Jason Borelli went to Heroes & Villains Fan Fest New York 2017. Here’s what he discovered.
Last year, I found out about the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest chain, and I ventured out to Secaucus, NJ to check it out. I wound up having fun hitting panels, finding out Caity Lotz is really into hats, and seeing David Ramsey’s impressive biceps up close.
This year, the guest lineup would be stacked with actors from Arrow, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, along with Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., iZombie, and Supergirl. Given that one of the co-creators of the show is Stephen Amell (the Green Arrow himself), it was not a surprise that I had a good time over the past weekend — albeit with a few hiccups.
I went both days without getting a sketch (my main con weakness), as most of the artists present sold prints and other merchandise. There were tattoo artists operating, but I’d rather have art in my sketchbook, than on my skin. My camera died on me both days, so I had to juggle between my phone and iPad, neither of which would serve as a Plan A.
Finally, between my agita over meeting people I’ve seen and read about and my limited budget, I was only able to get a picture and autograph from one guest: Robin Lord Taylor from Gotham. Most of that stemmed from chancing into his area when it wasn’t crowded, though he was drawing sizable crowds all day. I like his take on Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin, because it’s a fun direction for the character beyond the aristocratic canon and Danny DeVito’s ghoulish version from Batman Returns, and it fits the “take no prisoners” style of the show.
Taylor was present for the Gotham panel, along with Maggie Geha (Ivy Pepper) and two holdovers from last year’s show: David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne) and Drew Powell (Butch Gilzean), both of whom will be facing new challenges for their characters: Bruce goes all masked vigilante years ahead of canon, and Butch transitions into Solomon Grundy.
Immediately, I discovered that Taylor is short — either that, or Mazouz is tall for his age. Also, I forgot about the panel from last year’s show that his first name is pronounced “Dah-VEED.” He joked about being terrified at the new direction of his character, though he seemed excited at the prospect, including trying to figure out what to sound like underneath a mask. Also, he would be up for playing Robin on the big screen. The exact quote: “Damien Wayne, he’s a butthole! I really want to play a butthole!” As for Powell? It turns out his son likes his father playing Grundy, and the actor joked about the others having their own action figures (or playing characters that lead to toys).
The quartet talked about filming in New York, the scariness of Scarecrow’s costume in the upcoming season (it was thought that it was made to smell foul, but that turned out to be a dead mouse where it was kept), and Geha joining the series last season. She called the cast “the biggest, happiest, most funny family ever.” The panel ended with a “waddle-off,” as Taylor judged the other actors’ interpretations of Penguin’s signature walk, with Mazouz getting the most love from the crowd.
The main event on Saturday was the panel focusing on John Barrowman. I confess not to know him outside his roles as Captain Jack Harkness and Malcolm Merlyn. While he didn’t dress as flamboyantly as he has in past shows (arriving in a t-shirt and jeans), Barrowman put on a show from the very start, dancing for the crowd, grinding on the sign language interpreter, and going back and forth with his assistant Kelsey.
He talked about turning 50 and shaving his head, and that his natural hair color is “Neal McDonough white,” referencing his partner-in-crime from the prior season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. In addition to his life on and off-camera, Barrowman brought up the Torchwood comic that he writes with his sister Carole, teasing about how Jack Harkness would eventually the Face of Boe, which was hinted at on Doctor Who in 2007.
Another tidbit I learned: the two pronunciations of Ra’s al Guhl are valid, with “Raysh” is respectful and “Rahs” being anything but. Speaking of Arrow, Barrowman confirmed that Malcolm Merlyn was still dead, and that there are no plans to bring him back on Arrow.
In 2016, I wrote about his wish to have played “Captain America or Captain America’s boyfriend.” At this year’s convention, he told the audience about wanting to be in a Star Wars movie, because he grew up on the original trilogy and still has merchandise from back then.
And in true Barrowman fashion, he said the phrase, “hung like a donkey,” got a kick out of the interpreter translating it, and wound up using that as a running gag. That was funny, mostly due to how the interpreter and her replacement “said” that, but I found out later that wasn’t the first time Barrowman had done that.
Still, if you’re at a show where he is headlining a panel, you need to see him, even if you’re not familiar with Doctor Who, Torchwood, or the CW shows. Not many people can keep up the energy for close to an hour before closing by singing ‘Copacabana’.
The show’s second day was as hectic as the first. I didn’t get a seat for Stephen Amell’s panel. While the stage for the panels was set out in the open on the convention floor where you can hear it happen, I could see how buying upgraded admission would come be worth it, as those people got seats in the front.
I managed to catch the tail end of artist Rob Prior’s performance; I say performance I because he painted Rocky Balboa on stage as Metallica blared from the speakers, and Prior was clearly into the music as he worked. He did the same thing on a smaller scale the previous day at his booth, painting all four heroes from Defenders.
For me, the main Sunday panel covered The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, featuring Candice Patton (Iris West), Robbie Amell (Ronnie Raymond), Caity Lotz (Sara Lance), Brandon Routh (Ray Palmer/Atom), and Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), the latter being added in the days leading to the convention. Over the weekend, they had no shortage of admiring fans. Routh met somebody who was born on the day Superman Returns was released, while Patton received Dallas Cowboys gear for her dog and Lotz was visited by a young fan whose cancer was in remission.
The stars kept the energy up for the full hour, as they hyped their respective series. Amell also took part, though there are no plans to bring his character back. He had not come to Heroes & Villains alone, as his wife Italia Ricci (Silver Banshee on Supergirl) made the trip. He had fun complaining about Ronnie’s death, as well as his appearance on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Valdes’s childhood incident of eating cereal soaked in milk became a running joke, as well. As corny as it sounds, it felt like the Arrowverse actors are a happy family.
The other big event on Sunday was the cosplay contest. As you would expect, there was a good chunk of fans in costume. I got a taste of the familiar and unexpected. For instance, at every major show I visit, I always see somebody playing Traflanger Law from One Piece. On the other hand, somebody came as Ego the Living Planet. It wasn’t the version played by Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but somebody costumed in a rough planet-like shape with a face. There was also a cart involved, which was a nice touch.
I also saw a lady dressed as the Enterprise, and one guy dressed as the musician Slash as a Flash, which was nicely offbeat. Fans of all ages dressed up, with two toddlers entering the contest as Flash and Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. That’s not the most kid-friendly inspiration, but his “handler” could tell people another fighter performed a “babality” on him.
The most unnerving cosplay had to be the couple dressed as Pennywises. Yes, that’s plural, representing the sinister clowns from both versions of It (the miniseries and the recently released film). They won the villains portion of the contest with ease, and the emcee seemingly did not want to award them out of fear. Whether she was that unnerved, or playing up clown phobia, she did a good job. In the kids’ portion, a young Predator pulled off the win over Finally, a Starfire beat out Slash/Flash and a Green Lantern/Green Arrow duo.
As fans gear up for New York Comic Con, Heroes & Villains Fan Fest New York proved to be a good warmup, as well as a fun convention in its own right. Although light on the comic creators seen in other shows, it offers the most bang for the buck for fans of the genre.
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