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From Pittsburgh to Seattle and Places In Between

on Sun, 04/12/2015 - 00:00

Pittsburgh is blessed with a multitude of small conventions that focus on practically every aspect of Geek Culture imaginable. Steel City Con in Monroeville is held three times a year, for instance, with a focus on Pop Culture. Science fiction literature fans have Confluence, while aficionados of Japanese Pop Culture have Tekko. Horror fans have Horror Realm and Monster Bash, while the Living Dead Festival caters to zombies. PIX: The Pittsburgh Indy Comix Expo puts the spotlight on comic books, while Anthrocon is geared towards Furries and fans of animation. Barely a month goes by in any given calendar year without some sort of con, giving Pittsburgh a vibrant scene for both Geeks and non-Geeks alike.

Despite the abundance of options in the area, part of me has always wanted to check out similar scenes in other locales across the country. Truth is, it’s been a long time since I’ve been outside of the Three Rivers, and 2015 seemed like as good of a time as any. Starting in January, I travelled to Salt Lake City, Cleveland and Seattle for major conventions, and if you go back to late July 2014, Las Vegas can also be added into the mix. It was a varied assortment of cons, from Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Vegas to a newer con in Salt Lake, a Wizard World in Cleveland to one of the most respected national comic cons in Seattle. While the basic aspects of each convention were more or less the same, each experience was also different, offering unique spins on the Pop Culture explosion that has erupted in the Twenty First Century.

The ToonSeum Celebrates Pittsburgh Characters

on Sun, 04/05/2015 - 00:00

Pittsburgh may have been built on steel, but it’s the people of the region that have continually transformed the area into something special. From Andrew Carnegie to Sophie Masloff, Andy Warhol to August Wilson, and Fred Rogers to Franco Harris, Pittsburgh has been blessed with an assortment of “characters” who have likewise added character to the Steel City. The ToonSeum, meanwhile, was built on the foundation of a different sort of character—the illustrated and the animated. From Mickey Mouse to Daffy Duck, Spider-Man to Wonder Woman, Garfield to Beetle Bailey, Pittsburgh’s resident museum of the cartoon and comic arts has regularly celebrated these fictitious creations who not only have character, but are literal characters themselves.

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, these two worlds collide when the ToonSeum honors the real-life characters of Pittsburgh at its annual Ka-Blam! fundraiser. WQED documentarian Rick Sebak will be on hand, as well as YouTube sensation Pittsburgh Dad and local performing artist Phat Man Dee, for a special evening at the Teamsters Temple Banquet Hall in Lawrenceville. Jimmy Krenn, Lynn Cullen, Sally Wiggin and David Newell (Mr. McFeely from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) will be amongst the guests in attendance, while an array of local Pittsburgh illustrators—including Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers—will construct special homages to these Pittsburgh Characters. With balloon and caricature artists, food and beverages, and DJ J. Malls on hand as well, it offers to be a night to remember for both the Steel City and the ToonSeum.

Horror Realm Celebrates the Genre

on Mon, 03/02/2015 - 00:00

Zombies. Alien vegetation. Killer cars. Like any city, Pittsburgh has had its fair share of the supernatural through the years. Although George Romero can be cited as the main culprit behind such occurrences, author Stephen King based his 1983 novel Christine in the Steel City, and “Chilly Billy” Cardille likewise played as large of a role as anyone in transforming the horror genre into a Saturday night tradition with his Chiller Theater television series on station WIIC. Pittsburgh is also fortunate to have not one but two annual gatherings of horror fans in the region—Monster Bash, which caters to the classic monster films of the 1940s and 1950s, and Horror Realm, which focusses on the more nightmarish productions that evolved in the ’70s and ’80s.

“We were involved early on with organizing zombie walks in the city and produced two conventions in conjunction with them in 2007 and 2008,” Horror Realm promotor Sandy Stuhlfire says of the convention’s roots. “We decided to move forward in 2009 with the convention arm to expand and encompass more of the horror genre while the other part of the group continued with the walks. We’ve heard from horror fans for years that they would like to have our own convention instead of having to travel to another city. Being fans ourselves who do travel, we saw the value of a hometown horror show and started our own. We feel we are a modern complement to the classic horror focus of the long running Monster Bash show in the area.”