Hello From the Pittsburgh Comicon '08

Pitt LogoHello all, and welcome to the 2008 Pittsrburgh Comicon recap. We’re handling the convention profile a little differently this year. Chris Delloiacono, former Nexus writer has joined me and produced a narrative take on our adventures in Pittsburgh, it’s not your typical convention report, but then again Pittsburgh isn’t your typical convention.

For those of you who don’t know, Pittsburgh is one of the few remaining independently run/successful shows in the country. Unlike its Wizard World brethren, there aren’t long cattle lines everywhere you go, creators ARE actually at their tables when you do have to get into a line (which is usually short and fast moving), and the environment is just plain friendly and conducive to doing whatever it is you want to do at the con. There’s no shortage of vendors to get back issues, statues, and toys from, or creators to get comics signed, sketches drawn, or just time to shoot the $h!t with. There are also smattering of creator panels, and charity raising events that go on throughout weekend long show.

If you’ve never been to the show, or a convention at all, check out Chris report, the show’s website and start making plans for next year. You won’t be disappointed. I’ll be back after Chris’ story with a few other tidbits. And of course be on the lookout for a few “editorial comments” throughout.

Stylin’ and Profilin’ Pittsburgh Style
By: Chris Delloiacono

I may not read comics on a regular basis anymore, but it’s still a riot to travel to Monroeville for the annual Pittsburgh Comicon. This is my fifth year in a row attending. My fiancée, Patti and I were excited to hang out with our good buddies Daron and Jeff. It’s the one time each year that we know for sure we’ll get together. It may sound weird, but since Daron and Jeff live in Missouri and we’re from New Jersey, hanging out isn’t all that easy. The con never disappoints and even after half-a-decade of attendance this was probably the best of all the times I’ve had so far.

Since Patti and I teach we weren’t able to head out to Pittsburgh until late Thursday night. The six-hour drive wasn’t bad at all, that is until about 12:30 and we were starting to feel the effects of a long, long day. A special shout out goes out to the Dexter Holland and the rest of the boys from The Offspring—if not for them, Patti and I would probably have careened down one of those runaway truck ramps that’re all the rage in certain parts of the country. Getting in around 1am local time on Thursday night precluded much more than some catching up with Daron and Jeff.

We got started early on Friday morning, well all but Patti, who didn’t hit the show floor until some time after 1pm. As usual Rene had the show purring along. We were able to pick up our passes and get in the show prior to it opening at 10am. This gave us a few minutes to motor around and check out the lay of the land.

ShakiraThe majority of the early hours of the show were spent talking to old friends like James Hatton of In His Likeness fame. Lordy mama, I can’t believe he’s approaching 500 strips! That’s quite an accomplishment. We also got to stop by and chat at length with Jamey Fay and Rich Bernatovech. Rich is working on the trade paperback series The Sentinels. No, I haven’t read it yet, but it does look top notch. It’s on my things to do list! Jamey showed off the artwork for his in development project Neverminds, which also features the writings of Rich. All I can say here is WOW! Jamey is producing some amazing work and I’m sure this book is going to be a success. If you don’t believe me take a look at the spectacular color sketch he did for me of Shakira. No not the singer, the smokin’ hot character from the Warlord. Being an old school Warlord fan, this is one of my favorite sketches in my entire book. Considering we have two actual Mike Grell sketches in the book, that’s pretty good company. Don’t be surprised to see a lot more of Jamey over the next few years.

Daron and I each started a sketch book back in the first year that we traveled to Pittsburgh and the book is really starting to fill out after five straight years of bringing it along. Jeff even got into the act last year, so between us we’ve gotten a bushel full of sweet sketches in that time. Beyond schmoozing and covering events the other big thing is trying to squeeze in enough time to get the book from artist to artist with enough time to spare. Oh, and of course there’s always the trapeze act of keeping enough money in the budget to cover these one of a kind pieces. One thing we do most nights after the show is to sit around in the room for a little while after the show and go through each other’s books. Fun times for sure.

FlashUnfortunately my book was held “hostage” on both Friday and Saturday night. Luckily it was returned early the next morning both times. Thankfully it also contained a brand spanking new drawing each time. Saturday morning it was Talent Caldwell’s cranky looking Mr. Mxyzptlyk. The hardest part I found in lining up that sketch was spelling the little guy’s name. Wow! (And check out that kick @$$ Flash sketch Mr. Turner did for me!)On Sunday it was an Indiana Jones by super-talented, do we ever miss you in comics, Darryl Banks. While it might seem an odd choice to get Indy from Darryl, one of the things we found out while schmoozing at the tables was that Darryl is working on the new Indiana Jones figures from Hasbro. He even had a few interesting sketches to take a gander at while we chatted. I’ll talk more about our other sketches later.

Friday night got interesting once Patti came down. You see, a rather odd happenstance of this weekend is that the New York Rangers were coming to town to play game 1 and 2 of the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs that very weekend. Being fearless, Patti decided to don her Jeff Beukeboom Rangers jersey when she finally rolled down to the convention floor. I followed it up on a return trip to the room to grab my Scott Gomez jersey. This was about the time that Daron and Jeff wanted lunch, so we walked the couple hundred yards from the Expo Mart to the Monroeville Mall (for those that care: this is the location that the original Dawn of the Dead was filmed). We didn’t get far at all before Penguin fans were screaming at us from their cars to, “Go Home!” There was even an elderly couple that had a few things to say when we got to the mall. I won’t go into some of the other choice phrases that were thrown our way over the next couple of hours. It’s amazing how a costume change can bring the wrath of a city down upon ye.

HarleyScoutWhen we returned to the show there was still an hour or so before Patti and I had to head to the game. We stopped by Marc Wolfe‘s table and got an excellent color sketch of a green camouflaged Biker Scout (from Star Wars). Marc’s a truly nice guy that is fun to shoot the breeze with and watch create. (You better believe it. I missed out on getting a sketch from Marc last year, but more than made up for this year with this rockin Harly Quinn. And Chris isn’t kidding about how nice a guy Marc is. Marc, a military veteran is one of the coolest creators I’ve ever met – i.e. he remembers your face and name even after a year’s passage. He’s easily one of the biggest draws for Chris, Jeff and I. ) While we were there a nice gent came over that looked vaguely familiar, but didn’t come immediately to mind. We got to talking hockey for about five minutes. It was a fun to chat with someone that really knew the game. It wasn’t until he walked off that I realized it was Chief, Aaron Douglas, from Battlestar Galactica. I literally had to ask Marc Wolfe to be sure. In my defense: I haven’t watched the show since the first episode of season three and Mr .Douglas has dropped a few pounds and the beard. Yeah, I’m a dolt. Still was a great chat!

Not more than three minutes later former WWF wrestler Virgil saw Patti and I wearing the Rangers jerseys. He stopped over and we proceeded to talk for a long while about what we should expect to happen to us that night. Virgil wrestled as both a baby face and heel in his years, so he knows all about hearing both cheers and boos from a crowd. He roundly told us to expect major heel heat that night. Well, he was right.

One the way to the arena we hit some traffic due to a local accident. We had some people honking at us and giving us the thumbs down. Surprisingly it wasn’t much worse than that. Well, that is until we arrived at the arena. As we carried forward on foot the Penguins fans’ criticisms became a bit more vociferous. After all we were invading their home soil. Making ourselves even bigger targets was the fact that this particular evening had been deemed a “White Out.” Almost everyone in the building was wearing, you guessed it, white. They were even giving out white t-shirts to further the effect for any Pens fans that came in black. Our blue Rangers jerseys stood out like a sore thumb. On the way in the guy handing out the shirts actually counted us as Ranger fans number 4 and 5. There were actually a few more Ranger fans than that in the building, but the Rangers on the bench probably outnumbered the actual Broadway Blueshirts fans in Mellon Arena.

I won’t waste too much more on the game, but a couple of other cool notes: Patti and I were interviewed on the way into the arena. The only other positive I can mention is the three-nothing lead the Rangers started out with. It was a spectacular beginning. My voice beyond doubt echoed throughout the building when I screamed after one of the goals. Of course, the thrill didn’t last long. The Penguins staged a strong comeback and won the game 5-4. They have since won 4 games to 1 knocking out the Rangers. To all my Ranger-fan friends, we all know: That is Ranger hockey!

We got back to the hotel around 11 pm, so we hooked back up with Daron and Jeff. Since Patti and I hadn’t eaten the boys decided to join us for grub at a local diner. We were all reasonably sure this place sprung up since the last time we visited the fair city of Monroeville. Being Jersey folk we were right at home in the polished chrome confines.

MyxSaturday started with a quick journey to McDonalds and a stop at Darryl Banks table to ensure we got on his list of sketches for the day. Then it was off to Talent Caldwell’s table to hopefully get back my sketch book. Talent wasn’t there first thing, so we arced around the show keeping ourselves very busy. Then Talent walked by. Not wanting to be a pest or stalk the man, Daron and I decided to give him a few minutes to get set up. When we popped by the table a bit later Talent was nowhere to be found. Finally, we decided to get in line and ask his neighbor Billy Tucci, of Shi fame, if he knew where Talent was. While waiting to talk with the ultra personable Mr. Tucci, Talent showed up. The wait was not in vain, as the sketch was a keeper!

Robo1Robo2Another interesting table was that of Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener of Eisner nominated Atomic Robo notoriety. We all chatted up the fellas about their book and what to expect in the future. Don’t miss the recent Free Comic Book Day edition. I purchased a set of the first mini series and it’s really outstanding stuff. On Sunday I even got back to Mr. Wegener for a one-of-a-kind original sketch. During the course of hanging out at the table Daron and I got to talking with Brian about the parka that Robo was wearing in the FCBD issue, for which the art was proudly displayed on the table. The parka was based off of the one that Han Solo wore in the Empire Strikes Back. I asked Scott the next morning to create a sketch of Robo in the parka. A funny note: Scott thought I said, “A sketch of Robo in the park,” which made for a funny little moment. I said, “The park is fine, but can he be in the Han Solo parka.” Scott proceeded to knock the sketch out the park, with the parka, Han Solo blaster, Tauntaun, and all. (And silly me, I settled for the now “classic” classic Robo. Oh, and be on the lookout for an interview with Atomic Robo creators Scott & Brian by yours truly coming in the very near future.)

IndyAs the day continued there was some good shopping, a stop by the Quick Sketch, and lots of time to talk with the creators, and general fun for the rest of the day. I did have to leave my sketchbook overnight again. This time with Darryl Banks so he could create that custom Indy for Patti and me. After the show our evening began by gazing upon Daron and Jeff’s sketch books back at the homestead–Err hotel room. After that we went out for dinner at Johnny Corino’s, which is an excellent Italian food chain.

JokerThe next morning saw us get into the show bright and early. There was time to get a few more sketches before heading out. Patti and I had to get home to meet an old friend for dinner. Our buddy Tommy is becoming a minister so he can marry us later this year. That’s a pal! DD NWWe did have a great time with Daron in line waiting for a Scott McDaniel sketch. It was very interesting to watch Scott work his magic on the page. We got to see him create everything from Hal Jordan, Black Canary, and the very necessary Nightwing. When we got to the front we asked Scott to create us a Joker. It took him a moment to think and catch a sip of water before he started. The Joker that came out in the end was one of the most maniacal I’ve ever seen. Scott actually asked if we liked it. Scott said, “He could only see what was wrong with it.” The only thing that was wrong with it, in our estimation was: Not a damn thing! (But really, who cares about the joker? Check out my custom Dardevil and Nightwing. McDaniel at his best right there!)

With that Patti and I had to head out. It was another exciting, memorable year in Pittsburgh. We went to the New York Comicon the weekend before and that show for all its grand size doesn’t hold a candle to this show! You just can’t beat the creator contact and happy atmosphere in Pittsburgh. Prepackaged clutter and overlargeness just don’t make for a great convention experience. Pittsburgh is just big enough, to have lots to do and see, but it’s also homey enough to have real moments that don’t all involve a mob, looking at the big stars from what seems to be a quarter of a mile away, or worse $500 VIP experiences to actually meet one of the big names. All the Wizard cons and the NYC Comicon are like a night out at a chain restaurant, while the Pittsburgh Comicon is a visit to that local favorite that has the better atmosphere, food that tastes home cooked, and people that actually remember your name.

Before we go, I wanted to quickly mention a few highlights the Chris missed, due to being at the Ranger Game.

Earlier I mentioned the friendly atmosphere of the show, and our Friday adventure couldn’t exemplify that better.

StarAfter Chris and Patti left for their evening of self-flagellation at the hockey game, Jeff and I wandered out of the hotel trying to decide on dinner. GhostAs soon as we got out the door we ran into Rich Bernatovech of The Sentinels fame (mentioned above). After a chatting with Rich (who Jeff and befriended last year at the con), he invited us to dinner with him and a few friends. His friends turn out to be (the also above stated and immensely talented) Jaime Fey – who did a wonderful Star Girl sketch for me this year, the interesting creator duo of Comfort Love and Adam Withers (Adam did the amazing Ghost Sketch – and yes she’s sitting on my grave…but don’t get your hopes up just yet.) – a married couple who collaborate on their comic The Uniques in a very unorthodox way, with both of them doing pencils on each and every page rather than one penciling and one inking. Check it out, the style works well for them, an their both quite talented creators. The last guest on our dinner trip was the wonderfully fun and talented Brian J Glass, writer of Image Comic’s Mice Templar. Jeff and I talked Brian’s ear off about Templar and his history as a comic creator, and Brian returned the favor telling us everything we asked and an hour’s worth of humorous stories.

I’ve been to a few conventions in my life, and none of them compare to Pittsburgh. I can’t urge you enough to do yourself a favor and check the show out. And if you need a little more incentive, well just think if you go next year, you can meet me. Now isn’t that enough right there?

No? Well then how about this insanely beautiful Starfire sketch Jeff got from immensely talented cover artist Tom Flemming?

Starfire

Yeah…I thought that might get your attention.

Thanks for reading everyone, we hope to see you at the show next year I know Chris Jeff, Patti and I are all looking forward to it!