New York – Get Ready for BoroughCon! Being held in the borough that brought us Peter Parker, John Leguizamo,Jon Favreau, Christopher Walken, and countless other important people, BoroughCon will be holding their debut event at St. John’s University this Memorial Day Weekend. An ambitious four-day show with a surprisingly stacked celebrity guest list, this up-and-coming event is aiming to start a new trend in NYC and bring a family friendly comic-con to the most diverse place in the world – Queens, New York.
This is not your normal first-year convention, as they are packing a serious guest list in terms of celebrities and comic creators. They also have plans for concerts and musicians to perform, as well as plenty of cosplayers. This is a convention with something for everyone, and seems to be catering towards hardcore con-goers like myself, and entry-level folks who may be just getting started in this world.
We spoke with William Freeman, the programming director of this event, who told us all about the origins of this show and what we can expect out of it.
Nerd News Today: What are the origins of BoroughCon and the people behind this event?
William Freeman: “This is the brainchild of Matthew Goodison-Orr and Victor Lai. They are two guys who grew up together as normal hockey playing guys. They have been like brothers since middle school and they ended up going to college together and even law school together. They went to the University of Central Florida in Orlando (they grew up in the Atlanta area) and in addition into being into hockey, they were also into anime.
So, they ended up joining the anime club at UCF and they ended up getting involved in what became the first annual KnightroKon and that was an anime festival. By the second year, Matt and Victor settled into the role of CEO and CFO of the convention, and under their leadership it went from 5,000 attendees to 40,000 attendees. They graduated college and decided that being a convention runner wasn’t much of a career. They wanted to be laywers, and they ended up at Hofstra law.
While there, they got jobs as assistants in a local firm in Nassau County called Port & Sava, a small boutique law firm where they had general duties there. But as it turns out, one of the partners was an incredible comics book nerd. He’s a man well into his 50’s who still collects comics and goes to NYCC every year. He brought Matt and Victor one year along with other people from the office and at that point, Matt mentioned they used to do something like that in Orlando, and he saw the potential of bringing that up to NY and perhaps doing something bigger.
I have an MBA so I am more of a business minded person among these lawyers, but i am also someone who has written novel-length sci-fi works and been a participant in many literary cons, like BaltiCon, I-Con, and AlbaCon to name a few. I also spent 15 years at IBM so I can step in and serve as a chief technology officer. My first career was actually in journalism, so I also brought the publicity skills. So throw all that in the mix and we come out with Borough Con.”
Nerd News Today: What can fans expect to see at this inaugural event?
William Freeman: “What’s great about this is we cross-pollinated enough to the point where we have a really solid line up. We have over 20 name celebrity guests coming. For a first year con, that’s unheard of, and the fact that one of them, Khary Payton, is a star on “The Walking Dead” who is still a living member of the cast!
We have Sean Astin, Sam from Lord of the Rings, and Steve Blum, the cartoon voice of Wolverine, Grey DeLisle – Daphne from Scooby Doo, Jess Harnell AKA Crash Bandicoot, Dante Basco, and Sara Natochenny – Ash Ketchum from Pokemon. We have Cree Summer who in addition to being a top shelf voice actress, who many will remember as part of “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World”. It’s been an absolute dream team that fell into our laps in terms of talent.
It turns out that Grizz Chapman from 30 Rock is part owner of a comic store in the Bronx, and he is working with the vendors here. What happened is because Matt and Victor have such a good reputation, they were able to get a talent agent who was willing to put all this talent in our path. These are people who do not normally do first year cons because so many of those do not become second year cons, and so many times many people are owed money. But he was able to make the sale to the talent, and that won’t happen at Borough Con. And let’s put it this way, they already got their money so it won’t happen to us. We were able to also find many top shelf comic artists, including Marv Wolfman, one of the most prolific creators in the industry.
I am in charge of the additional programming, because not every one is going to fit into the main panel rooms, so we have other things going on. We will have kids activities and outdoor and indoor concerts, and we are going to have balloon sculptures and sidewalk chalk drawing and we are going to have all kinds of other diversions. We are going to have two screening rooms showing anime, live-action and fan films, and animated music videos whenever the gates are open. So if you can’t get into where you wanted to go or have some free time, you can sit down in one of our screening rooms and binge on your favorite anime or watch a movie you haven’t thought about in 20 or 30 years.
We will also be having panels about cosplay, comics, manga, and fandom and game shows. All of this will be hosted by people who are locally known people who have a great passion for the subject. We also have sci-fi speed dating, which is for people who have been looking for love in Alderaan places!”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone that makes a Star Wars pun of that caliber is A-OK in my book!
Nerd News Today: Why are you bringing a comic con to Queens, and in particular why did you choose St. John’s University?
William Freeman: “I think it has to do with NYC in general having a very disappointing selection of venues for a convention of this kind. we are not competing with NYCC or the Javits Center. there are cities one-third our size that have convention centers twice our size. When we were looking around, we were thinking maybe the Barclays Center or places like that. We were not after the bright shiny centers in Manhattan, we wanted to be the neighborhood convention.
There is no place in the city that had what we needed in terms of the type of break-out space we were looking for, not even the Javits. St Johns University seemed to be the best option available to us. First of all, it has a beautiful campus and a lot of our activities are going to be outside so you can actually breathe. You are not going to be constrained to four square feet of personal space your whole time there. So that is part of it. Plenty of parking available, easy access from mass transit, so the answer kept coming up as St. Johns.
One of the things about Queens in general is that it is the single most diverse municipality in the world. You have 60 daily newspapers in different languages, and it’s just amazing the number of people from the neighborhood who you run into. It’s just absolutely very much in the spirit of Borough Con.”
Nerd News Today: I know it is too early to say much, but what are the long term plans for BoroughCon? If things go well, can we look forward to a second year?
William Freeman: “What we are planning on is having BoroughCon as an on going annual event. Perhaps the answer to your question is does each borough deserve its own convention? that’s a possibility. Certainly we have enjoyed a relationship with St Johns so far, and this coming weekend we will know. That will be the stress test as to whether that remains our venue, but we definitely have plans to keep this going.”
Nerd News Today: For you personally, what are you most looking forward to at this convention?
William Freeman: “Marky Ramone! In the early 80s, I was a college radio DJ and I can appreciate that Marv Wolfman and Sean Astin will be there, but Marky Ramone! This is the drummer who opened up CBGB. The guy behind “I want to be sedated”! I am fanboying out on Marky Ramone and pretty much tot he exclusion of 20 other guests coming to this party.
You can bet I am going to make it a point to shake his hand at some point. I won’t be Wayne and Garth-ing “We’re not worthy” thing but I will be doing that on the inside.”
William also urged fans to buy tickets in advance, as they are expecting a big turn-out of attendees who have not pre-purchased passes. Save yourself some time, and also $5, if you buy your tickets online by Thursday, May 25.
You can learn more about this event on their official website. If you live out of state, don’t worry as we will be there covering the festivities! Keep an eye on #BoroughCon2017 on your social media as well to see how things go. Excelsior!