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Steel City Con Attracts Fans of George Lucas

on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 11:31

The comic book convention has been a staple of geek culture for decades. Initially a means for fans to gather together socially and swap issues of the favorite superheroes, such events have grown to include not only comic book artists but film and television celebrities, attendees dressed in costume and genres beyond those of graphic illustrations. San Diego may have the largest “con,” and those held in Seattle and New York may have a higher profile, but Pittsburgh has the distinction of hosting not one but two annual conventions—Pittsburgh Comicon in late September and Steel City Con in early spring.

This year’s Steel City Con was held over the weekend of April 5, 2013, at the Monroeville Convention Center, with thousands of local fans attending the three day event. Steel City Con is also known as “The Pittsburgh Toy, Comic and Childhood Collectibles Show,” and true to its name, the auditorium was filled with vendors offering a wide variety of items that fit the billing. Despite this amalgamation of Geek Culture on display, however, the majority of attendees appeared to be fans of the Star Wars Saga created by George Lucas, with mothers dressed as Princess Leia and fathers dressed as Jedi Knights bringing their children to meet David Prowse, the actor who brought Darth Vader to life in the original trilogy of films.

George Lucas also co-created the Indiana Jones franchise, and Karen Allen—who portrayed Marion Ravenwood in both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls—was also in attendance. While David Prowse arguably attracted the longest lines at Steel City Con and signed his name on everything from movie posters to photographs with a business-like proficiency, Karen Allen was also a popular draw and seemed to enjoy the interaction with fans as much as anyone. Of course this may have been partially due to Allen’s ties to Pittsburgh, having briefly lived in both Castle Shannon and Bridgeville in the early 1960s.

“I have very clear memories of Castle Shannon,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was a very kind of magical time. I remember there being tons of snow, and we used to tie our boots on. We walked a mile to school, and it was way up this incredible hill. And then we could sit on our lunch boxes and ride home. I have those kind of memories.”

To add to the festivities, members of two local Star Wars fan organizations—the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion—were also on hand and dressed as various characters from the Star Wars Universe. The two groups interacted with attendees, making Steel City Con a more festive occasion rather than mere collectibles show. Kids both young and old posed for pictures with Stormtroopers, and a life-sized remote control R2-D2 rolled along the convention floor to the delight of all. Being a “collectibles show,” meanwhile, meant that there were many Star Wars items for sale throughout the auditorium, from action figures to replica statues to vintage toys dating back to the 1970s.

George Lucas sold the rights to the Star Wars franchise to the Walt Disney Company in October 2012, a transaction that has paved the way for a new wave of Star Wars-related films in the near future. Based on the 2013 edition of Steel City Con, Pittsburgh still has a strong affinity for the Force, and will no doubt embrace the next chapter in the Star Wars Saga as strongly as anywhere else.

Anthony Letizia (April 8, 2013)

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