Area Native Helps Put the ‘Comic’ Back in Comicon With 3 Rivers Comicon Event

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (EYT) – A former area native has made a splash in Pittsburgh as one of the creators of the annual 3 Rivers Comicon event.

Jon Engle currently works as the Regional Manager of New Dimensions Comics, a comic book store chain with six locations in the Pittsburgh area, from Butler to Homestead.

Although Engle is currently a resident of Pittsburgh, he is an Elk County native.

Engle grew up on a dairy farm in St. Marys and attended Elk County Christian High School. From there, he went on to Clarion University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elective Studies and Music Business in the spring of 2005. Following his graduation, he got married, and he and his wife Michelle moved to Pittsburgh where he worked for KB Toys until the company closed in 2009.

That was when he began his career with New Dimension Comics, working at what was then the Century III Mall location. The company has since moved to the Waterfront in Homestead.

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“I have always been a fan of the arts. I loved comic books and music growing up,” Engle told exploreClarion.com.

A particular fan of Green Lantern and Iron Man, Engle was already familiar with New Dimension Comics before he began to work there. Then, what started out as a position at one store grew into something more. Engle currently works as the regional manager, overseeing operations at all six of the company’s stores.

According to Engle, more recently, after Wizard World Pittsburgh decided not to come back after two shows, and Pittsburgh ComicCon was no longer in existence, as it was purchased by Wizard World, he and his boss, New Dimensions Comics owner Todd McDevitt, began to talk about building something new.

“We realized that many shows in the area focused on the TV/Movie celebrities already and kind of forgot about comics. We wanted to put the comics back in Comicon,” explained Engle.

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While Engle didn’t originally have a great deal of experience with conventions, his earlier experience in a band for many years and later booking other bands and setting up shows gave him some insight into working at and later creating an event.

“I started going to conventions in the mid-2000s and realized it’s fairly similar. As I started to exhibit at conventions, I would make a list of things I liked and didn’t like about it. Sometimes, it was about operational things like set up and sometimes it was about what the crowd was like, so I could bring better stuff next time. My boss also had exhibited for years and had a similar list.”

Then, they began to focus their resources in an attempt to bring a comic-focused show back to Pittsburgh, reaching out to a number of creators to organize their own event. That event, named 3 Rivers Comicon, premiered in 2016 and has continued to grow each year since.

3 Rivers Comicon

“When we started the convention, we looked at our notes and tried to build the show we would want to be at, or as close to that as we could. We are always trying to tweak it and make it better year after year,” Engle noted.

“Last year we had 3,000 people in attendance. That’s one percent of Pittsburgh’s population. Not bad for a third-year show. It was a great success as we had many compliments and always get great feedback from both exhibitors and attendees.”

Engle said last year’s show had some especially great moments.

“One of my favorite things from last year’s show was talking with Matt Hawkins (Think Tank, Postal), CEO of Top Cow (an Image Comics brand), or getting an amazing and one of a kind sketch from Pat Olliffe (Spider-Girl, Catwoman, Rough Riders), or when we presented creator Bill Mesnor Loebs (the Maxxx, Flash) with the money we raised for him through the Hero’s Initiative. Those are just a few of the awesome things off the top of my head.”

Though films and television shows based on comic books have been around for a long time, Engle noted the recent increase in comic-based media has also changed things a bit for those in the industry.

“With the movies and TV stuff getting better with things like Walking Dead, Avengers, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cloak and Dagger, Runaways, Umbrella Academy, Doom Patrol, and so many more, it is a blessing and a curse,” he noted.

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“People love these shows and movies, and they come in and then want to read about their favorites. The problem is that it is not always the same in the comic as in the film. There are also other things that where shows or books first that are now comics and people will seek those out, too. Titles like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Elvira, Army of Darkness, and Deja Thoris are some examples. So, it works both ways, and we will be glad to help you find whatever your nerdy heart desires.”

Another change has been an increase in people participating in cosplay, the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game.

“Cosplay has boomed more than ever. It’s always awesome to see people dressed up as their favorite character. We will actually have some cosplay guests and groups at the show, as well as cosplay contests each day.”

While Pittsburgh does still have a number of other conventions in the area, each one tends to have a certain focus. Tekko is a convention focused on Japanese culture, Pulp Con focuses on pulp culture, Sci-fi Valley Con in Altoona is a pop culture convention, and Steel City Con also embraces more of a broad range of pop culture.

“All of us share exhibitors and some guests, but all in all our main difference is the amount of comic vendors, artists, and creators we have,” Engle said. “Our show is designed to give you that few minutes to meet your favorite creator.”

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3 Rivers Comicon also has one interesting distinction: they have a custom craft beer created for the convention each year.

“This year it will be a Russian Imperial Coffee Stout from Shubrew. Each year we have a different artist create the label, this year being Mercy Sparx Sinful Stout with creator Josh Blaylock (owner of Devil’s Due Comics) who will be there and will sign all the cans at the VIP party Saturday night.”

This year’s 3 Rivers Comicon event is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, and Sunday, May 12, at the old Macy’s building at the Waterfront in Homestead.

It will include over 130 creators, 50 vendors from all over the country, and six publishers. All attendees will receive a free graphic novel and a copy of HOPE #1 from Source Point Press with a special Mother’s Day cover by K. Lynn Smith.

They will also have CGC (Certified Guaranty Company) witnessing and grading drop off, though they will not have on the spot grading.

3 Rivers Comicon Flier

Some of the highlights include authors K. Lynn Smith and Dirk Manning who will be at the show and will sign copies of HOPE #1 at their booth. There will also be a VIP party held in the new Waterfront New Dimensions Comics location just down the street from the convention where VIP pass holders will be able to pick up their cans of this year’s craft beer.

Tickets for the event start at just $10.00 for adults for a single day and go up to $75.00 for VIP weekends, and tickets for kids ages nine to 14 start at $5.00 for a single day and $8.00 for the weekend. For more ticket information, visit www.3riverscomicon.com/tickets or stop in at a New Dimension Comics location to save on the service fees.


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