(Josh Axelrod took this image of Stormtroopers in the PISA cafeteria with his camera phone.)
I've been out to Pittsburgh Indoor Soccer Arena in Cheswick dozens of times -- to see my son play soccer. So the idea of a toy-comic book convention there seemed alien -- until I spent a few hours today at the Steel City Con.
My son decribed it as a "mini" Comic-Con International, but it's unfair to make that comparison. The San Diego con we've attended in recent years is the biggest in the world, with more than 100,000 compared to the hundreds who attend Steel City. But after the elbow to elbow Comic-Con experience and hours upon hours on long lines, the con at PISA was a pleasure.
There were interesting celebs spread from throughout the genre world, Anthony Daniels chief among them. He was endlessly patient and chatty with paying fans who waited in a relatively long line for his autograph and a chance to say hi. Mick Foley was there, too -- I'm not a wrestling fan, but I'm sure that was cool for a lot of people.
Catherine "Daisy Duke" Hicks was there, but I didn't see the General Lee replica that was announced. I'm sure it was out and about somewhere in the heat outside the building. That was another thing -- it was crowded in spaces, but never so much that you couldn't feel the air-conditioning on a scalding hot day.
It was the merch that I had fun with. $5 T-shirts that referenced everything from "Superbad" to "Seinfeld," and action figures from "Star Wars" to "Lost" to "Alias" to "Farscape" ... yeah, I indulged. But just a little.
The hundreds of visitors and dozens of vendors seemed like a good match for PISA, which I couldn't have imagined without having seen it myself. Josh, my son, said he'd never look at PISA quite the same again.
What impressed me was the cars that found spaces at ever inch of the parking lot. We lucked out because someone was pulling out just as we pulled into the main lot in front of PISA. I didn't know until we were leaving, but there was a bus shuttling people who parked in a big field at the top of Rich Hill Road, which leads to the arena.
It was hot outside, but because of the well-organized event, it seemed that everyone was cool inside.
More on Steel City Con in Monday's Magazine section and online in a video Monday afternoon at post-gazette.com.