Septhember 27th, 2014: Just another day in Pittsburgh, with bustling traffic, black and gold decor, and larger than life pub sandwiches. However, this day, and weekend in specific sets off something exceptional in the Iron City as artists, cosplayers, film makers, fabricators, illustrators, performers, bakers, crafters, and famous actors and actresses descend in one infamous area – Monroeville, PA.
Monroeville, PA is recognized most notably, at least in the realm of all things nerdalicious, for the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), which was shot near the convention center that holds the Comic Con. Actors and Actresses from the original film are sure to be seen at the Convention, displaying proudly their zombie roots. From the walking dead, to grass roots film projects the Pittsburgh Comic Con has a lot of history, and unique talent to offer any con goer.
Press pass in hand, I entered the convention alongside special effects artist, director and fiancé Jesse Lechok who was there to enjoy the con with me, but was also representing the famous Tom Savini School for special effects, which teaches students the artistry of movie cosmetic magic.
Throw two artists into a pool of imagination such as the Pittsburgh Comic Con and things can get exciting. Here I’ll cover some of the exhibitors that I got the chance to really get to know. Keep in mind this convention is fairly large, and it’s almost impossible to touch on everything in one day, which should prompt anyone reading this to take the time to check out the event in person for the three day length it spans over. Every day there were new speakers, performers and sights to see! Not to mention the Monroeville Mall, the original set of Dawn of the Dead, itself is a historical landmark for anyone who loves the zombie genre or horror films.
Upon entering the parking lot of the convention center, which is very easy to find ( and free! ), I spotted my future doom buggy, which embodied the logo and style of my favorite film of all time. Jurassic Park. As many of you may know there is a new Jurassic Park franchise film arriving next June, 2015 called Jurassic World which reboots the series. I’m BEYOND excited and totally dorked out over this vehicle even though it wasn’t the standard Jeep JP car, it still rocks. Plus, it’s tiny and cute, maybe a T-Rex would ignore it? Or eat it in one bite. One of the two.
Upon getting our VIP passes, we entered the convention and headed over to the Savini booth first to say hello to some of Jesse’s students. They were feverously working on a demon prosthetic, and simultaneously offering small sfx applications like cuts and bruises to the public. The prosthetic understandably took them half the day to complete but looked phenomenally creepy. Some of the students had also sculpted busts, including an amazing Groot bust that sold in the first few hours.
After they finished their prosthetic, they walked their amazing finished piece around the convention and got some fantastic reactions. This piece in specific was modeled after the character Darkness, from the film “Legend”.
Next up was a group of folks called “Take Back the Sky” petitioning for the next manned space aircraft to be named Serenity after the TV series Firefly, and of course the film. This would be following suit of the first US company developing the world’s first commercial manned space flight which they called the Enterprise. These folks were Pittsburgh based, amazingly passionate and had some great ideas about why the next manned space craft should take it’s name yet again from science fiction. Since autumn is in full swing, they also created a “Leaf on the Wind” campaign about sending Elon Musk a “leaf on the wind” to help convince him to name the first Dragon V2 Serenity. Check out their petition on their website, and sign it!
This group also runs a local Browncoats group for PA which is based for fans of the series Firefly and the movie Serenity.
After signing their petition and chatting about Serenity, something sleek, black and bat-like caught my eye. It was a replica of the 1966 Bat Mobile in all of its glory. Getting your photo taken IN the vehicle of course cost some cash, which is well worth it since it looks truly exact!
If you’re into all things fancy, like the Bat Mobile, you’d probably also love the new Pittsburgh Comic Con T-shirt logos, which features Harley Quinn in a sexy pose. Every year the Con turns out a new shirt design, and I definitely loved this one.
The back entrance to the convention where the press enters, is also where the independent writers, designers and printers set it up their exhibits. I had the chance to get to know these exhibitors first! These artists have some of the most distinctive content to offer the viewer, since their work is entirely done self-sufficiently. I have so much admiration for the drive and enthusiasm of these artists, who have created ideas that span far past your everyday super hero. Cross Worlds Nexus creator Shane Ronzio has been creating comics since the early 2000’s self-reliantly. He writes, illustrates, colors, designs, prints and distributes all of his work for Cross Worlds Nexus online and off completely independently! From print to plot, artists like Ronzio put everything they have into the fantastical realms they create and love leaving comic lovers with refreshingly new story concepts, characters, and worlds untouched by the corporate hand of the comic book realm.
While I was admiring the work of Ronzio, a large massive line in the adjacent convention hall got my attention. Folks in other worldly costumes, and Doctor Who cosplayers flooded the hall. Commotion ensued, and TARDIS toys emerged. It took me a moment to see what they were freaking out over, but soon realized the reason. The Eighth Doctor from the series, Paul John McGann, had entered the convention hall. McGann made his first appearance as the 8th incarnation of the doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who TV film “Doctor Who”. His portrayal of the doctor on screen was eccentric and endearing, which is exactly how he is in person! Not only was McGann extremely kind, hilarious, and informative but he was nonstop greeting and hugging hordes upon hordes of fans and taking photos with cosplayers who went all out in their detailed attire. You could tell he genuinely loved each fan. He was also there with an official prop from the show. Take one guess to what it was.
After I inspected the TARDIS, and heard from McGann about what it’s like to be a Time Lord, quite a different fandom was heating up. My Little Pony Fans gathered not so far away at Katie Elizabeth Cook’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic booth. She’s known for the popular comic but may be even better known for her webcomic, Gronk. She was equally as kind and gleeful, and you’ve got to love the MLP artwork. Katie has worked for major publishers like DC, Marvel and also with the Jim Henson Company. She’s also responsible for writing for shows such as Fraggle Rock, and the Jim Henson’s, “The Storyteller” series. On top of it all she also contributes Star Wars artwork to the offical Star Wars Blog. Her endless skills paired with the explosion of popularity for My Little Pony made her a popular exhibtor, which is no doubt a given due to her bubbly, lovable personality and eye catching, lovable characters.
Close to Cook’s booth, something not so lovable lingered. A massive, apocalyptic-esc humanoid rhino. It immediately reminded me of something Tank Girl would encounter, however it was just the amazing handy work of SFX artist Adam King. This piece was of course, of Rocksteady, a street thug who is mutated into an anthropomorphic rhinoceros from the TMNT comic series. Adam King is a self-taught, self-made special effects makeup artist and mask maker. His life sized Rhino man was beyond convincing, and towered over onlookers. It was great to see more film workers at the convention, and just goes to show how connected the realm of sci-fi, horror, and comics really is. A Pittsburgh native, King has been creating monsters since 2006, and has had his art placed in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Federal Courthouse and the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. He is also a part of the infamous Kennywood themepark’s Phantom Frightnights makeup crew, a crew that transforms the local Pittsburgh themepark into a ghoulish environment every year.
Film makers and film artists were everywhere at the Pittsburgh Comic Con this year. Sentient, a Pittsburgh based web series, was there in full force. Created by director and producer Mark Cross and R. Douglas Jones, Sentient is a science fiction medical drama thriller. Each show is to be played out as 11-15 minute webisodes, available on Vimeo on Demand. The series opened up a multitude of opportunities for Pittsburgh based actors, actresses, and film artists, and may soon become a full length television show due to it’s unstoppable growth. The story follows a group of people employed by BioGNX, a top examination facility that works with targeted nanotechnology. These BioGNX research doctors and scientists go on a sabbatical in the secluded backwoods of Canada after the company experiences significant internal turmoil. Not long after arrival, several of the doctors stumble upon an unconscious forest ranger in the woods. After bringing him back to the cabin to examine him, he begins to show unearthly signs of infection. The sentient symbiote virus evolves more quickly than they are able to understand. Struggling to apprehend the happenings, the intelligent doctors eventually uncover the truth and scurry to cover it up. Will they be able to contain the virus and save life on this Earth as we know it?
With no visible alien virus in sight, beautiful illustrations were coming to life in April Alayne’s booth, a Baltimore, MD based self-made illustration artist, vintage upcycler and craft artist. This multi-talented artist does everything from transforming vintage gowns, to custom jewelry, tattoo designs and pillow work. Alayne is full of creative ideas and got her start after the economy took a turn for the worst, and she became unemployed for an extended period of time. She calls it a “blessing in disguise” because that is when she decided to focus on her artwork fully. Now she sells her work at shows all over the US, and on her website successfully. Stories like April’s remind us all that we should follow our passions even when they seem unattainable! You never know what kind of astonishing accomplishments are just around the corner.
As I turned the corner in fact, I was surprised to be met with not yet another illustrator but a medieval artisan, Daniel Andre. Daniel creates sculpture, jewelry, authentic chainmail shirts and clothing, and props competely out of metal chains. He also teaches classes, called “Knights of the Classroom” on how to create such pieces. In his classes he promotes being yourself, and and focusing on positive self-esteem while also teaching creative and historical techniques. Dan has been creating his stunning, highly detailed hand aseembled pieces since 1983, and has even perfected the art of creating chainmail pieces for pets! Daniel was a joy to speak to, and so passionate about his expertise. The giant spider and the pet chainmail really caught my eye!
My trip to the Pittsburgh Comic Con was absolutely kickass. I didn’t get the chance to talk to everybody, but I suggest that anyone who loves anything nerdy attend this con. Here are the photos I took of cosplayers, artists and work and other various booths but didn’t get a chance to talk to in detail! Enjoy!