Both Tekkoshocon, Pittsburgh's local Anime convention, and Steel City Con, aka the Pittsbugh Toy Show, have found new venues for 2009. However, The Pittsburgh Comic Con website still says that it will be held at the ExpoMart next year. Considering that the co-owner of the convention, Michael George, was convicted of murder in March, the future of that convention is unknown. I imagine that new arrangements will be made once they get that settled.
So with new venues ahead, why am I in mourning over the loss of a dusty old convention center?My friends and I have shared so many memories at The ExpoMart over the years that it's hard for me to accept this loss.
I'll never forget my first time there. I was a little kid, maybe ten years old, when I saw a commercial advertising SEGA Genesis games for $10 at this big weekend sale in Monroville. Being a slightly spoiled only child, I easily convinced my parents to go. It wasn't everything I thought it would be, but I did leave with a copy of Eternal Champions and a big grin on my face.
A few years later I attended my first Pittsburgh Comic Con at The ExpoMart. At the time I was a huge fan of Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog series and I was really excited to meet Ken Penders, now former writer and penciler for the series. I stood there in awe as he signed my comics and a print for me. He gave me and my friend Sonic the Hedgehog 3 pins and pointed us in the direction of series inker, Rich Koslowski, who I purchased an original inking draft from. I saw Ken at later Pittsburgh Comic Cons, even met his wife and kids. After a few years Ken stopped coming. I think Tracey Yardley came instead then after a few years of seeing her I lost track of my Sonic comic artists. I still have very fond memories of the good old comic con, before the entry price went up, before I started losing interest in Sonic comics, before the murder...
When Tekkoshocon came to the ExpoMart in 2005 my best friend and I took our first stab at cosplaying together. Our costumes weren't perfect, in fact mine kept falling apart and on top of that, the characters we were portraying (Axl and Sol from Guilty Gear XX) were not that popular. Still, thanks to our friends we had a great time. We watched the Guilty Gear tournament, in costume, and made a new friend, Caeser. We dodged traffic, in costume, to get to the Monroville Mall Food Court and find lunch. We had a blast and I haven't missed a Tekko since.
At Tekkoshocon 2006 my fiancee found the prefect character for him to cosplay as, Sig Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA), so we went as husband and wife, Sig and Izumi. Sig is an obscure character that no one ever saw cosplayed before, so my fiancee was a big hit with hardcore FMA fans including the American dub voice actors who attended the con. I made stickers for Caitlin Glass, Greg Ayers, Tiffany Grant and Kyle Hubert and they all signed my FMA Art Book. We made new friends, Dani (Ed) and Bill (Alphonse), who are now our permanent con companions.
I didn't realize how big Tekkoshocon was going to be for me in 2007. I was still a huge FMA fan and Vic Mignogna, the voice actor behind the much loved main character Edward Elric, was going to be there. I had an amazing new costume that I worked really hard on. It was a huge hit! Everyone loved it, especially Vic! The lights were low and I could hardly see through the mesh of my costume when my friends guided me into a curtained off area where we knew Vic was participating in anime trivia. Instantly my friends began to whisper "He's looking right at you!" "Oh my god, you should see him smiling!" "He's waving, wave back!" I could see the flash from his camera phone when he took my photo from the stage. I didn't mean to cause such commotion but I really did make him smile, which meant a lot to me since his role in FMA really made me smile. I got so many hugs from him, but that one on the right was the best. Later I caught up with Dani. Probably the most profound moment of the con, my deepest memory of the ExpoMart, was when she and I were waiting in Artist's Alley (next to those windows in the first image) around 11PM on Saturday, before the rave. We were drinking Bawls and talking about sharing an artist table and how great it would be. We had no idea what was in store for the ExpoMart when we made the decision to sign up for an artists table in 2008. Still we knew we could do it. We attended the rave. I danced like a fool amongst all the glow sticks and my favorite Envy and Greed cosplayers until the heat became unbearable... yeah I lasted like five minutes with the head on so Kyle Hubert put it on for a bit and then we called it a night.
Tekkoshocon 2008 was not at the ExpoMart, but we debuted our art table anyway and made it work. The con did not live up to our expectations this year and I still regret that we will never have our art table in the big open hallway of the ExpoMart.
Steel City Con occurs several times a year and is kinda like our convention filler or fix when Tekkoshocon is over. It doesn't matter if I buy anything or not, it's never a let down. I'm sure the new venue will work just fine for it. I'll never forget the time I found that UK Sonic the Hedgehog Burger King toy that I added to my collection for a dollar or the time the Gene Simmons look alike was there messing with people.
These were all good times. I know the good times won't end, even if the venue changes. It's just hard to say goodbye. Still, I must. Goodbye ExpoMart and thank you.