CCI: A "Heroes" Thank You

Early Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Ballroom 20 was stuffed to capacity for what moderator Jeph Loeb called the "'Heroes' Thank You."

Rumor has it that even "Heroes" staff writer Bryan Fuller could not be admitted after the doors were closed. At last year's Comic-Con, "Heroes" debuted the 72-minute "Heroes" pilot, and the cast and crew of the show said the success they're enjoying now is due in no small part to the fans who watched the pilot last year and spread the word.

Loeb first brought out panelist Jack Coleman (HRG a.k.a. Noah Bennett), who was sporting a white t-shirt with the word "I'm just a paper salesman" hastily scrawled across the front. Next up was Noah Gray-Cabey (Micah), followed by Greg Grunberg (Parkman), the latter wearing a custom-made t-shirt reading "Milo is my hero." Then Loeb brought out Ali Larter (Niki/Jessica) and James Kyson Lee. Masi Oka (Hiro) came out wearing a custom "Hayden is my Hero" t-shirt, and the cheerleader herself, Hayden Panettiere was hot on his heels. Then Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Zachary Quinto (Sylar) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder) took the stage, followed by new Season 2 cast member Dania Ramieriez (Maya). The last to take the stage were Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), artist Tim Sale and series creator and executive producer Tim Kring.

Kring kicked off the panel with a heartfelt thank-you to all of the fans who supported the young show at last year's Comic-Con. Loeb then announced the winner of NBC.com's "Heroes" Graphic Novel Contest (Andrew Chandler). Loeb also told the assembled fans that Ubisoft is currently working on a "Heroes" video game. And with that, Loeb opened up the floor to Q&A.

First up, a fan professed his and his wife's love for Greg Grunberg's character.

"Yes, I swing," the actor responded without skipping a beat.

One audience member asked the cast to sound off on their best memories from season 1. Grunberg liked playing future, badass Parkman, Hayden cited the scene in the first-season finale when she jumped out the window, and Coleman said his favorite moment was episode 11, when he went from a guest star to a series regular.

"You wanted more HRG, you got more HRG," Loeb said.

Loeb took a moment to single out the writing and directing staff in the audience, who stood to an ovation from the crowd.

"This show happens in the writers' room first," Kring said. He went on to describe himself and the rest of the show's writers as a "league of heroic scribblers."

Throughout the first season, supplemental graphic-novel content by artist Tim Sale was posted on the "Heroes" Web site at NBC.com. Loeb announced that this fall, Wildstorm would be releasing a collection of all the online material, and gave the audience a peek at cover images by Alex Ross and Him Lee.

As an aside, Grunberg blurted out, "Being this close to Sendhil, he is gorgeous." Then Ramamurthy planted what appeared to be a wet kiss on his fellow cast member's lips.

Next up, Kring addressed "Heroes: Origins," the six episode spin-off that will air over six consecutive weeks starting in April of next year. Each episode will be stand-alone and feature a new hero coming to terms with their powers. Since participating in "Origins" only requires a one-episode commitment, Kring has compiled a short list of ideal writers and directors they'd like to bring into the "Heroes" family.

Then, they made an announcement which apparently surprised even the cast: Kevin Smith had signed on to do an episode. Smith then took the stage himself, and recounted his first conversation with Kring about the opportunity.

"I'd love to write and direct an episode about the two gay heroes," Smith had told Kring. "The Japanese dudes, they're gay, right?"

Smith said having the opportunity to write and direct an episode of "Origins" was an honor: He and his wife had plowed through the first season.

"I just don't wanna be the guy that ruins 'Heroes,'" Smith admitted.

Grunberg, who is a childhood friend of writer/director J.J. Abrams, volunteered Abrams' as another option to helm an episode of "Origins."

Then actor Danny Bonaduce took the Q&A microphone and asked if the cast members "live and die" by each script. The answer was a resounding yes.

"It keeps you on your toes," Larter said.

"When they cancel your hit show, your life kind of sucks for a while," Bonaduce warned.

In the past, Pasdar has heralded Nathan Petrelli as more evil than his amoral character Profit from a show of the same name. One fan asked if Pasdar still felt that way after Nathan's self-sacrificing act of redemption in the season one finale.

"One has a moral code, the other is a politician," Pasdar, the husband of Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, reiterated.

Another fan accused Hiro and Ando of being the "least traditionally masculine" heroes on the show.

"Wait until season two," Oka teased.

When asked if Uluru, the rock monster that graced the cover of an early issue of the comic "9th Wonders," would be making an appearance in the show proper, Kring said the monster only existed in the pages of the comic book.

"This show doesn't posit an ending," Kring said, when asked how long the series would run. Shows like "Lost," to which "Heroes" is oft compared, have a built-in end point, but "Heroes" is open-ended, he said.

One female fan asked if we could expect to see strong female characters who aren't cheerleaders or strippers. Loeb promised that new cast-member Ramirez's character fits that bill. And Kring pointed out that even Claire and Niki grew and evolved by the end of the first season.

Before it was revealed that Peter Petrelli was Claire's uncle, many "Heroes" fans wanted to see those two characters get together. One fan asked if there was still any chance of that happening.

"Not only are we related, but my character's younger than me," Panettiere said. Ventimiglia believes the two characters share a strong bond, but neither actors foresees it turning into a romance.

Kring got in the last word. He said the huge, diverse community that has grown out of the show's fan base is "all a metaphor for what the show's really about." In a few months' time, he said, Kring intends to start a dialogue with the audience about how to channel that passion and commitment into acts of philanthropy.

The cast and crew are still early in the production of season two, but fans were treated to a brief trailer for the upcoming season. Highlights include a scene between Parkman and Molly Walker in which she is accosted by the malevolent figure she alluded to at the end of Season 1, and a scene in which Claire appears to be about to cut off her own toe.

Everyone in the audience walked away with two "Heroes" convention exclusives: an issue of the "Heroes" comic, and the first-run packaging for the first season of "Heroes" on DVD.

Season two of "Heroes" premiers on September 24th.

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