City of Heroes #2 Convention…

After having such a good time at the weekend con City of Heroes last year, we booked up for City of Heroes #2 pretty much as it was announced. In the interim the guest list gained heroic proportions, with guests being announced right up until a few weeks before it was due to kick off.

Jason Momoa (Thrones & Auqaman); from Arrow there was, Stephen Amell (Green Arrow), David Ramsey (Diggle/Spartan), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoake), John Barrowman (Malcolm Merlyn), Willa Holland (Speedy), Colton Haynes (Arsenal), Katie Cassidy (Black Canary), Michael Rowe (Deadshot), Charlotte Ross (Felicity’s mother) and Amy Gumenick (Cupid); from Flash there was Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost), Robbie Amell (Firestorm), Keiynan Lonsdale (Wally West) and Peyton List (Lisa Snart/Golden Glider); from Legends of Tomorrow, Brandon Routh (ATOM–& Superman of course), Franz Drameh (Firestorm), Ciara Renee (Hawkgirl) and Falk Hentschel (Hawkman); Gotham, Sean Pertwee (Alfred), Corey Michael Smith (Edward Nygma) and David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne); and finally, from Supergirl, Italia Ricci. That’s quite a list of people for a two day con…

Personally, I was pretty stoked that John Barrowman was going as having a taste of what he’s like off screen from Doctor Who interviews over the years, and hearing about what he was like from the Arrow cast at City of Heroes #1 I knew he would be fun. On a completely shallow level, I was also looking forward to Colton Haynes, purely because he’s a hotty. I did also like his character too… Honest.

On both occasions the con has been held at the Birmingham NEC Metropole Hotel, and this time around we managed to get a room in the hotel so we could be onsite. Much easier. It was essentially get up, eat, arm ourselves with water and snacks and get a seat for the talks. Two days of talks. Neither of us wanted autographs or to have a photograph with an actor. As much we might want Colton Haynes to touch us. We don’t really get the whole celebrity worship thing. After all, the actor might portray our favourite characters, but they aren’t the character, and I know nothing about them personally to want to meet them in person. We just wanted to hear about what it was like to film the shows, hints at where the characters and stories might be heading, or where they wanted things to go, and just generally hear about the antics behind the scenes.

We got exactly what we wanted. All of the guests were great. They came on with a good energy, were engaging to listen to, and were entertaining, either through their sharing of their thoughts or their humour. There were some hints teasers and revelations dropped about things to come in some of the shows–skip over to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know; in Flash, Diggle’s getting a new helmet, Merlyn is going to do something that will make us rethink his character, Felicity might be losing Palmer Technologies (could this be her father taking over–as in Smoake Technology seen in Legends of Tomorrow?), Thea might be going ‘rogue’ (whatever that means), and Arsenal will be returning (yay); in Legends of Tomorrow it looks like something big is going to happen to the hawks (the actors had to stop themselves saying something), and from the sounds of it the Savage story might get tied up at the end of the season. There was an interesting tidbit of info from Robbie Amell about leaving The Flash due to scheduling issues, and the X-Files–there was meant to be a seventh episode, but due to time, scheduling and money they couldn’t do it. From the sounds of it, this would have tied up the story as its own season. This could’ve gone some way to reducing the bitter taste left by some of the episodes. Although, given what the rest of the season had been like… Perhaps not.

Highlights for me were Stephen Amell, he comes across as such a genuine nice guy, and a really fun nature. Emily Bett Rickards was great fun. Colton Haynes and Willa Holland were very cute together. Jason Momoa was a gent, but just as edgy as last time–no Guinness drinking and glass smashing this year. Phew! The star for me though–and I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way–was John Barrowman. He came on early and stated he was doing an hour not 4o minutes, talked openly and took lots of questions. As soon as he entered he was on form and just as I hoped he would be–loud, cheeky, rude, and full of energy and so much fun. Telling us how his PA was hung like a donkey, dragging a fit looking attendee asking a question onto the stage and playing his abs as though he were a ukulele, and being adorable with two little kids–and using them for entertainment at their parents’ expense. He’s also passionate about his characters,  and told us that Captain Jack is returning in various forms, and that he and his sister have been given free rein to create the backstory for Malcolm Merlyn in their comic. If they ever do a John Barrowman con, I’ll be there. He’s such an entertainer. Haven’t laughed so much in ages. All the guests, even those who had smaller parts, or who I hadn’t actually seen in episodes, were great to listen to.

For us, the convention was pretty much what we wanted–2 solid days of entertainment. However, City of Heroes #2 was not without its problems. From what I can tell through people sharing their experiences in an unofficial Facebook group, many others had a pretty terrible time. It would seem that in the first instance there were issues with Rogue Events who put on this convention–among many others they host–with City of Heroes #2 being much bigger than it was last year. Asylum, their Supernatural convention has also reached this size now. No complaints from me on that front for City of Heroes as it was a great line up of guests, but as you would expect, with more guests and larger amount of attendees the logistics would be more challenging. It would seem that management of the event needed to be felt more.

More instructions around where to sign in (a venue off site) and how to get there by foot would’ve saved us going the long way around that we made for ourselves. A map of the hotel in the registration pack would’ve also been welcome. There was little signage at the con, and The Hilton is a pretty big hotel and doesn’t have wings but corridors and event rooms in a tentacle like spread (with lots of mirrored walls to make it even more confusing). We were lucky as we only had to get in and out of the halls, but for those doing photo ops, autos and lounges there would have been quite a bit of running around.

The issue which seemed to affect a lot of people, was that there was just too much happening. Doesn’t sound like an issue really, but while the talks run all day there were private lounges with actors offering a more intimate con experience, autographs and photo ops happening at the same time. As you can expect, things didn’t quite run to time, with actors having to hug hundreds of people for pics, sign them, get to lounges and then get to the halls. There were overruns, which ate into the hall talks. We were disappointed that Willa and Colton (Speedy and Arsenal) were cut short by about 20 minutes, as was David Ramsey (Diggle–a big con draw) because they were called away for other things. To top that off, they wouldn’t let Hall 1 guests who had experienced these cut talks go to the Hall 2 talks to make up for it. Which is a bit poor as there was capacity in both halls due to people going off for autos and photos and lounges.

On the last day the printer for the photos died, which left a lot of people unable to get the prints they had paid for. Can’t be helped, it’s just one of those things, but the con didn’t communicate an apology and an explanation of how people would get their pics for two days after. They had plenty of time and opportunity–through social media and the MC that came into the hall between each talk, and the big display screens in the halls. Unfortunately this left enough time for people to get really riled up and Rogue Events to lose a lot of custom judging by the ‘never again’ posts. They should really have had a contingency plan–at least announcements in the halls, emails and social media alerts ready to keep people informed. It would have diffused much of the anger of attendees I saw on Facebook. Especially as I read that the Asylum con is as big as this now, and had its own issues. Rogue Events were quick to promote City of Heroes #3–despite not addressing complaints from this con, and without knowing the location, venue or explaining the difference in that one being advertised as an ‘expo con’. They were ready to take money though… Which didn’t go down well with those who thought they hadn’t had their monies worth due to the missed photos. Rogue Events really needs to learn from this.

There were complaints about the lack of knowledge of stewards, but our experience of the stewards was great–all smiles and welcoming. Interestingly, most of the stewards were paid up attendees who only benefited from their voluntary work through being able to get autos and photos before some other groups. Not sure it’s a worthwhile payoff when you’re between the management and attendees who got pretty p****d when things went wrong for them. Especially as communication with the stewards seemed quite poor, leaving them taking the brunt of the complaints with little they could say to explain or make up for it. Not a nice position to be in. Stewards at cons certainly need some respect for what they do. I know form Facebook quite a few were upset at their treatment, which is a shame.

I have to say, while it’s easy to blame the organisers for everything, some attendees were at fault by making life difficult for themselves in trying to do everything. I saw people’s plans on Facebook–trying to get 20+ autos and photos and a couple of lounges, and still hoping to get something out of the hall talks. I take my imaginary hat off to those who achieved this. It just seemed to create a lot of stress for people, and people already fearful of missing out are going to be that much more prone to getting upset when something does go wrong. There was a lot of discourtesy among attendees too, I experienced people planning out their day in the halls while actors were up on stage giving talks and answering questions, with no insight or care into how distracting their talking could be–which was just rude to the actors and also those trying to enjoy the talks.

I read about people shouting at other attendees and stewards, and also attendees being rude about guests having little interaction with them in signings, or signing their photos incorrectly, or crossing their signature over someone else’s, and bitching about them on social media for it. That really got me, yeah, people had paid a lot of money for these autos and photos, and they want their actors to be everything they have built them up to be in their heads, wanting the moment to be special, but forgetting that these actors are just doing their job in being there. Sure, they probably enjoy some of the interactions, but being manhandled all day, having to make polite conversation with a stranger every 60 seconds for hours on end has got to be tough. Especially between having to stand up in front of people on stage and hosting lounges and being entertaining. People who do jobs have their off moments, they can’t be engaging and smiling every second–as we can’t. Some of the actors were ill with colds, others would not be used to such an event, or might even have their own anxieties about it, and could easily be overwhelmed. Yet there was little consideration of this in the posts I saw, with attendees using that 60 seconds to judge an actor and be dismissive of them. Some of those attendees need to have a long hard think about their attitudes–especially as I saw a lot of talk about attendees having their own personal issues which made cons difficult for them.

That’s a big dose of negativity there, but as I say, not our experience. I’ve already seen some negative reviews pop up, and I at least wanted to share my, more balanced views. We had a blast, and in my mind City of Heroes #2 was bigger and better than City of Heroes #1.  We came back home on such a buzz we watched the Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl episodes we’d put of watching–not being that into these–and enjoying them much more. I love how this DC is building up, and with Supergirl now going over to CW the hope is that the DC world will become even more intertwined with crossovers. I’m holding fire to see what the difference will be in City of Heroes #3 being an ‘expo con’. I think they need to do the autos and photo ops like they do it at comic con–just queuing and ticketing. I’m hoping the talks will stay as they are, and if that’s the case we’ll definitely be buying our tickets and counting down to the next con.

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