When Pittsburgh Comic Con sold out to Wizard World after their 2014 event, the collective nerd community of Pennsylvania cried. While there's definitely a place for large scale celebrity events, it's the smaller, truly comic- and fan-oriented conventions that we are feeling a lack of in our area. The initial Wizard World Pittsburgh was decidedly underwhelming and left everyone lusting for our old con back. Enter New Dimensions' exciting announcement that they were producing their own event!
New Dimensions is a comic book chain local to Pittsburgh with over 25 years in the biz. We've seen lots of comic and gaming stores come and go, so with a record like that, these guys are truly tapped in and know what the community wants.
Three Rivers Comic Con was hosted in Century III Mall. Even though I grew up in Pittsburgh, I had never visited this shopping mecca before. Unfortunately, the building seems to be outliving its era. Like most large malls, it is mostly empty now and slightly depressing, but that is a topic for a different day... and probably not for a costuming blog, haha. New Dimensions has a large location inside the Century III Mall, so I suppose it was an easy decision for them to keep their event close to home where they wouldn't just be helping out all of the artists and vendors of their con, but their own store, and the others in their mall. It was probably a nice boost for all.
That said, I don't think it was a prime location and with it already quite filled with vendors and, what I think was, a pretty good turn out, I foresee them needing to locate a larger space for subsequent events. We were happy to see lots of familiar vendors and artists we used to see at Pittsburgh Comic Con, as well as plenty of new faces as well. My husband's score of the day was a first appearance of Ra's El Ghul (which was in part a Father's Day present for him) and two very nice Ghostbusters figures. I left with a Grimm Fairy Tales coloring book straight from the Zenescope booth. Little guy scored himself two rides on the mall's amazing double-decker carousel and his very first comic book (Scooby-Doo... he's OBSESSED!).
Overall, we were quite pleased with the Con, and the price was spectacular ($10 for one day, $15 for two days, and $25 for the VIP weekend pass). My sister-in-law and her husband sprung for the $40 passes that included attendance to an exclusive beer release party for a special beer with label art created by Joseph Michael Linsner (creator and artist of Dawn, who the brew featured and was named for). You can read more about their experience at The Mom Next Door. We are all looking forward to where this Con goes from here!
In case you haven't noticed yet, we try to go to as many conventions as we can. Steel City Con has been a staple in our routine for several years and takes place every four months. It's predominantly a toys and collectibles show, but they also bring in celebrities. When we began going it was pretty small and kind of flea market-ish. This all changed in December of 2013 when they began getting more popular celebrities to attend the show. With the selling out of Pittsburgh Comic Con to Wizard World, and their first lack-luster event, fans in PA are looking for events that will give them more bang for their buck, so I can understand how this show got picked up on their radar. Unfortunately, Steel City Con just seems to be going to all lengths to show how poorly mismanaged this convention is. I spoke some about this in my previous post regarding this show, so I won't reiterate those points here, but detail our experience this time. I apologize for the lack of photos. I did dress up, but I was quite upset and didn't get any pictures taken. I think you'll understand once you read about our experience.
My family lives approximately two hours from Pittsburgh, so it is no small decision to choose to drive four hours round trip when we choose to attend an event. We also usually bring our toddler with us because he really truly loves going to Con and seeing everything (and he's generally pretty well behaved). My husband works a second job which doesn't allow us to leave super early on Saturdays, so I have time to check my email and do our normal morning routine before we leave. Nowhere did I see signs of the impending disaster that was awaiting us. My brother-in-law and his wife (who you can expect an even more scathing review from on her own blog, detailing her interactions with the manager of this event on Facebook. Check her out at The Mom Next Door.) arrived at least an hour ahead of us and said that they were waiting in line for tickets. We've been there before when they had a long line to get in, so this wasn't particularly alarming or anything. What is alarming is that they were still in line when we go there. Upon arrival we learned that the show was apparently sold out. Steel City Con, itself, had made no attempts to tell people this at all. The only mention of it I could find today was renowned artist Ed Beard Jr. making a note of it on his post to Steel City's own page on Friday night! The staff had known for quite a while that Saturday's tickets were already completely gone and made zero effort to tell anyone.
Unfortunately, no, it doesn't seem like they did sell more tickets or that anyone was even keeping track of how many people were leaving the convention to let those waiting get in. We waited for probably two hours outside in the sun with a toddler and no one came to give the queue any updates. There were some folks desperate enough to get in that they were buying wristbands from people who were leaving and gluing them back onto themselves to get in for what they came for. No attempts to disperse the line or turn people away were made. Steel City Con was happy to leave people standing outside for hours with vain hopes of getting in after long travels.
Ultimately, I'm glad we didn't get in because it was apparently so packed that it was difficult to move. Having a toddler in a stroller, that's a big hazard. Steel City had apparently anticipated the crowds because they had at least six policemen patrolling inside and out (who weren't doing anything, really, when they noticed the wristband scalping folks were doing). It has been well known to this event's staff and attendees that they need a larger venue, but allegedly the manager has a special deal with the Monroeville Convention Center, so he won't move on to bigger and better things, despite the obvious detriment to his event and how much more money he could make if he did. If you try to explain these things or voice your disappointment to the manager over on his Facebook page, you'll be met with rudeness, threats, and the almighty ban hammer (no, really, just wait until you see my sister-in-law's post).
My family had a shopping day in town and then went home, having dispersed our Con funds at local businesses instead. Sorry, artists and vendors who we really wanted to support-- Steel City Con made that an impossibility for many. Sorry to friends we were looking forward to seeing. This event has been removed from our priority list. I doubt that I will go back to it at all unless there is a big celebrity (like Christian Bale or Harrison Ford level) who I cannot miss meeting. My husband will likely only return if there is a celebrity signature he needs for a poster, and then, he will carpool with someone and not be spending much time or money there either. So long, Steel City, and thanks for all the missed fish. I am now looking forward to Three Rivers Comic Con's debut next month and SciFi Valley Con in June.
On 12/5/15, we went to Steel City Con in Monroeville, PA. This event is held three times a year; this year we got to go twice because we were on vacation for the summer one. The price for Con entry has increased this year to $30 for a one-day pass. When we started going to this con, it was only $15. That said, it has grown significantly in the last two years. I was surprised to see that they had begun promoting it as a Comic Con this time around. Steel City began as a toy and collectibles show. I feel like this was just throwing around buzz words because Pittsburgh Comic Con got bought out by Wizard World after last year and most people were disappointed with their first event this fall.
Part of what has helped this convention grow so quickly is bringing in celebrities. They get various actors from many different shows and movies, and there's also usually a WWF wrestler or two (though I'm not entirely sure how that fits in if you want to be a Comic Convention and not just a Pop Culture Con). My brother-in-law and his wife (who you can follow at The Mom Next Door) had lots of fun meeting Jason Mewes this weekend; they also talked with Tom Savini (who is usually at this Con. He's pretty cool. :) ) Our friend, Justin, got a fun picture with Ric Flair, too. My husband had a hilarious encounter with John Ratzenberger (of Cheers, most notably, but he was also in Star Wars, Episode V). Me? I just went to have fun and didn't feel like putting any money out for celebrity encounters (which is my usual MO). Little guy and I saw lots of Star Wars guys and spent some time looking for a nice Jack Skellington for him to snuggle. I was disappointed because there was an awesome Santa Dr. Doom cosplayer who I wanted to get a picture with as I was doing some Christmas Steampunk, but I couldn't locate him again after lunch. I was happy to get to see my friend Andrew of Nerdiculous, though!
If you're looking for a good mid-sized Con, this is a good pick. There weren't as many cosplayers this time, but with it being winter in PA, I can't blame them for not trusting the weatherman and wanting not wanting to freeze their assets off. There are a wide variety of vendors, but I always wonder why they let people like home renovation or gutter vendors even buy tables? Are you really that desperate (Actually, they might be. Finish reading this article.)? This is not the demographic you're looking for. This convention continues to be child friendly and not insanely overwhelming. I wish that I had had more money to spend there (don't I always?), but I did pick up cards from a few vendors that I really want to look into for future costuming pieces.
As much fun as I had, I have to admit that since attending Sci Fi Valley Con with Jason Lennox in the role of vendor that I've seen more of the politics of cons, and I am apprehensive about the future of Steel City Con. In the weeks leading up to the event, it was revealed that there were some shady moves being made by the man behind the curtain, the man who promotes and handles this convention, Dominic Alessandria. Author Mike DiBaggio, felt the need to let his fans know why he was suddenly withdrawing from this event and will not be attending ever again. I'm not going to get into all of the details here, but you can read then on Mr. DiBaggio's blog here, as well as the follow-up post here. Needless to say that if a Con is scaring off it's vendors, it isn't long for this world. I'm not sure why Allessandria feels the need to be so hard on his vendors. This is not the first time that I've heard that he is not a great person to work with. I've yet to take my own business to a Con as a vendor, but it is something that I look forward to exploring in the future. I do not think that Alessandria sounds like the type of person I would like to do business with. Throwing down edicts just a few weeks prior to the event and "altering the deal" is a recipe for a quick disaster. There were several empty tables on Saturday, victims, I'd assume of these changes and it's fallout. As Princess Leia said, "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
What's your take on Steel City Con? Let me know in the comments below! And don't forget to follow me on Facebook!
Recently I was invited to come work with a vendor at a Con and help him sell his art! I had so much fun working with Jason Lenox during Altoona, PA's Sci-Fi Valley Con. Jason is a pretty awesome artist and it was great getting to watch him work on some amazing comissions, including one for a kid of the nuclear apocalypse in the 1950's (that kid is going places, I'm tellin' ya). I know you're all used to seeing me at least vaguely steampunk, but Jason's artwork is of the horror and sci-fi genre, so I changed it up so we wouldn't be clashing. For Saturday, I reprised my Vampire outfit that I made for my event with DuBois Area Fantasy Photoshoot, and on Sunday I was kind of sexy goth....yeah, I definitely need new stuff for next time... then again, who doesn't need more costuming things?? I can't really tell you anything about what as going on at the Con because being a vendor is much different from being an attendee-- you can't just abandon your station to go wander and check everything out. Jason was great at teaching me some tips on selling at Con because even though I worked as a retail manager for a few years, Con is a bit of a different beast.
Apparently Jason likes me because he's already invited me back to work with him at this Con next year (which will be on my birthday, so if you stop by you either need to bring me presents or buy something from Jason ;) )! I'm excited to get some more stuff to have even better costumes to wear next time and to make some more new friends! But for now, here's some photos from this year's Sci-Fi Valley Con!
If you're interested in seeing more of Jason's work (which you definitely should), check him out at www.JasonLenox.com!
Look at this amazing commission Jason got to do of Spike from Cowboy Bebop!
This fan has great taste in anime and artists!
Hey, look, it's Jonnie Gummo! We actually had a few friends in common, so it was great to get to meet her! And she came to my last photoshoot, so you'll be seeing some more awesome pics of her soon!
This is Jason's art in a FUBAR book that we had him sign for my brother-in-law because he couldn't make it to Con.
That's Jim Krut, AKA Helicopter Zombie from Dawn of the Dead! He is such a nice guy!
This was a fun commission! These two girls wanted themselves drawn as the daughters of Plastic Man!
I also got to meet Jared Brown, who is a pretty cool artist in his own right. Plus he's hilarious!
I was worried that my little guy wouldn't like me in my wig and dark makeup, but he was super happy every time he came to visit me at our booth. He's the most awesome kid ever, just sayin'.