.  But the delay this year induced severe con withdrawal.  Usually, this show happens near the end of April.  However, this year the show moved into a new home.  From the old Monroeville Expo Mart to the newly constructed Monroeville Convention Center.  Practically on the other side of the hotel next to the Expo Mart.

New digs for an old show and it was worth the wait.  There is now a waiting area with carpet instead of the old worn concrete.  And it's all clean, too.  A refreshment area is next to the entrance to the main hall.  It sells pizza, hot dogs, burgers, and other stuff.  Maybe not the best, but better than the food they sold at the old place. 

So on to the show.

The big draw this year was Stan Lee.  Appearing only on Saturday for a few hours.  For $40, you could purchase a ticket to stand in line for an autograph.  Yes, ONE autograph.  However, for $90, you got a ticket to stand in line, enter the show a half hour early, AND get TWO autographs.  One was an item of your choice.  The other was a signed con program.

What a deal, huh?

That's not all.  On E-bay, six passes were being auctioned by Hero Initiative.  Starting bids were $75.  The owner of one of these passes got to have one-on-one time with Stan personally 45 minutes before the show opened.  Before I went to sleep Friday night, I checked these passes out on E-bay.  The lowest bid on any of them was over $250.00.  A few bids were well over $350.00.

But hey, it's for charity.  Hero Initiative is a good cause.  I'd like to think those six lucky winners got their money's worth.  I didn't get to see Stan, though.  I heard people applauding his entrance.  I just didn't want to spend $40 for one measly signature.  Especially since the last time he was at the show, in 1996, tickets to see him were free and you got two items signed.

Besides, I had other people I wanted to see.

One of my main draws was Tim Truman.  A great guy.  He usually does Pittsburgh, seeing as he lives in Pennsylvania.  Plus, he used to live in my hometown.  I get a kick out of giving him an update on how things are going there.  I think he does, too.  But he cancelled this year.  What a bummer.

Michael Golden and Herb Trimpe also cancelled.

But there were still plenty of guests to enjoy.  Among them, Supergirl penciller Jamal Igle.  He's such a cheerful person, it's hard not to seek him out.  As he signed my run of the book, he let slip that he will be taking a short break from the book after #46.  He will back for the double sized #50 and there on for as long as he can.

With Truman out, my biggest draw was Mr. Mike Grell.  Mr. Warlord.  Mr. Green Arrow.  Iron Mike as he was called back in the day.  Every issue of Warlord I hadn't had signed by him to date, was signed that Saturday morning.  I was first in line.  Nobody was crowding up to the table.  He signed it all, happily.  I also got to watch him sketch a bit.  Next time he does a show ( HINT: he'll be at Mid-Ohio Con next month ) do yourself a favor and go watch him draw.  He does beautiful stuff.  It's a real treat to watch him work.

Ron Frenz is a perennial guest at Pittsburgh and a favorite of mine.  He is probably the most pleasant person in the world.  His jovial manner and booming voice make me think this is what it would be like if Tom Arnold was a church goer.  In the midst of signing my stuff, he noticed an illegible scribble on the cover of Thunderbolts #9.  "Who the heck is that?" he boomed.  "That is Kurt Busiek," I replied.  "That is Kurt Busiek," he echoed, boomingly.  He also signed a pinup he did with Joe Sinnot in Fantastic Four #358.  I made a comment on how Sinnot was a great inker for him.  He said that's when he knew he was a Marvel guy.  But I liked his DC stuff, too.  And I told him so.  He really appreciated that.  That must be why he put X's and O's on the cover of my Superman: The Wedding Album.

Scott McDaniel is another perennial guest who lives nearby.  His line is very popular for sketches.  But every few minutes he raises his head and asks if there is anybody in line for just signatures.  This is something I don't see a lot of artists do.  It cuts down on wait time and lets you know how much he appreciates you buying his work.  If only Jim Lee was this considerate at Baltimore a couple years ago. 

Alex Saviuk is still fairly new to Pittsburgh, but I'll go up to him anytime.  We talked about Julius Schwartz and what a nice guy he was.  He also lamented on how he had a chance to meet Gil Kane a year or two before he died, but never got to fulfill that chance.  We talked about Kirby for a bit.  That led to me mentioning Vinnie Colletta, a veteran Marvel inker of years past.  He had a penchant for covering up a good bit of the detail in some full page shots by Kirby and others.  I thought it was because he was lazy.  Saviuk said it was probably mostly because those jobs were rush jobs.  Someone else couldn't do them for one reason or another and Colletta was asked to step in and finish them quickly.  Wow.  The things you hear about this behind the scenes stuff never fails to intrigue me.

Dan Fraga was another good conversationalist.  He signed my Deathmate: Red and cringed as he looked through the pages he did for that ill-fated crossover.  "But you got a lot better" I said.  "Barely" he retorted.  You could pop pimples of modesty on that man's face.  He talked a lot about animation and how it's much easier these days as opposed to the trenches of yesteryear.  He talked about computers that essentially move the skeleton of a single drawing rather than an artists doing thousands of drawings for a few simple movements.  This is why everybody's mouth moves similarly in shows like Futurama.  Another wow moment.  He's come a long way since I first met him at the 1996 Pitt show where, from across the room, he thought I was Dave Sim's twin brother.

I don't think Dave Sim has a twin, but that's beside the point.

Amazingly, I got all my stuff signed by around 2pm.  Practically lunch time.  My buddy Steve and I ventured to the refreshment stand where I got the fattest hot dog I'd ever had.  Topped with chili and sauerkraut.  It was deliciously messy. 

After that hearty meal, I took the time to stroll around this brand new convention hall.  I noticed how the lighting was much better and brighter.  The beige paint made the hall look very welcoming and wide.  This made any cute girl in a comic costume look much more becoming than the drab fluorescence of the old Expo Mart.  It also made searching through back issues a whole lot easier.  I didn't have to pull the comic out of the box and hold it out at arms length to see the artwork and issue numbers.

Before I left for the day, I happened by Mike SanGiacomo's table.  He wasn't there.  But his artist partner was.  My eye was caught by a trade titled "Tales of the Starlight Drive-In."  San Giacomo pens about 30 stories that happen around a particular drive-in theater over a number of years.  All the stories are self-contained, but they all are a piece of a bigger story.  The artist didn't have to work too hard to sell me on it.  Then, like a miracle, before I was about to leave the show entirely, San Giacomo shows up just in time to sign my copy of the book.  I was delighted.  I have yet to read this story, but what I saw by flipping through it stokes my anticipation.  I think I'm going to enjoy this unexpected treasure.

So, all in all, this year's show was a success for me.  The environment seemed to put everyone in a better mood than last year.  I got everything signed that I brought.  Save for the people who cancelled.  I even filled a few holes in my collection.  Finally found a copy of Spanner's Galaxy #5.  Now I can read the COMPLETE story.  I found a copy of Warlord #6 (new series) that I got skipped on last week.  I ran into GCom a couple of times and survived.  And I got a sketchbook smattered with smutty drawings off of Adam Hughes.

What more could any fan ask?

Well, here's a little preview of next April's show:  First time guests coming are Marv Wolfman and Tom Mandrake.  Yep, Tom Mandrake is on tap for the next Pittsburgh Comicon in only SIX months.

Be there.


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About the Author - Zenguru

Zenguru has been an Outhouser since the days it was blue. He's the Rick Jones of The Outhouse. Not always in the mansion, but always around in a pinch. Just don't pinch too hard, okay? He's written a few articles, notably $k!d M@rks, and has published several books of poetry. Lately, he's been writing poems and fiction about diners. He's been reading comics since the mid-70's. He dreams of one day traveling between dimensions to be Jonah Hex's sidekick.

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