Sometimes it’s about quality, not quantity. Pittsburgh isn’t San Diego or New York, but still there was something magical about the gathering comic and toy community at the Steel City Con. December 3-5 saw Pittsburgh’s largest toy and pop culture convention celebrating its 21st year. Per usual, the convention included hundreds of dealer tables with toys, comics, cartoons, movies, t-shirts, memorabilia, and celebrity signings.
The interesting thing about these comic conventions is the blending of interest between the old and the new. There was everything from never before seen movie posters featuring the upcoming Avengers movie to old Excalibur hanging mobiles from the early 90s. But as convention veterans will tell you, as spectacular as it is to dig through the large bins of comics and pull out that one missing piece of your collection that happens to be at a reasonable price, the real spirit of the convention is in the people. Nerds of every age, shape, and discipline peer about in awe. That’s right, friends – we’ve found the Promised Land.
There are pros and cons to attending a convention that is not purely centered around comics. On one side, perhaps there are fewer booths specifically
devoted to the sales of comics. This makes it a bit more difficult to score that rare find. But these sorts of pop culture conventions should not be shunned. The booth prices are more reasonable, therefore customers are not limited to the same big-store vendors. Private collectors show up and set up tables in order to sell off interesting pieces from their own collections. From the point of view of the vendors, this is an opportunity to showcase with less direct competition in their field. Michael K. Easton, independent artist and web designer of the quirky comic Short Pants Romance explains, “There is a different vibe here than from a pure comic con, which can be good because there is less of what you’re doing around you so that you can stick out more.”
This is Easton’s 4th Steel City, though he usually attends the spring version of the convention. When asked if he thought the convention was beneficial he eagerly agreed that it was. “Time and experience always gets you closer to your goal.” The one lament that Easton had? Same as the rest of us … the need for a fatter wallet as he looked around at the great buys surrounding him.
The goal for store owners is a little different. Putting a name out there is spectacular, but sales are what keep them alive and functioning at what they love to do. When asking the vendors about the best-selling items, the consistent answer was Image Comic’s The Walking Dead. By halfway through Saturday, the second day of the convention, many booth owners lamented that they didn’t bring enough copies of each volume to keep up with the demand! This comes to no surprise considering the resurgence of popularity of the series due to the hit new AMC tv show.
No pop culture convention would be complete without the celebrity appearances. Celebrity guests included Lou Ferrigno, who you might remember as the Incredible Hulk in the 2008 movie with Edward Norton, Daniel Loga who played Boba Fett in the recent Star Wars movies and Richard Kiel, the notorious giant from movies like Happy Gilmore and several James Bond films as well as the voice of Vlad in the upcoming Disney Movie Tangled and the voice of Jaws, his signature character, in the upcoming James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing video game.
The moral of the story is that when San Diego doesn’t fit into your budget, don’t knock the small conventions. This is the place to meet people who love what you love. These are thepeople that don’t mind that you can’t seem to make yourself stop arguing your point about … (insert here whatever it is you like to talk about ad nauseum. Come on. You know you do it. We all do.) And less specified conventions such as Steel City Con give you an opportunity to get a taste of the things that flip the geek switch of other, like-minded, people.