Second Union

Second Union

RECAP: Fan Fest Portland


TWO Conventions Came Together for an Incredible Fan Meet­Up Event on June 24­-25, 2017

Fans of The Walking Dead, Arrow, Gotham, Guardians of the Galaxy and more had the opportunity to meet their favorite stars at  Fan Fest Portland ­ a joint event which combined Walker Stalker Con and Heroes & Villains Fan Fest ­at the Oregon Convention Center, June 24-­25.
Walker Stalker Con and Heroes & Villains Fan Fest have become incredibly popular conventions, offering something for everyone ­from the diehard fan, to families, to those with a growing interest in the genre. More than 25 of your favorite actors speak to the audience, meet fans, pose for photos and sign autographs (see full guest list).
Official poster for Fan Fest Portland 2017


Attendees were able to participate in a wide range of engaging and unique activities, including:
  • Free panel sessions led by stars from some of television’s most popular shows.
  • Zombies and cosplayers roaming the convention floor, making for interactive experiences
    attendees would never forget.
  • Interactive “hero­style” games on the con floor, fun for the entire family.
  • Vendors who deal in the comic, entertainment, zombie and other genres and industries.
  • Reality TV star and celebrity tattoo artist, Chris 51 (A&E’s Epic Ink), offered his
    acclaimed artistic talents to attendees on the con floor.

One of the most popular elements of the convention is the chance to meet and hear from stars from popular shows. In Portland, attendees were treated to sessions with:
  • The Walking Dead: Sarah Wayne Callies (“Lori”), Tom Payne (“Jesus”), Khary Payton(“King Ezekiel”), Michael Cudlitz (“Abraham”), Josh McDermitt (“Eugene”), Christian Serratos (“Rosita”), Scott Wilson (“Hershel”), Alanna Masterson (“Tara”), Seth Gilliam(“Father Gabriel”), Austin Amelio (“Dwight”), Steven Ogg (“Simon”) and many more!
  • Arrow: Stephen Amell (“Oliver Queen/The Arrow”), John Barrowman (“Malcolm Merlyn”), David Ramsey (“John Diggle”), Katrina Law (“Nyssa al Ghul”) and more!
  • Gotham: David Mazouz (“Bruce Wayne”), Drew Powell (“Butch”)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Michael Rooker (“Yondu”) and Sean Gunn (“Kraglin”)
  • Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow, Superman Returns)
  • Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham, Heroes, This is Us, Gilmore Girls)
  • Brett Dalton (“Grant Ward” in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

The full list of guests appeared on both the Walker Stalker Con and Heroes & Villains Fan Fest websites.

My wife Michelle (acting as my assistant and photographer that day) and I were extremely fortunate to attend Fan Fest this year for the first time. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a fun day! Upon entering we walked the convention floor, getting the lay of the land. By virtue of our press passes, we were able to get in earlier than General Admission, which made getting our bearings a whole lot easier. We eventually landed in the celebrity signing area.




Our press passes allowed us early entry and access to the celebrities, but we were not granted access to interview them. So, we had to improvise some celebrity meet-ups. My wife was determined to meet Milo Ventimiglia, so that was our first stop. This is Us is easily her favorite television program of the past year, and this was a no-brainer. Needless to say, she got her photo! Milo was warm and friendly and incredibly accommodating. He took the selfie using her phone, so as he’s apt to do, he snuck in a bonus photo which you can see here.


While Michelle waited for Milo to arrive at his booth, I wandered a bit more and happened to notice Stephen Amell who had previously been signing autographs in his own booth nearby, standing outside the booth, apparently talking to a couple of fans. I decided to walk up, say hello, and shake his hand. Which I proceeded to do, only then to realize that one of the people he was talking to was his incredibly beautiful co-star Katrina Law and another gentleman. Bonus!

Stephen Amell was actually on his way to his first panel of the day, and we were soon to follow. This was the next planned event of the day for us as well, and though we arrived a bit late we enjoyed a wonderfully funny and entertaining panel with The CW’s Oliver Queen himself. A few highlights…





When that panel ended we returned to the Convention floor where we took an opportunity to swing back by the celebrity signing booths and came across Cooper Andrews’ booth…and…well…this happened. (We Andrews’ have to stick together!)


Later we met up with our friend, and Second Union contributing photographer, Brian Johnson. Brian was wandering the Convention seeking out cosplayers to which he was taking photos of using his latest passion, Polaroid cameras. Brian had an entire arsenal of cameras and film he was using that day. And he was having a blast! In Brian’s own words:

“For me, the whole process of “instant” photography takes me back to my youth, when the family camera was a Polaroid 600: It always seemed to yield slightly warm images with soft detail and occasionally outright blurry, out-of-focus images. But that didn’t matter: They were direct physical evidence of having been someplace or done something. The Polaroid photos we almost like literal transcriptions of somewhat fuzzy, soft-edged memories. These photos capture events through the lens of my memory.”

Here are some of the great images Brian collected that day…


Thom Chiaramonte of Third Rail Design Lab.

On top of the opportunities to meet celebrities and see some great celebrity panels, these conventions are rife with some of the most amazing vendors. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to spend a little time with one vendor in particular, Thom Chiaramonte of Third Rail Design Lab. Thom is an amazingly talented illustrator, and we spent a good portion of the time we spoke with him drooling over the work in his sample books.

Thom, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Well, I’m all over the place: By profession, I’m an architect, and by moonlight, a comic artist. You’d think that would mean my comic art features some rad architecture in it, but frankly, I’m more interested in drawing the characters. My focus is on character design and world building, something I’ve been obsessed with since picking up my first Marvel Handbook as a youngling in the 80’s. I do commission work, some commercial projects selectively, and a host of fan art, but my passion is my creator-owned material under the Third Rail Design Lab banner, which includes character sourcebooks and sequential art.


Was this the first time you’ve exhibited your artwork at a convention?  

Artwork by Thom Chiaramonte of Third Rail Design Lab.
 No, but I don’t do many shows, and I haven’t done them for long. Actually, my first table experience was either Wondercon or APE (Alternative Press Expo) over a decade ago, when both were in SF, and I helped a friend out at their spot in the Artist Alleys of those two shows, and was able to feature my work as well. I was turned off by what was, at the time, an emerging focus on movie-pitch-scouting and booth girls, and wasn’t yet tuned into the inspiring fandom behind the cosplay scene, so it took me some years to decide to get back into cons.
Artwork by Thom Chiaramonte of Third Rail Design Lab.


Tell us a little about your Con circuit. Was this your first time in Portland? 

 I was lured into the con scene by my pal Kris McClanahan of Deeply Dapper. He was a participating artist in my site’s forum and weekly art jam going back over a decade, and he suggested we get together for one of his west coast shows and use it as an excuse to hang out. So I started doing a few shows locally. At first, I only had my TRDL Tribute Art Book and a few pinup prints, but then expanded to include two Wrongrobot pen and ink sketchbooks and an alarmingly expanding selection of 11×17 art prints. So each con has been progressively busier and more interesting for me, as I’ve had more stuff for fans and table guests to peruse. I also bring a selection of original art pieces and offer commissions and sketch cover options, so there’s a lot to engage people about and it’s been fun to talk to people focused on different fandoms and interests at these shows. I still only do about 4 or 5 shows a year, subject to my schedule on the architecture side of things, as I’m out of the country a fair amount. But it’s fun.
I was in Portland for the first time last year, tabling at Rose City Comic Con, and had a great time, really connecting with the folks here, who remind me a lot of the vibe of my home base in San Francisco (many actually being SF transplants) so I was looking forward to coming back for Fan Fest this year. My circuit this year included APE, Wizard World, Fan Fest and Rose City. Next year I’m looking at Wondercon and a few others.


How are you liking Fan Fest Portland so far?

Artwork by Thom Chiaramonte of Third Rail Design Lab.
 It’s been pretty engaging. The guests at the table are very focused on their own fandom interests. Unlike general cons, where you might meet a variety of art, comic, fan collector types, Fan Fest has been heavy on attendees who are here for the show they love, whether it’s Walking Dead or Arrow, etc. That doesn’t always translate to a general interest in comics or collectible art. Some folks at the table have been after specific stuff, like a character from whatever given show they follow, but others have stayed and engaged in conversation, flipped through my print binders or the original art bin, and we’ve had some good conversation and good sales. I’ve also met some really engaging cosplayers, and a few attendees that saw me at Rose City, which was fun. I’m looking forward to returning for the next Fan Fest, and of course Rose City in September.
Any Convention horror stories? 
I’ve had some dubious experiences. I’m very fortunate in that this is not my primary source of income, so I can somewhat afford to treat conventions as marketing. The sales aren’t as important as the networking with existing and new fans of my work, and talking shop with other creators. I really enjoy that aspect of the shows. Where I’ve had poor experiences it’s been related to that: less about sales, and more about the emotional experience. When a convention is poorly managed and irrationally laid out such that there’s low activity at your table, or in your row, or where other vendors are unprofessional in a way that hurts your traffic or is offensive to guests, that’s what I struggle with; but there’s always something positive, and again, I do these to hang out with my buddy and meet new and returning fans of the work, so between that and the food and drinks afterwards, even the worst con can still yield a fun weekend.
Thanks to everyone that stopped by the table and bought sweet, sweet art! In September, of all goes well on the production side of things, I will be bringing the first new volumes of the creator-owned Third Rail Design Lab supers stuff: the TRDL Universe Sourcebooks. I’m looking forward to showing them to folks! I’ll also be doing a panel at the San Francisco Comic Con in September, for anyone heading to that show, about Redesigning Techniques, something I really enjoy: different approaches to the redesigning of known character properties, from facelifts and costume updates to what I call ‘blank slate’ redesigns. A lot of my Tribute Art book is based on this, and it’s a passion for me.


Thank you, Thom, for taking time out of your day to speak to us, we really appreciate it!

We ended our day with another panel. This time with veterans of The WalkingDead franchise: Scott Wilson, IronE Singleton, and Laurie Holden. If you’re familiar with the series and these characters, you know that all of three actors are no longer series regulars on the show. The characters they portrayed have all met their ends in one fashion or another. However, the actors had a wonderful time reuniting, reminiscing, hugging and genuinely loving on each other, and the fans. A lot of humor, a lot of warmth, it was truly a wonderful end to the day.







 Fan Fest Portland 2017 Gallery courtesy of Michelle Andrews-


One parting note: ALWAYS heed the words of Superman!



About Fan Fest
Fan Fest is the leading convention and entertainment news brand in North America, with events throughout the world and an audience in the hundreds of millions. Under the Fan Fest umbrella, Heroes & Villains Fan Fest is an event for fans of superheroes and villains, and Walker Stalker Con is for fans of the zombie and horror genres. With exclusive guest appearances at each event and behind­ the­ scenes access to the latest entertainment news at, Fan Fest gives fans a truly one­ of ­a ­kind experience.

The full event schedule for Fan Fest Portland can be found at: and


Fan Fest Portland
June 24­-25, 2017
Location: Oregon Convention Center
Saturday: 10:30am to 7:00pm; Sunday: 10:30am­5:00pm; VIP Entry at 9:00am each day
Tickets range from $45 General Admission to $1,400 for the ultimate experience:

Twitter: @walkrstalkrcon / @heroesfanfest Facebook: Walker Stalker Con / Heroes & Villains Fan Fest

Official Hashtag #FFPortland

Related Articles