Heroes and Villains invade San Jose for another grand Fan Fest!

7 Dec

We had the opportunity to attend Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in San Jose for the second year recently. Since we weren’t there in a press/media or doing a panel capacity, it was a little strange and initially there wasn’t going to be a post about the convention. However, there were enough differences- and some issues we wanted to address- that it seems like a good idea to write something up. We had a great time, I want to make that clear- HVFF puts on a good show!

But… it could be better.

Logistically there were changes made to the locations of things from 2016 to this year. We did not attend the first year in San Jose, so I have no idea how that was set up but there were some pluses and minuses to the changes this year. First of all, the panels moved from a side of the main room into their own space. This had the benefit of making it easier to hear things since the ambient noise was less however created many kerfluffles with the lines to get in. Things that didn’t fully get worked out until day 2- and still could’ve been better (how about not having the VIPs lining up in the middle of everyone else next time…). The spaces to line up were narrow and very few people actually understood they needed to stay in their lane. Having actual barriers or maybe losing one lane to make them slightly wider would’ve helped. A lot. Along with having staff on each section from the first panel… multiple “fans” cut in line because no staff was there to watch them.

Let’s continue with panel issues, shall we… With only one real panel area (let’s be honest, the smaller stage was more for events and no “panelist” was there for more than a few minutes) it meant that if you wanted to see the next panel, you had to leave the one you were in to get back in line. There needs to be more variety amongst the panels so that fans didn’t have to give up on something important in order to see the next. We missed a few that we wanted to see because the headache of leaving to fight with the line wasn’t worth it. That was the nice thing last year, even with the noise of the big room, from the line you were still able to hear the panel going on and could enjoy every one of them.

Not sure how to fix this.

The last big issue with the panels had to do with the fan questions. The panels were scheduled for about 45 minutes but always started late for whatever reason, meaning the time for questions and discussion was shortened. Fine, whatever. But that means that the fans in line need to be respectful of the others in line, too. Which probably means HVFF needs someone working those lines who is screening the questions and making sure they ask 1 question and not multiple parters or try to have deep conversations. Those should be saved for one on one time at the booth- every last one of the guests was chatting away with fans all weekend, lots of personal attention. But it never failed- every panel we were at a couple of people would monopolize the mic and use up to 10 minutes! And to be honest, the majority of the questions that this happened with weren’t panel appropriate. They were personal questions and should’ve been at the booth. They became uncomfortable for the rest of the audience and the panelists didn’t seem too thrilled either. So, the result of this is that I think HVFF could benefit from some question screeners. Tough job, but it would help a lot.

A smaller issue to finish the panel talk is that though I adore Stephen Amell and believe that he should be on more panels, it ends up being a lot of questions for him and the others just sit there trying to comment. So a suggestion would be to have Amell be the moderator on those panels and let him direct the questions to the rest while making his own comments. He seems like the kind of guy who would do a great job making sure the others get the spotlight. And then he could follow it up (or even do this before) with a solo panel, allowing the focus to just be on him. Again, this would allow everyone to get their Stephen questions asked but also give ample time to the other people on the stage. I’ve been on a panel where things were focused on just one person and it does not feel good to be sitting there doing nothing. Just throwing this out there.

That’s enough on the panels, let’s talk about the photo ops. As previously mentioned, the photo ops moved from the private room into the big room this year. However, this did not seem to affect them at all- it was the same smooth process as last year. Multiple lines available for the two photo sides, and they moved smoothly. Go to this line, for this op, and then move through the actual op quickly- set your bag here, smile, pick up your things here, follow this line to the printer. Quick and not the time for personal attention other than the fact that (at least the two ops I did this year- and the 3 from last year!) the celebs are gracious and kind, always friendly and smiling through the whole time. It was actually lovely, even if there wasn’t that personal moment that you could get at their booth. Personally, I finished my OTA with a photo with Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey. Both were lovely, though David is just a giant loving teddy bear that smells nice… Wait, what was I saying? Probably one of the best run photo ops I’ve ever done. I have never bothered with them at Wizard World events (except for that one time in NOLA, which was not something I paid for) because it’s always stressful and not fun. I chatted with several lovely people in lines and then smoothly transitioned to my next event. Oh, I should note that the last several conventions I’ve attended the photo ops is randomly in the middle of the room, which causes traffic issues in the space. So that’s another point in the favor for this company.

I don’t like comparing major events like WonderCon or SDCC to smaller things like HVFF because they are so different but it’s important for attendees to understand that the focus of these cons is on the particular guests and their respective shows- i.e. not on the dealer room. There is no dealer room per se, just a handful of venders from the area, a few artists, and the like. Neal Adams was in attendance. And Lord Mesa, whose work is always a favorite. And there was a booth for tattoos- which is becoming more and more of a thing, I guess, at conventions. But if you wanted to add to your comics’ collection with those 2 random issues you missed back in 2005, there isn’t a place to do that. Nor were there many offerings of collectibles. There were some (in fact, I found the one FunkoPop I need to finish my Arrow collection, but I resisted it as it is on my wishlist for Christmas) but not a lot. Even the activities area seemed a little smaller this year. In particular, we noted that the inflatable zip line was missing. In its place was a bull riding machine. Alrighty then. There was an archery booth, too- did anyone actually catch Amell there? He got challenged during a panel…

Sad to say that one of the guests I planned on seeing (and torturing Charity with as I planned to get the photo op) cancelled due to work a few days prior to the event- Brett Dalton. Which led to Ming Na Wen calling him during her panel on Saturday morning, teasing him. Sadly, he didn’t call back until the panel had already let out and most people missed it. There was a nice representation from Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., This Is Us, Punisher, and Guardians of the Galaxy, but no one from The Flash or Supergirl, sadly- especially sad with “Crisis on Earth X” airing the week before.

I’m going to bullet point some of my tweets when I talk about the panels- just so you know.

As always, John Barrowman was a highlight. I skipped his booth this year as I have photos and autographs- let the other fans have that personal moment with him- but I did not want to miss the panel. That man is just a raucous delight! He is charming and can work a room like no one’s business. He had quite a few zingers in answering panel questions, and he even took the time (though he shouldn’t have had to) to talk through some personal issues with people. Even throwing in a song- which is a delightful bonus, but should not ever be demanded by a crowd.

  • “I love my life”
  • “They were anatomically correct sheep!” “On children’s television!”
  • “it’s just glorious to hear you sing” what #VictorGarber said to @JohnBarrowman re: Duets
  • Asked “date marry kill” re: league of doom, @JohnBarrowman said kill Eobard, date Damian cuz kinky, marry Leonard. Because yes.

With Brett having to cancel, the AoS panel became the Ming Na show, which was made even more fun by her own admission of being exhausted and punch drunk. I would’ve liked to meet her but her booth line was longer than I wanted to wait. She was hilarious during the panel and gave a lot of love back to her ‘mingalings’. Would definitely recommend checking out future panels with her. I think the only time we’d seen her previously was at SDCC, on a full cast panel- thus we didn’t get to really hear from her much.

  • “I was like… oh no, we jumped the shark” @mingna sharing her first thoughts on new season
  • “You know what my mom said when i tore my knee? ‘MingNa, you not young'”
  • “I think the final product… if I’m gonna be honest… it makes for a great drinking game and the more you drink, the better it gets” re: Street Fighter: the movie
  • “If we have #AoS the musical” “then we have jumped the shark!”

We also chose to attend the “men of Arrow” panel with Manu Bennett, Rick Gonzalez, and Echo Kellum, which was a lot of fun. Though, again, a ‘fan’ tried to push things too far with their questions- though it was handled very well by the panelists basically barreling over the inappropriate bit and moving on to the next. The difficult piece with a diverse panel group like this is that so often the questions get aimed solely at one member of the panel with the others left sitting, twiddling their thumbs. The guys worked hard to include others in the answers whenever they could. But this goes back to my earlier comments regarding Amell moderating panels. Not that I would want him to moderate this panel (though that’d be fun) as he was already crazy busy over the weekend with photos and signings, but something like that. In this grouping, I might’ve made Manu the moderator. I think he would’ve made a point of ensuring everyone gets to participate. There was a moderator for every panel, except Barrowman, but I have no memory of them which says they didn’t do anything to stand out (good!) or make an impression by actually keeping things rolling (bad!). Anyways, got off topic again… I remember laughing a lot during this panel. We skipped the other panels on Saturday because otherwise we would’ve spent the entire day in the panel room or in line for it and missed everything else about the convention.

  • “Sorry about Oliver’s mother” @ManuBennett
  • @ManuBennett glad #SladeWilson got humanized a bit this season
  • “Out of hatred, comes the greatest love” @ManuBennett
  • “Yeah, just know we da most humble cast that’s ever been!” @echok
  • do you ever feel like you are the character? Answer yes. @manubennett

Sunday started out with a panel- OTA (original team Arrow)- and though we actually got to the convention before the posted time for the doors opening, we were already far back in the line. On Saturday we had gotten the same seats for each panel- on the far side, two thirds of the way back of the front section. Excellent for photos etc. But for this panel… we were in the 3rd row from the back! We were able to score seats on the edge though which meant I was still able to get photos but… it was not the same. Anyways, for this panel we laughed a lot, I tweeted a lot, and there was a lot of fun. It was a great reminder that this cast really is a team, a family- they have great chemistry, and it’s not just on the show. Emily even tried to get Stephen to share some of their dance moves from the previous evening (there was no Nocking Point party this year as many people disappeared out of San Jose down the coast to attend the wedding of Greg Berlanti), to which Stephen said no. More’s the pity. A lot of love thrown towards Paul Blackthorne- which warmed my cold, dead heart to hear.

  • “They would be the group we would foil in act 1 and figure out who the real villain is” @StephenAmell re: #TheBulletClub
  • “When you see Emily and I look away, it’s not because we’re disgusted it’s because we’re laughing” @StephenAmell re: the barf at the end of “Crisis on Earth-X”
  • “I really liked playing that. A little too much” @StephenAmell re: being evil
  • “I wanted to make sure Dark Oliver’s love was as pure as Oliver’s love for Felicity” @StephenAmell
  • “TOMMY” @StephenAmell, “Sara. Baby Sara.” @David_ramsey  re: who they want back.
  • “Pants. When she wears pants I’m like ‘yeah!'” @EmilyBett re: fav Felicity clothes
  • “Whenever we do a scene in the apt or Oliver’s loft Emily’s always like ‘Felicity is barefoot'” @StephenAmell re: heels
  • “When he was a billionaire, minus the emotional baggage” @StephenAmell re: does he ever want to be Oliver
  • “I hope she made it out” @EmilyBett re: #CrisisOnEarthX doppelganger
  • “I think Diggle’s doppelganger should have a certain power ring” @David_ramsey
  • @PaulBlackthorne is hilarious” @David_ramsey
  • Re: #Titans being in #Arrowverse “God, I hope not. I can’t crossover to another show” @StephenAmell
  • “Next week on #Arrow, Diggle, Oliver, and Felicity play #CAH” @StephenAmell re: just calling  to help
  • “That superhero is Captain Lance” @David_ramsey re: a superhero who does real changes/recovery

We skipped the “women of Arrow” panel as the line was already pretty long when we finished up with the OTA panel and instead wandered a bit, checking out the short John Bernthal panel at the second stage, and heading over to my photo ops. We had considered the panel for This is Us, just for Justin Hartley, but the option of being late to it or the possibility of being essentially first in line for the Legends of Tomorrow panel led to plopping our butts down- in the too small line rows- and waiting. Glad we did as Caity Lotz and Brandon Routh were really fun. Also, two guests with the moderator was a perfect amount- though many questions in a row were targeted only at Brandon, Caity popped in with comments, and vice versa. Again, you could tell that theirs is a cast that really likes one another. There was a lot of love thrown out to Victor Garber, who left the show recently to return to Broadway. And some hints dropped regarding the future arc of the season.

  • “I feel like he would’ve been proud of what we accomplished” @brandonjrouth re: Christopher Reeve and #SupermanReturns
  • “The Camelot episode” @brandonjrouth. “The Shogun episode” @caitylotz re: fav ep to film.
  • “We miss #VictorGarber.” “I think he’s doing alright without us” @caitylotz re: the loss of Stein
  • “Every time I have to die” @caitylotz re: hardest scene
  • #OTP @brandonjrouth = heatwave & killer frost. “She’d be hot and cold about heatwave”
  • “I don’t need you pooping on my dreams, Brandon” @caitylotz re: @brandonjrouth asking if she liked math & science. (She’d like to be an astronaut)
  • Felicity or Hawkgirl? @brandonjrouth = felicity. @caitylotz = felicity.
  • “If is ever out of a job, he could join us. And or Felicity” @brandonjrouth re: new #LoT team member
  • “Practice Brandon acts of kindness” @caitylotz

Sadly, the final panel, Zachary Levi, while of interest conflicted with our main goal of heading home at a reasonable hour and we had to miss it.

For the most part, that covers the events of the weekend. I would also like to share a very personal story- last year, I chose to do the photo op with Brandon Routh because he doesn’t do a lot of conventions and, well, it’s Superman. But I didn’t get an autograph. At one point when we walked by his booth, there was a short enough line that I decided to just do it and get the autograph. A bonus is that in my real life, I run a Cinema Therapy group in a prison that is currently watching Superman Returns, therapeutically. Yes, therapeutically. The first group I watched it with, a year ago, came up with a way to relate to the character of Superman- he’s been gone for 5 years, the woman he loves is with another man, that other man is raising his kid, and the world went on without him. The whole group was silent that first time and then they talked about how that fit them and how they respond to it. And I’ve used that to start a discussion each time I use the film. We also talk about Superman’s god complex and what gives him the right to act for justice, but that’s not my favorite discussion. So anyways, while Routh was signing a photo to me, I took the moment to share this information and explain how it is therapeutic (and fun) for my inmates. And we talked about offenders and the work we do in the prison to decrease recidivism and what not. He said he wanted to send them something, particularly to my group, and signed a photo from Superman Returns to them saying, “Wishing you all well! You are all capable and worthy of change.” I shared it with the group this week as we were wrapping up and they were all touched, impressed, and shocked- especially shocked that someone who isn’t staff or family thought of them- and they asked me to send their thanks back. I shared it with staff and no matter what their role (custody, mental health, or even office staff) everyone was thrilled that he had taken the moment to do this and put a lot of thought into the message. It was fun seeing the guys and the staff light up when they saw it. Needless to say, I’ve added the photo to my wall of inspiration and motivation in my office. Makes me smile when I see it and when I sit down with a client and get to share the story of it. Class act that Routh guy, really good guy- and that’s so nice to see.

Check out the album of some of the 1500 photos on the Facebook page

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