If you’ve ever attended Comic Con you’ll know you’re bound to meet a bunch of characters along the way. Comics, video games, manga and anime are historically the domain of geeks, allowing young folk and adults to explore imaginary worlds and personas. But with the rise in nerd culture and TV celebrity attendance at such events, even the cool kids want a piece of the action at the next Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC), which returns to Dubai from Thursday April 3 to Saturday 5.
The annual festival is entering its third year and making the Dubai World Trade Centre its new home after a huge growth in exhibitors and attendees in 2013. Here are some of the chance encounters you’ll happen upon and ways to blend into the sometimes bizarre goings on.
The attendees: hangin’ with zombies, murderers and superheroes
It’s no holds barred when it comes to dressing up in costume at MEFCC. It’s not uncommon, in fact, to end up in role-playing showdowns with horror characters such as Freddie Krueger, or bump into Darth Vader in the bathroom. Cosplay is a performance art, short for ‘costume play’, where people dress as comic book, film, anime and video game characters and interact in character on and offstage. Anyone can participate in a live competition, which will be judged by Australian cosplay presenter and model Madeleine Rose, Japanese professional cosplayer Tadaaki ‘Jacky’ Dosai and American cosplay queen Yaya Han, a designer and entertainer also running workshops on costume-making during the event. Not sure what to wear or how far to go? Feel free to get serious about this – everyone else will.
The international guests: creative mentors
People from around the region attend MEFCC in the hope of making it big in the comic and gaming industry by learning from masters in the field. Artists from British studio Aardman Animation, known for stop motion clay productions such as Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, will be giving workshops on making these characters and animating them.
Comic book writing pioneer John Barber, who’s worked on Transformers and GI Joe comics, will also offer workshops on what editors seek, while British V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd will also be present. If you’re trying to establish yourself as an artist and want to meet like-minded sorts, visit the Artists’ Alley, where 120 independent pop-culture enthusiasts will be displaying their collections. Artists and creators will be signing autographs and selling commissioned art as well as reproductions of their established work.
The celebrities: groupies and fanboys rejoice!
We’re all hiding a bit of fanboy in us, especially when we’re steps away from stars we’ve grown up watching and sometimes dreaming about. One of the major attractions at MEFCC is the celebrities in attendance. The past two years have meant brushing elbows with heartthrob Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones, Harry Potter favourite Warwick Davis, John Rhys Davies from Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones as well as Seth Green of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Austin Powers fame, who will be attending again this year. The MEFCC team is still teasing us by releasing new names daily, so you never know who may be around.
The business lounge: schmoozing with the bigwigs
If you have designs on getting a project on the international market, this might be the spot to get seen. Many international recruiters attend comic cons on the lookout for new talent and business opportunities. Get feedback on your portfolio from Khurram Alvi, a digital sculptor who’s worked on the Sonic the Hedgehog statue line and is currently developing an animated feature. Publishers, game developers, film production companies and distributors such as Diamond Comic Distributors and Marvel’s VP of Creator and Content Development will also be around with tips on building a comic book empire.
Day passes Dhs85, weekend passes Dhs160, VIP passes Dhs500. Thu April 3, 4pm-8pm, Fri April 4, noon-10pm, Sat April 5, noon-9pm. Dubai World Trade Centre. For details on all events, visit www.mefcc.com. Tickets from www.timeouttickets.com
How to Comic Con
• Bring cash and avoid ATM queues – most exhibitors only take cash.
• Plan your panels and workshops by booking ahead.
• Dress in costume but be sensible about it – and expect to be asked to stop for photos.
Zone out: PLG Gaming Arena
Once you’re fed up of all the walking about, sit back and zone out in the 64-player tournament PLG Gaming Arena, which features new releases and will offer previews of upcoming games on PC and console.