The Heroes & Villains Fan Fest came to London earlier in the year, strangely planned for the same day as MCM London Expo, albeit on the other side of the city. It was the equivalent of Wizard running Wizard World San Diego Uptown on the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con. And yes, it bombed. But a more established version of the show is happening today in New Jersey. Bleeding Cool’s Jason Borelli spoke to the organiser, Francesca Garret. Borelli writes,
New York Comic Con approaches in two weeks, fans in the New York/New Jersey area will be getting a warmup, as Heroes & Villains Fan Fest takes place at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ, this weekend. The show originates from FanFest.com, which is set to host sixteen shows in 2018, according to Vice President of Marketing Francesca Garrett.
“Our conventions actually grew out of a podcast,” she says. “Our founder, James Frazier, has a ‘Walker Stalkers’ podcast that he created with one of his dear friends and next door neighbor, Eric [Nordhoff]. Together, the two of them had taken a road trip to Savannah, GA, where The Walking Dead filmed. This was pretty early, before the fans had realized where the actors were, before security [was] as tight as it is now, and they were able to fit in a coffee shop and chat with Melissa McBride, Norman [Reedus], and several of the other actors that we [saw] on the screen, and just have an incredible fan experience.”
From there, Frazier and Nordhoff organized the first Walker Stalker convention in Atlanta, which was meant to be a one-time event, starting a Kickstarter campaign for it. The show drew ten thousand fans, and it became a fixture on the convention circuit in many cities. Frazier would be contacted by a television hero: Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen on Arrow.
“After three years,” Ms. Garrett continues, “Stephen Amell, who had actually attended the first-ever Chicago event, reached out and said, ‘Listen, I like the way you put on a show. I like the the way you treat the attendees and the guests. I think we can do something fun together.’ He and James brainstormed, and that’s how Heroes & Villains Fan Fest was born. That is a show that’s based on the comic book heroes that we love from more recent history. We really focus on the cinematic side from the last ten years or so.”
The show will mark the third time that it has descended upon Secaucus. The first edition was held in January 2016, when a massive snowstorm hit the Northeast. To accommodate fans left out in the cold, a second show was held in July.
“It was the weekend a state of emergency was called in New Jersey,” recalls Ms. Garrett. “We had a hotel full of attendees and a hotel full of actors, and we decided to see what we could to put on the best time we could given the circumstances. The actors went to hang out with the attendees in the restaurant areas nearby, and we were able to open our doors on Sunday morning, and just put on the convention despite the snow.”
Heroes & Villains Fan Fest New York is slated to feature stars from comics-friendly shows such as Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Gotham, and Supergirl. Guests recently announced in the past few weeks include Rick Gonzalez (Arrow), Sean Pertwee (Gotham) and Rose McIver (iZombie). The show also marks the debut of actors from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as Brett Dalton will be appearing, as well as Ming-Na Wen, if only for Saturday.
“We have a couple of my favorite actors there,” Ms. Garrett notes. “I love watching Brandon Routh, who played Superman in Superman Returns, chat with any of the attendees, especially kids. There’s something pretty cool watching a five-year-old actually meeting Superman. That’s also a highlight for me.”
“If you talk to our attendees, most of them will tell you that they’re actually there for the community. They’re there to meet up with folks who they’ve met online and who they share a passion with, and maybe this is the only time they get to see this individual this year, but they form these friendships. [Also, you] go to a place where your interest is shared by tens of thousands of people. Aybe nobody in your family or office watches The Walking Dead or Arrow, but you can have those conversations with other superfans of these shows.”