Got back from the Pittsburgh Comicon on Sunday night. Since we started going in 2000, I’ve had the same complaints—it opens too early (10:00 am on Friday, fer Chrissakes?), it goes on too long, it doesn’t bring in a crowd (to its defense, neither does any other Pittsburgh-based show), its admission is over-priced, the staff isn’t particularly friendly and it’s located in a part of Pittsburgh that’s always under construction and congested with traffic. Add a couple of Penguins and Pirates games into that mix, top it with an accident that shut down the half of the Parkway that wasn’t being blown up by PenDot and you wound up with an excruciatingly slow and unprofitable show. At least for the vendors.
Honestly, though, I was a little surprised. I thought sure the “ghoul factor” would have been more present this year around, given that the show’s creator, Mike George, had been recently convicted of the First Degree Murder of his wife in 1990. Whether or not you believe Mike is guilty or innocent, you have to admit the novelty of attending a convention that has this sort of brand new mystique to it. Quite the opposite happened, however. A number of folks—both attendees and, allegedly, guests—boycotted the show for this very reason. Rumor has it that some of the vendors referred to it as “Murder Con”, though I didn’t hear anyone refer to it like that directly.
The final tally, though, despite the heavy draws of David Prowse (listed as “Star War’s [sic] Darth Vader”) and Jim Balent and Holly Golightly, the crowd just didn’t want to come and, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, we couldn’t stop ‘em.
Now, we’ve long since resigned ourselves to the fact that it’s really difficult to make money at a Pittsburgh-based show, but we tend to enjoy ourselves at Comicon. For one thing, I love comic books. They hold a place in my heart right next to the movies. Plus, as far as the show itself goes, it was the first we ever attended professionally and it’s helped us establish a good base of close friends. If it weren’t for Comicon, I doubt I’d have as good a relationship with the comic artists I now count among my friends (for an abbreviated list, please see Sirens of Cinema Magazine). And it can usually be counted on to give us at least two out of three on our Fun/Contacts/Money Success Triangle. This year, due to low attendance (thanks to construction, traffic, games, weather, and
As usual, there were some amazing artists there, a lot of whom I hope to work with in Sirens later in the year. And it was cool to see Jim and Holly, Joe Jusko, Billy Tucci, Mike and Diana Okamoto, Dave Nestler, Dorian, Louis Small Jr., Chris Yambar and many other Comicon friends. A couple of my students showed up to hang out, as did Jeff Waltrowski, Eric and Lorena (Splatter Movie, Black Sunday) and we got to have drinks with Kristen Blank and the Rev. Steve Foland. It was a bummer that several people we were hoping to see had cancelled, particularly Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Michael Kaluta and Kane Hodder (damn you, Kane!!).
My personal highlight came on Saturday afternoon. Amy and I were guests on a panel with legendary writer/editor/artist Al Feldstein, creator of EC Comics’ horror line (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror). I remember when we first ordered our table, I requested that we be included on this “Very Scary” panel, which also originally consisted of Al, Kane, Len Barnhart (Reign of the Dead) and others, but we never heard back. Flipping through the program on Saturday, I saw that we’d been added to the line up. And imagine my surprise when it was just the three of us and a three-quarter-filled audience! (I was half-terrified that Conrad Brooks (Plan 9 From Outer Space) was going to invite himself to the panel as well—something he’s notorious for—but he didn’t arrive until much later on Saturday, relief of reliefs.) So I got the chance to interact with one of my own personal heroes and influences! (And if you doubt any of that, watch The Resurrection Game and pay close attention to Necro-Phil!)
Still, despite long periods of crushing boredom—trying to engage the tumbleweeds in conversation just to keep the gun out of my mouth!—we still managed to have a good and productive time. A few things were discussed that could lead to a cool 2008 and some new friends were made who could also add cool to the coming year. But more than anything else, it made me wish that it was October and that Wasteland was right around the corner.