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To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek

on Sat, 10/29/2016 - 12:02

The science fiction television series Star Trek premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966. Over the course of fifty years, what began as a simple TV show has evolved and endured to become one of the most iconic franchises in history. It’s basic narrative of a Utopian future where mankind has resolved its internal conflicts and has moved beyond planet Earth has resonated with millions of viewers around the world, while the show’s fictional technological advancements have inspired an untold number of scientists, engineers, astronomers and medical professionals to enter their chosen fields.

Thirteen months after the premier of The Original Series in September 1966, the first Star Trek comic book was released, and with the exception of a brief five year period during the early part of the Twenty First Century, illustrated narratives have been published non-stop ever since. In keeping with its mission of celebrating the cartoon and comic arts, the ToonSeum will pay homage to Star Trek with a special exhibit focusing on 49 years of illustrated narratives, including historic US comic books and British comic strips from the early 1970s as well as original comic art from the 1980s and 1990s and on into the present.

While the focus of “To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek” will be on the illustrated medium, the exhibit will also shine the spotlight on the numerous ties between Pittsburgh and the Star Trek franchise that, like the series itself, go back decades. Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Mr. Spock on the original series, made his Shakespearean debut at the Pittsburgh Public Theater in 1975, for instance, while Zachary Quinto, the current Mr. Spock in the new slate of big screen movie adventures, is a Green Tree native who attended Central Catholic High School in Oakland and Carnegie Mellon University before heading to Los Angeles.

Fans have likewise played an instrumental role during the five-decade history of Star Trek, and here again the ToonSeum will highlight various zines and fan fiction created in Pittsburgh, as well as a Star Trektacular convention held at the William Penn Hotel in 1975 that featured William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and George Takei among its attendees.

“To Boldly Go: The Graphic Art of Star Trek” opens at the ToonSeum on October 28, 2016, and runs through January 15, 2017 – a fitting tribute to the Star Trek franchise, its history within the comic arts, the fans who helped it endure, the STEM-career professionals inspired by its themes, and Star Trek’s ongoing connections to Pittsburgh.

Star Wars Night at PNC Park

on Sun, 07/24/2016 - 13:04

To call Star Wars a cultural phenomenon is a vast understatement. For millions of fans around the world, Star Wars IS culture. The saga that George Lucas created back in 1977 serves not just as entertainment but a narrative that has struck a chord and serves as an inspiration arguably more than any other epic in history. The reach of Star Wars likewise extends further than the big screen, continuing on the small screen, in art, comic books and novels. Like the force itself, Star Wars truly is everywhere.

And that includes major league baseball parks. What originally began as a minor league promotional night was quickly called up to the majors until no baseball season in any MLB city is complete without a Star Wars Night at their home stadium. Pittsburgh was not the first locale to embrace the merging of these two popular American pastimes, but is set to make it two years in a row with Star Wars Night at PNC Park on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. And yes, in addition to Stormtroopers and Jedis, the Pirates will be taking on the Seattle Mariners in an actual baseball game.

The best part of Star Wars Night at PNC Park is that fans don’t even need a ticket to the event to enjoy the festivities, as Federal Street will be blocked off next to the stadium for Star Wars aficionados to not only congregate beforehand but participate in the costume contest as well. Last year, over 80 fans participated, taking the makeshift stage, showing off their outfits to the crowd and being judged by a panel of Jedi Knights, all of whom are members of local Star Wars fan clubs. This year will be no different—if not bigger and better than the previous affair—as local residents use both the Force and their imagination to craft costume that not only honor Star Wars but the Steel City itself.

Winter is Coming to the Mt. Lebanon Public Library

on Tue, 04/19/2016 - 22:18

“When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die,” Cersei Lannister explains to Eddard Stark during the first season of the HBU drama. “There is no middle ground.”

Despite such a dire warning, fans of the medieval fantasy have become enchanted with the kingdom of Westeros almost as much as Lord of the Rings aficionados dream of Middle Earth. Although Westeros is fictional, the Mt. Lebanon Public Library is providing the next best thing on Friday, April 22, 2016, as it transforms itself into the world of Game of Thrones with a special “Evening in Westeros” celebration that is sure to delight local fans across the region.

In addition to allowing Game of Thrones followers to congregate and interact with each other, the event will also feature an array of entertainment, including medieval music and food, wine and mead tasting, medieval dance lesson overseen by University of Pittsburgh Professor Emily Winerock, a live steel sword demonstration courtesy of Broken Plow Western Martial Arts and the Pittsburgh Sword Fighters, and real chain mail for attendees to try on.

Although the HBO drama and George R.R. Martin book series that the show is based on takes place in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, the world of Game of Thrones is loosely modelled after the Wars of the Roses-era of England. Thus while being fantasy, Game of Thrones is also rooted in the medieval, and the parallels offer real-world exploration despite the non-real elements that both the show and books incorporate into their narratives.

The ToonSeum Hosts a Cosplay Fundraiser

on Sun, 04/17/2016 - 13:46

Cosplaying—the act of dressing up as a favorite character—has been around for over 100 years. The very first science fiction comic strip, Mr. Skygack, from Mars by A.D. Condo, premiered in 1907, for instance, and fans of the series were dressing as the main protagonist within a year. Famed science fiction fan Forrest J. Ackerman, meanwhile, dressed in futuristic garb at the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939.

While the roots of cosplaying may be in the United States, it wasn’t until the fad hit Japan full force in the 1990s that the hobby reached worldwide significance. Nowadays one cannot attend any sort of Pop Culture convention without coming across thousands of people dressed in costume. Pittsburgh is no different, as anyone who ever attended Steel City Con, Tekko or Wizard World Pittsburgh can attest.

What was once a fringe hobby, however, has also developed into a charity effort in addition to achieving widespread popularity. Non-profit organizations have popped up across the country in recent years, with members dressing up in costume in support of their favorite causes. The ToonSeum in Pittsburgh, one of only a small handful of museums that cater to the cartoon and comic arts, is hoping to tap into that thrill of cosplaying while supporting a worthy cause on Saturday, April 23, 2016, when it holds its annual Ka-Blam! fundraiser, appropriately named “Cause-Play: A Masquerade Fundraiser for the ToonSeum.”

Tekko 2016 Descends Upon the Steel City

on Tue, 04/05/2016 - 22:06

Have you ever thought about visiting Japan? Well, once a year, the City of Pittsburgh transforms itself into the Land of the Rising Sun as thousands of Steel City natives descend upon the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for Tekko, the annual Japanese Pop Culture convention that has something for anyone who has ever been fascinated with the island nation. This year the event is scheduled to commence Thursday, April 7th, with a special Preview Night before launching into a Friday, Saturday, Sunday lineup overflowing with activities.

Tekko (formerly known as Tekkoshocon) began life in 2003 at the Wyndham Pittsburgh Airport Hotel, then bounced around Cranberry Township, Monroeville and Green Tree before settling into downtown Pittsburgh in 2009. Initially started by a small group of fans, Tekko is now overseen by the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society . It doesn’t make any difference, however, as the convention is three full days of activities that encompass all aspects of Japanese Pop Culture, from anime and manga to music and fashion, Samurai warriors and giant robots to anything else one can imagine.

Like any Pop Culture convention in the Twenty First Century, cosplay is a regular staple of the Tekko experience. On Saturday in particular, the David L. Lawrence Convention center experiences an onslaught of fans dressed in extravagant apparel that reflect the various aspects of Japanese Pop Culture. Although a worldwide phenomenon, cosplay is particularly popular in Japan where opportunities present themselves practically every weekend. In fact, the World Cosplay Summit is even annually held in the city of Nagoya.