Pittsburgh Comicon brings artists and Superheroes to the Expomart

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From the hit NBC series "Heroes" to the much-anticipated debut of "Spider-Man 3" in theaters next week, comic book icons have a seat at the table of both popular culture and big business. Only a philistine would doubt that the once-maligned comic book subculture has made the transition from the anonymity of mom's basement to the corporate boardroom. Comic books are hip and profitable.

   
Pittsburgh Comicon

Where: ExpoMart, Monroeville.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: $17; $45 for 3-day pass; free to children under 8.
Info: For a complete list of guests and seminars, go to pittsburghcomicon.com or call 1-814-467-4116.

   

If you want to know what the vast dream factory known as the comic industry is up to, there's no better place to look than a "comicon," an annual gathering of comic book aficionados, collectors, industry professionals, speculators and vendors. Usually held over a weekend, comicons combine the musty charm of flea markets with the colorful anarchy of the bar scene from "Star Wars."

The annual Pittsburgh Comicon at the Pittsburgh ExpoMart in Monroeville has grown in respectability and influence with the comics industry. No longer a secondary stop on the way to comicons in San Diego and New York, the Pittsburgh Comicon now attracts the cream of the crop of comic book talent. This year's roster is especially top heavy with big names:

Artist George Perez, arguably one of the top five fan favorites of all time, is making the Pittsburgh Comicon his last convention appearance for a few years. Known for his linear style and intricate rendering of superhero battles, Perez made his biggest mark on DC Comics' "Crisis on Infinite Earth," the Marvel/DC crossover between the Avengers and the Justice League of America and a superb run on "The New Teen Titans" in the 1980s.

Artist and writer Mike Grell, a fan favorite from the Silver Age of comics is a featured guest. Grell's run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow for DC and his beautifully drawn "The Warlord" series for that company in the 1970s was a favorite of discriminating fans. In the 1980s, Grell turned his enormous fan base into a platform for his creator owned comic book "John Sable, Freelance."

Artist Arthur Suydam literally kills superheroes and brings them back to life on the cover of the popular "Marvel Zombie" series. Suydam has become a fan favorite overnight. His macabre paintings of superhero icons in various states of decay and reanimation have made comics a fascinating intersection of horror and super heroics. It's fascinating to see folks with super powers as terrified of encountering zombies as the rest of us. Suydam will be on hand to autograph books and take questions about the zombie-themed series.

The Pittsburgh Comicon isn't just about top-shelf writers and artists, although if one is inclined to meet them, there are literally dozens in town this week representing the major companies and their smaller, independent rivals. The Pittsburgh Comicon also hosts the annual Steel City Sci-Fi /Horror Fantasy Theatre.

This year Kane Hodder, best known as Jason Voorhees from the "Friday the 13th" films, is a special guest. Chase Masterson, the actress who played the lovely Leeta on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" will get many fanboys' hearts beating faster than usual this weekend. Other guests include "Farscape" favorites Gigi Edgley (Chiana) and Wayne Pygram (Scorpius).

For the ladies dragged to yet another comicon by their emotionally distracted boyfriends, there's beefcake available in the form of Marc Singer, best known as Dar in the "Beastmaster" films.

What would a comic book convention be without seminars? Beginning Friday and running until Sunday, there are enough panel discussions scheduled to keep even the most fanatical devotees busy. From the "Farscape" Q&A Friday to a comic trivia showdown on Saturday to the big costume contest on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Comicon will transform Western Pennsylvania into geek heaven. Comic scholar Theodore R. Riddle is hosting his popular seminar "How to Produce a Comic Book from Start to Finish" on Saturday for those who want to be on the other side of fan adoration for once.


Tony Norman can be reached at tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631.


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