Steel City Con: Comics, cosplay and collectibles, oh my!

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

April 13, 2023

A long time ago (Mar. 31- Apr. 2.) in a galaxy (The Monroeville Convention Center) far far away (Monroeville), comic book enthusiasts gathered to share their fandom, cosplay their favorite characters, look for missing items for their collection and meet the actors and actresses that portray the heroes and villains that have dominated pop culture from decades past and present.

The three-day convention, known as Steel City Con, was held in the Monroeville Convention Center and used the 100,000 square feet available for over 600 vendors, artists’ tables and even a pop-up station for attendees to get tattoos.

There were also panel discussions throughout the weekend, where fans could hear insights from their favorite artist such as Caanan White and Pittsburgh native Scott McDaniel.

Over 30 celebrities ranging from TV to the silver screen were available for autographs and pictures. Actors and actresses like Dean Cain from the 1990’s show “Lois & Clark: The Adventures of Superman,” Dolph Lundgren from the “Rocky” franchise, Richard Dreyfuss from “The Goodbye Girl” and “Jaws,” Mara Wilson from “Matilda,” Kelsey Grammer from “Cheers” and Randy Quaid from “Independence Day” were all present at the event.

“I was really excited to meet Paolo Costanzo,” said Stephen Combs. “I am a huge fan of Road Trip and it was so cool to meet him. He hasn’t aged.”

Another event goer was eager to meet their lifelong idol, Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart Simpson on the ongoing classic television show, “The Simpsons.”

“I’ve been watching ‘The Simpsons’ forever,” said Duane Walck “and to see Nancy Cartright was a dream come true. It was like meeting my childhood.”

While traditionally comic-cons have been a place for collectors to go and look to expand their collections, these days there seems to be something for everyone to enjoy.

From video games to obscure television shows, Steel City Con provided something for all ages, including a special appearance from two of the three hosts of the popular children’s show, “Blues Clues.” Donovan Patton (Joe) and Joshua Dela Cruz (Josh) shared a Nickelodeon panel with Kathleen Herles, the lead voice actress of “Dora the Explorer.”

“My kids came to see ‘Blues Clues,’” Tracy London said. “I grew up with Steve [Burns], they grew up with Donovan [Patton.]”

Burns, Patton and Dela Cruz were all available for meet and greets and autographs.

A major component of any comic-con is the use of cosplay, considered a performance art in which participants dress in costumes and makeup, representing characters from anime, video games, television and film.

In addition to wearing costumes, it’s not unusual for cosplayers to “act” like the character they are portraying.

“I love to cosplay,” said Matthew McDonald of Monroeville. “Costumes and everything, that’s the main reason I can go to any con.”

On the final day of SteelCon cosplayers had a chance to enter a contest to win prizes. Separated by age group, contest participants were judged on a variety of criteria such as “creativity” and “Originality.”

Marcus Rodgers of Shadyside, who has been participating in cosplays for comic-con for over five years, was excited to take home the prize for “most life-like” in the adult group. He cosplayed as the Harry Potter character Dumbledore.

“I have to give big props to my mamma,” Rodgers said. “She has spent a lot of time making this for me.”

While many came for the big names and the more popular attractions, there were plenty of local artists selling their creations.

Demetrius Belvin, a Pittsburgh Native had a booth to display his comic book line Darkehand. He is not only the illustrator for the comic but also the illustrator and a mascot for the series.

“My graphic novels are based on my experiences,” Belvin said. “I pull from my own life when i create these stories.”

Darkehand is about a virus created by a racist regime that brought about the apocalypse.

The next Steel City Con will be held at the Monroeville Convention when it returns on Aug. 11.