Let’s see… I’ve covered shows that go to war with other shows, shows that go to war with the venue space and/or hotel, what’s left…Oh, how about shows that go to war with the attendees and guests? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pittsburgh Comicon.
For ten years, it was the reigning show in Pittsburgh, held annually at the Monroeville Expomart (just a short and treacherous, traffic-laden jaunt away from the legendary Monroeville Mall, home to “Dawn of the Dead” and an annual “Dawn of the Dead” mall tour). Spawned on the heels of John Russo’s Zombie Jamboree, Mike and Renee George (herefore referred to as “The Promoters”) set out to make history by creating an event that would be welcomed by film and comic book fans alike.
Remember the materials used to pave the way to hell? Well, greed is often the first traveler on that newly-paved road.
Before we started setting up at the Comicon, Amy Lynn Best and I had been ardent supporters of the show. Having never been to the similarly-named San Diego event, it was always the biggest show we attended, and setting up, we developed relationships and friendships that have endured throughout our professional careers. To our eyes, it was an impeccably-run event, with attentive staff and some amazing guests. This year’s Guest of Honor was none other than George Romero, one of my own personal heroes, so I was really looking forward to going and meeting him. On top of that, we had planned to blow things out on our part, reserving a block of tables for ourselves and our friends – including the fine folks behind Secret Scroll Digest, Hero Headquarters (who created the wonderful Project: Valkyrie), Spicy Sister Lilith Stabs and “The Goddess of Independent Cinema”, Debbie Rochon. Other layers of icing included the world premiere of our endless post production-hell-sentenced “The Resurrection Game”, and – the big event for us – our five year wedding anniversary! Expectations were high, anticipation was higher.
Pity about the disappointment.
This year marked the Pittsburgh Comicon’s lowest attendance. Which came as no surprise, really, as I saw very little in the way of promotion. In past years, the Pittsburgh papers had ads running for at least a month prior, and there were always stacks of fliers in every comic book and record store within a ten mile radius. Maybe it was hidden, I don’t know. For weeks prior, Amy and I blabbed about the show on countless message boards and websites, and on Friday morning, we did a stint on one of the area’s biggest radio shows. We didn’t expect a parade from the promoters, but a thank you would have been nice. They were busy, you understand (not too busy to demand extra money from us for various sundries, however).
As expected, Friday’s big draw was George Romero, and the fans lined up to pay hometown homage to the man behind the real “Dawn Of The Dead”, who was also promoting, with his son Cameron and his crew, his upcoming rock horror film, The Diamond Dead. Though George looked thoroughly exhausted, he greeted each and every fan with a big smile and a hearty handshake. For three hours, George signed and schmoozed with his public—all the while, the promoters personally hovered around him, making sure that each and every person paid for George’s autograph. Afterward, they handed him a huge stack of “Dawn Of The Dead” to sign. “For the staff,” it was explained. After overhearing this personally, I walked over to one of the volunteers I knew and mentioned this. “Ain’t that great?” I asked.
He answered my question with a scoff. “We won’t see any of those. Those are headed for Ebay.”
I knew that would have been his answer. I’d heard similar complaints from other volunteers over the past four years. But what made this year different was that it wasn’t just the volunteers making noise about the show and the way it has degraded since its less-than-humble beginnings. There were fewer vendors present this year—a fact made all too clear by my ability to weave my way through the maze of dealers’ tables without once having to turn sideways and crab-walk the way I had at past shows. There were also expected faces that were suspiciously absent. For the first time in recent memory, for instance, Jim Balent and Holly Golightly, the creative team behind the Wicca-and-naked-lady-friendly indie comic “Tarot”, were not attending the Pittsburgh Comicon. Neither was Terry Moore, the creator of “Strangers in Paradise”. While this is hardly equal to the concept of a second gunman on the grassy knoll, it was still a curious thing.
It only goes downhill from here in part two of THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH: DOING HARD TIME AT THE PITTSBURGH COMICON>>>