Sunday was the final day of four for this year’s Wizard World Chicago. While there was a definite dwindling in attendance from last year to this, there was still amazing cosplay and great things to spend a lot of money on out on the show floor and add to those collectible shelves.
The panel schedule, like most everything else, was a little more laid back than the craziness of Saturday, but we still had some great times hearing from both Melissa Joan Hart and Kevin Conroy.
Our day in panels started with Melissa Joan Hart in the Melissa Explains it All: A CONversation with Melissa Joan Hart panel. Hart is exceedingly down to earth and has a quirky but straightforward sense of humor that makes her seem very approachable and friendly.
Hart took us through her career, from the challenges of being 13 and on Clarissa Explains it All, to her time on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and some of the behind the scenes goodness there.
She brought up some of the hardships of being a child star too, mentioning the loneliness and sometimes problematic (in a sibling sort of way) relationships that she had with some of the boys on set, and her longing for a few female guest stars to befriend her.
Joan-Hart transitioned from Clarissa to Sabrina when her manager mother, frustrated with her 13 year old getting roles that were too racy for her daughter’s image, started looking on her own, and came across a suggestion from a friend that turned into Sabrina. Melissa would grow up even more on that show, and spend her teenage years on the set.
Originally a Mouseketeer along with the likes of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, Joan-Hart was actually friends with both N’SYNC and Britney, and talked a little about what it was like working with the pop sensations on the show (and a little bit about just how much of a deficit the show ran, with an animatronic cat a main character on the show as well as a hefty boy band/pop star presence in episodes.)
Melissa also talked a little about the differences between the Netflix reboot of Sabrina currently enjoying some success and the original, stating that both had merit, but that she was always a little more on the side of Sabrina’s story moreso than a focus on witchcraft, which is more the focus of the currently running series. Still, the actress seems perfectly happy that Sabrina is still alive in some format, and encouraging to the show.
If the actress had any regrets about her time as an actress thus far, she says, it would be that she hadn’t done many horror films, but overall she’s more than thrilled for the fame she’s enjoyed, and we thoroughly enjoyed her open, honest, and endearing conversation.
We also sat in the Kevin Conroy panel. Conroy, known best for his iconic voiceover role of Batman from Batman: The Animated Series through to the Justice League animated cartoon and even into video games, notably in the Batman: Arkham series. Most of us grew up with Conroy as their definitive Batman—and he persisted past Keaton, Clooney, Affleck and others, having voiced the Caped Crusader over the course of 28 years.
Conroy spent most of the panel doing Q&A, with fans asking questions about Conroy’s time at Julliard—where he was roommates with Robin Williams—to questions about his impact on the role of Batman. Conroy was only 17 when he was roommates with Robin Williams, who he described as having a “brain like a computer” that learned people and compartmentalized them, and was able to switch between characters quickly. In intimate one on one settings though, Williams was subdued, and the opposite of what you would expect.
Another interesting moment came when Kevin Conroy, at an audience member’s request, sang Am I Blue? with his surprisingly amazing singing voice—in a rendition lifted straight from the Batman:The Animated Series cartoon. After Kevin’s serenade, The MC of the event requested Freebird—a request that Conroy did not comply with.
When asked later in the panel which Marvel Cinematic hero Batman would have trouble with, Conroy insisted that Batman has a “passion, and his passion is to do the right thing, and avenge for justice.” But Conroy added that Batman has impressive wits, and could probably “find a way” around anyone. So Conroy agrees: Batman could take on anyone in the MCU.
When asked about Robert Pattinson donning the cowl, and what advice Conroy would have for Pattinson, Conroy said, “don’t listen to the criticism.” He lamented the internet’s ability to pre-judge actors coming into beloved roles—especially Batman—and remarked about Affleck’s negative attention, and how it detracted from a great portrayal of the character.
Conroy also talked a little about voice acting itself, mentioning the gruffer Batman voice he used early on in the Batman: The Animated Series cartoon—something he ended up ditching, because it put too much of a “crunch” on his vocal chords. He said he had fairly immediate regrets in his vocal choice, telling the audience “I’m killing my vocal chords—I knew I was doing it wrong.” Eventually he mellowed Batman’s voice, while still managing to keep it distinct from Bruce Wayne. This was an interesting insight into the portrayal of the character.
Conroy provided some insight into the development of the popular Harley Quinn character as well. As it turns out, this cosplay mainstay was created by Paul Dini, specifically for the original voice actor Arlene Sorkin. After Sorkin retired, Tara Strong ended up taking over the role—and quite successfully, at that.
When asked about which Batman has been his favorite, he said, “none is better, they’re just different.” Which was also his opinion when asked about which actor was the better Joker, Heath Ledger or Mark Hamill. “[Their Jokers were] completely different kinds of crazy, but both were great!”
Conroy went on to talk some about the differences between voice acting for shows and movies–which turns out to be pretty stark. He started off mentioning the joy of working with other actors in the studio and being able to play off them versus the grind of a day in the studio working on voicing Batman for Arkham Asylum, which was more like “walking through hell on broken glass.” Despite the not so pleasing comparison there, Conroy went on to explain that it’s apples and oranges, and provide some insight into just how hard EVERYONE at a game studio works to get a game into production. Some of these games earn a BILLION dollars, the actor said, “–a Billion, with a B” but some of them aren’t successful at all, even though everyone still worked that hard. He talked of long days in the studio repeating the same lines multiple times in various different ways–angry, sad, ironically, etc–and the fact that in the course of the game, he had the responsibility of delivering a staggering 37,000 lines tailored to the choices players make while playing.
Kevin rounded off the panel with some final stories about his favorite interactions with fans, including a particularly sweet one about meeting a fan who’d gone deaf at the age of 5, whose last audio memory was the scene in the Batman: The Animated Series show in which he sang the song Am I Blue that he’d crooned to the crowd just moments before.
We were glad we spent some final moments in the panel rooms for these two, and hope you enjoyed our panel catchups during this year’s Wizard World. Still on the agenda? Stopping by our Sunday Cosplay Gallery to see some of the greatness we saw once we got out of the panels and then staying tuned for our con review and annual cosplay competition post later on this week.
Contributing author: Antal Bokor