The Heroes and Villains Fan Fest of New York/New Jersey 2017 took place on Sept. 16, 2017.
Superman (with a beard, no less) was waiting outside the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus on Saturday morning posing for photos with admirers, while holding a copy of a 1963 Superman comic book that shows the DC Comics icon also with a beard.
No, it was not the man from Krypton taking a detour on his way to Metropolis, but rather he was waiting with Wonder Woman for the Heroes and Villains Fan Fest New York/New Jersey 2017 to begin.
This is the third time since January 2016 that the two-day event has been held in New Jersey, which brings thousands of fans of comics-related shows such as “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Arrow” to meet their favorite actors from those shows, as well as attracts fans of comic books and iconic movies that have plenty of costumes. And many of the attendees also came dressed as their favorite characters, known as cosplay.
Superman a.k.a. Joseph Garcia of Bayonne came with his wife, Sonja, who was dressed as the Amazon warrior. Garcia said he went to similar events while living in Germany, and when he returned to the U.S., he wanted to attend events like the Fan Fest where he gets to be his favorite superhero.
“You go to New York Comic-Con or San Diego Comic-Con, yeah, you got a whole bunch of people, but here it’s got a small atmosphere,” Garcia said. “You can see the people, meet new friends, see your old friends, and just enjoy the atmosphere.”
Garcia was looking forward to seeing Brandon Routh, who famously played Superman in the 2006 film, “Superman Returns,” but now can be seen on the small screen as Ray Palmer/Atom on the TV series, “Legends of Tomorrow.”
Inside the center, people waited on line to get autographs from actors including Routh, to see a QA panel with various stars such as Ming-Na Wen from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” purchase a collectible from vendors, and/or cross paths with Spider Man, Harley Quinn, Chewbacca, and even Steve from “Blue’s Clues.”
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Diego Escobar, his girlfriend Raquel Murillo and her younger sister Esperanza Murillo, all from North Bergen, were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the day. They came to see their favorite actors from “Arrow” including its star Stephen Amell and Caity Lotz, who plays Esperanza’s favorite character on the show, White Canary.
“This is the first time we dressed up. Last time, we came in regular clothes,” said Raquel Murillo about attending the Fan Fest last year. “It’s a lot of fun being in costume.”
Observing all the goings-on was Jeff Beck, the owner of Montclair-based comic book store East Side Mags, along with his co-worker Pele Marques, were first-timers at the Fan Fest. He hoped to see celebrities such as Katrina Law, who grew up in South Jersey and who plays Nyssa al Ghul on “Arrow.”
“It’s great, we got cosplayers, people dressed up as all different kinds of characters, tons of celebrities, everybody is a fan,” Beck said. “A lot of people are here looking to buy stuff from us that can get signed by the celebrities. It’s a little different than the normal comic convention where people are just looking for certain issues.”
Not in costume but just as happy to be present was actor Rick Gonzalez, one of other stars of “Arrow,” who plays Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog. The Brooklyn-born Gonzalez has done the Fan Fest in Portland and Nashville, but he said this one in New Jersey was meaningful to him as he wanted to be part of the “hometown energy.”
Gonzalez was especially appreciative of meeting fans like one he saw during the early part of the event. Gonzalez noted that the man came dressed as Wild Dog in such a detailed manner that it had Gonzalez amazed as he showed a reporter a picture that he took with this special fan.
“That’s the ultimate compliment you can give; someone really took the time to find the costume and really put it together,” Gonzalez said. “This guy today, man, he brought it.
“Literally, the same pants I wore, the same boots I wear, the jersey looked identical. Looked like one of the costume designers gave it to him. I was like, ‘Dude, did you go to the show?’ It was perfect. Best compliment.”