If you're near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend and notice some masked groups in brightly colored outfits and wigs that cut hair at sharp angles, feel free to do a double-take. They are among thousands of fans, artists, entertainers and costume-play (aka cosplay) enthusiasts who for more than a decade have flocked to Pittsburgh to share an affinity for anime and all things Japanese pop culture.
Tekkoshocon X-2 is undergoing a transformation in its 12th year. It is moving back to the convention center after a couple of cramped years at the Wyndham Hotel at the Point, and there has been a rebranding that is evident in its new subtitle: Pittsburgh Japanese Pop Culture Con. That includes anime, tokusatsu (live-action films and TV), music and a wide range of gaming. In September, Tekkoshocon Inc. donated its assets to the nonprofit Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society. The mission statement remains the same: "to increase people's interest in, knowledge about and respect for the culture of others, especially Asian culture."
Main events at Tekkoshocon include a dance competition, comedy with stand-up Karl "Uncle Yo" Custer, concerts, anime music video screening and the Cosplay Masquerade, which includes a best-of-show competition for craftsmanship and performance from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
The convention center will be packed with cosplayers, but the judging competition represents a relatively small group who enter for bragging rights. The youngest entrant who created her own costume is 12, and there's a parent-child entry that includes a 1-year-old, said Amanda Lore, who coordinates the Masquerade and has been staffing the event since Tekkoshocon III.
She's thrilled to be back at the convention center this year.
"We have to move so many people, and without [the Wyndham] having the grand staircase ready the past year and with a lot of the [contestants and attendees] under age, it was like herding cats in there," Ms. Lore said. "We also had so many people who wanted to get in, we had to turn some away. That shouldn't be a problem in the convention center."
This year, there are 10 entries for performance and 30 for craftsmanship. In the performance category, cosplayers perform for four minutes or less for a live audience and are judged on presentation, charisma, writing, audio quality and movement/choreography. There is no judging for craftsmanship here; performers may compete with bought or commissioned costumes.
One thing has changed in the years since Ms. Lore became involved as a fan of anime franchises such as "Sailor Moon" and "Dragonball Z" -- fandom is no longer dictated by what is on television or in video games.
"The Internet has really helped expand [cosplay] to all sorts of media; it's not limited to what's on Saturday morning TV anymore," Ms. Lore said. "When I was young, I was the cool kid. Now, people show up to the judging room, and we have no idea who their character is."
Musical guests are Dazzle Vision, Cantoy and Chii Sakurab. Guests of honor and panelists include voice artists and actors Cristina Vee, Chris Cason, Tony Oliver and David Fielding (Zordon from "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers"); Robotech creative director Tommy Yune; and DJ and producer Pete "Initial P" Ellison.
The convention attracted 3,600 attendees last year; expectations are 4,000 this year.
If you go: General admission badge: $50 for one to three days. Matinee badge: $20 for Sunday only. Rock Star badge (limited availability): $150, includes front-of-line access to concerts and a Sunday night event. Hours are 9 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Information: www.tekkoshocon.com.
STEEL CITY CON
The Steel City Con, Pittsburgh's long-running toy, comic and pop culture convention, is back at Monroeville Convention Center with a guest list that spreads a wide net for fanboys and fangirls.
David Prowse, the man behind Darth Vader's mask; Karen Allen, Indiana Jones' first love interest in the inaugural franchise film, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"; Kevin Sorbo, from TV's "Hercules" and "Andromeda"; Madison Lintz, Sophia on AMC hit "The Walking Dead"; and -- for those who have ever debated the "Ginger or Mary Ann" question -- Dawn Wells, who played the pigtailed "Gilligan's Island" castaway Mary Ann.
Besides hourly prize drawings and autograph signings (check the website for times and charges), vendor tables include new and vintage toys; Gold/Silver/Modern Age comic books; anime; gaming; sci-fi/horror and other collectibles, military toys; action figures; DVDs, model kits and more.
Show hours are 1-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $15 daily or $25 for a three-day pass, which gets you in at noon Friday and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information: www.steelcitycon.com.
COMICS 4 COMICS
The fourth annual Comics 4 Comics, the ToonSeum's annual fundraiser happening tonight, features comedian/cartoonist Michael Capozzola, a contributor to Mad magazine, The New York Times and National Lampoon. He also is producer and host of the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum's Comics for Comix fundraiser, which served as the inspiration for the ToonSeum's event.
Stand-up comedian and writer Michael Buzzelli (the Comedy Store and the Improv in Los Angeles) will emcee the night of comedy for the Downtown museum of comic and cartoon art. Local funnyman Terry Jones also is on the bill for the event, which will be preceded by a VIP reception at 6:30 p.m. at the ToonSeum. Comics 4 Comics will open at 8 p.m. at Little E's, next door to the ToonSeum at 949 Liberty Ave.
Exhibitions at the ToonSeum include works by Bill Plympton through April 16 and "The Art of Akira," which was the most expensive animated film ever made when it was released in 1988, through April 28.
Tickets are $20; VIP tickets, which include reserved seating and the reception, are $35; all proceeds benefit the ToonSeum. More info and tickets: toonseum.org or 412-232-0199.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. First Published April 4, 2013 4:00 AM